S Korea's latest big export: Jobless college graduates

By Heekyong Yang and Cynthia Kim

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When I studied abroad in South Korea and when I was working in America, South Korea was always one of the best place for corporations to poach talent. South Korean women are among the most desired because they tend to be educated and highly proficient in English upon graduation from University.

Most Korean women preferred foreign companies because of the bad working conditions in Korean companies. Now that the government has made a lot of changes to the working culture, things seem to be changing course and it’s becoming harder to find work for them.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

One third coming to Japan! I hope this can lead to warmer relations between the two countries.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Finally, a good article that highlights the positive actions between Japanese and South Koreans.

Even better, not a single mention about "lingering bitterness from Japan's colonial past that continues a frosty relationship." Great job Kim and Yang!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

If Korea keeps suing Japanese companies for WW2 related items, then there soon might not be any Japanese companies left for Koreans to come to work at...

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Koreans denunciate Japan loudly they were forced to work or forced to become comfort women. That is not accurate. Before the war, many Koreans could not have jobs in Korea and wanted to get jobs at Japanese companies and many came to Japan looking for jobs. They were paid. When people become poor, they do everything. Do you know a word "pan pan"? After the war, some Japanese women became comfort women for GIs to help their families. Lucky ones became "only-san" meaning an exclusive lady to one American. May be he was an officer.

-7 ( +8 / -15 )

 Out of a staff of 70, 13 are Indonesian nationals, who sleep and eat at a building next to his factory.

This is my idea of hell on earth.

I know a few Koreans living in Japan and I think they do very well and can speak Japanese very fluently. Also, for them to visit home is a 2 hour flight.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Too many highly educated youth, that's a huge thing to be proud of. Lack of jobs due to family conglomerates that's not good. Government initiative to find these well educated youth jobs overseas with no strings, amazing a very proactive and outside the box thinking by the government. Be some bugs of course but a very smart way to side step social unhappiness and gain a generation with global experience.

0 ( +2 / -2 )


Sorry, but what is your point?

This is a wonderfully positive article. Japan and (unified) Korea could be the Germany and France of an Asian economic block to balance those of the EU, US and China. Yes, Japan could be the equivalent of Germany in the EU. Don't call me a dreamer. I have lived through the unification of Vietnam, death of apartheid and rise and fall of the Berlin wall.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Too many highly educated youth, that's a huge thing to be proud of.

Really, it's not. It's not as if these youth have any power with which to wield their intelligence. And not everyone is suited to going to a 4-year university to get a potentially worthless degree in something like anthropology.

First-world nations need more people to learn trades, and to not look down on these professions.

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Koreans have been annoying Japan very badly recently giving us a bad image of them. They demanded as much as apology of the emperor emeritus.  If they want to build positive relations with Japan, they should take a different attitude to us. I do not have bad images about young generation Koreans. I wish our people treat them nicely and they return home with a good image of Japan.

5 ( +12 / -7 )

First-world nations need more people to learn trades, and to not look down on these professions.

Defiantly, trades in Aust, NZ are some of the most highly paid. The joke is what do you need to get a job at Mc Donald's....a history degree.

Having such a highly educated population is a great thing. Balance in wages and trades ideal. Starts with simple things like repairing a bike tyre yourself rather than buying a new bike.

The negatives of education at any level are nill. Balance and a appreciation of those who's hands get dirty might need some work and a pay rise. Fixing things brings a satisfaction that others might read about in a book but never understand.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

First-world nations need more people to learn trades, 

Employers in first-world nations need to pay first-world wages to their employees who work in trades.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I was born in a trade rich area in the US in the rust belt. The aftermath of open trade policies destroyed industries, communities and hope. If the government policy does not support blue collar workers it is natural and common sense to try to get a higher degree and work in the service industry. Korea's problem seems not to be overeducation, but lack of new and dynamic companies to hire the excellent talent. Now Japan can benefit from this.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

happyhereToday  03:00 pm JST

Sorry, but what is your point?

Well if SK court actually try to sell the seized property in the recent wartime cases then near 2,000 graduates will need to find jobs in other nations since JP government had already made list of retaliatory measures including to strictening immigration from SK making these job seekers impossible for them to find jobs in Japan.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It's good for Japan and Korea not only in terms of jobs and economy but also understanding each other. They can see each other directly both good and bad. That's good.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

High minimum wage + high wealth redistribution + monopolized economy = SK right now. Ever since Moon took power, he jacked the Minimum wage to levels that few small employers can afford to pay, as a result, a lot of young people can't get a job. He is also a big fan of wealth redistribution and high taxation, which is also a job and investment killer. Lastly, the massive red tape in SK has led to few big companies having a complete monopoly over the entire country. This combined with weak law enforcement and rule of law flaws has led to these companies not allowing any competition to enter their market, which in tern leads to fewer job opportunities. SK's economy is too depended on exports which is almost entirely driven by these big corporations who own the export industry. They need to remove all road blocks and encourage more competition, reduce the regulations, the taxes, and the minimum wage.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

It seems like Korea is engaged in a new type of beggar-thy-neighbor labor policy.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )


would you prevent your cousins from visiting you if you had the power?

3 ( +3 / -0 )


Schopenhaur's original post had nothing whatsoever to do with the issues you mention. He was talking about comfort women. pan-pans and the like which have nothing whatsoever to do with the original article either. Surprised the moderator lets him get away with it.

My point is that in the EU there is nothing newsworthy about workers from one country working in another, that is what the EU is all about.

By the way lots of beautiful talented Japanese women and men have moved to SK to join the K-pop industry. I admire them too. How about you Schopenhauer and T(r)iring?

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Maybe I can give some sage advice?Don’t expect any logical moderation on this site.It is all a bit of a crapshoot as to what comments are deleted or allowed.

However, for my part I refrain from criticizing the moderator or JT rules etc as I prefer never to take matters too seriously.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

SK bought into the 'Education Industrial Complex' whereby more education means more matter which point of the education curve that they are on. There comes a point where the costs of having such a highly educated work force outweigh the benefits. Government subsidies for college tuition represent resources that could have been spent elsewhere and SK is at a point where is a saturation point with respect for the demand for college graduates. I am a Professor here in the States and in the last 5 years, I've witnessed a stunning increase in the number of South Korean students who are onto their 'second bachelor's degree' after being unable to find a job in South Korea.

Japan is benefiting from the ever shrinking population of high school and college graduates, but one thing I think Japan does quite well is the trades and how relatively well off Japanese without a college degree can live.

Taiwan has a similar problem whereby there are simply too many college graduates and not enough jobs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

misinformed about pay and conditions.

There is always a risk when going to a different location, even just another city, due to cost of living variations. Different countries are, different. Each has different rules, many unwritten, and imported workers at entry jobs seldom get paid well.

Doesn't Korea have a long history of sending their people overseas to integrate into other societies? This seems like a win-win most of the time, with a few bad experiences.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From my experience, Koreans are generally Smart, and a bit more trust-worthy than their Chinese Counterparts, and less Political than their Indian ones. So I'd welcome them to Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem Japanese Companies need to address in future (& actually at present), is handing over departmental control to one sector of the populace, rather than being diverse. I've seen that of late growing, with a tendency of hiring Indian Nationals (which is inline with Government Policy), though by pushing out other Nationalities, makes Diversity an issue for the future, the local Japanese however benefit - but to the detriment of the overall business. We need to see an end to "Native Japanese" requirements in Job Specs, and and end to the fixation upon Remote Labour is best. Neither help Japan's movement forward in the Technology Sector - which has been todate, focused predominantly upon Japanese Nationwide.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article does a poor job of the actual situation on the ground in Korea.

Korea is a net labor import country by a 1.5 million or so. What makes Korea's labor export situation different from the likes of India is that Korea is not exporting the best labor like India's doing, but exporting "leftovers", the people who cannot get full-time regular positions with chaebols and government.

The issue at hand is the high college graduation rate in Korea(80%) with the confucian tradition of avoiding manual labor; basically everybody wants full time desk jobs at chaebol or at government, but not everyone can get it. Because the quality of employment between regular and irregular jobs are massive($100K~150K a year plus full benefit vs $40K with little benefits), prospective job seekers choose to stay unemployed and try their luck with chabol/government instead of taking jobs with smaller companies or go for manual labor which are plentiful and abundant.

This is the irony of having 1.5 million foreign labor in Korea while 500K Korean youths who can't find chaebol/government desk jobs refuse to take abundant manual labor jobs. It is these leftover job seekers Japanese companies are recruiting, because these leftover job seekers are still superior to Japanese recruits.

The only Japanese company exception to this leftover rule is Softbank, which offers more for its Korean recruits($150K~$200K) than even Korean chaebuls do, and are getting top creams(The secret sauce of Softbank's success).

So the moral of story is that Japan Inc needs to raise its wages to match that of Korean and Chinese big businesses to compete, even Chinese companies like Huawei pay $100K+ a year to its Chinese employees and Japan already had a taste of this when Huawei Japan offered twice the customary starting salary of its new Japanese college graduate recruits at 400,000 yen/month.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

South Korea hyphen US.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm sure that many Japanese people live and work in Korea (and other countries too). So why not educated Koreans work in Japan, and the "Korean leftovers" are probably happy to do the jobs in Japan, which many Japanese see as beneath them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan Times has a better article explaining why Japanese companies are recruiting Korean leftovers.

In the meantime, more Japanese companies aiming to do business abroad are eager to hire South Korean students.

They have gone through fierce competition since their childhood to enter schools and they have high language skills in general,” said an official in charge of recruitment at a staffing agency in Nagoya.

KOTRA notes South Korean students have high skills not only in Japanese, but also in English. Among those who hope to work in Japan and take the widely used Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), over half score 805 or more, which is high, the agency said.

Some companies point out that South Korean students also fit in with Japan’s corporate culture.

“They have experienced military service and are disciplined,” said an official at a manufacturer in Aichi Prefecture. “They are good to work with, because they respect their superiors and are diligent.”

TOEIC language level

950 : Cutoff line to get hired at Samsung

900 : Minimum needed to apply at any of Chaebuls. Also Softbank gives you 1 million yen cash bonus if you score this high.

700 : Enough to get hired at Sony, Goldman Sachs Japan, etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This might make good relation between two countries but SK seem clever on this, trying to tell their netizens to earn in Japan and return back with the savings making SK earn economy.

Japan don't get anything but lose, losing the yen, losing the jobs for their people, losing their company reputation if something goes wrong or fault made secretly by SK.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )


trying to tell their netizens to earn in Japan and return back with the savings making SK earn economy.

Wages are significantly lower in Japan, and most are expected to not return.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Lee Sun-hyung, a 30-year old athletics major, used K-move to go to Sydney to work as a swim coach in 2017 but earned less than $A600 ($419) a month, one-third what her government handlers told her in Seoul.

I think she got paid A$ 600 a week instead of a month. Minimum wages in 2017 was around A$ 18.29 per hour and A$ 684.90 per week.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It’s a two way street. Some here comment as if Japanese companies hiring Korean college educated graduates is a form of aid to a developing country. Companies hire if it benefits them, especially young bright ones who speak Japanese, Korean, and English well.

Japan is benefiting from the ever shrinking population of high school and college graduates, but one thing I think Japan does quite well is the trades and how relatively well off Japanese without a college degree can live.

And those who don’t go to college aren’t looked down upon as dropouts or slow learners rather people who looked at the numbers and made an economic choice.

Maybe I can give some sage advice?Don’t expect any logical moderation on this site.It is all a bit of a crapshoot as to what comments are deleted or allowed.

However, for my part I refrain from criticizing the moderator or JT rules etc as I prefer never to take matters too seriously.

I find the subtle references in comments fly over heads and are met with perplexity which leads to them being deleted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or not, as the contemporaneous set of events clearly shows...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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