S. Korean grads quitting degree-related job hunt

May 19, 2015
SEOUL, South Korea -- A crowd of job seekers and university students enter a job fair for public institutions at a Seoul convention center. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, South Korea — A crowd of job seekers and university students enter a job fair for public institutions at a Seoul convention center. (Yonhap)

By Jhoo Dong-chan

An increasing number of unemployed young adults are giving up hope of finding a job.

Park is one of the so-called NEET tribe — an acronym for “Not in education, employment or training.”

A computer graphics major in a private university in Seoul, Park has applied for nearly 200 companies so far. But none have offered him a job opportunity.

“I thought I was going to be an Internet game developer when I graduated from college,” Park said. “But I never managed to get a job at any game companies. Maybe it’s just an empty dream for me.”

He then started to apply to companies not related to his major and personal interests, only to fail again.

Park decided to be a part-timer at a convenience store and work at construction sites.

“I am never going to rush around to become a permanent worker at a big company anymore. Although I won’t be able to buy a house or get married, I am happy,” said Park.

According to Statistics Korea, Tuesday, unemployment among young adults with no prior job experience reached an over 12-year high last month, a sign of growing economic uncertainty that is affecting the labor market.

There were some 95,000 people in their 20s and 30s who have never held a job before and were not employed in April. Of the total, 89,000 were people in their 20s. This is the highest number since 2003.

The youth unemployment rate recorded 10.2 percent in April, up 0.2 percentage points compared to a year earlier. The figure is the highest in 16 years.

In other words, 15 out of 100 jobless youngsters have quit looking for a job or are not on work-related training.

Kim, a 29-year-old woman who returned from the U.S. recently, has also experienced difficulties in getting a job.

A graduate of one of the most prestigious universities there, Kim never expected to be unemployed here.

“I do not understand the reason why my resume is rejected at document screening. It is really stressful,” said Kim.

“But I do not want to work in the small-sized company. It’s a matter of pride.”

After failing to get a job here, Kim left the country and studied for a doctoral degree in the U.S. last year.

The government is aware of the problem but has provided few solutions.

Labor and Employment Minister Lee Ki-kweon expressed his concern about the impact on the economy of the growing NEET population.

Choi Kyung-hwan, deputy prime minister for the economy and finance, warned last week that the retirement age extension from 55 to 60 next year will create a more serious job crisis for youngsters.