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Younger Generation and Graduates in South Korea prefer to work in South Korean Conglomerate Companies

Updated on September 5, 2015

Undergraduate Employment in South Korea

With the South Korean conglomerates dominating and monopolizing the markets, offering better salary and working conditions, the younger generation in South Korea are placing themselves in intense competition when looking for a job in one of these big conglomerate companies.

These conglomerates include Samsung, Hyundai, Lotte, LG, SK, Daewoo, and the list goes on. Located mainly in Gangnam area of Seoul, it has been the younger generation’s dream to work in this area of Seoul. The university graduates are facing increasing pressure to be hired by these conglomerates. Living expenses in Seoul has sky-rocketed over the years, demanding KWN35,000,000 for a reasonably good living standards. To meet such high living standards, conglomerates can offer annual salary up to KWN40,000,000 for a fresh graduate engineer for instance.

Small and mid-sized companies often offer poorer salary, such as KWN33,000,000 or even below KWN30,000,000, and that comes with poorer working conditions.

List of South Korean Conglomerate Companies

Revenue (Million USD)
Samsung Group
Hyundai Group
LG Group
SK Group
Lotte Group
STX Corporation
LS Group
Doosan Group
E.Land Group
Shinsegae Group
Kumho Asiana Group
SsangYong Group

Reference : Retrieved 2010-02-18.

Advantages of Joining Conglomerate Companies in South Korea

There are many advantages that come with a job from these conglomerates. Korean men without a job in conglomerates may sometimes find themselves rejected by women they wish to date. Holding a permanent job from these conglomerates is deemed a prestige position by the Korean society as a whole.

A job from conglomerate companies will also enable the young graduate to obtain higher percentage of loan from the bank to purchase a house of their wish. With the increasing property price in South Korea, especially Seoul, owning a property and renting a place to stay has become a common problem among the younger generation.

In addition to that, the conglomerates will also offer very low loan interest rate for the graduates to buy a housing property. For instance, if they need to pay 8% interest for a bank loan, the conglomerates will offer 2 to 3% loan interest instead, as part of the company benefits.

Generally, a job from conglomerate companies provide a better quality life to the Koreans.

Stiff Competition Among University Undergraduates

In view of such stiff competition in employment industry, many university undergraduate students have started looking for opportunity to get a job in conglomerate companies starting from their third year in university, ideally before they graduate. If they do not find one before they graduate, they are seen by hiring companies as someone being rejected by conglomerates, deemed under qualified for the jobs. With such fate facing them, the undergraduates sometimes postpone their graduation to later years, until they are given a job offer.

Delay Graduation

When Korean undergraduates fail to get a job offer before they graduate, they will then decide to take longer than four years to complete their degree. They will take extra courses such as English and Chinese languages while seeking employment.

Since employee looks for prestigious university and good grades while employing the undergraduate, some of these students switch to better university during their university years, taking longer time to graduate, so as to secure a better job opportunity.

Internship Program

To increase their chances of being hired, thousands of undergraduates will apply for internship program offered by these conglomerates. Internship program is seen as an advanced advantage of obtaining a permanent position in these conglomerates.

The process of getting “hired” for internship program is not much easier than permanent employment application. They prepare resume and cover letters, explaining their personal matters such as family background, motivation to join the company, personal strength and interest, additional knowledge acquired or certificates, and good command of English. Undergraduates often visit the Academies in Kwanghuamun area and attend Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) which measures their ability to use English in everyday speaking and writing.

For those undergraduate coming from finer background, they will travel to English speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, US, Philippines and so on, to take English course for a year. Some of them travel or work in these countries to gain more English speaking exposure.

If they pass the first step of document screening which is 1 in 150 chances, they will receive an invitation by the company to undergo a series of test such as aptitude test, personality test etc. These tests are not easy. For example, a company can ask the candidate in a personality test to answer 450 questions in 45 minutes. Often than not, the candidates tried very hard to complete the questions, but due to insufficient time or confused by too many questions, they just mark the answer randomly. The test results will be announced in the company recruitment website, and about 1 in 5 people will be accepted.

Once accepted, they will be invited to an interview. One of the requirements in the interview requests the candidate to speak English in front of the monitor for a few minutes, talking about themselves, social issues, their major in university studies and so on.

Passing the interview will grant them the internship program that lasts 2 to 3 months. At the end of the internship program, they will be asked to go for another interview that will possibly grant them permanent employment in the company.

Such competitive selection processes have really placed the undergraduates in great pressure and worry of jobless. With graduate unemployment rate of 7.8% in 2012, being selective in job-hunt are not doing any good to the undergraduates.

Government Measures

South Korean government should create more quality jobs to meet the increasing number of graduates each year.

While conglomerates are cherry-picking good candidates from prestigious universities in Korea, small and medium companies are facing problems hiring people.

The government should provide incentives to small and medium size companies so that they can increase their salary offer and provide the employees with better working conditions.


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