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South Koreans look to Vietnam for jobs

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 15:04 GMT+7
South Koreans look to Vietnam for jobs
A jobseeker looks at a booth during the 2018 Japan Job Fair in Seoul, South Korea, November 7, 2018. Photo: Reuters

Facing an unprecedented job crunch at home, many young South Koreans are now signing up for government-sponsored programs designed to help them find positions in foreign countries including Vietnam.

State-run programs such as K-move, rolled out to connect young Koreans to “quality jobs” in 70 countries, found overseas jobs for 5,783 graduates last year, more than triple the number in 2013, its first year, Reuters reports.

Almost one-third went to Japan, which is undergoing a historic labor shortage with unemployment at a 26-year low, while a quarter went to the United States, where the jobless rate dropped to the lowest in nearly half a century in April.

Vietnam is among countries taking in South Korean job seekers through such government programs.

Park Hae Soo, who found a job at retail solutions company Mainetti Vietnam through the K-move program, said working in a foreign country is a good opportunity for him to build up experience.

“It’s good for my future career, either in Korea or any other nation,” Park said.

There are no strings attached.

Unlike similar programs in places such as Singapore that come with an obligation to return and work for the government for up to six years, attendees of South Korea’s programs are neither required to return, nor work for the state in the future.

“Apart from connecting [local job seekers] with overseas employers, the South Korean Government also offer other types of support such as stipends,” said Nguyen Thi Kim Hanh, who hires young South Koreans to work as digital marketing managers and interpreters at her company.

Hanh, CEO of Yellow Chair Specialty Coffee in Ho Chi Minh City, said she had been aided in finding qualified applicants through the Overseas Korean Traders Association (OKTA).

Lee Ji Hoon, who studies international trade in Vietnam through the Young Samsung program sponsored by the South Korean conglomerate, said low costs of living and friendly people are what draw him to Vietnam.

Lee said he intends to apply for work at the local office of South Korea’s Shinhan Bank after finishing the four-month course.

“I studied Vietnamese as a foreign language in high school,” Lee said.

“Brain drain isn’t the government’s immediate worry. Rather, it’s more urgent to prevent them from sliding into poverty” even if it means pushing them abroad, said Kim Chul-ju, deputy dean at the Asian Development Bank Institute.

In 2018, South Korea generated the smallest number of jobs since the global financial crisis, only 97,000.

Nearly one in five young Koreans was out of work as of 2013, higher than the average 16 percent among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In March, one in every four Koreans in the 15-29 age group was not employed either by choice or due to the lack of jobs, according to government data.

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