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Korea Country Information

Korea Country Director:
Sungsik Ahn
Career Counselor
Career Development Center
Korea University
Korea@AsiaPacificCDA.org


South Korea's FIRST Counseling Day
Sang Min Lee

The concepts of counseling and guidance were first introduced to South Korea by the U.S. educational delegation in the 1950s. Since then the counseling profession has rapidly evolved. Currently, there are approximately 50,000 counselors across the nation. Although the counseling profession is one of the fastest growing professions in South Korea, there is no standardized counseling licensure system in South Korea. Due to the absence of a national board for counseling license, there are numerous private counseling certifications - approximately 3,500 certifications - that are accessible to counselors. Many private counseling centers and institutes have created their own certifications for the practice of counseling. Since 2014, the number of private counseling-related certifications registered in the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (KRIVET) has increased exponentially. Put briefly, about 500 new certifications are registered every year. In addition, any individual can open a private counseling center without any restrictions because there are no legislative restrictions on counseling private practice. Recently, a former sex offender opened a private counseling center and raped 13 clients including one adolescent client.

Due to such malpractices and the need for constructing a standardized system, representatives from 25 professional counseling associations created a national counselor licensure system. Beginning this year, 2017, professional counselors in South Korea designated August 8th as "Counseling Day" as a starting point for the development of the national counselor licensure system. Counseling Day is a celebration of counselors and serves to raise awareness of the counseling services to the public. According to Dr. Chang-dai Kim, the president of Korean Association for Counseling Promotion, August 8th is designated as the "Counseling Day" because the shape of the number "88" seems as if two people, a counselor and a client, are facing each other. Others shared that the number 88 indicates the following message: "Thanks to counseling, let the people live happily to 88 years old!"

The first event of the very first August 8th "Counseling Day" was held successfully at the National Assembly and was sponsored by the 25 professional counseling associations involved with establishing national licensure. More than 300 counselors attended and were welcomed by Won-sik Woo, the congressional representative of the Democratic Party. Several legislators additionally delivered congratulatory messages for the declaration of Counseling Day. The comedians Jong-cheol Jeong, Sun-hee Jeong, and Beom-Kyun Jeong, the singer Soo-young Lee, the broadcasters Ho-sun Lee, Seung-hyun Ji, and Ji-yoon Park were appointed as the public ambassadors to further enhance the day's festivities. Ongoing support from public figures and legislators will play a critical role in augmenting public awareness of counseling.

Along with designating "Counseling Day," the Korean Association for Counseling Promotion also started the signature collecting campaign for the development of the law for counselors. So far, more than 25,000 counselors signed the campaign for advocating government issued licenses and certifications. Having observed the National Assembly packed with many counselors in the celebration of the first "Counseling Day" and numerous signatures on the development of the law for counselors, it seems axiomatic that the counseling profession in South Korea will make a tremendous progress in strengthening its status in the next decade.

Dr. Sang Min Lee is a Professor in the Counseling Program, Department of Education at Korea University. He can be reached at leesang@korea.ac.kr

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News from South Korea, June, 2017 by Sungsik Ahn

APCDA members presented at NYPI and ARACD Conference in Seoul, May 17-18 2017

APCDA members at NYPI and ARACD Conference
2017 NYPI ARACD Conference titled "Career Education and VET (Vocational Education & Training) for Youth in Asia" was held in Seoul on 17-18 May 2017 and hosted by National Youth Policy Institute in Korea (NYPI), Asian Regional Association for Career Development (ARACD) and other related organizations (see details at https://www.nypiarcd2017.com). This conference provided unique opportunities to learn about the ten nations' career development status in their education system on a single afternoon; including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Iran. Although the time frame was much too short, it was great to listen to ten country reports at once. A truly wonderful learning opportunity! Our APCDA members, Dr. Hsiu-Lan (Shelley) Tien (Taiwan), Mr. Raza Abbas (Pakistan), and Dr. Mantak Yuen (Hong Kong) presented their own country reports at this conference. I, Sungsik Ahn, along with Dr. Woongtai Kim and Ms. Yoshimi Sasaki also attended as participants. I was delighted to see our APCDA members in Seoul but wished there was more time for networking and catching up.


Korean Career Development Counseling Association (KCDCA) to publish A Series of Career Counseling and Education books for K-12 Career Teachers

Korean Career Development Counseling Association (KCDCA; 14th Division of Korean Counseling Association (KCA)) has published a new series of books on career counseling and education for K-12. The authors are KCDCA members and prominent scholars in the career education and counseling field in Korea. This series mainly targets potential and current career teachers of K-12. Four of the published books include 1) Introduction to Career Education, 2) Career and College Counseling, 3) Theories of Career Counseling and Practice, and 4) Career Information. Five more books are planned this year. Their titles are 5) Development of Career Education Programs, 6) Career Assessments for Adolescents, 7) Practice of Career Education in Elementary (1-6 grade) Schools, 8) Practice of Career Education in Middle (7-9 grade) Schools, and 9) Practice of Career Education in High (10-12 grade) Schools. This series will continue to cover all parts of career counseling and education for K-12.

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Sophomore Slump in Korea – A New Phenomenon for College Students by Eunjin Kim

For Korean students, the final goal of study is going to a "good" college. Students are told that if they go to a good college, they can do whatever they would like to do and can find their own career. However, the truth is that one should find their own career or future path by oneself. Neither universities nor colleges provide such answers. But still, school teachers, parents and Korean society do not allow students to have enough time to explore their dreams or career and push them towards higher education.

Recently, a documentary titled "College Sophomores ask the school"[1] was broadcasted and a newly-coined term was introduced, Dea-e Byung (literally "college sophomore syndrome"), which reflects the slump phenomenon among college sophomores in Korea. It refers to those who entered the college but do not have a big picture of what career they want to follow. Such slump of sophomores can be observed in the United States (Beyer, 1963), but sophomore slump in the US is regarded as a problem because students lose their motivation to survive in college (kind of adaption to new environment) as they become sophomores from freshmen. The US also found that the academic pressure for sophomore year is more of a burden than in the freshmen year. Although, somewhat similar to those of US sophomores, the slump of Korean sophomores seems to be more focused on the fundamental reasons for college studies. Korean sophomores could not explore and find future careers for themselves.

"No one tells me what to do after entering college. I feel rage toward the education system in Korea that it did not tell us why we need to go to college," said a student who passed the Korean College Entrance Exam with perfect scores and entered Seoul National University, a top-ranked university in Korea. Some of students who could not make their way through this tough sophomore year decide to drop out or some take an absence for a semester or a year to consider their future. But in many cases, they return to college without any answers, attempt to prepare for job after graduation, but are aimless in targeting their future.

Nowadays, career development or education is a popular issue in Korean society as the Career Education Law has been enforced since 2016. All schools and colleges should provide career education to their students according to this law. I hope this career education movement expands to all citizens so that parents and Korean society can allow our youth to have the time needed to explore selves and environments, including jobs, careers and futures. I look forward to our college students saying "I chose this major for [my dream]." No more "Dae-e-Byung"!

References

  1. SBS Documentary "College Sophomores ask the school" can be found at this streaming site: http://www.ondemandkorea.com/sbs-special-e485.html (only in Korean language)
  2. Beyer, R. A. (1963). Sophomore Slump: Can It Be Remedied?. The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved from http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1963/2/16/sophomore-slump-can-it-be-remedied

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Career Education Act in Korea by Ji-Yeon Lee Ph.D. KRIVET

On December 23, 2015, The Career Education Act was launched in Korea. The purpose of the Career Education Act is to clarify the responsibilities of nation, state and school in providing high quality career education, and the career learning rights of all students from primary to higher education level without excluding anyone. The Career Education Act consists of 4 chapters and 23 articles. It describes who, what, why, how, and where career education should be provided to enhance students' career development competencies and national growth.

Among the 4 chapters of the Career Education Act, chapter 1 covers general provisions. It sets forth the purpose of the Career Education Act, the definition and basic direction of career education, the responsibilities of national and state governments and confidentiality of information acquired on duty, etc. According to article 1 of chapter 1, the purpose of national career education is ". . . to let students actively respond to the changing world of work and fully realize their talent and aptitude, thereby contributing to support individual's happy life and promote socio-economic development." This means national career education should drive the career development of people so that they can actively respond to transitions both in the world of work and education throughout their whole lifespan. 

In addition, the Career Education Act specifies the purpose and achievement criteria of career education by school level, the placement of career counselors, psychological tests, career guidance & counselling, career exploration, Career Intensive Grade and Semester, and the required infrastructure & system to support career education at all levels of education. The singularity of the Career Education Act addresses marginalized groups such as disabled youth, North Korean defectors, drop-out students, and youth on welfare, all of whom must have the right to receive career education. Before the Career Education Act was legislated, these populations were neglected because most career guidance programs and counselling manuals mainly focused on mainstream students. The Career Education Act serves as the impetus to be on full alert to help the career needs and demands of often neglected student populations.

Less than a year old, this new Korean Career Education Act functions as a landmark guideline as to how career education should be provided at school and which national career education policies should be implemented. The Act requires not only the full participation of individuals and schools but also the widespread support of Korean society at large. Through the Career Education Act, more qualified career experts will be allocated, and better quality controlled programs, information, and services will be disseminated to all people in lifelong learning. Furthermore, career guidance, counselling and information practices will be promoted to whomever, whenever, and wherever people need.

In conclusion, the Career Education Act in Korea has become the driving force of educational reform. It aims to facilitate students to discover and develop their talent and career vision throughout their school years, so they can learn self-directed career management skills. APCDA members from other countries would love to hear how this Act as well as other new policies, procedures and activities are impacting the career development work you, personally, do in Korea.

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Career Trends in South Korea by Sungsik Ahn


Soaring youth's unemployment rate in South Korea and grasping Korean youth's difficulties through neologisms regarding employment.

Recently the unemployment rate of youth (age 15-29) hit 12.5%, the highest ever since 1999[1]. Generally the unemployment rate in February is relatively higher than other months as most of college students are graduating from universities in February so the number of job-seekers increases in this month. Looking at the last four years, the February 2016 rate is the highest it's ever been. The main reasons why the unemployment of youth is soaring might be due to Korea's present economic slowdown (For more information on the unemployment rate of youth in Korea, please see newspaper articles - [2], [3]). In this article, I would like to focus on neologisms about employment to understand the difficulties of college students rather than on the reasons for this high unemployment rate.

New words, neologisms, shows the slice of current problems and challenges for college students.

I introduce some new words shared among young job seekers or college students. By grasping the meaning and background of the neologisms related to employment or career, you will understand the difficulties and challenges of young job seekers in South Korea.

"Spec"

"Spec" is a neologism derived from the English word 'specification' which originally means "a detailed description of design criteria for a piece of work." 'Spec' means the description of the person's backgrounds and abilities which can be put on one's resume like the brand of universities, English scores (TOEIC, TOFLE, etc.), GPA, certifications, extra-curricular experiences including the experience of studying abroad or language courses, etc.

The general hiring process of large Korean companies includes 3 or 4 screening steps. The first is the so-called 'paper screening' process to select those for next steps. During the paper screening, employers screen for those who have higher 'specs' like higher GPA, higher TOEIC scores, graduates from good brand universities, etc. So many (maybe all) college students are striving to make higher specs (or at least to manage their specs) during their time in college. The problem is that 'spec' is not all that is needed to be a successful candidate but many college students think it is essential in order to pass the 'paper screening.' Employers are seeking those whose career goals or passions are well aligned with the 'spec' and show the right fit with their companies, but many college students are trying to just build 'spec' to get more opportunities for job interviews rather than to make informed decisions and explore careers (for more discussion about 'spec', please see [4]).

"Munsonghamnida"

"Munsonghamnida" is an abbreviation meaning that "Sorry I'm liberal arts major." The employability of liberal arts students will be an issue not only in Korea but also globally. In the last 10 years, the number of liberal arts graduates has increased more than the employment demand for this major. In 2016, employers are seeking engineering students and other STEM-related majors. To redress this issue and enhance their employability, many liberal arts students are trying to earn dual degrees by adding business administration. This is due to the increased number of admissions allocated for liberal arts majors in the last ten or so years and the still higher portion of positions available in the manufacturing sector in the Korean economy (for more discussion about "Munsonghamnida," please see [5]).

Only two neologisms will be covered in this newsletter issue. Please look for more in upcoming issues. The terms above may not exactly reflect the truth on the screening process of Korean companies or the positive aspect of liberal arts students, but you can understand the perception of difficulty felt by college students or youth in Korea when they are job searching and preparing for the transition from school to work. Although there are many initiatives being instituted by Korean government at both the central and local level, the reality is that the Korean as well as the overall global economy is slow and seems far from recovery. I hope our readers can grasp some clues about Korean youth's struggles and difficulties from this short article.

Reference

[1] Kim, S. & Kwack, J. (2016, March, 17). Youth unemployment rate hits highest point ever. The Hankyoreh. Retrieved from http://www.hani.co.kr (A direct link to this article: http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_business/735460.html)

[2] Do, J. (2016, March 17). Youth in despair [Editorial]. The Korea Times. Retrieved from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr (A direct link to this article: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2016/03/202_200598.html)

[3] Choi, S. (2016, March 16). Youth unemployment 'resembles Japan 20 years ago'. The Korea Times. Retrieved from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr (A direct link to this article: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/ww`bgw/news/biz/2016/03/123_200493.html)

[4] Yoon, H. (2013, November 18). Are You Really Familiar with 'Spec'? [Feature/Cover Story]. The UOS Times. Retrieved from http://times.uos.ac.kr (A direct link to this article: http://times.uos.ac.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=1473)

[5] Noh, H. (2015, December 16). Liberals arts grads look set to remain jobless. The Hankyoreh Retrieved from http://www.hani.co.kr (A direct link to this article:  http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_business/722176.html)


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National Competency Standards (NCS) & Career Education Act in Korea by Dr. Chonghyun Pyun and Sungsik Ahn


Problems such as the higher unemployment rate of youth, gaps between education and the labor market, graduates who are unprepared for their careers or jobs, etc. seem to be common issues in developing countries in our times. Those problems are obviously closely related to our profession as career development professionals but we as individual practitioners have limited capability to help our clients in such social constraints without reforming the social support system or career related infrastructures. In Korea, such issues have also been problems and recently a new movement was initiated by the Korean government to solve such social problems. To be specific, the education system has not successfully prepared students for their career and for the labor market, so graduates from high schools and universities seem to have made poorly informed career decisions (e.g. high turnover within one year from employment) and to be lacking in competencies which society requires after graduation (e.g. high investment to get higher English scores for employment). There are many movements or efforts to solve such problems in Korea. However, two major recent initiatives will be introduced briefly in this article.

  1. National Competency Standards (NCS)

    NCS refers to the competencies such as knowledge, skills and attitudes, which are required to perform a particular job in industry. These competencies are standardized by government and industry. NCS includes not only job specifications but also career development guidelines for each job area. The development of NCS is still in progress and currently NCS of 887 jobs and relevant learning modules have been developed and can be found in the NCS Portal (www.ncs.go.kr). Furthermore, this portal includes a job application package based on NCS which offers NCS-based lifelong development career paths, hiring checklists, training criteria, etc. Using the NCS Portal, one can design a career path in each job area and can get necessary information at each stage of the career path. The Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Education have started to develop learning modules from NCS for use in the curriculums of high schools and universities so that NCS can inspire a culture of competency-based employee selection.


  2. Career Education Act

    Legislation for the Career Education Act has been passed this year, 2015. The Ministry of Education is making follow-up plans so the Career Education Act can be manifested in practice. The Career Education Law mainly deals with (1) systematizing career education in schools to meet goals and achievement standards for career education, (2) hiring and staffing career counseling teachers in schools, (3) fostering career experiences in class, (4) providing a "Free Semester" (a semester or a year program for focusing on career education without evaluation), (5) establishing national and local career education centers, (6) imposing guidelines for suppling career education programs at all public institutes and (7) introducing an accreditation system for career experience institutes.


These movements by the Korean government to improve career development will be continued and will cause changes in the Korean school system and universities. There will be chaos in practices due to the changes, however, after the new system stabilizes, it will help our students and youth make informed career decisions so they can be more prepared for future society.

For more detail information related to those government's initiatives, contact Dr. Pyun at Korea Employment Information Service (career4u@keis.or.kr).


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Status of Career Counseling Services in Korean Universities by Sungsik Ahn


Career counseling services are provided by both counseling centers and career centers in universities. The university counseling centers are generally perceived as professional organizations and the staff are certified or licensed counselors or counseling major graduate students (interns), and the process of counseling services is well organized. They are providing counseling services on various domains and career counseling is one of them. The university career centers are also generally perceived as professional organizations on students' career preparation and placements, however, they are not yet perceived as professional organizations for career counseling in Korea. Recently many university career centers are expanding one-on-one (1:1) services including career counseling services and investing in facilities to promote student's career development and placement. To determine the quality of career counseling services or 1:1 services in four years university career centers in Korea, a quick survey was conducted in June 2014. Twelve out of twenty university career centers replied to the quick survey.

The average number of students enrolled is 10,780 and the average number of full time staff in university career centers is 6.4 (2,048 students per staff) in this survey. All twelve centers replied that they provide 1:1 services from simple guidance/advice on programs or critique on resume/cover letter to career coaching or career counseling. But only seven centers reported they are providing assessment services like personality assessment (e.g. MBTI) and interest assessment (e.g. STRONG, Holland) and only two centers reported they are providing psychological counseling. The average number for 1:1 services per week is 51.4 and the average length of 1:1 sessions is 47 minutes. Only five centers limit the maximum number of sessions per student (from 2 to 20 sessions per student) and others do not have such a policy. One center reported that they have an intake process before career counseling.

To see how professional the staff at the career center are, the survey asked about the staff who are providing 1:1 services directly to students. The average number of staff providing 1:1 services is 3.1(full-time) and 5.4(part-time). More part-time professionals are hired for 1:1 services because full-time staff are mostly administrative. Part-time staff hold more counseling-related degree than full-time staff. The average number of full time staff with counseling-related majors is 0.2(BA), 0.9(MA), 0.2(Ph.D/Ed.D). The average number of part time staff with counseling related majors is 0.0(BA), 0.5(MA), 1.1(Ph.D/Ed.D)). Seven centers have staff with assessment-related certifications and seven centers have staff with national vocation counselor certifications. Only four centers reported that they have regular case meetings (only 2 have clinical supervision). Others reported they do not have case meetings or have them when needed. Only three centers have policies to prevent counselor's burn-out by limiting counseling sessions per day (e.g. 5 cases per day). Most centers offer training provided by Korea Employment Information Services (KEIS, a government research agency) and none reported providing their own training programs. The centers have an average of 2.6 closed rooms and 5.6 open rooms for 1:1 services.

These results can not be generalized for all university career centers as only 12 universities in the Seoul region responded. Generally, most of the centers are doing their best with limited budgets and staff to provide quality services to their students. For more effective services, many university career centers in Korea are expanding or hope to expand personally customized services (e.g. 1:1 services or career counseling). Commonly, they hire part-time professionals rather than developing their full time staff's professional skills. One reason for this might be that most of full time staff in career centers are administrative and all regularly circulated from one office to other office. This problem has been pointed by professionals and scholars for many years. It seems difficult to solve until university career centers are perceived to be professional career counseling service organizations. Most of universities classify their services as "career counseling," but the quality is questionable considering the qualifications/degrees of the staff who provide 1:1 services. Except for two universities, there are no qualified career or psychological counselors. Career advisding services provided 1:1 seems to be equated to "career counseling." Finally, many have no clear policies for developing professional skills, preventing burn-out, processing intakes, administering assessments, managing cases, etc.

University career centers in Korea have been expanding their services, program staff and physical facilities. Recently, they have begun to provide more effective services like 1:1 services or career counseling. The results of this quick survey indicate that most universities provide 1:1 services in their career center but the quality of 1:1 or career counseling services is somewhat questionable. Perhaps the first problem for university career centers in Korea to solve is to develop the professional skills of their staff.

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Professional Career Development Organizations in Korea: Life Development Counseling Association by Sungsik Ahn


There are various organizations or associations related to career development professionals in South Korea and each has their own strengths based on members' backgrounds. The Life Development Counseling Association (LDCA) is one career related association and consists of researchers and professors of career/vocation counseling majors. Initially it was called the "Career Development Vocational Counseling Colloquium (Career Colloquium)". The association's first board meeting was held in November 2006. The goal of the Career Colloquium was introducing career counseling theories and practices and reflecting their application in the context of Korean culture. From 2007 to 2011, the Career Colloquium hosted nineteen regular colloquium on issues such as career counseling/development theories and its application, career related assessments and career counseling interventions in various settings by inviting researchers who studied on each issue or practitioners with experience related to a specific setting.

In 2012, the Career Colloquium changed its name to the Life Development Counseling Association to cover broader issues related to individuals' career and life such as marriage, leisure, heath, finance, education, etc. LDCA continued to host regular colloquium on various issues related to career and life like leisure counseling, university entrance advice, life development counseling, etc. To introduce broader perspectives on career and life issues to career professionals and students of master or doctoral programs, LDCA has invited international guests from other countries. Last year via Skype, LDCA hosted two international seminars. One invited Dr. James Sampson from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, United States and centered on the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) model and career readiness issues. Another focused on the Hope-centered Career Development Approach and invited Dr. Yoon Hyung Joon from Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. Additionally, LDCA offered the 2013 NCDA conference debriefing session at Korea Counseling Association's 2013 annual conference.

Please contact LDCA's chairperson, Dr. Hwang Mae Hyang (maehyang@ginue.ac.kr) if you are interested in researching career issues with Korean scholars or making a contribution to a future LDCA colloquium. Dr. Hyang is planning to attend NCDA's conference this year at Long Beach.


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Korean participants at 2013 NCDA Conference

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of National Career Development Association, many Korean practitioners, researchers, students and professors participated in 2013 NCDA Conference in Boston last July. It might be the largest group among international guests in the conference. Korean participants lunched together during the conference, networking and giving warm congratulation to Dr. Yoon, Hyung Joon who was elected for the Trustee At Large board member of NCDA. Korean members all enjoyed the conference and short trip in Boston before and after the conference.

Korean participants: Dr. Yoon, Hyung Joon; Ms. Hwang, Eunmee; Dr. Hwang, Mae Hyang; Mr. Ahn, Sungsik; Dr. Kang, Hey Young; Ms. In, Hyo Yoen; Ms. Kang, Zi Young (on the right photo, from left to clockwise)


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In South Korea, there are many associations or organizations related to career counseling

Korean Counseling Association  is one of the largest associations for counseling field. You can see the detail introduction on KCA website - http://www.counselors.or.kr.  Their goal is to provide practitioners in Korea broader perspectives for their practice and research.


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