Bora Lee, Ph. D.
Department of Education
1/ On November 23rd, a conference will be held by the Korean Society for the Study of Career Education. The topic will be “The outcomes and challenges of Career Teacher System”.
2/ The importance of career guidance and counselling becoming even more important in schools.
*Data from Career Education Status Survey (2021)
1. Including diverse populations in career education and counselling
Increasing number of students with multicultural backgrounds:
The below graph shows the increasing number and proportion of diverse cultural background students. (green line- proportion; blue bars- absolute numbers)
Korea has been historically a highly homogeneous society in terms of ethnicity and nationality. So, career-related policies and services are not necessarily designed to sensitively include diverse needs.
<Services and programs>
Textbooks/Workbooks for students translated in non-Korean language (For example, Choongbook province recently published a multi-language Career Workbook for middle school students. The languages are Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian, Chinese.) Article Source: https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20220801039000064
Seoul City offered a career program for adolescents with multicultural backgrounds during the summer break. Article Source: http://www.mediapen.com/news/view/739888
Topics were <Fourth industrialization and Artificial Intelligence, Metaverse and career exploration>, <Career Exploration>, <Exploring a Youtube creator as a career>
Namyangju City offered career program for adolescents and their parents with multicultural backgrounds. The program included 1:1 career consulting service and an organized lecture on career development. Article source: http://www.paxetv.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=149870
Teacher training program offered to enhance career teacher & career counselors’ competencies to work with students with diverse backgrounds and socially-mariginalized students. Article source: https://www.cnbnews.com/news/article.html?no=557587
Non-Korean language included in school’s career counselling
Vietnamese language used in career counselling (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES8pOwBZT6U&ab_channel=VietnamNewsAgency)
Some schools offer translation service to teachers so that teachers can work effectively with students whose first language is not Korean. (Article source: https://news.imaeil.com/page/view/2022042110541744180)
COVID19 cases rapidly increasing in Korea
Unemployment rate as of December 2022
‘Generation MZ’ is recently getting more and more attention in the Korean press and media. The term comes from a pairing of two groups, Millennials and Generation Z. While Millennials refer to people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, Gen Z includes those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s; the exact cutoff points may differ in various articles and research. Despite the distinct age gap, the term ‘MZ’ highlights the similarities of these two cohorts as the leaders of the changing economic trend. According to the book Generation Z Rules the World, each generation includes 10.73 million and 8.3 million people in Korea, together making up 45% of the economically active population. Since this proportion will continue to increase, many companies are attempting to understand the characteristics of Gen MZ, or MZers. Especially, those trying to recruit MZer workers are focusing on their work values and related behaviors.
While Millennials are also known as the “Me Me Me Generation” in the U.S., the term depicting their self-centered feature, Korean MZers seem not so different. One of the most salient characteristics among MZers is increased individualism, which affects their work-related attitudes. Compared to former generations who are relatively more organization-oriented, MZers tend to be more self-focused, recognizing themselves as independent of the organization. They want to pursue personal values through work, rather than just passively following organizational values. One MZer worker said, “I want to experience achievements at work based on intrinsic motivation, not just working for money. If my personal growth contributes to the organization, it would be a win-win situation.” MZers seem to seek self-actualization in their work, wanting to find work personally meaningful for themselves.
MZers’ individualistic feature also applies to ‘how’ they work. They value leisure time and personal life, considering ‘work-life balance’ necessary. In a survey conducted in 2020 by a job-matching platform Saramin, which included 2,708 respondents of workers aged 20 to 39, ‘companies with a lot of overtime work’ ranked first (31.5%) as the worst company type to work for. Meanwhile, MZers are horizontally individualistic, in terms of organizational culture. The same survey by Saramin showed that ‘companies with a horizontal communication culture’ came first (23.5%) as the best company type to work for among MZers. Regarding evaluation and compensation, MZers want fair pay based on individual performance. In January, a fourth-year worker in SK Hynix sent an e-mail to the president and all the employees demanding to “clearly clarify the criteria of calculating performance-based incentives.” This event led to solidarity between IT workers through SNS. Considering hierarchical corporate culture in Korea, this has made headlines among companies.
MZers seem to be more open to changing jobs than former generations; they quit jobs if the current positions do not fit their standards. According to a survey of 3,224 people aged 19 to 34 conducted by the National Youth Policy Institute (NYPI) in 2021, 46.0% of workers had turnover experience. MZers call themselves ‘pro-ijik-ler’, a neologism that refers to people who skillfully change jobs. With this trend, continuous self-improvement has become a culture among them. Rather than just doing well in their current job, MZers aim to develop skills in various fields, expanding their careers. As the COVID-19 situation is elongated, MZer workers are preparing to switch jobs instead of enjoying vacation. They try to get job-related certification, participating in study groups through online platforms. Career-related topics are popular among these workers, such as self-help books and Vlogs on Youtube.
The characteristics of Gen MZ may reflect the economic situation in Korean society in the last 20 years. Since the IMF Crisis in the late 1990s, job seekers in Korea have suffered from unemployment and job insecurity, and these difficulties have now intensified with the ongoing pandemic situation. Growing up in the era of economic recession, the experience of uncertainty has made MZers focus more on the present rather than the future, personal standards instead of following the norm. At the same time, however, their never-ending self-improvement and growth pursuits are not just about self-actualization, but about survival. In fact, the survey by NYPI showed that wage and welfare benefits were the biggest reason (23.9%) for turnover among young people. As a survival strategy to prepare for an uncertain future, MZers are constantly investing in themselves.
Some critics point out that the labeling of ‘MZ’ is based on the perspective of older generations, leading to the mistake of hasty generalization. Indeed, this is a more complicated matter. Still, the term captures the current trend of Korean society. Thus, using this classification as a tool for understanding younger generations would be helpful; especially for those companies trying to change their organizational culture, and the government attempting to make new policies. But beyond this, the more important next step is to hear the real voice of ‘MZers’, which comes from a genuine interest in these individuals.
1. Kim, Y. (2021). 결국 Z세대가 세상을 지배한다 [Generation Z Rules the World]. Publion.
2. Park, Y. (2021, June 3). ‘MZ 세대’ 가 일하는 법 [How ‘Generation MZ’ works]. Chosun Biz. https://biz.chosun.com/industry/industry_general/2021/06/03/SUKHUBSKAZE5ZKOSOJRYTYCARQ/
3. Lee, J. (2021, August 4). “돈보다 여가” 워라밸 확고한 MZ세대 [“Leisure than money”, Generation MZ values work-life balance]. Maeil Kyungje. https://www.mk.co.kr/news/society/view/2021/08/755658/
4. Shin, J. (2021, May 2). MZ세대 취업자 중 ‘절반’은 이직…“일한만큼 돈 줘야” [Half of the MZer employees change jobs… "Pay as much as work".]. Herald Business. http://mbiz.heraldcorp.com/view.php?ud=20210428001197
5. Kim, B. (2021, October 6). [MZ세대 경영학] 기업에서 주류로 부상, 키워드는 수평적 소통… 조직보다 개인·확실한 보상·워라밸 중시, 지위고하 불문 할 말 하고 SNS 통해 연대 [MZ Generation Business Administration: Becoming the mainstream in corporates, keywords are horizontal communication… Individual than organization, definite compensation, valuing work-life balance, speak up regardless of status, solidarity through SNS]. Maeil Kyungje. https://www.mk.co.kr/news/culture/view/2021/10/948127/
6. Yoon, M. (2021, August 7). “이왕이면 갓생”…MZ세대가 ‘일잘러’를 꿈꾸는 이유 [“Better to live God-saeng”…The reason why Gen MZ dreams of becoming ‘Iljal-ler’]. Snaptime. http://snaptime.edaily.co.kr/2021/08/%EC%9D%B4%EC%99%95%EC%9D%B4%EB%A9%B4-%EA%B0%93%EC%83%9Dmz%EC%84%B8%EB%8C%80%EA%B0%80-%EC%9D%BC%EC%9E%98%EB%9F%AC%EB%A5%BC-%EA%BF%88%EA%BE%B8%EB%8A%94-%EC%9D%B4%EC%9C%A0/
7. Saramin. (2020, March 30). MZ세대, 가장 입사하기 싫은 기업은? [Generation MZ, which is the company they don't want to join for the most?]. HR Series. vol. 43. https://www.saramin.co.kr/zf_user/hr-magazine/series-view?hr_series_idx=49&hr_idx=537
8. Kim, B. (2021, May 26). [MZ리포트] 2030이 털어놓은 '내가 퇴사하려는 이유' [MZ Report: 2030 explains ‘why do I want to quit my job’]. Bizhankook. http://www.bizhankook.com/bk/article/21963
Gradually moving towards “With-COVID19” society
All kindergarten and primary school students go to school
Middle and high school students, up to 2/3 of the school population can go to school
Many colleges and universities also transitioning back to face-to-face courses
Universities started using Metaverse space for particular services/programs
College newbies orientation
“Mentoring day” (making social connections with alumni)
Courses offered in metaverse space
Vocational/educational counselling service in a Metaverse space (KU College of Education)
Service for undergrad students with career/academic concerns
Trained graduate students provide service
(A photo from Newbie Day at Soonchunhyang University. Source: http://www.kukinews.com/newsView/kuk202109110002)
Preparing for High school credit system
Movement for psychological services legislation
In November 2020, the ‘High School Credit System workbook’ was released to 3rd year middle school students in Seoul who will enter high school soon. This workbook introduces information on features of the newly adopted high school system and guides for students to select subjects for designing curriculum . The High School Credit System for public schools is quite new to Korea. Unlike the current standardized education system in which most classes are mandatory and students can graduate when the number of attendance days is over the standard, students can choose the courses, pass the courses when they meet the achievement level, and graduate when cumulative credits reach the standard. The aim of the system is cultivating self-directed students and it is expected that students will be motivated and interested in classes that are related to their career path and teach what they want to learn . It provides career counseling and career-related study plans that help students to develop a personal timetable. The Moon Jae-in administration started planning the high school credit system in 2017, and the pilot operation began in 2020 at Meister High Schools where the absolute evaluation was partially implemented. It will be introduced nationwide in 2025.
This student-oriented system sounds like an ideal solution for the current education system which has a lack of support for individual student’s interests and career development. When choosing classes, students are required to write down a career and study plan which makes students deeply consider a career path in advance. However, there are challenges to be handled for the high school credit system to reach its goal. First, with the current career education, choosing subjects could become an additional burden. As a result of a survey of pilot schools in 2020, less than 17% of respondents said it was easy to select subjects. The top reasons this feels difficult were ‘the lack of relevant information and guidance’ (28.2%), ‘still not know own aptitude/not decided on a career path’ (22.5%), and ‘Course selection is complex and difficult to understand’ (16.5%). The survey showsed that the first thing students wanted was ‘reinforcement of personal career counseling’ . Because the list of the subjects should be submitted in April of the 1st year of high school, a career counseling infrastructure in middle school might be necessary .
Second, a new evaluation system needs to be established. The high school credit system uses absolute grading and students can earn credits by meeting a certain level. This grading system reminds some Koreans of the score inflation in the early 2000s . Since many parents, students, and teachers in Korea place high importance on the college entrance exam, the new system can be abused as a means of obtaining good grades. Besides, if the evaluation is different depending on the subject or teacher, there will be a disadvantage or advantage among the courses, which will be contrary to the aim of the students’ autonomous subject selection. Currently, the system for F grade is not established yet, so that students who do not achieve the standard must complete supplementary classes to pass the course . For fair evaluation, the system must fully consider those challenges. A school monitoring system and connection with the college entrance examination will be required.
Third, there are concerns about the limitations of the infrastructure. To reach the aim of the system, students should freely choose the courses, but in local and rural areas where teachers and space are limited, there might be fewer opportunities compared to cities. The physical distances between schools will not allow students to move from one school to another within a short break time. Ministry of Education intends to solve this with online classes . Although the digital competence of teachers was a challenge, during COVID-19, the online teaching capacity of schools and teachers has been strengthened. The use of online learning tools is becoming more common and this could make it easier for the high school credit system to be adopted nationally .
In addition to the above, there are still some points to be considered for the proper implementation of the system. In a school of fewer teachers, if the number of subjects per teacher increases due in order to make more options for students, a subject might handle only a few features within a small number of classes . Providing many options might show look good on teacher and school performance indicators, however, it might not result in meaningful preparation for a career path. Also, in terms of operation, one student in the pilot school complained that there is no place to go between classes so she was standing in the corridor . There will be similar challenges to be dealt with when running the system in the field.
It may be an appropriate time to adopt the high school credit system because digital competence has been strengthened and self-directed individuals are needed in a rapidly changing society. Remaining concerns, however, as discussed above, issues still remain to be solved in order to implement the system as it was intended. Furthermore, changes in the overall system, including the middle school and college entrance examinations, are also recommended. If the system overcomes such challenges, this credit system will make a meaningful change in Korea for students’ career development.
 Jang, Y. (2020, November 26). 서울시교육청, '2020 중3을 위한 미리 보는 서울형 고교학점제 워크북' 개발 및 보급 [Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Developing and Distributing 'Preview of Seoul High School Credit System Workbook for 2020 3rd grade Middle school students]. Kookto Journal. http://www.kooktojournal.news/1945
 Ministry of Education. (2019). 고교학점제 연구학교 운영 안내서 [High School Credit System Research School Operation Guide]. https://www.hscredit.kr/static/common/images/portal/upload/user/hs_research_operation_manual_0424.pdf
 Oh, P. (2020, December 1). 고교학점제 연구·선도학교 학생 10명 중 9명 “과목 선택 쉽지 않아” [9 out of 10 students in research and leading schools of high school credit system “It is not easy to choose subjects”]. Chosun Edu. http://edu.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2020/12/01/2020120102013.html
 Choi, Y. (2019, July 11). “고교학점제 점점 확대되는데… 과목 선택, 어떻게 해야 하나요?” [The high school credit system is gradually expanding… Selecting subjects, what should I do?”]. EduDong-A. http://edu.donga.com/?p=article&ps=view&at_no=20190711194032887396
 Kang, H., Jeon, M. (2019, October 26). 자사고 폐지 후 도입될 고교학점제, 현실 무시 장밋빛 전망 [High school credit system to be introduced after abolition of autonomous private high schools, a rosy prospect to ignore reality]. Korea JoongAng Daily. https://news.joins.com/article/23615672
 Lee, H. (2019, August 21). 고교학점제 내년 마이스터고부터 도입…대학처럼 희망수업 수강 [High school credit system introduced to Meister high school next year… Take the desired class like college]. Yonhap News. https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20190821038400004
 Moon, B. (2020, September 20). [이슈분석]성큼 다가온 미래교육 '고교학점제' [[Issue Analysis]’High school Credit System’ for future education]. Naver News. https://news.naver.com/main/read.nhn?mode=LSD&mid=sec&sid1=102&oid=030&aid=0002903814
 Hong, H. (2020, December 8). [창간기획] ⑲학생 진로별 학습권 보장 빠진 고교학점제 "방향 잘못 잡았다" [[Foundation anniversary issue] ⑲High school credit system without guaranteed right to study for own career path]. EduinNews. http://www.eduinnews.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=37392
 Jang, M. (2019, April 12). 고교학점제 시행 한 달째, 학생·선생님 의견은? [In the first month of the high school credit system, what are the opinions of students and teachers?]. Korea Youth Press Corps. https://youthpress.net/xe/kypnews_article_global/503368
According to the 2020 Annual Report on Special Education in Korea, 182 special schools and 11,661 special classes in regular schools reported having increased numbers in schools and classes by five and 556 compared to last year. The Career Education Act, enacted in 2015, aims to foster the students' power to pioneer ones' life in response to the rapidly changing world of jobs. The Act, which has continued to draw national attention, only made a statement regarding special education needs, which require even more careful attention. It is stated that 'the national and local governments should come up with career education policies' for a few years regarding special education. Especially for disabled students, it is a fundamental life goal to have a suitable job and live an independent life as a society member. So, it is meaningful to look at how the career education system is applied for those eligible for special education today after enacting the Career Education Act.
According to Article 44 paragraph 3 of the Enforcement Decree of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the heads of middle schools and special schools that teach middle school courses are required to designate one or two free semesters. The free semester system designed to provide students with career education through various field experience activities has been in full effect in regular middle schools since 2016, for special schools since 2018. All special schools that run middle school courses have free-semester (year) and a combination of free and regular semesters. The special schools also operated about 2,700 career experience activities through the "Dream Path (Ggoom gil)" network to support more diverse career experience activities. It is a rich learning experience opportunity, especially for students with disabilities, because it helps them expand the idea of learning into the local community. Besides, the government is establishing an organization to strengthen teachers' competence in charge of the special school's free semester system. In 2019, the Ministry of Education announced that it would push for the mandatory placement of one or more career-education-only teachers with professional qualifications for career counseling at special schools. Further, it announced that it plans to deploy professional personnel dedicated to field training and job support. Since March 2020, we could expect more significant career education at special schools due to the placement of career counseling teachers, just like other regular schools.
To take a meaningful action meeting special education students' exact needs, the State and local governments shall devise vocational education measures to provide appropriate education to special needs students. Furthermore, promoting independence through empowering students in different fields could be a great support when done according to the students' characteristics and demands. Facilities and curriculum necessary for implementing the relevant education should be ready as well. Some criticize that special schools are more like vocational training institutions and insist on distinguishing education and training. However, training in some limited vocational fields is currently underway in the labs of special schools in Korea; schools are taking care of education, vocational training, and even treatment for disabled students at the same time. There are currently 31 school-based enterprises in special schools to strengthen vocational education centered on the field practice by creating a work environment similar to that of actual workplaces. The job experiences mostly cover forestry industries, baking, and crafts. The Ministry of Education operates about 50 schools as an "integrated vocational education hub school" with the city and provincial education offices, which provides vocational education focused on disabled students' field practice and provides vocational training and consulting for nearby special-class students. Also, a total of 43 vocational-education-focused schools in special schools have been designated to run a "career and occupation" course of the primary curriculum, strengthening students' vocational abilities by considering self-understanding and their future career lives.
A few years after the Career Education Act took effect in late 2015, the employment rate of disabled students after graduating from a special high school course is 6.3 percent and 64 out of 2,400, most of whom are employed in the product manufacturing industry. The employment rate among high school special class graduates is 34.2 percent, with many working in product manufacturing like special school graduates, followed by office assistant jobs. Sixty-five out of 1,200 students who graduated from regular high school were employed, showing a 13.2 percent employment rate. Finally, out of about 2,250 students with a specific major in a special school, 41.7 percent of the students, 929, were employed. Having majors and taking the related courses in special schools seems very useful in getting a job. We hope that all the fruits of the aforementioned career education methods will produce richer results. To achieve these, firstly, inter-teacher cooperation at the educational site is essential. Based on education policies and courses, career education should be attentive to the individual needs and characteristics of disabled students. Second, government and community assistance are required. An establishment of a system that helps career development—vocational exploration, employment support, follow-up management, etc.—of students with disabilities can develop a strong partnership between the government and the community. Finally, education at home. The first step to becoming a member of society is education at home.
The current Korean government's education philosophy is 'All children are children of all of us.' As people's expectations for educational innovation are higher than ever, wouldn't we be able to face a more livable future only when all members of society give courteous attention to disabled students?
Adapting to “untact (=without contact)” environment
Career lectures, presentations
Vocational schools credit system
College admission season (September – December)
The Covid-19 pandemic has left young people with a strong fear of unemployment. The young people said “I am afraid of being infected, but I am more terrified of making a living and delayed job preparation.” In April, the Youth Activity Support Center conducted an online emergency survey of 515 young people aged between 19 and 34 living in Seoul and reported that 59.2% of the respondents said they currently have no jobs. Among the young people who said they were working, only 11.3% had full time jobs. Although this survey indicates the current unemployment status of young people, it may include the sample bias or specificity as Youth Activity Support Center might have contacted young people who are in need of support. The frustration and trepidation of a two-to three-year job preparation plan collapsing in a flash due to the postponement of public service exams, national technical qualification tests (e.g., architecture, cooking, accounting management), or certified language exams is another fear for job seekers.
The job market for young people in the first half of 2020 was at its worst as the Covid-10 crisis continued. Companies sharply reduced their doors to hiring, while overseas job markets also drastically reduced the opportunities. According to industry sources in early June, only four of the top 10 conglomerates opened new recruitment for college graduates in the first half of 2020, which is half the size from that in the first half of 2019. This is because companies that have become uncertain about their business environment have switched to small-scale frequent recruitment of workers that are needed rather than large-scale public recruitment. Some companies stopped hiring during the process or even canceled the hiring even after deciding to accept a prospective employee.
In this dolorous job market, one of the new areas of interest for job seekers is MCN (Multi Channel Network), a business like an entertainment agency for popular contents creators working on video platforms, or YouTuber’s agency. Young job seekers are enthusiastically responding to this new area as MCN offers many job opportunities and horizontal work structures. With the explosive growth of the non-face-to-face culture with Covid-19, YouTubers’ influence has once again grown across media, entertainment, and commerce. According to a market research, the average monthly viewing time per person in March was 1,797 minutes, which is 16 percent up compared to the previous month. This figure translates to 40 hours per month per person or an hour per day watching YouTube videos. MCN’s job types include video editing, copyright inspection, supporting multilingual subtitles, developing advertising products, tax processing, and managing events, which create an environment where creators can focus on video production. MCN is an industry market that is easy for young people to access as it requires digital capabilities that young people process but are different from existing media structures. For example, the trend is rapidly changing (i.e., a specific content is popular for up to a week) on YouTube platform so workers need to be able to catch and upload the contents quickly. In addition, the ability to communicate with subscribers through real-time comments that run on the video and to immediately reflect feedbacks are needed.
One of Korea’s most famous MCN, has a total of 250 employees with 93.8% of employees aged 20 to 34. Since youth employment is mainly done, it can be seen as invigorating youth unemployment. The company was also selected as one of the outstanding enterprises by the Ministry of Employment and Labor in 2019 which improved the quantity and quality of jobs. The selection criteria of the award include factors such as job creation performance, young people and women’s employment, and work-life balance. As a YouTuber, having 100,000 subscribers can change one’s career to a full-time YouTuber, and a full-time YouTuber’s channel has a ripple effect that goes beyond “one-person media” to youth employment. For example, well-known creators with more than 1 million subscribers can hire 10 full-time employees, and some channels operate corporations to hire a large number of staff members. The job competition rate for one of the most recent public recruitment of cosmetic YouTube channels was 228:1. In other words, 2735 people applied for the public recruitment of 12 employees, with 57% of the applicants was in their 20s and 33% in their 30s, indicating that the interest of young people was tremendous.
The current Covid-19 situation may be a crisis in the employment of young people, but I hope this can also be used as an opportunity. In this article, YouTuber is presented as one of the popular areas amid the growing need for non-face-to-face interaction. As untact technology is on the rise in various industrial sectors, I think young people need time to think about how their capabilities and interest can be displayed in these new areas.
References (Only in Korean)
1. Gong, T., Park, J., Yang, G., & Choi, D. (2020, June 11). 바늘구멍도 막혔다….청년실업 ‘팬데믹’ [The eye of the needle is also blocked…Youth unemployment ‘Pandemic’]. Korea Economic Magazine. https://www.hankyung.com/society/article/2020061032911
2. Kim, J. (2020, June 8). 경쟁률 228대1, 꼰대 전무…요즘 가장 핫한 청년 일자리 MCN [The most popular youth job these days, MCN]. JoongAng Ilbo. https://news.joins.com/article/23796532?cloc=joongang-section-moredigitalfirst
3. Kim, J., Oh, S., & Kim, J. (2020, June 14). 228:1 꿈의 직장? 노예 계약? ‘유튜버 소속사’ MCN의 명암 [228:1 Dream job? Slave contract? The light and shade of Youtuber’s agency, MCN]. JoongAng Ilbo. https://news.joins.com/article/23801172
4. Ryu, I. (2020, May 8). 청년들이 느낀 ‘코로나 공포’는···”감염보다 실업” [The fear of Covid-19 felt by young people was more unemployment than infection]. The Kyunghyang Shinmun. http://news.khan.co.kr/kh_news/khan_art_view.html?art_id=202005081952001
November 14th: National University Entrance Exam
by Sungsik Ahn and Jinkyeong Yeo
In this article neologisms regarding internships will be introduced. Readers are invited to review our April 2016 APCDA newsletter article (http://www.asiapacificcda.org/Korea#April2016) for additional backgorund information. Two neologisms were introduced in that issue to facilitate understanding of South Korean youth's struggles in employment.
Gold-tern vs Soil-tern, and Spoon Classes: The reflection of declining social mobility
Working as an intern in companies or organizations before graduation has become a necessary course for college students in South Korea. Internships help college students not only to gain some work experience but also to make a living. However, finding and being offered an internship opportunity is as hard as securing employment after graduation. Some companies provide good internship opportunities for college students which are generally paid and include training opportunities to learn about specific jobs and industries. Unpaid internship can be helpful as long as students (interns) can learn about jobs or industries and gain more work experience. Bad internships tend not to differ from a part-time job — no training opportunity and repeated simple chores. South Korean youth refer to good internships as Gold-tern and bad internships as Soil-tern. The economic inequality in South Korea needs to be considered to understand these neologisms.
The recent economic inequality in South Korea has become a social problem due to the rapid growth of the economy since the 1970's. Social and economic polarization makes youth discouraged when they begin their own career and especially when they are seeking internship or jobs. According to 2017 Korean statistics , only about 23.1% answered positively (highly or moderately possible) to moving (within one generation) to upper status and 30.6% for the child to move (between two generations) to upper status. The positive response has been declining since 2011 (a positive response to movement within one generation was 28.8% in 2011 and 23.1% in 2017). The perceived social mobility in South Korea has declined and a fixed socioeconomic status, which passes on to the next generation, has become a social problem.
Reflecting such social phenomenon, the new term of 'spoon class' is widely shared among youth . Specifically, there are three classes of spoon people: gold spoon, silver spoon and soil spoon. Yes, the expression was from the English saying "Born with a silver spoon in one's mouth." The spoon class differs depending on the size of assets and salary of parents. There is no strict definition of gold-spoon, but generally those perceived as gold-spoon have parents with more than two billion Korean Won (about 2 million USD) in assets and more than 20 million Korean Won (about 200,000 in USD) income per year .
The expression of spoon class was adopted to describe the quality of internship: Gold-tern and soil-tern . Although securing a good internship is very competitive, there is evidence that some gold-spoon students secure good internships by sharing their parents' socioeconomic status, not by marketing their own competencies. Many times, parent networking, itself, results in internships for their offspring at preferred employers such as government-owned companies, large companies, famous law firms, congressional offices, etc. . Some of those employers do not offer regular internship and only create internship positions for children of their royal customers or important persons. Other college students cannot even apply for these internship from such employers. These internships also are referred to as gold-tern because only those who were born with a gold spoon in their mouth can secure them. In the very rare situations this practice gets uncovered, it becomes news. Such news and/or seeing such friends greatly frustrates other college students who try to do their best to secure internships or employment.
Internships provide a very important course or period for both college students and employers. College students can learn some work-related experience and explore their aptitude or interest for specific jobs before making a career decision while employers can have opportunities to attract and find highly competent and right employees for their organizations. Many large companies in South Korea offer job opportunities to their interns at the end of the internship and most of them recruit and select interns in a fair and transparent selection process. Regretfully, good internship opportunities still exist in small numbers compared to the number of students seeking them. Thus the resultant highly competitive process coupled with news of gold spoon students securing gold-tern at good employers through help of their parents cause youth to become discouraged and feel that social mobility ended.
With neologisms and related social phenomenon, I hope readers understand how hard South Korean college students struggle for internships and employment. I also hope readers do not misunderstand that all of gold-spoon students take shortcuts in seeking internships or employment. In fact, many privileged students also struggle to do their best to create a better future. The recent youth unemployment rate was 8.6 (November 2017), which was increased 0.1 percentage point from the previous year . We, as career professionals, are trying to create more effective and quality services to help our youth to overcome this difficult competitive reality.
 Korea Statistics (2017). Index of social mobility possibility perception. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/5enA47.
 Jung, H. (2015.12.26). 2015 trend 'Spoon Class', a result of perceived inequality (Korean). Oh my news. Retrieved from http://www.ohmynews.com (A direct link to this article: https://goo.gl/vbRRWM)
 Kim, B. (2016.11.4). Soil-spoon theory and hell chosun (Korean). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.kr. (A direct link to this article: https://goo.gl/5EzLb2)
 Chun, J., Kwon, K., Hong, J., Kang, H., & Lee, Y. (2016.8.13). [Coverstory] Gold-tern vs Soil-tern… Intern polarization (Korean). The Dong-A Ilbo. Retrieved from http://news.donga.com (A direct link to this article: https://goo.gl/GxCxQj)
 Noh, K. A. (2018.01.16). [Neologisms] Saddish… soil-tern, tissue-intern, manger-intern (Korean). Jungsogieopnews [Middle and small company news]. Retrieved from http://news.kbiz.or.kr/ (A direct link to this article: https://goo.gl/PwuYT5)
 Kim, J. (2017.11.21). Youth employment hits record low, senior jobs soar. Retrieved from http://www.koreaherald.com. (A direct link to this article: https://goo.gl/EAzkAd)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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" 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"!
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.
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. 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 - , ). 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" 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 ).
"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 ).
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.
 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)
 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)
 Choi, S. (2016, March 16). Youth unemployment 'resembles Japan 20 years ago'. The Korea Times. Retrieved from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr
 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)
 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
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.
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.
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 (email@example.com).
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.