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[Weekender] Elusive jobs, elusive dreams

Finding one’s first job can be a difficult task.

But in a country where over 70 percent of high school graduates advance to four-year universities and the economy is visibly slowing with a bag of some serious problems, competition is reaching new heights.

“With a gloomy business outlook, companies aren’t in a big hiring mood this year,” said Song Won-geun of the Federation of Korean Industries.

According to its survey of some 201 major companies in Korea this week, nearly 50 percent plan a cut in new recruitment. Only 8 percent of them said they would hire more.  

This means a lot to college graduates and graduates-to-be who have been polishing their resumes to near-perfection for this fall’s recruitment season.

Samsung, LG, SK or Hyundai companies, the four largest groups that account for roughly 50 percent of the economy, are the most favored by young job seekers here, with stability, name value and high pay.

The competition for dream jobs already seems as fierce as it can get.

Good grades, English proficiency test scores supplemented by a year of studying in an English-speaking country and some internship experience are just small endeavors -- some job seekers go as far as going under the knife to look more confident and attractive in photos. (Many Korean companies require job applicants to submit their photos in the resume screening round.)

In Seoul, there are private cram schools to prepare for written personality and aptitude tests, which are part of the recruiting process at Samsung and most other big companies.

Tens of thousands will congregate this October at designated exam sites throughout the country for the Samsung exam, which takes place twice yearly. 

Samsung Group had to tighten its resume screening to reduce the number of candidates advancing to the exam round, after it saw a record 200,000 examinees in 2014 for about 14,000 job openings.

In this ever-intensifying competition, female graduates from lower-ranked universities outside Seoul suffer most and some turn to overseas jobs.

Even those who succeed in landing a permanent job jump on the bandwagon, seeking job opportunities abroad. Some want to broaden their perspectives through overseas experience, but in many cases, disillusionment with the so-called dream jobs is the true motive.

But can overseas employment be a real escape for the agonized Korean job hunters?

This week, Weekender brings you the stories of college graduates preparing for the crunch time fall recruitment season, along with their aspirations and frustrations.

By Lee Sun-young (
Korea Herald Youtube