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Blind hiring system sparks controversy

The government’s announcement to implement a “blind” recruitment system for all public jobs to ensure fair competition in the hiring process drew mixed reactions from job seekers, triggering controversy over reverse discrimination.

Under a plan unveiled Wednesday, all state-run organizations will be banned from asking job candidates to reveal their academic and family backgrounds, personal details and physical attributes in order to ensure a level playing field.


While some job seekers hailed the move, others cried foul saying it would discriminate against those who studied hard to enter prestigious universities and acquire good grades. 

“I think the blind hiring system is good because I think it is a better way to more thoroughly evaluate candidates. If one is competent enough, one can get a job even without revealing the names of the school they went to,” Lee Hyun-song, 24, who graduated from a university outside Seoul, told The Korea Herald.

“The system will be able to distinguish candidates based on job skills and abilities,” she said. 

Amid the competitive job market, it is common for Korean employers to ask potential hires about possible discriminatory factors such as age, gender, height, weight, marital status and even their parents’ professions in application forms or interviews. 

The hiring process has also been criticized for placing too much emphasis on the names of schools, academic records and English test scores.
“In general, I agree with the blind screening system,” said Park Seong-ha, 27. 

“But I am against the government policy of giving advantages to students from schools outside Seoul. It is self-contradictory.” 

President Moon Jae-in has ordered his Cabinet to draw up plans for state-run organizations outside Seoul to fill at least 30 percent of their new hires with those who graduated from schools in cities they are based in, citing the need for a balanced regional development. 

Opponents say the envisioned system would deny the yearslong efforts of job seekers to be accepted into elite schools and get good grades, which some call “reverse discrimination.”

“I don’t view it positively. I think that not being able to reveal my school name will be disadvantageous to me,” said a 24-year-old student who graduated from one of the top universities in Seoul. “I don’t think my school diploma has nothing to do with my abilities to do a job.” 

Another job seeker takes issue with the system’s efficacy. 

“I don’t know why they say it is fair. What is the point of public education if those who graduated from good schools cannot be rewarded?” said Park Sung-jun, 30. 

“And by not requiring a school’s name, language test score and academic records, companies would require other things such as internship experience. But internship chances are only given to those who already have good qualifications anyway.”

The government will release a detailed guideline later this month and draw up a standardized resume to be used in the hiring process. It also said that it will not force but encourage private companies to follow its lead. 

According to a survey by job portal site Job Korea on 418 human resources managers, 80.9 percent of them said they would consider adopting the system at their companies. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (