Korean graduate student under extreme pressure for employment

For youth, job is like a ladder makes their dreams come true and a means of living. Young people who start the first career acknowledge their value in society through work. Achieving independence from parents and school, they pioneer own life and feel sense of accomplishment. You see, originally, ‘job’ is a necessary part of life that enables youth to have a hope and to move forward.

Today, however, youth regard job as big challenge and just a beginning of misery. Youth unemployment is significantly high in Korea. According to KEF (Korea Employers Federation), it is said that competition rate of entry level positions for graduates reached to 32.3:1, meaning that only three out of 100 get a job after graduation. Those most of unemployed graduates who failed to find job remain as job seeker waiting for the next hiring season.



Failure of employment aggravates pain of graduates not only mentally but also financially. KEIS (Korea Employment Information Service) stated that the average cost of college graduate student spent about KRW 5.1 million to get a job. This cost is quite large to impose financial burden to graduates since they don’t have a stable income source in general. Nevertheless, they cannot help but spending money to have better qualifications in job market, such as language skill and certificates. Graduates are so desperate to get a job that they are forced to spend a lot of money not to fall behind by other. Eventually, the longer they seek for job, the more financial burden they should afford.

Pains resulted from inefficient hiring process

You may wonder how Korean employers hire graduate students to fill up the entry position. In Korea, entry positions are mainly filled with two different hiring processes. First one is a regular employment, so called ‘Gongchae’, which is generally performed twice a year with a pre-determined number of new hires. The other one is ongoing employment that hires new employees whenever new hiring needs exist. Thus, in this process hiring can occurs anytime with variable number of employment.

In Korea, Gongchae is a dominant hiring practice to hire graduates in entry position. However, there are many downslides with Gongchae process to be applied in these days. First of all, Gongchae requires massive resources to run. Since Gongchae is performed only a few times a year, competition of employment is extremely high so that recruiters should review thousands of applicants within limited time. Graduates cannot use same form of resume or CV to reduce time, because every employer requires submitting several essays on specific questions, vary from company to company.

Therefore, with Gongchae process, it is almost impossible to evaluate one’s potential and capacity in appropriate manner. Also, because most graduates follow shotgun approach when they apply, they don’t usually focus on what they really want and don’t know what company is fit to them most. As a result, even if they succeed in getting a job, they are likely to be unsatisfied with their job or company and change jobs shortly. I do have seen many cases like that.

Giving hope back to graduates

In most foreign countries, employers hire graduates through ongoing process. In U.S, ongoing process is regarded as common hiring practice to fill entry position. Japanese employers mostly follow the ongoing process as well, except only a few companies. In fact, there is some increasing needs toward ongoing model in Korea too, as employers realized fundamental problems caused by Gongchae. But still many graduates are being hired through Gongchae. With a deep concern on job crisis of youth, I have been researching best practices that address it in an innovative way. Interested in social enterprise model, I focused on business solutions supported by technology to mitigate social problem. Fortunately, I could found some interesting examples and I would like to share with you via my blog column.

Venture for America (hereinafter, VFA)

Established in 2011, VFA is a nonprofit organization runs fellow program that sends talented graduated students to promising startup companies after completion of 5 weeks of boot training. VFA helps student to find a job and encourage them to equip entrepreneur’s spirit. This nonprofit organization has continuously grown thus far, bringing up more than 300 talented graduates in partner with 47 ivy league universities. Those fellows were sent to diverse startups located at 15 different cities, such as Baltimore, Detroit and Pittsburg, to become a great entrepreneur.


Figure 1. Snapshot of Venture for America website.

Just as people have different personality, so graduates can’t have one dream or aptitude. However, most Korean graduate student set universal life goal to get a job at renowned company such as Samsung. They take this path for granted, admiring senior graduates who won this goal successfully.

Away from this blindness, VFA proposes an alternative way that helps them create a job instead of finding. VFA guides graduates to become an entrepreneur so that they can exhibit passion and ability in dynamic startup world. That VFA respects creativity and challenging spirit of youth and expand channels of job option suggests meaningful lesson to Korea.


Debut is a mobile application, featured by open hiring platform for graduates. It flips over concept of hiring process of graduate students. In common case, hiring starts from submitting application when employer announce job opening. However, Debut allows students constantly upload profile information to its online platform so that employers can find right candidates and contact, based on the database given by Debut. To enhance efficiency, Debut also provides filtering service that offers best candidates fit to job description.


Figure 2. Snapshot of Debut website.

One of the biggest concern job seekers may have is an anxiety whether they are considered as candidate by employers or not. It is less likely for Job seekers to miss chance of being hired, if they can disclose the most updated profile information in ongoing basis. However, under Gongchae process, graduate students would not be able to get rid of anxious feeling because, they lose control of managing and disclosing information to be exposed to employers. Debut opens communication channel between job seekers and recruiters and let students proactively manage their profile all the time. In this respect, Debut provides job matching service with higher efficiency and satisfaction to everyone.

Social Impact Business and Job Crisis

Youth unemployment is a common social problem that most advanced countries experience, besides Korea. Due to inefficient hiring practice called Gongchae, however, considerable amount of costs is incurring in society as a whole. It is a serious problem not only because of money, but also because of mental pain reached to the limit.

To tackle this issue, alternative solutions are created by change makers, as you can find from this blog post. They guide students to become entrepreneurs dedicated to startup world and change existing hiring system to be more efficient through technologies.

This is why I imagine of social impact business before the youth job crisis today. When there are more social entrepreneurs and change makers who find opportunities from social issues to solve the problem, ‘job’ will recover its original meaning of hope of life, not any longer of misery.


  • 2015 Employment status of entry level position, Korea Employers Federation, 2015
  • Time and cost that graduate students spend for employment, Korea Employment Information Service, 2015
  • Scott, Carey. (2016 April 05). These nine recruitment startups are helping companies hire top talent, and candidates find their dream job. TechWorld, http://www.techworld.com/picture-gallery/startups/these-startups-will-help-you-hire-best-talent-or-find-your-dream-job-3637256/
  • Website of Venture for America, http://ventureforamerica.org/
  • Website of Debut, http://debut.careers/