중앙데일리

College students plunge into local stock market

Nov 26,2007
At the age of 19, Yuk Jeong-hwan began to put the money that he earned from a part-time job into the local stock market. The know-how that the economics major at Seokyeong University learned through his investment experience helped Yuk, now 24, win a nationwide mock stock investment competition earlier this year.
The three-month-long event, hosted by Korea Investment and Securities, pitted as many as 2,500 college students, most of them, Yuk said, equipped with no less enthusiasm than Yuk for making money. “Unlike when I was a freshman, many students are buying shares these days,” Yuk said.
Amid an unprecedented rally in the local stock market, the fervor for investing in stocks among Koreans is gripping college students as well.
According to the Korea Exchange, the local bourse operator, the number of Koreans aged 20 to 24 investing in stock markets almost doubled from 39,528 in 2003 to 51,887 in 2006.
Many mock stock investment competitions that securities firms host are packed with college students, according to those companies.
The investment-minded students know they are not alone on campus. Clubs studying stock investment and how to get rich began to emerge in the late 1990s. They have now mushroomed at universities across the country. The clubs are now so popular that joining one is as difficult as getting a job, students say.
“The competition to join our club is almost 4 to 1 this year,” said Hong Jin-chae, the president of SMIC, an investment club at Seoul National University. A greater number of freshmen was applying each year, Hong said.
Park Sung-min, the president of MIRS, an investment club at Myongji University, said the club used to be popular only among business and economics majors, but now students from the humanities and other non-business majors are scrambling to join, he said.
The Myongji club recently sponsored a CEO lecture, which the Korea Council for Investor Education, a state-funded investment education agency, has hosted in six different colleges across the nation. The CEOs of six brokerage firms give lectures designed to teach students about financial markets.
Like previous lectures at the University of Seoul and Chung-Ang University, hundreds of students packed into an auditorium at Myongji on Nov. 20 to hear Hanwha Securities CEO Jin Soo-hyung’s lecture, “Why and how to nurture talent in the financial industry in Korea.”
“When I give these occasional lectures to college students, I can see the intensity of the students’ interest in stocks and other financial markets,” Jin said after wrapping up the lecture.
Such intensity has raised concerns among some who criticize students for putting their studies on the back burner in the pursuit of money.
But others disagree. Interest in stock investment helps students learn essential financial knowledge, proponents say.
It is also a sign that the country, which has long suppressed a desire to make money under the influence of Confucianism, is heading in the right direction, they said.
“As written in the Constitution, Korea is a capitalist country and making money is the essential aspect,” said Han Dong-chul, a professor at Seoul Women’s University. “Unfortunately, being rich is still viewed negatively. We need to come up with an atmosphere in which making and spending money are encouraged and revered.”
Han, for the first time in Korea, began a lecture titled “Study of the Rich” three years ago. The lecture focused on studying the rich in Korea and how to become rich. It attracted on average 350 students each semester, a hit in a college with a student population of only 8,000.
It spawned many copycats at other colleges including Dankook and Sungkyunkwan universities. In August, five business administration majors at the college launched an open-door student club that studies the rich.
In just three months, around 300 students from dozens of colleges including Seoul National University and Yonsei University had joined.
“I used to think the pursuit of money was not such a good thing, but the lecture totally changed my mind,” said Kim Hye-ri, 19, one of the five organizers, adding that she is now collecting money for investing in mutual funds.
Lee Chong-koo, a sociology professor at Sungkonghoe University, said criticism about the get-rich fervor is pointless.
“College students are adults, and it doesn’t make sense to criticize adults for pursuing economic activities,” Lee said.
Kim Jong-hui, a culture critic, is another defender. “The era of easy employment and quick promotion has gone, and stock market investment is one of the ways for students these days to survive.”


By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [joe@joongang.co.kr]



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