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Two-day internship under fire

Kepco E&C’s plan is slated as an attempt to bolster job numbers

Dec 04,2018
Kepco E&C, a subsidiary under state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation, is introducing a two-day internship program amid the government’s drive to increase job numbers in the public sector.

This is the first time that the company has offered an internship for such a short period.

The program is facing criticism that it was simply created to produce results under the government’s efforts to improve employment figures.

Kepco E&C will provide the two-day program in two stages for 65 interns each. The 130 interns will be paid 160,000 won ($144) for the two days working at the headquarters of Kepco E&C in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang.

Kepco E&C is one of the most coveted workplaces for young job seekers. According to data from government information provider ALIO, the company’s average salary is in the top tier among organizations in the public sector, at 92.28 million won.

The company explained that, while the internship period is short, the program is designed to secure promising talent.

“We prepared this internship to promote our company to young talent [in other regions who don’t know about us] and provide more opportunities to people,” said an official at Kepco E&C.

But there is some controversy surrounding the internship program.

While the original intention of the program lies in allowing job seekers to experience the workplace, it’s unusually short length is closer to an introductory orientation to a company.

Some job seekers have expressed disbelief at the two-day internship.

“They’re asking us to write personal essays and prepare documents such as certificates to work for just two days,” said Lee Jun-sung, a 29-year-old job seeker from Gwangju. “The transport fare to and from Kepco E&C alone amounts to the daily pay.”

Lee wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

“This is a trick to increase jobs. I feel betrayed by the government that promised good quality jobs,” said another job seeker.

Experts have also echoed concerns about the short-term program.

“It is a representative case that misuses internship programs. It reduces costs but creates the illusion as if jobs have increased,” criticized Ha Jong-kang, the head professor of the Labor Academy at Sungkonghoe University.

The government announced late last month that it would create 59,000 jobs through public institutions, but caused controversy as a significant portion of the planned number consisted of short-term jobs such as janitors at traditional markets.

The figure also includes 5,300 short-term internships from publicly-run companies.

According to a report provided by Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Min Kyung-wook, the government ordered 360 organizations, including 35 publicly-funded companies, to increase jobs from last September to November.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance held a seminar to increase short-term jobs and internships in public institutions last month and said it will include internship employment increases in performance evaluations.

Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) last month said it will hire 100 inspectors for leased housing. The inspectors will only be employed for 30 days from Nov. 26 to Dec. 25.

LH also posted a notice to hire 44 workers to manage records for rental business operators with a contract period of 30 days from Nov. 23 to Dec. 22.

LH explained that such short-term jobs are needed and are unrelated to orders from the presidential office.

Government plans to increase jobs for the elderly also face criticism that they are targeted to inflate job figures. While contract periods for such jobs are longer than other short-term jobs, the work hours are limited to three hours a day. The government has decided to create 610,000 jobs for elderly people next year compared to the 510,000 this year.

“Short-term jobs don’t fit the Moon Jae-in administration’s pursuit to create good quality jobs,” said Lee Jong-sun, the deputy head of the Korea University Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. “Even if employment figures aren’t good, [they should] gradually increase jobs that are actually needed in a longer perspective.”


BY KIM HO, LIM SUN-YOUNG AND PARK JIN-HO [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]


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