Block the drainAs countries compete to attract the best talent, the European Union is considering a Blue Card scheme, inspired by the U.S. Green Card program. The Blue Card would be issued to professionals from non-European countries. The card allows them to stay in Europe for a period of two years that could be extended. The new system is aimed at making it easier for talented professionals to live and find employment in Europe. The aging European community believes that it needs a strategy to attract talent in order to remain competitive, so it plans to attract skilled workers from outside Europe with the new scheme.
With Korea sandwiched between China and Japan, winning the battle for brains is the only way for us to survive. However, Korea has suffered persistent net losses of smart people. From 1992 to 1995, among Koreans who earned doctoral degrees in science and technology in the United States, 20.2 percent settled there. From 2000 to 2003 the figure surged to 46.3 percent. In 2006, the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland created a brain drain index, with a scale from 0 to 10 -- 0 meaning a total drain and 10 a total influx. Korea’s brain drain score was 4.91, ranking 38th among 58 countries. Ireland had 8.14 points and the United States 7.84, the two highest points on the list. These two countries are leading the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. Thus the index proves that the top talent that Ireland and the U.S. attracted from outside its borders was the basis for the two countries’ competitiveness.
The Korean government introduced a Gold Card scheme to draw foreign brains. But only 2,976 foreigners have entered the country as of late August. A non-Korean who stays in Korea for a long period has an Alien Registration Card and there is no scheme like the U.S. Green Card program.
Yesterday, a meeting on this issue was held at the Blue House. At the meeting, measures to issue Gold Cards to attract more foreign talent and to ease requirements for permanent residence permits were discussed. But we need to be more aggressive in order to attract smart people from overseas.
This is an era of global competition where sharp minds know no boundaries. In the past, we stopped talented Koreans from leaving the country by appealing to their patriotism. But that is a bygone era. Now, we Koreans need to attract talent from abroad. We need to accept anyone who can make a contribution to enhancing our competitiveness, regardless of nationality, and make it easier for them to live and work here.