Devalued volunteeringThe government presented a plan to train and produce 100,000 young global leaders by 2013. Under this plan, 50,000 people will work as trainees, 30,000 will take internships and 20,000 will do volunteer work abroad.
It is a good idea to send young people abroad where they can learn more and get international experience. But the problem is the project will probably waste state funds and end up a failure if it is not carefully planned.
The process of drawing up this project reveals many problems and it is doubtful the government conducted the appropriate research into demand from overseas.
Even now, young Koreans who go abroad for internships or voluntary work and they have problems. The Korea International Cooperation Agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has 1,300 voluntary workers in some 30 developing countries, as of now.
But in these countries, they carry out simple, monotonous work that is far from the goal and purpose of their projects. Many become disillusioned and wonder why they joined the program in the first place. Some suffer identity crises. Others say the volunteer programs are used as means to avoid difficulty in the job market in Korea.
There is no perfect system to help volunteers use their international experience to find jobs after they return home. The government’s recent announcement gives an impression that the new program was drawn up in haste to keep a pledge that the president made when he was running for office.
It is necessary to train young leaders who will work on the global stage. However, sending people abroad in one large swarm might be counterproductive.
The government shouldn’t be obsessed with the figure of 100,000. The government must examine foreign markets and take a realistic approach. Those youths who are going abroad must get an education and training at home first.
Education and training for the workplace must be provided, using resources in universities or the Human Resources Development Service. A program to teach these young people the languages, cultures and customs of the countries where they are headed must be established. A system to help them find employment at home after their return should be prepared.
Then young Koreans who participate in the global leaders’ program can contribute to bolstering the country’s competitiveness.