[Viewpoint] Let people work where they like

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[Viewpoint] Let people work where they like

The JoongAng Ilbo is busy hiring staff to get ready for the launch of its new television broadcasting network, jTBC, on Dec. 1. It needs many kinds of staff: reporters, newscasters, producers and engineers. The hottest job is for announcers. Fewer than 10 openings for these positions attracted several thousand applicants.

Other jobs were almost as popular. The swarm of job seekers reflects an interest in and expectations for the fledgling broadcasting channel, which is predicted to be the most competitive among the four channels that won new broadcasting licenses from the government late last year.

Many experienced people have joined the company. One new staffer quit his job of seven years at a cable network. He says he is happy to work for a national network. His fellow newcomers all look enthusiastic in their new workplace.

Everyone wants a better job. Some employees may now be working in small, relatively unknown companies, but people want to build experience and one day move to corporations that are household names, like Samsung or Hyundai. Such desires are natural.

In journalism, The New York Times remains one of the world’s most influential and respected names. It regularly scouts journalists whose work at small, regional papers stands out. Like the Times, most American companies recruit experienced workers in this way. They seek out talented workers and snap them up. Korean corporations have a different hiring style. They primarily pick university graduates for new staff.

Human capital is everything to any organization, and that is why all companies hunt for talent. From an employer’s perspective, it is safest to focus hiring on those with experience and reliable references. Due to these advantages, the American hiring style is becoming more commonplace in our society as well.

Any salary earner would welcome a sudden call offering a job at a well-known company. Often, though, employers of such targeted employees would not, and some might call the practice stealing. Small- and medium-sized companies condemn larger counterparts for stealing employees that they have trained.

Perspective is important here. For an employee, a new job opportunity could be a turning point. His employer, though, would naturally feel hurt and betrayed.

Of all potential job opportunities, the chief executive post would be a dream position. For certain, it is not an easy job. CEOs must bow to lower-ranked employees in supplying companies and run around to banks to meet payment settlements. But in the eyes of employees, the CEO travels in a handsome corporate car and can play golf on weekdays. Most of all, average corporate Joes can resent the fact that CEOs earn much more than they do.

But then, on a run-of-the-mill day, Joe gets a call from a larger rival company that offers better pay and perks. He hesitates a moment. He thinks of colleagues who toiled day and night with him, as well as his boss, who has given him confidence. But the opportunity is too good to pass up.

The people who criticize large companies as predators would be no different if they were in the same situation. Wouldn’t they jump with joy if their child, who has been working at a small company, was offered a job at a larger firm?

But most people side with small employers. What they feel and say cannot be reconciled. And, the government campaign for “symbiotic prosperity” has joined their side. It is contemplating imposing disadvantages on large companies in government procurements and government-led research if they “unfairly pull out” employees from smaller companies.

Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan, who holds a Harvard Ph.D. in public policy, floated the idea during a cabinet meeting on economic affairs. Large companies would also be fined for the so-called ungentlemanly practice. What Bahk proposes is, in fact, legal under the Fair Trade Act.

But the provision has never been exercised because it is practically nonsensical. The term “unfair” is too ambiguous and can be interpreted in many ways. Yet, the government is ready to revive this antiquated provision to punish large companies.

Aside from being recruited by large firms, though, there is another way for skilled employees to leave their current jobs: They could start up their own companies. Usually, when this happens, a new company’s founder takes several colleagues with him. In this case, the employer would be equally as upset if a large competitor were involved. But, such cases are not condemned. It all depends on who motivates the move. It is okay for start-ups but not for large corporations.

In a free world, choices about employment should be up to the person involved. But few consider the person who has made the choice. On what grounds can the government penalize large companies if a person who shifts jobs has not been forced in any way?

What kind of a strange government meddles in its people’s lives in this manner? I wonder where the finance minister, a Harvard University graduate, picked up such logic.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Shim Shang-bok
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