Int’l financial bodies lack Koreans

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Int’l financial bodies lack Koreans

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As graduation nears, Kim Jung-hwa, a 27-year-old student at Hanyang University, often finds himself lost in thought. His ultimate goal is to work for an international financial organization such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. But he is unsure of his next move - whether it would be wiser to obtain a master’s degree, apply directly for a job on a lower rung of the ladder or try to get some grassroots experience in a similar or related field as an intern.

“Working for a global financial institution has always been a dream of mine,” he said. “But there is just not enough information in Korea about what or how to prepare when applying for a job in any of these kinds of organizations.”

As there are few Koreans working in this sector, there is also a paucity of coaches and mentors available to inspire young people to follow this career path, he added.

In fact, the number of Koreans contributing their talents to global financial organizations pales in comparison to the nation’s growing status on the world stage and its fast-growing economy. Korea was even considered of sufficient stature to host the Group of 20 Summit last year.

According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the percentage of Koreans working for the IMF stood at 0.95 percent as of last year, or 23 employees. Another 55 Koreans were employed by the World Bank, making up 0.46 percent of the total number, while 49 have been hired by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), comprising 1.74 percent of its workforce. At the African Development Bank (AfDB), there is only one Korean, accounting for 0.06 percent of the total.

While the ratio of employees by country was not disclosed by any of the organizations, the percentage of Koreans at each was small compared to the quota of shares it has, according to data compiled by the finance ministry.

Korea holds a 1.41 percent quota of IMF shares, 1 percent of those at the World Bank, 5.03 percent at the ADB and 0.45 percent at the AfDB.

“It is very tough for students or job-seekers hoping to work for international organizations to apply independently by visiting their respective Web sites,” said Kim Sung-eun, deputy director at the finance ministry’s international organization division. “English is not their mother tongue and neither is French, which is a widely used language at many of these institutions,” he said, adding that awareness of these bodies in Korea also remains relatively low.

As part of efforts to offer more opportunities for young Koreans in this area, the ministry said it will hold its third recruiting event at Kyunghee University next month from Nov. 17 to 18.

The inaugural event was held in 2009 at both Yonsei University and Busan University, while the follow-up was staged at Seoul National University last year.

According to the ministry, around 1,000 students visited the booth in 2009, with 63 engineering interviews and eight landing jobs with global financial institutions. The employment rate last year jumped to 13 out of 81 interviews. Job titles included economists, research assistants and bankers, as well as some internships.

“For this year’s recruiting event, we are now receiving applications, and we are seeing more of these each year,” said Kim from the finance ministry, adding that the deadline for applications is within this month.

“It is a good opportunity because human resources officials at financial institutions will be present,” he said.

Korea University also held a separate recruiting event last week at its campus, introducing several global organizations such as the United Nations and the IMF.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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