[Viewpoint] Where did you study?

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[Viewpoint] Where did you study?

A position at the Korea Development Bank is the dream job for many Koreans. This year, the bank hired 100 new employees, and half of them are graduates of colleges and universities in areas outside of Seoul.

In the past, the Korea Development Bank was the place for people with golden resumes. Job openings were filled by candidates who graduate from specialized high schools and prestigious universities. They were the most elite group with high GPAs, foreign language fluency and study abroad experience. Are the bankers with flawless resumes happy now to work for the bank?

Lately, more than 15 percent of the new hires have chosen to leave the bank. Many of them went to law school or business school abroad. Human resources came up with three possible causes.

First of all, the reality at the bank did not meet their expectations. When they joined the bank, they aspired to work for the dynamic global investment banking section, but only 20 percent of the operation is investment banking.

Other tasks do not necessarily require an elite background or financial expertise. Second, after the reduction of wages at public corporations, the KDB pays less than private banks in general. Moreover, when new employees are assigned to work in branch offices located in areas other than Seoul, some refuse to relocate and resign.

Tension is growing as the Korea Development Bank has launched an experiment. While it is not disclosing exact statistics, the bank admits that the graduates from regional universities are not as strong in terms of qualifications. Yet their contracts include a condition that they should work in local branch offices for a certain period of time.

At the same time, the Korea Development Bank doesn’t hide its confidence. A HR officer guarantees that every new hire will excel in the business in local offices. With their local background, they are expected to perform even better when it comes to loan approval, for instance. What worries the bank is actually the movement of the labor union because of painful memories from the past.

For a few years since 1989, Korea Development Bank recruited more than half of the new hires from local universities. Then Deputy Prime Minister Cho Soon required government-financed institutes to meet a quota of regional university graduates. The problem arose when the union claimed that the graduates of regional universities should not be discriminated against and the same rotation schedule should be applied to everyone.

As the requirement of service at local offices became ineffective, the banks had no reason to give favorable treatment to the regional university graduates. Schools in the capital regions also protested this favoritism. As the quota system disappeared, the elite applicants with the best set of qualifications ruled.

Nowadays, regional university graduates are asked an awkward question, “Which campus did you study at?” If they are not from the Seoul campus, they are given the cold shoulder. According to the same logic, four years of college education are meaningless. Maybe, it would be more efficient to hire them based on College Scholastic Ability Test scores.

It is tragic that college students flock to sign up for leases offered by the Land and Housing Corporation. Before lowering university tuition, it is more urgent to bring down Seoul’s exhaustingly high living expenses.

And the madness of adding qualifications on resumes should subside. We need to go back to the times when talented students chose national universities in their regions over mediocre schools in Seoul when they couldn’t get into top schools there.

According to Minumsa, the publisher of the Steve Jobs autobiography in Korea, young readers are especially impressed by the part where Steve Jobs dropped out of college and found his first job at Atari. If Atari valued prestigious educational qualifications only, he wouldn’t have been able to get a job there.

He claimed that he didn’t have to shower because he was a vegan. Colleagues were appalled by his arrogance and body odor. However, his boss suggested that he should work the night shift. The Koreans in their 20s and 30s rave over the open-minded organization.

The Korean society seems to be too closed. Since elementary school, we all endeavored to satisfy the elite standards, but the top 1 percent elite are discontent with routine work. And the 99 percent feel discouraged.

Mitsubishi used to hire only the most elite candidates, but in the 1980s, the company started to recruit regional university graduates and college athletes for sales positions. The change enhanced efficiency and reduced stress within the organization.

Government agencies and large conglomerates in Korea need to initiate the change. The unions need to reconsider their uniform demand for equality.

When companies no longer ask questions regarding the location of the college campus, 99 percent of young job seekers will feel motivated. Companies need to hire candidates with different backgrounds, including high school graduates and local university graduates. Maybe, that will be the first step to communicate with the young generation.

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

by Lee Chul-ho

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