Samsung thinking of tobacco tests for applicants

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Samsung thinking of tobacco tests for applicants

Smoking bans in Korea are spreading from bars and restaurants to Seoul’s downtown squares. If Samsung Electronics follows through with a proposed plan to test entry-level job applicants, it may have just unofficially extended to the country’s largest employer.

The electronics giant is said to be considering adding extra marks to nonsmoking applicants for entry-level positions. It would be the first time a local firm offers preferential treatment to nonsmoking job applicants.

“The measure is meant to promote a nonsmoking culture at the workplace to a level in other developed economies,” a Samsung spokesman was quoted as saying by an economic daily on Sunday. “Good health conditions of employees is the top competitive edge of the firm.”

Beginning with official recruitment in the latter half of the year at the earliest, the tech bellwether said it may filter out smokers by having their urine and hair tested.

Depending on the response from job seekers and society, other affiliates of Samsung may follow suit, the paper reported.

The news comes less than 10 days after Samsung sent an e-mail to workers at its device-solution division to notify employees that smokers will be discriminated against when it comes to promotions as executives and selections for overseas resident employees and regional experts.

The company has gathered a written pledge from some 35,000 workers in the division to quit smoking and will test its executives who were previously smokers on a monthly basis. Last year, its Suwon operation, where its handsets and TVs are made, was designated as a “mandatory smoke-free zone.”

Samsung is not the only firm in Korea that is paying attention to smoking-related policies.

Posco in 2009 launched a campaign to have its entire staff quit smoking, and the portion of smokers in the workforce has dropped to nearly zero from 30 percent.

Kumho-Asiana, which owns Asiana Airlines, forces candidates to specify in job applications whether or not they smoke, but says smoking is not a decisive factor. When they pass the recruiting process, respective subsidiaries accept a written pledge to give up smoking.

In a move to encourage workers to quit smoking, E-Land, an apparel mogul, gives 200,000 won ($175.4) in cash to reward workers who have proven they have been smoke-free for three months. Those who succeed in staying away from cigarettes for six months are given 500,000 won.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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