Devotion required for second chance

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Devotion required for second chance


Mr. Lee, 30, graduated from a private university in Seoul with a major in economics. His dream was to become an advertising agent. After graduating from college, he went on to intern for an Australian branch of an advertising company, making copies, cleaning offices and doing dishes for six months. When he returned home, he began his job search. He applied to more than 200 companies. While his resume included good grades, language test scores and certifications, he didn’t get through the primary screening. He only got two interviews, which he didn’t pass. Earlier this year, he finally got an offer from a small company run by the owner and his friend.

The owner promised, “We will have 50 employees in a year,” and Lee did his best. However, the company soon lost a contract with an advertiser that provided most of its revenue. Then he lost his job. His career had a grim start. But then he saw a recruiting notice from the Walkers, a social co-op, offering a five-month-long program on advertising, marketing strategy and video production. The program costs 5 million won($4,607), which can be repaid in 25 installments after he gets a job. He had little hope, but he applied and got into the program. He began attending classes last month.

Twenty students like Lee dream of a second chance at the Walkers’ third floor office in a fish market building in Mangwon Market, Mapo District. The average age of the attendees is 30, as they have been repeatedly frustrated in their careers.

When the program selected the students, the Walkers asked for nothing but their names and dates of birth on the application, transcending other qualifications and certifications. Instead, they set up a “life mileage” criteria and spoke with the interviewees in depth. “Despite the high walls of employment, I am constantly challenging.” “I have read more than 10 books in the past year.” “I have overcome physical handicaps and consider it a strength.” “I have run away from home, but I learned my lesson for life.”

Some of the students only have high school degrees but they don’t ask about each other about their education backgrounds. The keywords are devotion, courage and cooperation. While they have been pushed aside in the competition, they now want to help each other move forward. Lee says, “We all experienced frustrations and setbacks.”

Jo Dong-won, 56, lead mentor of the Walkers, is a renowned copywriter who has written many familiar jingles. He was the former head of the Saenuri Party’s PR team during the last general and presidential elections and has had his own share of setbacks, gaining a bad credit standing due to a failed theme park project. He founded the Walkers out of the sense of crisis that the country would be in trouble if education and qualifications continue to determine employment. When some people pay others to take exams for them to get better English scores, can this experiment succeed? I hope it would not end as a drop in the ocean.

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

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