Brain drain plagues state institutes

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Brain drain plagues state institutes

SEJONG - State-run research institutions are experiencing a serious brain drain as more and more workers leave their jobs in protest of planned relocations to regions outside of Seoul, particularly rural areas.

From now until 2015, most of the state-run research companies in Seoul will be moving to regional cities under a special law concerning the construction and support of innovative cities that will host public institutions from the nation’s capital.

The law is intended to boost balanced regional development through the relocation of government offices and public institutions from the city’s capital to more rural areas.

The Sejong Multifunctional Administrative City, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Seoul, will house 16 state-run research institutes, including the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the country’s main economic policy think tank, and construction is currently under way.

The KDI is set to move in January, with other organizations following suit by the end of next year.

According to Representative Lee Hack-young of the Democratic Party, 524 out of 2,727 research staff have left 26 state-run institutes over the past five years.

Lee said those numbers were based on the report from the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

Among them, the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which will be relocated to Eumseong, North Chungcheong, had the biggest number of resignations. From 2009 until recently, 57 out of 276 workers from the organization quit their jobs.

KDI also lost a significant portion of its researchers because of its relocation plans. Of the think tank’s 254 workers, 51 have left so far.

In 2009, five people left their jobs at the institute. That number inched up to eight in 2010, and 14 employees in 2011. An additional 14 workers left in 2012.

As of June this year, 10 more people had resigned from their positions at the institute.

In July, Park Hyeon, executive director of the Public and Private Infrastructure Investment Management Center at KDI, left his job to teach at the University of Seoul, much to the surprise of those around him.

Despite his prominent position at the institute, sources said he made the decision to leave because his family was already established in Seoul.

“Because so many young doctors are leaving this year, I am now confused as to who are still with us and who have left,” said one KDI official. “More than half of the people who left us said they quit because of the [planned] relocation.”

Another major state-run think tank, Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, experienced a similar problem. The institute will eventually move to Sejong City, and 45 researchers out of its 128 staff, or 35 percent, have resigned since 2009.

Concerns about losing valuable researchers are also growing worse for the institutes that plan to move to more rural areas. The Korea Information Society Development Institute, which plans to move to Jecheon, North Chungcheong, has already lost 32 out of its 124 research staffers.

“After the government announced its plan to relocate research institutes in 2006, the brain drain began,” said Lee. “But the situation became worse starting this year. The government must come up with a plan to maintain the competitiveness of the research institutes.”

According to the report, most researchers with doctoral degrees found jobs at universities after they left state-run institutes. Over the past five years, 262 out of the 524 researchers accepted teaching positions at universities in and around Seoul. Another 58 found jobs at state-run companies and will remain in Seoul. Another 42 joined private research companies.


BY CHOI JOON-HO [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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