Top jobs don’t pay like they used toEven the most prestigious jobs have not been able to escape the prolonged economic slowdown that has hit Korea and many other countries.
Patent attorneys remain the top profession in Korea for revenue, but their average revenue declined 20 percent over the past five years, according to an analysis by the JoongAng Ilbo of records from the National Tax Service and health insurance data.
Lawyers, dentists and plastic surgeons have also all seen revenue decreases, the JoongAng’s study revealed.
Because the statistics of the National Tax Service are based on taxation data, the data analyzed was aggregated by business, not per capita.
For doctors, radiologists recorded the highest revenue, reporting an average of 1.33 billion won, or $1.25 million, as of 2012.
The emergence of obstetrics and gynecology doctors was also noticeable. In 2011, their average revenue was 700 million won, but in 2012 it increased to 900 million won, on par with ophthalmologists and orthopedic doctors, including general surgeons.
That income data is based on workplace reports that hospitals voluntarily submit at the beginning of each year. It represents total revenue, excluding the cost of rent, taxes and other workers.
The medical industry said that this data is misleading and the take-home pay is much smaller. For instance, the 50 percent rise of incomes for doctors of obstetrics and gynecology came from the increasing popularity of infertility treatment and the larger size of obstetric clinics.
As patients flock to large hospitals, the situation for small, independent hospitals and clinics has worsened.
“The difference in revenue between the same departments in independent hospitals and large hospitals usually is upward of threefold. The revenues of independent obstetrics and gynecology hospitals and the large ones differ by twelvefold,” said Park Noh-jun, president of the Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Due to the lowered fertility rate, the situation for obstetrics is becoming increasingly worse.”
For radiologists, who pulled in the most revenue among all doctors, their take-home pay is also much different, after the cost of purchasing expensive equipment, such as CT scanners and MRI machines is taken into account, as well as the wages of radiation technologists.
“There are not many radiologists who take home more than 200 million won annually,” said a radiology specialist.
On the other hand, for ears-nose-throat doctors, urologists, dermatologists, pediatricians and internists - who often open their own independent clinics and can have revenue between 400 million won and 500 million won, but relatively lower costs - the revenue gap with high-income doctors, like radiologists and ophthalmologists, actually declined.
Doctors in specialties that are more dependent on the economy, like plastic surgeons and dentists, saw their revenue decline.
Plastic surgeons typically now take in 100 million won a year less than five years ago.
The lowest revenue in medical-related fields were reported by traditional Chinese medicine doctors, with an annual average of 279 million won, and veterinarians at 68 million won.
Of the nine professions covered by the tax service, patent attorneys had the highest revenues, with an average of 634 million won per professional in 2012.
Only radiologists and ophthalmologists generated more revenues than patent attorneys, according to the JoongAng Ilbo analysis, although the Korean Bar Association denied the claim.
Patent attorneys also usually work for large firms that have high overhead and other expenses.
Following patent agents, the annual revenues of lawyers and customer brokers exceeded 300 million won.
Those professions that also saw their revenues languish were architects, judicial scriveners (who prepare documents for real estate and commercial transactions) and certified public appraisers.
“It seems that the revenue of these professionals decreased due to the sluggish real estate market,” said Park Kwang-jong, deputy director of the Value Added Tax department of the National Tax Service.
Of course, there is one profession that rakes in more money than doctors and lawyers: celebrities.
Among celebrities, singers’ incomes surpassed actors.
The NTS only revealed revenue information about nine professions.
By company, which one had the largest number of high-income employees? It was Korea’s largest law firm, Kim & Chang.
According to data released by the National Health Insurance Corporation, among subscribers to the national health insurance program, 2,422 employees pay the monthly maximum insurance premium of 2.3 million won.
Among them, 148 worked for Kim & Chang. Sixty-two of the maximum insurance payers work for Samsung Electronics, 28 work for SK Innovation and 20 work for the Lee & Ko law firm.
Among freelance professionals like celebrities and athletes, singers came out on top, earning an average of 53 million won annually.
Five years ago, singers earned 10 million won per year less than actors, but as of 2012, they surpassed actors by 10 million won.
BY YOON CHANG-HEE, LEE SANG-JI [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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