Dark reality facing Korea’s IT industry

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Dark reality facing Korea’s IT industry

Recently, an online community of software developers was full of laughs after reading the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning’s claim that midlevel software developers in Korea get paid an average of 55.7 million won ($51,000) a year in Korea.

The ministry’s report was responding to a news story that Korean software developers leave the country because they were not compensated well. The ministry argued that the salary is not lower than that in the United States.

When the news was posted on the online community of developers, the post had dozens of replies - “The base pay is less than 20 million won a year, and we don’t get paid overtime” and “The net monthly pay for a third-year developer is 1.5 million won.” They mostly said that the ministry’s claim was ridiculous.

This is how the ICT Ministry calculated the salary: There is a thing called the Standard Labor Cost for Software Developers. It is a table that lists the cost of labor for software developers at different levels, just like steelworkers or welders in the construction industry. The table is used when companies and public agencies calculate the cost of software development. The cost is based on college degrees, licenses and experience. I am a graduate of a four-year college with a major in computer science, so for an entry-level position, I would get paid more than Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, who only have high school diplomas. The table just doesn’t reflect the reality.

Referring to the table, the ministry multiplied 221,371 won, the daily wage for a midlevel developer, by 252 workdays in a year, and got 55.7 million won for the salary. But the footnote states that the figure also includes bonuses, retirement contributions and corporate contributions. But in fact, it only shows the portion of labor cost, among other expenses required for software development. The ministry included retirement and insurance contributions to the wages that developers receive in order to make the number look bigger.

Well, you are lucky if the Standard Labor Cost applies to you. Considering the industry’s structure of contractors giving out jobs to subcontractors, and subcontractors giving work to other subcontractors, the actual wages that subcontractors receive are a lot smaller. Here is the real question: Don’t the officials at the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning know about the reality? Just as an online poster had said, they can “create the future only when they know the present reality.”

by Sim Seo-hyeon Digital contents news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo

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