Hanky panky at Seoul Metro

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Hanky panky at Seoul Metro

It is shocking to find an anachronistic practice in the corporate culture of Seoul Metro, a subsidiary of the Seoul Metropolitan government. The public corporation offers children of its employees unfair advantages in landing jobs at the company. That is unfair to the many young people in despair because they cannot find good jobs.

Such malpractices can only deepen a sense of deprivation among the young generation. It is particularly surprising that such things are happening as Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon is implementing an ambitious policy to offer a 500,000 won ($441) subsidy to every young person in Seoul who is struggling to find a job.

In early March, Seoul Metro upgraded 1,285 contract workers to its permanent payroll. However, 108 of those fortunate individuals — or 8.4 percent — were found to be existing employees’ family members, including sons and daughters. If you take a deeper look, there are more disturbing details. For instance, the son of a fourth-level employee was suddenly promoted to a seventh-level worker immediately after the conversion of his work status (The 9th level is the lowest for civil servants). Even a dishwasher, a relative of an existing employee, started to receive the same treatment as new recruits who passed tough exams for full-time jobs.

Such an aberrant practice constitutes a deprivation of fair opportunities for our youth still trying to find a job in an ever-tougher employment environment. Seoul Metro is one of the best destinations for our young job seekers to the extent that a whopping 30,000 people applied for 550 full-time jobs in the public entity in the second half of the year.

The timing of their admission to Seoul Metro is also suspicious. Up to 70 percent of them were hired as contract workers shortly after a tragic accident at Guui Station in May 2016 took the life of a young contract worker who was fixing a platform door. If they were hired by the company after getting inside information that new contract workers with no set limits to their contracts would become full-timers, that poses an even more serious problem.

A recent survey of 15,000 employees of the public company led to the appalling findings. Even more baffling is the distribution of letters to members of the company’s union — an affiliate of the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions — which advised them to not report the privileges their family members received. If that’s the case, there could be even more illegitimate hiring and promotions. Seoul or the national government must get to the bottom of these misdeeds and come up with strong measures to prevent them happening again.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 16, Page 30
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