Stop hiking, start thinkingThe job market in Korea has been anemic throughout the year. The number of people out of work for six months or longer topped 150,000 as of September, the largest number since the government started collecting this data in 1999. Unemployment benefits topped 5 trillion won ($4.4 billion) by September, up nearly 1 trillion won from a year ago. As many as 516,000 have given up on their search for a job. This is also the largest number since data started being compiled in 2014.
Even as jobs have become scarce, those with connections in the public and corporate sectors easily land permanent, well-paying jobs. Last week, the court issued its first ruling on illegal hiring at banks after the Financial Supervisory Service referred the case to the prosecution after a special probe early this year. A district court in Seoul found all KB Kookmin Bank defendants guilty of violating the equal employment law and obstructing business. It’s rare for a private company to be charged with obstruction of business for their shady hiring practices. Recruitment in private corporations, including banks, has been under the control of management. But the ruling has set the legal precedent that the private sector must also comply with the principles of fairness and transparency in hiring.
Upon learning how family members easily landed permanent jobs in the Seoul city government, citizens brought up a controversial remark by Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, the confidante of disgraced President Park Geun-hye. Chung said coming from a well-connected family was also a kind of ability. “Do we have to join Mayor Park Won-soon’s camp or have our parents join the trade union to get jobs?” one university student wrote on the bulletin board outside of Seoul City Hall.
The economy has lost steam. It is generating few jobs and is rocking financial markets. The liberal administration’s slogan of fairness has been stained by these shocking hiring allegations. President Moon Jae-in, who took the Blue House press corps for a mountain hike over the weekend, vowed to work towards meeting the goals of growth generated by income increases, innovation and fairness. He did not mention the compelling challenges of the economy or the hiring scandal. The government must take a pragmatic turn to address ever-worsening conditions across the board. But the Blue House and the government lack any urgency or courage to admit and fix the problems caused by their policies.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 29, Page 30