A growing number of young Koreans are looking for jobs abroad amid record youth unemployment at home.
Last year some 4,811 young Koreans found jobs overseas, about three times as many as the 1,607 in 2013. But not all are white-collar office positions, and many are willing to work as welders, delivery staff and in other labor-intensive jobs.
One 27-year-old university graduate from Seoul found at a recent job fair that the available jobs were in software development and general office work but also baking, carpentry, electrical and plumbing and welding.
“I want to leave Korea where it is extremely hard to find a job,” he said. “I want to go abroad rather than work for a small Korean company.”
Job portal Saramin polled 478 jobseekers in June and found that 78.5 percent want to work abroad, 46.9 percent of them citing the tough job market here as the main reason.
The kinds of jobs they are looking for overseas are more varied than before. In the past, they mostly wanted positions in IT or banking that offer generous benefits. But not any more.
One 28-year-old man who had been looking for a job since he graduated two years earlier, headed to Australia in January 2016 on a working holiday program, where young Koreans are given visas to work and learn the culture there. He hopes to earn enough money to start his own business on return.
In the day he works in a slaughterhouse and in the evening as a cleaner. He sleeps only four or five hours a night but makes around W2 million a week (US$1=W1,133). “I didn’t even do any sightseeing because I wanted to save up as much as I could,” he said.
Headhunters are changing their search criteria. One said, “Some people are now even looking for manual labor jobs, which Koreans used to scoff at before.”
But with opportunity come opportunists, and a number of scams have been uncovered promising high wages that never materialize. Unverified businesses are posting job ads luring young Koreans with attractive pay.
One young jobseeker with experience in IT went abroad after responding to an online ad and found out too late that it was an illegal gambling website. He ended up getting locked up, assaulted and eventually killed by the operator.