Republic of Korea

  1. About Republic of KoreaSouth-Korea
  2. Working conditions
  3. Sectors and companies that are recruiting
  4. Applying for a job
  5. Major recruitment pointers
  6. Recruitment Resources and networks

1. About Republic of Korea

Since the 1960s, Republic of Korea has recorded an incredible growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, Republic of Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies, and currently is among the world’s 15 largest economies with the global ranking of 9th in its exports. Initially, a system of close government and business ties, including directed credit and import restrictions, made this success possible. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods, and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 exposed longstanding weaknesses in the development model including high debt/equity ratios and massive short-term foreign borrowing. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, and then recovered by 9% in 1999-2000. Korea adopted numerous economic reform measures following the crisis, including greater openness to foreign investment and imports. Growth moderated to about 4-5% annually between 2003 and 2007. With the global economic downturn in the late 2008, Korean GDP growth slowed to 0.2% in 2009. In the third quarter of 2009, the economy began to recover, in large part due to export growth, low interest rates, and an expansionary fiscal policy, and growth exceeded 6% in 2010. Korean economy has long term challenges including a rapidly aging population, inflexible labor market, and over-dependence on manufacturing exports. Korea currently strives to reinvigorate its growth potential with new growth engines such as renewable energy, IT/BT/NT, material, and other high-technology industries on a sustainable basis with higher emphasis on welfare and social safety net.

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Population (2013): 50 million

GDP (2012 est.): USD 1.622 trillion

GDP per capita (2012 est., PPP): USD 32,400

Unemployment rate (2012 est.): 3.8%

2. Working conditions

Working in Korea may be a challenge for foreigners who are unwilling to put in the hours and efforts that many Korean nationals are used to. Korea has one of the highest average workweeks and overtime hours in the world. With their rigorous work ethic, you can expect to go beyond your own standards to keep up. However, if you can be committed, the people around you will in return be committed to you. The idea of developing personal relationship in the workplace may seem foreign to those who are not used to South Korean culture. However, the idea of building trust with other employees is crucial to Koreans in and out of the office. Trust motivates the people; therefore focus on making lasting, personal relationships to show your commitment. Also, keep in mind that while strong personal relationships are encouraged, a ranking of position still exists. Getting too personal may come off as being disrespectful. If you do not give respect where it is due, it is likely that Koreans will be offended.

Korean people are known for their intelligence and work ethic. It is no wonder why the country has one of the highest average annual work hours. If you’re planning to find employment in South Korea, you better be prepared to put in a lot of hours and effort. You will be glad you did this because most Korean businesses offer generous bonuses and ample paid vacation time. Luckily, recent law changes have dropped the maximum workweek and adopted a 5-day workweek system. Unless you are planning to work for a smaller company (with 5 regular employees or less), the new law applies to you as well. Although some contracts do allow for minor adjustments in hours, the average workweek in any 2-week period is not to exceed the maximum 40 hours. Also, workers may not be required to work more than 12 hours in any given day. Unluckily, however, little attention seems to be paid to the 40-hour workweek legislation. Most people still work late, with the end of working day often reaching the late evening hours.
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Legal working hours : 40.0 hours per week.

Length of trial / notice period: Generally at least 3 months.

Employment formalities: Working Visa to be processed by the Korean Ministry of Labor for temporary foreign employees. Foreign Temporary Employees have to renew their visas within a given term.

3. Sectors that are recruiting

Industry, Engineering & Construction, Tourism, Services, Finance, IT / Telecommunications , Public, FMCG, Retail & Luxury Goods, Bio, Pharmaceutical & Energy and others.

Companies that are recruiting: At the moment, most companies are planning to downsize the number of new recruits. However, major Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Doosan, STX, Hanwha, CJ, SK and others would still hire experienced workers and talented individuals. Multinational companies operating in the Republic of Korea, and many companies related with foreign network will continue to hire talents.  Other companies, especially in high-technology industries, are also active in recruiting experienced managers and specialists/experts, despite difficulties associated with global and local recessions.

4. Applying for a job

Professionalism is KEY! Above all else, remember that the application process is nothing short of serious. People responsible for reviewing applications and CV’s want only the best professional candidates. Follow these few steps in preparing your application and corresponding documents so that you can compete successfully for your employment.

Cover letter sets you apart from everyone else applying for the same jobs. The application material shows the prospective employer much about you, but the cover letter is your voice on paper, setting the tone for you. While maintaining your professional stance, try to set yourself apart from the rest of the applicants. Explain why you would be a good fit for the position without appearing arrogant or less enthusiastic.

CV: Writing an application
Use your curriculum vitae to sell yourself and open your potential employer’s eyes to your worth. You should expect that most companies already have common application forms for their applicants. Some companies accept the applications in English while others don’t. When applications in English are not accepted or Korean version is requested, it will be to your advantage to find someone reliable to help you translate the documents. It is important that no misspelling appears on the application material since they are your first opportunity to make favorable first impression with your prospective employer. Make a good, lasting impression from the start.

CV: Order
Always take the professional approach when writing your CV. Korean employer’s attribute professionalism to seriousness and hard work. Show that you are capable of doing the job by organizing your thoughts clearly and orderly.

CV: Introduction/Biography
List your full name, address, e-mail address, phone numbers (with your appropriate country dialing code) and any other contact information that you find necessary. After you introduce yourself with all your personal information, briefly touch on your skills (computer and language skills, etc.). This section should be concise and straightforward. It is best to only include key words instead of lengthy, flowery sentences.

CV: Objectives
Explain in one or two statements the position for which you are applying and why. This will show the prospective employer the goals you have set in mind for yourself and the company.

CV: Experience and Education
This is where you list your past experience and special awards. Starting from the most recent, name the companies for which you have worked and any special honors you received while working. After professional experience you should list the details of your education and enrollment in other non-academic institutions if they pertain to the job at hand. Similar to work experience, in the order of the most recent, list the universities/colleges you have attended and any degrees and/or honors you may have received. Each entry of educational institution should be accompanied by a date and location, the final grade average, overseas educational experience, and extracurricular or club activities, etc. You may also include your secondary school experience. The employer should get a good idea of your qualifications from this section.

CV: References
In case the prospective employer wants to further investigate your accomplishments and find out more about you in general, he or she may want a list of professional and personal references. Make wise choices about whom to include in your list and don’t forget to include their contact information and relationship to you. Even if the employer does not utilize this tool, it is helpful to have it readily available just in case.

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5. Major recruitment pointers

Business Etiquette/knowing how to behave during interviews: Bow your head first in greeting, and then shake hands if given by the recruiter. Receive the name card with two hands if given by the recruiter. Show your confident, bright, high-spirited attitude. Answer questions simply. Skip the details and give interviewers succinct answers. Show your practical experience focused on what you achieved and developed in your previous careers. Demonstrate your enthusiasm towards the position, professionalism, flexibility and competence.

As discussed earlier, there is no room for arrogance in the Korean culture, especially when doing business. As the interviewee, you are expected to show respect to a potential supervisor and loyalty to the company which you are applying to. Korean culture suggests that deviating from such tradition during an interview is easily perceived as an insult and nearly unforgivable.

Understand your position
Take the initiative and bow first, since you are in a lower position than your interviewer. Shaking hands is reserved for more personal relationships, so unless the interviewer extends his/her hand first, you are expected to bow.

Do not interrupt
Whatever the interviewer has to say is not to be taken lightly and therefore should be listened to carefully. It is a sign of respect to allow the interviewer to control the floor.

Speak modestly
Whether you are listing prior experience and careers or sharing any other related information, do not be boastful. Arrogance is considered insulting as humility is an inherent quality in the Korean culture.

Show your interest
One of the main points of the interview is to test your loyalty to the company. The interviewer already knows your career records and past experience from your CV, but he/she must be convinced that you are serious about working for the company.

Languages you must be able to speak: English language skills is highly preferred, if not mandatory. If you are not a native speaker in English, standardized English test scores will be helpful. Almost in every cases, Korean language skills are the basic requirement.

Flagship training: Prestigious major Universities: Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Korea University, Ewha Women’s University. Science & Technology: Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology(KAIST), Pohang University of Science and Technology, Hanyang University: University for Language: HUFS. University for Mass Communication & Journalism: Chungang University.  University for Law: Korea University.  University for Business Administration: Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Sogang University.  University for Hospitality and Tourism management: Kyunghee University, Sejong University.

Compensation & Benefits / Taxes: Compensation and benefits are mostly dependent on the specific positions or companies you apply to. You should be able to find out at least the range of the compensation and benefits at the time of your application. Be ready to be flexible when discussing with your prospective employers, since the jobs and companies you are applying to have set limits already established in most cases and you have chosen to proceed with the employment process in the first place.  As to the taxes, please refer to the following website for details. Comp and Benefit in Korea. Also, Company cars, laptops, mobile phones can be occasionally offered (usually higher positions).

6. Recruitment resources and networks

Important business networking sites:

Where to network: