Go to contents

China, Japan Inc. Recruiting Koreans

Posted December. 23, 2006 06:38,   


Previously employed by a major Korean consumer electronics company to supervise one of its production facilities, A is working for a Chinese electronics manufacturer (referred to as B) as an executive. After recruiting A, B copied the manufacturing system and even operational processes and organization of A’s past employer. At the request of his current employer to “bring talented workers from Korea at every opportunity,” A has recruited seven Koreans.

A’s case reflects the “talent war” waged between Korea, China and Japan. Given the cultural similarity among the three, it is relatively easier for them to capitalize on one another’s talent pool.

Unfortunately, Korea is losing that “war.” While China and Japan have rolled up their sleeves to attract as many talented workers as possible, Korea is losing a significant number of workers to non-Korean employers overseas due to job shortages. Moreover, Korean companies are not making enough systematic efforts to retain workers.

China is eying Korea’s high-tech workforce who they think will boost its industrial growth. Grappling with an aging population, Japan is looking for workers who will help relieve itself of the burden of workforce shortages.

Outflow of Korea’s Skilled Workers –

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning (KISTEP) estimates that about 9,000 skilled workers were employed out of Korea last year and that 3,000 to 4,000 of them went to China.

The number of job seekers who found work in China through the Chinese online placement agency China Tong more than doubled from 1,094 in 2001 to 2,232 this year. One third of them are estimated to have been hired by Chinese companies.

Japan is luring more Korean workers to enhance its IT competitiveness and resolve its workforce shortages problem caused by aging. Indeed, the Japanese government and businesses are making hard efforts to recruit Korean and Chinese IT workers under the second-phase “e-Japan” project whose main objective is Japan’s comeback as an IT powerhouse. Headhunters in Japan are so eager to find Korean IT workers who are willing to come to Japan that some call the whole situation an “IT Korean wave.”

Potentially A Hard Blow Against Korea’s Competitiveness –

Compared to the two neighbors, Korea’s record of attracting talented foreign workers is far below expectations. According to the Ministry of Information and Communication, non-national IT experts working in Korea are just 1,122, whom include only 87 Chinese and 41 Japanese. The combined number of non-national high-quality workers in Korea (excluding those at language institutes) stands at about 2,000.

The Koreans who chose China or Japan did so because companies in the two countries came up with more attractive employment offers, including better living conditions.

Korean programmers working in Japan say, “I don’t want to go back home because I feel mistreated there.” An employee of a Korean company in Beijing says, “Recently, Korean companies reduce their staff in China to cut costs. So more Koreans in China are quitting to remain in China.”

mikemoon@donga.com jaykim@donga.com