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“Local University Diploma” – A Scarlet Letter?

Posted October. 29, 2003 22:42,   


Is getting into large corporations a false hope for those who graduated from local universities?

Dong-a Ilbo recently conducted a research with a shocking result: companies do not even consider job applications of candidates from local universities, not to mention giving them opportunities for job interviews or written tests.

Sorrow of Local Graduates: Yoo (27) participated in the research. Coming from a poor family, he could not afford to take an extra year to prepare for another shot at entering a more prestigious university. Furthermore, he chose a national university over a private one due to lower tuition.

Although the school he attended was not located in Seoul, it was a well-known government-funded university, and he thought as long as he studied diligently he would be given an opportunity. His English proficiency was high since he was stationed in KATUSA under the U.S. forces during his years serving in the military. He also learned German and Japanese.

But he was disappointed to find out that he failed to pass the application-level in eight companies he applied to despite his capabilities. He seemed to have lost hope, saying, “I have applied to dozens of major companies in the past, but only two of them showed interest in my resume.” He lamented that the door is closed for local university graduates.

He bitterly said, “I myself would hire candidates from so-called ‘prestigious schools’ over others with same qualifications if I were in their place,” when asked why he thinks he was disqualified. He said, “Even if they hired me by chance, I would have to wear the scarlet letter on my chest that I graduated a local university all my life.” Yoo added, “I will become a tutor instead of trying to enter a company.”

Another participant, Park (26), who graduated from a local university this February said, “It is so cruel that high school grades can haunt you for the rest of your life,” after hearing the research results. He said, “Although it may sound like a lame excuse, I could not keep up with my grades in high school because I was not healthy. But I can tell you that I tried my best since my second year of college. I went to the library every single day to study English and Japanese and so forth, but I feel helpless that I was not even given a chance to take an entrance exam for a company.”

Park also applied to about 10 major companies since last year. All but one company rejected his resume.

Meanwhile, a prestigious-school graduate Sung said, “It is true that it is harder to get a job these days, but it never occurred to me that I will not get hired because I graduated with a popular degree from a prestigious university.”

Comments from Companies: Most of the eight companies that the two participants applied for in the research officially explained that there is no school discrimination in hiring employees.

Hyundai-Kia Motor Company’s Human Resources manager suggested schools could also be counted as a criterion for employment, saying, “All information filled out on the application is considered.” Doosan Corp. said, “If all other qualifications are the same, school can be a decisive factor.”

The other six companies denounced the accusation that college plays an important role, saying, “There are many non-Seoul universities’ graduates who have actually passed the application level.”

Experts’ Diagnosis and Suggestion: Experts express their concerns in unison that the result of this research is “a living proof that large corporations’ discrimination against local universities still exists.”

Dr. Lee Kyu-yong of Korea Labor Institute points out, “Because it is hard to evaluate the candidates’ potentials, companies tend to focus only on tangible qualifications such as schools when hiring new employees.” He continued, “Only after establishing a system that can effectively evaluate actual job performance skills of candidates and only when they can prove they do not have school discrimination will local graduates be freed from inferiority complex.”

Another expert notes the practice of using school ties for the companies’ interest as another problem. He says, “The problem lies in the fact that companies think they have more to gain from high government officials if they pick employees who went to the same prestigious schools as the officials. The government should be the first to take action in recruiting local school graduates as public servants.”

tesomiom@donga.com podragon@donga.com