Go to contents

[Opinion] Popular Majors

Posted February. 27, 2006 03:00,   


As society changes, the number of unique majors and strange departments at universities, such as the departments of Mortuary Science, Elderly Recuperation and Rehabilitation, Pet Beauty, Riding, and Theme Park Design is increasing. In the past, one would have asked if washing and shrouding dead bodies was worth a university education. It was also unimaginable for how to care for old people and how to adorn pets to be taught at universities. However, these departments are now popular.

Before and after liberation from Japanese colonial rule, when most Koreans led needy lives, the National Communication School, the Korea Railroad School, and teacher’s schools were popular among the best students. There were even departments of mining at universities. In those days, the only decent jobs that one could find were those offered by the Korea Railroad, post offices, schools, and electricity companies. In the 1960’s, as the demand for household goods such as soap, toothpaste, and clothing increased, students were in fierce competition to be admitted into departments of chemical engineering and departments of textile engineering at universities.

In the 1970’s, the construction industry thrived due to overseas construction works. Heavy and chemical industries also flourished at that time. In the 1980’s, steel, shipbuilding, machinery, electronic, and automobile industries took off. Back then, graduates from related engineering departments were welcomed by companies.

Popular departments are a microcosm of social change. As society moves from industrialization toward a more information-based one, and people, once out of abject poverty, began to pursue quality of life, the popularity of departments like science and engineering began to decline. Some say that part of the decline in their popularity can be attributed to the fact that during the Asian financial crisis, technicians and researchers who are generally poor at office politics were laid off first.

Gone are the days when all college graduates were eager to get jobs at big companies. Students these days favor “life-long employment.” That is why the popularity of colleges of education and teacher’s universities is soaring. High school students prefer departments where they can earn certificates. Students have to get very high marks on the SAT to be admitted into colleges of oriental medicine.

The beauty industry and the health care industry are being cited as industries expected to flourish in the 21st Century. Reflecting this, a dizzying array of departments has emerged: face management departments, fitness health care departments, well-being health care departments, herbal health departments, tea departments, hospital coordinator departments, and well-being therapy departments where students get taught aroma therapy and yoga. In addition to this, there are mixed martial arts departments, special ammunition departments, golf sport event management departments, and school of jewelry identification and deal. It is good that there are more departments which pursue pragmatism and they are getting popular. I wish those new departments would provide a new remedy to reduce “youth unemployment,” which distresses our young people and weakens our society.

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com