Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-yeon held a recruiting session last month for Korean students attending 24 universities and graduate schools in four major U.S. cities. He explained his groups global vision to students at prestigious universities such as Harvard, Yale, MIT and Stanford, and urged them to join Hanwha after graduation. Doosan Group Chairman Park Yong-man supervises recruiting interviews in New York every November. The CEOs of other large Korean companies, including from Samsung and LG and Hyundai Motor, also go overseas to attract foreign talent.
Large global corporations are keenly aware of the necessity of global talent. It is no exaggeration to say a companys future relies on securing talented employees with global vision and capability. Human resources staff members say few graduates from Korean universities have the abilities needed to beat other global companies.
Korea ranked 27th among 57 countries in the national competitive rankings compiled by the Swiss business school IMD last year, but ranked almost at the bottom in university-related criteria. The country came in fourth in higher education achievement, but 51st in social compatibility of university education and 50th in the number of qualified engineers available in the labor market. Among the worlds top 200 universities, Seoul National University was 47th, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology 69th, and Pohang University of Science and Technology 134th. Korea lags far behind Hong Kong and Singapore, which have several universities included in the top 20 and 30.
Japan, China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates are competing to attract branch campuses of world-renowned universities to their countries and enhance the competitiveness of their own universities. Singapore and Dubai are striving to attract leading universities regardless of profit or non-profit educational foundations. Famous universities are unwilling to enter Korea because they cannot send profits home. The country allows only non-profit educational organizations. Against this background, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has urged Korea to enhance the quality of its universities through competition and deregulation.
Even Korean companies turn their back on Korean universities since the schools do not nurture global talent. If foreign universities are allowed to enter Korea and ignite competition, this will help Korean universities grow more competitive.
Whether domestic or leading foreign university, if a school can nurture global talent, this will help reduce the countrys service account deficit in education and create jobs for university graduates. Companies in and out of the country will expand job opportunities for domestic college graduates. This will also reduce the number of men who live alone after sending their wives and children abroad for their childrens education.
The governments education policy apparently hinders the nurturing of global talent, however. In addition to heavy regulations of foreign language high schools, the government seeks to integrate such schools into independent high schools. Education policy seems to focus on suppressing private education only. The situation is worse than that under the former Roh Moo-hyun administration, which focused on the standardization of education. For the future of the country, the government must take a bold approach to open and reform education.