Following the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, applications for admission into colleges of Oriental medicine at Korean universities went through the roof. At the time, white-collar workers were let go from their companies en masse as the era of lifetime employment ended. Other 30-somethings quit their jobs for no reason and took the College Scholastic Aptitude Test to study Oriental medicine. Because of the ensuing glut, doctors of Oriental medicine who earn less than 2 million won (1,700 U.S. dollars) per month are not uncommon. Most Oriental medicine clinics have suffered as a result, with the number of doctors almost doubling despite demand declining. Only 10 years have been needed to destroy the high expectation that a doctor of Oriental medicine would be free from the threat of layoffs and enjoy high social and economic status through making lots of money.
In modern society, the cycle of the rise and fall of an occupation is getting shorter. Due to speedy advances in technology and a longer life expectancy, future generations might have to change their careers several times throughout their lives. In choosing the type of job, people need a long-term and macroscopic foresight rather than seek instant popularity. Older generations have failed to recognize a shift in the trends of the masses and retain an outdated way of thinking. A survey of 408 white-collar workers on occupations they favor for their children found that legal professional topped the list, including lawyer and judge, followed by civil servant, doctor and nurse.
Gone are the days when professionals such as lawyers and doctors were guaranteed a high salary. Many newly minted lawyers are struggling to find a job even after finishing the two-year course at the Judicial Research and Training Institute, as 1,000 rookies try to enter the profession every year. Furthermore, with the annual addition of 2,000 law school graduates, the legal services market will become saturated. With the rising number of doctors and intensifying competition, more hospitals and clinics are shutting down every year. In short, a medical degree or passing the bar no longer guarantees success for life.
Forcing children to pursue a limited number of occupations that parents and teachers believe are good irrespective of attitude and talent will lead to failure. Other consequences include distortion and waste of human resources at the national level. In Europe, parents with smart children advise their offspring to pursue art, while those in the U.S. recommend science. Korea seems to be the only country in the world where the best and the brightest blindly flock to law and medicine. A far more promising prospect for Korea is if many talented people armed with entrepreneurship skills pursue the study of future growth engines in science and technology.
Vocational experts say that given Koreas rapidly aging society and rising aspiration for emotion and culture, a new arena of occupations completely different from those in the past will emerge and catch on. Older generations should free their children from outdated career perceptions and raise their competitiveness to help their children survive and thrive in the future.