Tag Archives: job interview

Aside

The following post was uploaded in anonymous forum on Korean website about working abroad.  Translated by myself.  It’s okay to take this article to somewhere else, but please cite.  Basically, this post sums up my feelings on working in Korea, and this is what I’ve been through, until I decided I can’t do this.

Original post from http://www.gohackers.com/bbs/zboard.php?id=j_work_life&no=370&page=1&sp1&sn1&divpage=1&sp=off&sn=off&ss=on&sc=on&sf=off&sa=off

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I know everyone has different priority on getting a job in Korea or America.  This is just a subjective opinion based on my personal experience.

I had an interview with Sam**ng Electronics, a company often called as the best in South Korea.  I didn’t apply there directly.  A recruiting agency contacted me whether I’m interested, so I went for it.

My sentiment before the interview:

You know, working in Korea isn’t bad at all.  I’m not the only one here.  I know a lot of people who couldn’t get a job, but got a place in Sam**ng.  People go to Sam**ng Electronics a lot.  It’s a big, well-respected multinational firm now.  Payment isn’t bad.  And think about all that racism, glass celing, visa/green card shit and high tax. Korea is a good option.  I’ve been doing job research on Korean companies anyway.  The economy nowadays in America is terrible.  It’s not like past.  Life is tough.

My sentiment after the interview:

WTF.  What’s up with this suffocating air?!?!  ME NO LIKE THIS Even if Sam**ng offers me a job, I don’t want to go there.  I’m going to do everything I can to get a job in America.  If America scores -10 in this recession, South Korea scores -20.  Jesus.

Some highlights of the interview:

First, I hated how the interviewers kept using broken English in really unnecessary moments.  It annoyed me so much.  If you want to use English, then just speak in English from the beginning, for god’s sake.

Interviewer 1: nae gah CONCERN de nun gun…(=What I’m concerned about is…)

He repeated this phrase for more than 4-5 times.  Exactly same phrase, over and over.  So annoying.

Interviewer 2: CONSENSUS ruel ga jyo ya haji anketsoyo? (= don’t we need to have a consensus?)

This is something you can express in Korean, just fine.  Why do you have to use some dead English vocab and overuse it?  Does that make them look smart? Or, do they have so much sense of inferiority so they have to camouflage it in this way?

Now comes the best part.

Interviewer 1: You haven’t written any research papers yet?

Thing is, I sent several beforehand at their request.

Me: Oh, I sent it and it should be there…

And, in the paper, you write the author’s name.  Below the name goes address.  For example:

John Smith — my professor
123 ABC avenue
San Martino, CA (I don’t live in San Martino. Just for the sake of example)

 Interviewer 1: I see the paper written with San Martino, but not with your professor.
I: (at loss of words.  But I did my best to answer politely) Um, it’s written on the paper.
Interviewer 2: Yeah, John Smith, written above there.

Interviewer 1 doesn’t even know which is first name and which is last name.  Then he started all this bullshit excuse.

Sam**ng is so-called the best company in South Korea.  And this guy is in charge of international recruiting.  I don’t understand.  Shouldn’t he know which is name and which is address, at least?

And they have no concept of job description.  I asked over and over, before and during and after the interview, about the opening’s field and work.  Their answer? “we don’t have such a thing.”  WTF?! Then how an earth can you evaluate people and what’s the point of interview?

Seriously, Sam**ng – is this all you got?  I am beyond disappointed.  For a starter, do something with people in charge of international recruiting.  All American companies I interviewed with asked my availability first, and then we worked together to get the best time. Sam**ng just notified me the interview time, without asking me.  Just one email with dates.  It was impossible schedule for me, so I asked whether it’s possible to move the interview to some other dates.  They simply answered “no.”

Their basic mindset is this: shut up, just be thankful that you are given a chance to have an interview with usOf course you have to adjust your schedule for us.  Isn’t that obvious?

Everyone knows how Sam**ng thinks its employees as parts of machine.  My experience confirms it.  No wonder why all those employees quit within 1-2 years.

[Translation] After an Interview with Korean Company

Being Smart Doesn’t Help You.

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At least in hiring process in Asian company.

Sorry for being MIA for a long time, readers.  While I’ve been studying for LSAT, my motivation started shake pretty badly, because the employment for graduates were bad, and even worse for non-citizen internationals like myself.  People who graduated from top10 schools, like Columbia, were coming back to South Korea because no one was offering them a job, let alone internship.  Now that is something I really do not want, especially after busting your butts for 3 years and paying huge sum of tuition.  And my score stalled (which isn’t impressive at all, by the way).

Then I randomly ran into a global hiring posting by a prominent Japanese company (henceforth JC).  This company is fast-growing, young Japanese company who did really well even in the global recession, and they are very aggressive in international expansion.  Most importantly, they sponsor your visa and you get to work in Tokyo.  There aren’t many employers willing to sponsor your visa in times like this, and in my humble opinion, it is a bit foolish to not to take such an opportunity.  After all, I didn’t have much to lose.  Even after law school, I would love to work focused on Japanese market, and I thought it would be a good chance to test myself and the company – whether I can fare as TCK in Japan, and the company really means what they say.  And, I wanted to check I can actually handle the daily work.  Plus, they pay for the flight and accommodation – and the JPY is frigging expensive.  Hell yeah!  I applied, passed the resume screening, 2 interviews, and 2 personality tests.  Then I was invited to Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan for final interview.  According to the official e-mail, the chosen candidates were to spend 9 days in Tokyo, having some presentations, group discussion, 2.5 days on field, and then final interview.

The flight arrangement was not smooth at all.  Some of the factors are my fault, but again, many things could have been better if the outsourced company planned a bit more carefully.  For instance, my flight schedule was changed once.  The flight number and time were same.  I went to the Incheon airport on the day of my flight, and handed my passport and e-ticket.  The lady at the desk looked really confused, and said: “ma’am, your flight doesn’t leave from here.  It leaves from Gimpo airport.” (Seoul city has two airports).  Fortunately, I did not miss my flight but I had to give up all my practical duty-free shopping, like my formal black coat which was 30% off.  I am just glad Tokyo’s temperature did not drop much during my stay.  It turned out that the flights have exactly same numbers, but two different flights leaving from different airports.  I wasn’t the only person confused.  Honestly, it would have been more convenient to let people book their flight individually and file compensation to the company.

Then, for some reason, the company did not make a solid plan for meals.  So 15+ people who flew from all over the world had to just follow chaperon, visited a restaurant, wait outside for a seat availability, kicked out, walk, then another restaurant.  Had they thought more, they could have divided us into smaller groups (Roppongi doesn’t have big restaurants with lots of seats!) or made reservation to somewhere else.  Really, it’s not that hard.

But all of this are nothing compared to people from Russia and Mongolia.  Something went wrong in immigration, and they were locked in the airport for 3+ hours.  As soon as they arrived at the office, they were greeted by 3 hours long personality test.  During the program, We were given 2.5 days to spend in actual workplace.  After the first day, each group’s field experience was vastly different, and it wasn’t hard to infer that the pre-arrangement was next to non-existent.  Around the middle of program, a strange rumor was spread- that after the interview, the company’s human resource officers will secretly pick candidates to have final round of interview with the CEO.  Not everyone took it seriously, and many thought it is just some urban legend created by frustration and nervousness.  After all, you wouldn’t do such a covert operation when you are doing “international hiring,” and many people came all the way from the other side of earth, flying 10+ hours.  Right?

The 6th day was supposed to be wrap-up/review meeting with human resource people.  Well, in the morning, the human resource officer said the plan has changed and the interview will be today.  Not an ideal situation but not impossible to be understood.  But then, the interview arrangement was shit.  They had only two interviewers to interview 27 people in a day.  Expectedly, interviewers were totally worn out, and toward the end some candidates were given only 4-5 minutes, if not waiting for 6 hours locked in a waiting room.

Then on the next (and also the last) day, we were supposed to have a group discussion.  A lady from human resource picked 7-9 people, saying there is something wrong with their personality test so they will have to retake it.  Now, this already sound strange – retake? On the last day?  And those people were asked to bring their translation receiver.  When one candidate asked, “excuse me, but why are they taking receiver for taking a test?”  The officer said “well, they just have to be returned for a while.”  Nice excuse, ma’am.  The rumor turned out to be true.  In addition, the “chosen ones” were asked to lie to others (that they took test, not the final interview with CEO) by human resource in order to “keep everyone happy.”  Instead, the intention of “keep everyone happy” really made everyone awkward with each other.  And people knew it anyway, so what was the point of “lying?”  If you want to hide something, hide it well.

Since I had a working experience in South Korea (where the business culture is very similar with Japan), my reaction was more like “well, I should’ve expected it…” (not that I was happy with it).  Now, the people from UK were flipped.  Totally flipped.  They pretended that they are just asking others’ opinion, but really they made a pretty clear complainant to the company.  By no means I am saying the chosen ones were undeserving losers – but everyone who were called to the “secret final interview” were people who don’t really have their own opinion (or don’t really state it), a bit naive, zero to little experience living in Japan, and speak zero no little Japanese.  Now, if you say you are looking for someone who are going to work in Japan yet hire someone who has zero to little Japanese experience, I think the message is clear: the company wants people who are easy to deal with, follow their way unquestioningly, and easy to train. Some people who were active and/or received positive feedback on in-field experience did not get the job.

If the supervisors who actually spent time with us were decision makers, I think the result would be very different.  But they were not decision makers, and usually, Asian middle managers don’t want smartest/brighest/talented/skilled people to be hired – they don’t want to be outsmarted and lose their face in public.

Now I really don’t hold any hope on Asian big-shots’ “globalization.”  If you are doing everything in a very local way while hiring, how would you expect to have a diverse, fresh view in your company?  I would not expect the companies to be 100% honest on their intention.  But if what they want is “nice” malleable people, they really should not say they want someone active and self-thinking – for three days straight.  This company calls itself as young, active, and a totally new type of Japanese company.  They could’ve just told us such-such things are to be expected, instead of hiding everything (and never admitting it even after everyone knows everything).  Go and screw your sorry ass, and forget about globalization.

I don’t want to sound like ugly American/Westerner who believes everything  western is better (after all, I’m not exactly the westerner).  But in terms of communication and getting to the goal, west is better – there’s no crap and meaningless effort involved to hide.

On the positive side – my supervisor liked me, I got some compliments, and people whom I spent time together liked me.  And I got to visit some of my dear people in Japan.

This is why South Korea’s average birthrate is the lowest.

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translated an interesting (?) article – if you have to copy this to somewhere, please site.  Or better yet, use trackback please.

Behave like dull bear in early stage of pregnancy…Behave like a cunning fox when the pregnancy becomes visible

(http://news.nate.com/view/20101110n01287)

The government is launching all kinds of pregnancy/childbirth encouragement plans.  But still, only a few of people decides to give birth to children so they can take advantage of these plans.  There are so many obstacles they have to face during the journey of pregnancy, childbirth, and nurturing.  This is especially so for working woman who has to work for nine months, bearing a child within them.  For them, the wall of reality is too high even before giving birth to their children.  We have complied stories from 10 workers, including pregnant employees and collegues of pregnant employees, so hopefully we can gather some street-smart wisdom from them.  All names are written as alias, for the sake of honesty and privacy.

+ “I didn’t behave like you.” vs “I’m not faking this.”

Mrs. Kim (30), an 8-month-pregnant working woman, had a sharp ache on her lower abdomen few months ago.  She told her female supervisor that it would be hard to do overtime, explaining her situation.  “In front of me, she said that’s fine.” Mrs. Kim says, “Few minutes later, she texted me: ‘Hey, I did all overtime when I was pregnant.  Why do you want a special treatment?’  I was baffled.  I mean, I appreciate her directness, but we are women and she should know how hard it is sometimes!”

Another Mrs. Kim (36), a unit manager of cosmetics company with a kid, commented: “I know I should have more understanding of pregnant colleague.  But in the office, you have to be professional before being a pregnant mom.  Emphasizing that side sometimes hurt pregnant employees.”  She then went on, joking “People serve in the military for 3 years, and there are many people thinking they can bear waiting for 13 months (10 months of pregnancy + 3 months of maternity leave).  I hope the working moms understand it.”
+ Not sure what to do vs. Impolite

Mrs. Lee (32) recently had a miscarriage at the 6th week of her pregnancy.  Her male supervisor’s reaction was something she did not expect.  Upon hearing the news, the supervisor gave her a big hug, saying how sorry he is.  Naturally, Lee expected some days off.  However she never received the days off.  consequently, she had only one day off after the day of miscarriage, and then had to go to work.  Mr. Park (45), a manager of fashion retailing company, said “sometimes I do wonder whether they are really in pain.  But as a man, it can be quite embarrassing to be inquisitive about symptoms so I just let them go.”

Though improved, there are male supervisors smoking at the presence of pregnant employees.  Mrs. Park (27), an 8-months-pregnant employee of medium-sized company, said:” there are male colleagues who just smoke inf front of me.  I feel like I am a unecessary burden of this office.”  Mrs. Ko (28), a 6-months-pregnant employee of well-known big conglomerate, agreed: “you don’t dare to say refrain from smoking to your bosses.  It kills me!”

+ From bear to fox –  be cunning
Of course, the implementation of office culture respecting pregnant female is necessary.  But at the same time, the pregnant employee has to coordinate their behavior.   Taking others’ care granted really takes others’ willingness to help.  Mrs. Yang (38) who gave a birth to her child last year advised, “according to my experience, act like there is no problem at the early stage of your pregnancy.  As your pregnancy becomes visible, broadcast all over that you are pregnant mom.  Doing so will cause your colleagues to help you out voluntarily.  As your body becomes heavier, take days off smartly.  That will make fewer enemies in your office.”  Obviously, if the pain is too much, don’t bear it.  Mr. Shin (43), a director of public relations firm, mentioned:  “I had no idea how bad it was because my female pregnant subordinate said nothing.  One day, she was absent without telling me.  Constantly telling others how painful you feel isn’t the best idea, but if it really hurts, tell them.”

Like Mr. Shin said, saying way too much about the troubles of pregnancy will turn colleagues into enemies.  Mr. Cho (29), a computer programmer, said: “a pregnant colleague of mine keeps showing her ultrasound picture of her kid and saying ‘look how cute she is!’ I smile and compliment, but sometimes it’s just too much, I almost want to scream ‘I am not your husband!'”  Mr. Lee (35), an employee at service industry, commented: “Given the job’s characteristic, you have to look nice.  Sometimes there are pregnant colleagues who are just way too untidy at workplace.  You can’t help thinking they lack the professional spirit.”  Some others mentioned being way too “bragging” about their pregnancy at the early stage (i.e., wearing maternity clothing at the very early stage of pregnancy), quitting business trips/hweshik (business social, usually involving alcohol intakes) are not good to see.
+ The worst colleagues of pregnant employees
– Women supervisor giving them hard times, in the spirit of “I beard it so should you.”
– Supervisors who say all the nice things, but never giving them a day off.
– Colleagues who keep asking “are you going to keep working here after giving your kid a birth?”

+ The worst pregnant employees
– People who are way too excited, or bragging when they are only a month pregnant
– Talking too much about her kid
– Quitting business trips and hweshik no matter what
– Forcing colleagues to be emotional while watching her kid’s ultrasound picture
Miri Kim miri@chosun.com

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God chose me to be his/her prank target today.

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In order to balance out my study life and actual real world life, I force myself to do regular socials.  Few weeks ago, there was a nice social for expats so I and my friend went there.  We met a fellow foreigner (wait…can I say “fellow foreigner?”) who was just transferred from Japan.  Since my friend and I both lived in Japan and speak Japanese, we formed a nice little Japanese bubble.   During the follow-up emails and such, he suggested me to send a copy of my resume.  I did, and ta-dah, the interview came along.

Now, after having been duped several times and experienced multiple interviews with domestic and international employers, I don’t hold my hopes high.  However, I thought this might be a good opportunity for me.  I lived in Japan/Korea/US, know the local culture very well, and speak Japanese, Korean and English fluently.  The company was sort of business consulting, specialized for westerners trying to enter Asian market.  The office wasn’t far from my place either, which was a bonus point.

So I went to the office.  Thought they seriously lacked personnel in the office, I did not mind, knowing the company just opened their Korean office few months ago.  I was to be interviewed by my reference-person’s boss (either British or American), who is in Korea for a business trip.  The surrounding looked alright, given that I tend to work better with non-Koreans.  I came prepared.  I read off their company website, read job description, thought of few typical interview answers – such as, “tell me about yourself” – and took a copy of my own resume.  There I was, ready to play catch-ball with questions, waiting for my interviewers to throw the questions in.  Instead, the interviewer went on and on for about +20 minutes, explaining what their company does.  I appreciate his thoughtfulness, but I really think he could have cut it down to 10 minutes.  He saw my copies of his company website and I told him I read the company website.  Growing up under Korean parents who have zero tolerance on impolite behavior, I am brainwashed to not to ever cut off when someone is talking (even more so if he is my potential boss).  What could I do?  Just nod, smile and let him finish.  Thus, after that 20+ minutes I was pretty exhausted.

Then he asked, “have you read our job description?”

Well hello, I’m already DOING the interview for the very position, and who on earth with their right mind doesn’t even read job description and go to the interview?!?!?!

Finally we moved on to questions.  Which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, if not strange – because, according to my experience, a lot of interview is about what kind of person I am.  Thus many questions, if not all, are about your strength, weakness, unseen experiences on resume, background, etc.  I don’t think he asked any of that…except that he asked where do I see myself in future.  Now that I think of it, I think he just asked it because he felt he needs to do.  Generally all the questions felt like he is either quizzing me with answers already in his mind, or “Can you do this? that? this?” Most of them, I think, can be inferred from my resume…but this is a subjective opinion so I’ll put it aside.  Then as he answered my questions, I was further confused.  In the beginning, he said whether I am familiar with high-tech industry (which I answered, “well given that I am fast-learner and always curious person…” blah blah, you know the drill).  Then, in the end, he said they are looking for generalists.  Er…sorry, so your job description is…?

I came back to home after the interview.  Took a short break, checked my e-mails and LinkedIn, and changed to do some workout.  It would be a good idea to pick up my pants, which I left to local seamstress shop because the pants were a bit too long for me.  Few days ago, I left my perfectly fine and new two pairs of Uniqlo pants to the seamstress shop.  She said she make the adjustment by Wednesday.  So I visited there Wednesday.  She said it’s not ready yet.  Honestly, I wonder how long does it take to shorten your pants, especially when you already pin-tucked your pants with the length you want.  Oh well.  I went back today.  I said my address and told her I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.

Then the seamstress was going here and there, looking for my pants.  She said she doesn’t see them.  I said:

Ceberus: Well, I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.  Don’t you remember?
Seamstress: I don’t see them though…
Ceberus: A pair of jeans and another pair of black pants?
Seamstress: (blank face) Er…could you describe it for me?

Yeah, like it is so easy to describe your own pair of jean.  Unless you are talking about some limited edition premium jeans with swarovski crystals on the butt or grand decoration, how can you really describe your jeans? Oh it’s blue and there’s white washing on your knees?

Ceberus: Well, it’s from Uniqlo.
Seamstress: (another blank face, searching for the rack)
Ceberus:…(sigh)
Seamstress: I will have to look for it…can you come back later?
Ceberus: I can’t believe this.  You put another day of delay, and now you are saying my pants are gone.  Fine.

I was on the border line of getting late for my workout, so I backed out.  After the workout, I visited the shop again.

Ceberus: well, did you find it?
Seamstress: You’ll have to come back tomorrow.
Ceberus: …(visibly unhappy) Do you mean, you found the pants but it’s not done, or you just don’t know where the heck my pants are?
Seamstress: (smile) Well…I’ll have to look for them.

Like seriously.  What can I say.  How hard it is to track down your customer’s stuff?  I’m not talking about she should have a grandiose account managing system.  All she needs to do is tuck the memo or copy of receipt on each hanger.  I almost wanted to unleash the hellfire but I was too tired.  I just gave her a visible eye roll, and dashed out without talking.  I will visit her tomorrow, and if she has not located my pants’ whereabouts, I’ll have to make her pay for the pants.  But then, that means I’ll have to do shopping again, just to buy identical pairs of pants.  Fudge…alright, empty-brain time.

I logged on to internet.  Then, I found a cheaper deal than the pair of ankle boots I ordered a few days ago – my old boots are so very old, it’s visibly falling apart.  So I tried to cancel my old order.  But they say, by the store policy, cancellation is not possible.

Those three happened all in one day.  One fucking day.  I am so sure that someone high up in the sky got pretty bored, rolled a dice, and made me his/her prank target for today.

Stealing a Bell with Ears Plugged

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Like everywhere else in this world, South Korea is suffering from serious joblessness for young workforces (Gen Y/fresh school graduates).  The companies’ hiring standard is way too high, competition is steep, and whole lot of young workforces are spending their time working on public office hiring exam and teaching certificate exam.  If they are to apply for jobs, almost all of them apply for big-name companies but nothing below that.  Elders blame youngs for not being ambitious and applying only to safe jobs.  The government recently launched a plan, talking how they will expand the number of jobs on here and there for young candidates (bit out of this topic, but this administration has achieved pretty much nothing despite its all-grand campaigns and planning, so they are just desperate).  I read the article, and thought – this won’t do any good.  Do they actually know what the problem is, or are they just turning their back and go for easy instant painkiller?

Click for bigger size - I mean, really, do you want to work 2000+ hours per week?

Young Koreans turn for safe jobs because, first, their parents were victims of Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.  Meaning, the young Koreans witnessed their father, mother, cousin, uncle, aunt getting fired instantly from their jobs after working many years, and big companies collapsing  in a day like a mirage.  Watching this, they learned it is possible to be “abandoned” from your “second family” in a blink, no matter how much you gave yourself to the company.  ㄱRationally, they care much more about job security than other factors.  And what’s safer than public officers and public school teachers?  Secondly, the job satisfaction and working condition here is one of the world’s lowest. I linked the average working hours per week graph.  Many westerners complain about Japan for overworking – well, Japan is nothing compared to South Korea.  Many of this extraneous working hour is caused by noonchee (reading the air) and social hierarchy.  Basically, you cannot leave your office before your boss (if you are obviously foreign-looking, this may not apply to you).  Even if your boss says there is no help needed and all is fine, you really should not.  The moment you do so, you will be secretly labeled as “the impolite brat,” and expect your employer evaluation to suck, even though you did a good job on your project.  So you stay and stay before your boss leaves the office at 11 pm.   In other cases, your boss assigns some impossible work at 4:30 pm, intentionally, so you all can use the company’s money for dinner.  Usually, for occasions like this means the hweshik is coming (social drinking), which can cause some serious trouble if you bail out.  In any way, your time in office is forever extended with not much productivity.  Of course you don’t have time to spend with your family.  Sometimes you have to be in office on weekends, just because your boss texted you saying “hey, I’ll be in the office today.”  Even if you have nothing to do, you have to go there so you don’t make your boss as an enemy.  Despite this huge sacrifice of your health and privacy, there’s not much job security, and the hiring practices here are not flexible.  Many job descriptions here do put age/gender limit openly.

Blue collar works are worse than abovementioned white-collar work.  Everything same, just add no social respect, no credit for experience and lower average income.  If you look at US or many other industrialized countries, blue-collar workers might start with lower salary than white-collar workers, but as their experience gathers up, your salary rises pretty nicely.  It doesn’t really happen here.  Who would want to be blue-collar worker here, let alone the white-collar worker?

Then there is another question – why do these young people run to the big name company jobs, despite such low satisfaction and extreme working hours?  It is simple – they are choosing lesser evil.  While many western countries (and Japan) regard written contract as base of everything and standard manual, Korean business culture tend to see written contract as just a piece of paper a loose agreement/sign of two parties agreed to work together.  Due to the globalizing market, this is not so in foreign-Korean contract relationship.  However, in domestic it still is.  A friend of mine received thick employer contract from well-known Korean company.  Since it was thick, she said to her soon-to-be-boss “can I take it to my home and review it with a lawyer, and then sign it?  I don’t think it’s fair that you get to discuss it with lawyer beforehand.”  Her soon-to-be-boss, rolled his eyes and said “What for? Everyone just sign on it.”

It's all about looking good, baby

Strictly following contract is often seen as cold and inhumane.  Unfortunately, such lack of weight on contact often leads to one party leaching another party – especially in work outsourcing or employer-employee relationship.  There is more possibility of you not getting paid on time, taken advantage of, fired instantly without proper procedure, one party canceling order with no early notice, etc.  Such problem occurs to lesser degree in bigger companies.  In other words, at least you are getting paid on time and it gives a safety barrier in terms of social respect – everything is about “looking good” in Korea.   In small to medium-sized companies, not getting paid on time is not hard to find.  Big companies are known for taking advantage of their outsourcing companies and not keeping the contract.  The contractors don’t even dare to sue or change the contract.  They know what will come next from big companies.

In my opinion, the government really should cut the crap out of job expansion program and “the fair society.”  What they need to do is (and probably the fastest solution to all problems)  is ensuring that all contracts are to be written in detail and followed accordingly.  In that way, small-sized companies don’t have to suffer big companies exploitation, employers no longer have to bear unfair working hours (probably), getting paid on time, able to work according to plan, less back-door hidden pressures, and most importantly, thanks to all these outcomes, young Koreans will not do chicken race to the slim door of big name companies, public offices and public school teaching positions.  There are just too many free-ride attempts going on, instead of properly giving credit and pay for the service you get.  You get what you pay for.  Why should demanding proper credit for your service should be a difficult topic?  I think the government probably know what is the main problem, but they just want to show off without their hands getting dirty.  Seriously, just stop playing with the numbers and blaming all on young people.  Shoes off, and get your hands dirty.  Otherwise, the government is just a pathetic thief stealing a bell with its ears plugged.

Another suggestion is, take a full control over public education – do it like Singapore and Europe.  Adapt a well-standardized government test, and only people who pass it go to college and study academic stuff.  The rest goes to vocational training.  Unless the government takes total control on this, the crazy obsession about my-kids-have-to-go-to-good-college-and-be-succesful will never go away.  Back in 70’s, the government easily granted any kind of college establishment approval.  Now there are too many college graduates, yet given the size of this country, there is just not enough capacity to take them all.

By the way, my friend Akli mentioned a lot of these on his recent opinion letter to JoongAng Daily, but of course, given that this is Korea and people don’t like whatever that makes this country looks “bad,” many parts of his original text was edited out.  I’m not surprised.

Sisyphus’ Rock, or Lead Balloon.

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Recently I feel like I’m doing something that is utterly impossible, let alone hopeless.

Why am I studying my ass off over LSAT?

First, I figured I have almost zero chance here because of who I am and what I am.  Let alone my liberal arts degree in non-Ivy League university (not that I feel bitter about my university, but South Korea in general tend to discount foreign universities that is not Ivy League.  Even if you are Oxbridge / Sorbonne graduate, sorry, Cornell looks better here), I’m not their average, nice, obedient Korean woman newbie.  And I’ll probably never be.  And, even if the employer said they want someone who is international, and complain how they can’t find the “truly international person” on newspapers on a daily basis, at the end they will hire someone who is a nice, average, shy, hierarchy-obedient Korean newbie.

Long story short with loads of generalization: let’s say there is a position for a marketing management with bilingual skill.  Joe and Jane are candidates.  Both are sane and capable.  Joe has better skills than Jane.  In States, it’s pretty easy to predict that Joe will get the position.  In Korea, Joe’s chance drops.  There is greater chance of Joe not getting the position despite of better skills, because so many employers prefer someone who is not out of the group order and be a family member (i.e. you do all of their shits without complaints).   And you just have to know the group order, which is different for each group.  I’ve seen so many cases where other candidates with far worse language skill and critical thinking get the job over me, despite the job description saying “language skill/international experience very important,” “this position is for someone with significant international experience,” etc.  Did I have a disastrous interview?  No, not at all.

After several interviews, I realized they are scared to hire me because I am too “foreign.” Plus young woman.  Too risky!

What’s even more funny is, if they are to hire someone foreign, they’d rather hire a white person.  Because they are so international.  Then they complain it is so hard to effectively communicate with these white employees.  Trust me, I know plenty of white employees of Korean firms, leaving the country at the end of their contract with bitterness (and they complain to me, because I understand).  So, as a person who is biologically Korean and speak fluent Korean with Korean parents and Korean passport, but inside not really, I don’t look good.  They’d rather hire someone who is biologically foreign and speak almost no Korean with foreign passport and inside foreign.  Now that looks good.  Throw all the troubles out of the window.  Then, the employers complain on newspaper how they lack truly international candidates.

Second, and more important than first, I want to leave here.  I don’t want to spend my life here.  I don’t like it.  It’s not that I have trouble accepting who I am, or denying my Korean self.  I’m fine with myself.  I’m CCK, and I’m made up of a bit of my parents, Midwestern America, South Korea and a bit of Japan.  I like it.  But it’s the society I’m living in now.  The tolerance level of different individual is so low, compared to other societies I lived (granted, there is a bit of difference since I was an official “foreigner”).  My dear friend/fellow CCK Akli and I talked about this a bit, and we all agreed that North America is probably the most comfortable place for CCKs – there are all kinds of people, and most of time people leave you alone.  Japan?  As long as you speak fluent English and have some western influence in your life, you are unlikely to face unpleasant discrimination.  Here, at least for me, I don’t feel I am happy and able to be myself.  I’m Korean by looks and blood and passport.  Although people know that I grew up in States, they expect me to know everything about Korea and follow it, and get it right away – which is not very possible for some Koreans!  Then they get angry if I mess up something.  If you are a white person who spent 10+ years in Korea, things are different.  Of course you are clumsy because you are not one of us.  Of course you don’t know…even if the person lived here for 10 something years.   And the culture itself emphasize too much uniformity among the club members.  I’m tired of more things are said than done.  Sometimes I think even if I fail to get a job in States thus forced to come back here after grad school, I’ll be happy at least for that 3+ years, because I was away from Korea and spent some time in my homeland.

Third, if it is my destiny to be eternal outsider like Leo Africanus’ fish-bird, so be it; but instead of letting it ride me, I will ride it, so I can live the life I want, at least partially.  It’s fine I don’t completely belong anywhere.  But if I am to be a constant wanderer, I need a skill to sell.

Though I have my reasons for studying,  I still get hesitant.  It sounds like I’m trying to float a lead balloon high up in the air.  Am I  going to get the score I want before the end of this year? I don’t know.  I always did well in language-related stuff like literature and sucked at math, while other Korean kids were the opposite.  Since English wasn’t my first language, I couldn’t beat the native speakers, which placed me in a strange situation.  Even if I get the score I want and fortunately get in to the school I want, will I do well?  I don’t know, for the abovementioned reason.  Let’s say I did everything well and I’m in the stage of job interview.  Would I be able to secure a job that is willing to sponsor my visa (either US or Japan), or offer me a very non-Korean working atmosphere even in their Korean branch?  Oh god, the horror.  The nightmare of my potential employer canceling everything at the last moment on my last year of college flashes back.  I was watching my friend getting accepted into a program with far-worse English than me, because she was US citizen. Ridiculous, but you can’t really fight back government.

And will I be happy, trotting down the path of law?  I don’t know, but once in a while I feel like my true passion is language thus maybe I’ll be happier living as a translator/interpreter.  But then, the future picture of interpreter/translators aren’t that bright, if not worse than lawyer.

Maybe I’m spoiled.  Maybe I worry too much.  Maybe I’m just being a lazy ass.  Maybe I just want to rant.  Maybe I just wanted to rationalize why I kept listening to Syrup16g songs and watched “Jizz in my Pants” Sherlock version more than thrice.  At the moment, all I know is if I don’t get to run away from this small peninsula, or have to return again like last time, I’ll probably end up killing myself.

Maybe They Don’t Want Me

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On April 7th, I had my job interview with a major shipbuilding/raw material trading company.  Of course it is Korean company.  I thought let’s go and try it, because 1) the more interview you have, you get better and 2) the company works A LOT with foreign market.  There office was one of the driest office building I’ve ever been to.  On the top of that, the entire office space had carpet.   My throat started to dry up really bad.  Ever since I moved back to big Asian city, I started to have nasal obstruction and dry bronchi in Spring.

This isn’t my first interview with 40-50 years old Korean executives.  But after this one, I have this weird feeling.  I feel that the interviewers don’t quiet know how to deal with me.  They feel uncomfortable with my presence around.

No, I’m not talking about how way too cool I am.  Let me turn the table around and put it this way.

So you are typical middle-age Korean salarymen.  Your position is about senior manager and you are 50 something.  Of course you grew up in South Korea under Korean parents and Korean friends and classmates.  You started your career in a Korean company, and you have been working for the same company about 20 years.  Your subordinates are Koreans of 20 and 30.  They obey you.  Now, you are about to interview loads of candidates – of course someone who will be your subordinate and drink all that liquor as you command, and come to the office as soon as I say so, even though it’s 7 am Sunday. Here’s the next candidate.  She looks Korean, speaks fluent Korean but feels a bit different.  Foreign.  But she is Korean.  Um….alright, let’s check her resume.  So she went high school and a good college…in States.  It’s not California, New Jersey or New York, where there is bunch of Koreans. And, unlike other Koreans who got Western education, she literally grew up there.  And she was in Japan, too.  I’ve never quiet seen something like this…hmm.  I called her because her resume looked interesting but oh, what should I do, what should I do?  Think, think…well I’d rather have a good obedient Korean who covers my ass rather than an unidentified living creature, which I don’t know how to manage.  It’s better to be safe than taking a risk.  Alright, off you go…NEXT!

I feel this is what’s happening in their head.

I admit in the world like this, candidates with degree of more “practical,” specific field – like accounting, engineering, finance, etc – is preferrable to employers.  I don’t have one, and I would not be surprised if that part plays a big role in their decision.  But honestly, it is baffling when all these Korean employers are saying how globalized (or trying to be) they are, and how the candidates are so not globalized and incapable.  Then some “global” candidate appears.  The employers are then scared to hire him or her.  Now about the capability – they can’t even write a clear job posting, or organize what kind of skillset they are looking for.  My generation of candidates is probably the “smartest” candidates of Korean job market history.  Yet the employers complain.  Just stop all that bullcrap about how global and open-minded they are, and go right to the point on what kind of people you are looking for.

So why not scrap all of this and go off to grad school or travel?

Here’s my weakness.  I am very reluctant to quit before I see the tangible result.  Sometimes along the road, I start to feel – or realize – that it will probably fail.  But I keep doing it anyway, saying you never know until the end.  To be honest, I’m not really happy here.  Sure there are some things I would like to keep – such as superb infrastructure, cheap public transportation, floor heating, cheap beauty products and service and medical insurance.  Still, if I have a choice I’d rather live in States.  Yes I know, US has not so impressive infrastructure, expensive insurance (subject to change, of course), lack of heating device other than radiator that dries heck out of your skin, immobility without a car, and so on.  But I was happier there.  People usually let me be.  Here, everyone pushes me to be outsider and insider at the same time.  I feel like the society here is pushing me to be something that I am not.  Sorry folks, I can never be the nice, obedient Korean girl next door.  While I do not deny my Korean self, I feel only about 20% of my self-consciousness is Korean, other 20% Japanese and 60% Midwestern American.  And employers, please stop bragging how globalized you are, when your managers are narrow-minded Koreans.

Like I said before somewhere in this blog, if I am to go to grad school, I really want it to be my ticket out of this rat hole.  But what’s the probability?  About 10 years ago, the probability was high.  After that , here I am, whose employer refused to sponsor my visa at the very last moment.  Let’s say I get into one of those top law schools and graduate safely.  Would I actually be able to settle down in States, or, at least, get to work with a group of people who are not solely made of Koreans and live in somewhere else?  If that’s not possible, then what is the point?  Obama, please do something about the immigration law.  Damn my green South Korean passport.  Maybe I should just buy off a man with American or European citizenship.

This is also my excuse of why there was no posting for a while on my blog.