For a Brighter Future, Young Koreans Eager to Move Abroad

Article from Maeil Business:

“I will leave Korea.”: Young South Koreans Join Emigration ‘Gye’.

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Translation note: The Korean term, gye [계(契)], is a type of club where each member pitches in a small amount of money in order to accumulate enough for a large financial goal. Either the members use the club funds for a group purpose (such as a trip), or the club funds are used to fund each individual member on a rotating basis.

Kim Hyo-won(26) graduated from a prestigious women’s university in Seoul and is working at a financial company in Yeouido. Last year she organized an emigration ‘gye’ with four of her friends to financially prepare for moving to Finland. Every month they must transfer five hundred thousand won as dues, in accordance with a rule they set themselves. So far they have saved about ten million won. All the members are “S” University, “Y” University, and other prestigious university graduates and now working at companies that pay them well. Kim emphasized, “After I enter a graduate school in Finland, I will settle down there. It’s different from Korea. I would expect to be able to enjoy my free time after work in Finland.”

“Emigration Fever” has been spreading like wildfire among young people in their 20s who have just started working. They organize ‘gye’ for preparing their finances, and also share key information about emigration including foreign language study resources.

To become suitable immigrants, some of them are learning new skills needed in their country of choice.

Lee Sang-ho(29) has been working in the human resource department at a major company after graduating with a liberal arts major at “S” University. Every weekend he goes to an automobile mechanical engineering institute. He is planning on completing an automobile mechanics and maintenance certificate in order to move to Northern Europe as a skilled migrant. Skilled migrants have an easier time obtaining permanent residency than regular applicants.

A spokesperson for a welding institute for people who want to move to Canada let said, “We have everyone from England’s elite ‘Oxbridge’ (a word combining Oxford and Cambridge) Economics Ph.D.’s, to Seoul National University graduates. Can’t help but be surprised that such highly educated people like this are studying welding to be able to emigrate.”

Denmark, Sweden and other Northern European countries, which are known for their good welfare systems, are the most preferred immigration destinations among recent graduates in Korea. According to the report about the current status of overseas Koreans by the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the number of Korean people living in Denmark grew from 239 in 2011 to 538 in 2013, showing a 83.6 percent increase.

The reasons for emigrating to developed countries is simple. They find that living in Korea is getting tougher every day, especially for the younger generation thanks to the rising cost of education, reduced pension benefits, and the high cost of housing. Beyond these, the Korean social focus on competition – working late-night overtime at the office, [competition] in a recession, and severe stress are influencing the desire to emigrate. As every nation becomes more globalized, the walls that were built between countries are breaking down. Younger people worry less about going to a new environment and learning a new language than those from older generations.

Last year Lee Chang-min(29), a graduate from Seoul National University, left a company he had worked at for two years to move abroad. He had worked in the strategy and marketing department and made a decent salary. The starting salary at the company was about 40 million won. However, he and his wife decided to move to a new country after considering the cost of child-rearing and education.

Experts say younger people choosing to move abroad in the global era should be welcomed. However, they need to be aware of leaving Korea without a definite plan. Oh Jeong-eun, a manager of research and training at the International Organization for Migration and Migration Research and Training Center, said, “It is still quiet an outlier for a skilled migrant to find a better life abroad. There is no particular reason for developed countries to employ Koreans. The younger generation should make a careful and considered judgement on whether or not they will emigrate.”

Some people see the emigration fever among Koreans in their 20s as an expression of their disappointment in the realities of living in Korea. Jeong Dong-il, professor of business administration at Yonsei University emphasized, “Young people want to leave because of the perceived inability to reach their potential within Korea. The government should set up some countermeasures, with Korea 20 years from now in mind. Also, companies should give opportunities to young people who are open-minded about new experiences, and have excellent foreign language skills.”

Comments from Daum:


Of course they want to leave Korea. Who wants to live in this kind of country?


So jealous… I’m jealous of them leaving Korea and their skills that make it possible. If there is someone who tells people to go to North Korea if they don’t like Korea, why don’t YOU go to North Korea.


If you are able, then leave! This country is supporting the damn Saenuri Party for Cheabols and vested interests. There is no hope!


I also would like to leave this shit country.


All of those emigrants don’t have money. Korea is the best country to live if you have money. If you don’t have money at the moment, and if you find it hard to earn lots of money, emigration is the answer.


It is not the young who turn their backs on Korea, but Korea who first turned its back on the young.


I’m moving north because of Governor Hong Junpyo.


Koreans work hard and even their labor costs are cheap. Korean workers have a competitive edge abroad.

짙은 눈썹님

In Korea, life is getting harder for Koreans and easier for foreigners. The government makes special policies for foreigners.


You should leave while you can! People in their 50s and 60s can’t even if they want to. It’s sad to say this but there is no hope left in Korea.


I am 35 years old and am studying English to move to another country. Let’s all leave until the young have all left Korea.

미련한 곰님

It’s amazing. In just 7 years this country became just like the Philippines. 10 years ago people hoped Korea would through reunification become a country to brag about. If Korea becomes just like the Philippines, I refuse to die alone.


Even the people leaving Korea also seem to depend on their educational background. ㅠ ㅠ I’m so jealous.


To those who made Korea this way, are you happy about it? I think it would be too hard for me, but I want to send my children to live abroad.


I will tell my own children to leave if they are able.


I’m also eager to leave this country.

James Kim님

If you are incompetent, you will fail even in a foreign country. To be successful you must try hard and overcome language barriers. Don’t think it’s so easy. You know how they say that if a bowl is leaky at home, it still leaks when you take it outside? If you want to leave Korea, you should prepare yourself to overcome difficulties in a foreign country.

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