Software Developers Are Leaving South Korea


Software(SW) developers are leaving South Korea. Even university students are leaving South Korea to fulfill their dreams in foreign countries.

Considering high intensity of work, low wage, one’s position in a group and others, South Korea to SW developers is hell.

According to related industries on the 9th, trend of SW developers leaving South Korea is even spreading towards business application and mobile fields. Earlier on, significant number of game developers already left South Korea. Although South Korean Government is pressing on implementation of society based on SW, it is hard for major developers to withstand poor IT environment in South Korea.

SW developers that are leaving to foreign countries recently are either ones with significant amount of experience or ones that are preparing to be employed. It is as if developers with many years of knowhow and future developers are all leaving South Korea.

A person A, who attended ’10 Weeks of Silicon Valley Training Program’ that was done by a university, was employed by a South Korean business in South Korea. Work environment in businesses in the U.S. was totally different from one in South Korea. He was most happy about businesses in the U.S. that they let him continue development work that he liked doing.

A person B, who is the head of department at a huge corporation in South Korea, recently received a proposal of huge amount of investment from Chinese SW business. Although he was sad about leaving a company after joining this company 20 years ago, he chose to go to China because he had a high expectation of being able to build his own development company that he dreamed of.

According to an industrial researcher, actual retirement age for South Korean SW developers is between 40 and 50. They usually retire at age 45, which is about 10 years earlier compared to communication equipment and semiconductor (50) and automobiles and shipbuilding (55) fields. Even if they do retire, there are no businesses who would welcome them.

However Chinese IT businesses are welcoming them with open arm. “Recently Chinese businesses are offering 10 times more of annual salary so that they can take away South Korean developers from Samsung and LG that are at head of department rank or higher.” said CEO from one SW development business. “There is no way for these developers to reject offers from Chinese business since they see highly of their experiences and will establish their own companies.”

University students who are dreaming of becoming developers one day are also avoiding South Korean businesses. They changed their goals from huge corporations in South Korea to foreign IT business branch in South Korea to businesses in foreign countries recently. Their goals changed like this because there is a low chance of them succeeding in South Korea considering work environment and future of SW developers.

According to Korea Information Communication Industry Labor Union, South Korean SW developers worked average of 57.3 hours per week in 2013. This is 15% longer than other businesses and its average hour only decreased about 30 minutes since 2003. Also there are only 10% of workers that are paid for their overtime.

“I hear many stories from upperclassmen that work environment of SW developers is very poor.” said a student that majors in SW. “Vision of developers is not very good if one were to look at South Korea’s IT environment that only sees developers as a simple part.”

University and University are running Silicon Valley Training Program that last between 3 and 6 months. Every term, about 10 students work as interns at foreign companies. There are always students who give up on coming back to South Korea and find jobs in foreign countries. 6 to 7 students either found jobs or are going through process.

“Currently 5 to 6 trainees have either found jobs in the U.S. or going through visa process to find jobs.” said Professor Lee Min-seok of Kookmin University’s Computer Engineering Department. “South Korea’s huge corporations focus on one’s specifications during hiring process, and startup companies’ positions are weak.”

“South Korean businesses view developers as expendables that come and fix problems with certain systems.” said a person associated with Korea Information Communication Industry Labor Union. “If South Korean businesses do not establish systems that promote developers along with companies, excellent SW developers will continue to move to foreign businesses.”

Staff Reporter Yun, Daewon | [email protected]

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