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South Korean Engineers Leaving Their Home Country
Opting for Jobs at Foreign Companies
South Korean Engineers Leaving Their Home Country
  • By Jung Suk-yee
  • June 21, 2019, 11:33
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Brain drain from South Korea is becoming increasingly serious in various industries.

Brain drain from South Korea is becoming increasingly noticeable in various industries, ranging from semiconductor to electric vehicle (EV) battery.

The International Institute for Management Development (IMD) recently announced that South Korea ranked 43rd out of 63 countries last year, with a score of 4.00, in its brain drain index after coming in 44th with 3.98 in 2015, 46th with 3.94 in 2016, and 54th with 3.57 in 2017. Likewise, the country ranked 33rd with 62.32 in its global talent competitiveness index last year. In particular, South Korea came in 41st and 61st in work attractiveness and worker motivation, respectively.

With its manpower management systems poorly run and industrial paradigms shifting fast, more and more South Koreans are opting for foreign companies in semiconductor, automobile, chemical, information and communications technology, shipbuilding, and many other industries. For example, EV battery management system engineers moved from LG Chemical to Volvo last year and Tata Consultancy Services, German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon Technologies, and the like are headhunting South Korean EV battery engineers.

It is even said that South Koreans account for half of a leading Chinese EV battery manufacturer’s R&D team. Years ago, a South Korean chemical firm saw every member of its five-person R&D team find a new job abroad within one year. LG Chem is claiming that SK Innovation has taken 76 engineers from itself for years and it is said that about 25 out of them already left SK Innovation to work for Chinese companies.

In the semiconductor industry, YMTC, a Chinese company, is sending job offers to engineers at Micron Technology, SK Hynix, Samsung Electronics, Toshiba, and many more. It is estimated that more than 1,300 semiconductor engineers moved to Chinese companies from South Korean in 2017 alone. Chinese and Japanese automakers are attracting South Korean semiconductor engineers for self-driving vehicle development and so on as well.

The nuclear power industry of South Korea is collapsing due to brain drain after the South Korean government declared a nuclear phase-out. For the past two years, over 260 persons left Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, KEPCO E&C and Korea Plant Service & Engineering and more than 80 nuclear engineers left Doosan Heavy Industries to work in the United States, France, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.