2015년 4월 30일 목요일

No second chance in Korea.

Why people in Korea do not stand any second chance

It was not long after I came to Germany, about one and half years ago, that I met an aunt of my boyfriend. She was exactly as old as my mother, born in the year of 1958. It was just like any other conversation that you would have with your family members until she said
“My father in law bought me this car as congratulation on my graduation.”

This literally shocked me. Back then, she was 55 years old. ‘What kind of graduation, from where?’ I asked myself surprised only to be even more surprised to know that she just began to work as an elementary school teacher. (In Korea, as it is one of the most popular and privileged jobs, you must belong to top 10 percent to be admitted by education universities.) 

It struck me as a culture shock. Actually, Berlin looked quite old fashioned or somewhat less developed than Seoul, so I could not understand until then, why Germany has been labeled as so called ‘advanced country’. (Of course, now I see it super clearly) What you can do here in Germany but you cannot in Korea is to stand a second chance. No matter how old you are, if you try to, you can stand up and start your new second life in Germany. (It does not mean that it is a piece of cake here.)

Since this pleasantly surprising moment, I have witnessed so many of such examples. A friend of mine, who studied dentistry after years of working as a nurse, a mother in her 40s studying medical engineering, a youngest senior manager in one of the major companies even without university degree, etc. (In Korea, you can get a job in major companies not with a plain university degree but only with the one from the prestigious universities.)

It is a very sad reality you do not want to see. Korea was ranked in suicide rates as the first among OECD countries and the third in the world. Experts blame very often relentless and harsh competition and long working hours as a main reason for such a high suicide rate. There is no room for second chance for those who already failed and this dreadful reality turns the already terrible competition even more terrible. 

In Korea, students in Gymnasium are forced to agree to stay in school until 11 pm to study for themselves. it is a very true story, which happens till today even under criticism of human rights violation.

Why the hell in Korea aren’t we given any second chance? Of course, we hear, very often, news about one’s successful stories after bitter failure and you can try so many ways to earn it: you can win lottery, you can marry a millionaire, you can strike it rich from stock investment etc. Anyway, in this article, I will focus on the easiest and the most foreseeable way to get newly started, ‘education’. 

Let’s suppose that you are now 35 years old and you aim to study in university to make your long overdue dream come true. What waits for you in the reality?

For your information, Korean universities have a highly rigid and powerful ranking system. In many cases, amid this economic crisis, university graduates from low ranked universities struggle very hard even to get a decent job. The competition for few stable jobs with high salary landed even kids as young as 10 years old into the survival of the fittest, where their tiger mothers sent them to a number of private lessons. (Suicide is the number one death cause among teenagers. Heavy pressure on school performance and stress are pointed out as the main reason.)

Here is a list of what you have to consider before studying both in Korea and Germany.

University admission
Bloody competition for university admission due to strict ranking system.

Must have: excellent school grades for the last 3 years, top grade from Abitur exam, a recommendation letter from your teacher, certificates to prove your English, another second foreign language or any other skills, volunteering work, interview, writing etc.

Some of the requirements above mentioned are not covered by regular schools, so usually parents spend tons of money for private tutoring.
Relatively flat hierarchy of universities. Unlimited places for studies except medicine, pharmacy, psychology,law, engineering and etc.

Must have: Abitur, or even without Abitur, you can study in university after working experience in the relevant field.

To get admitted in studies with limited places, you can place yourself in waiting list, doing Ausbildung.

If you wait, if you are a nurse or if you are lucky with Losverfahren, you can study medicine despite your relatively poor grades in school. (In Korea, it is extremely hard to study medicine. You study normally 8-23, 5 days a week, only to get admitted by medical school)

Tuition fee
Around 7,000 euros per year (March, 2014 average tuition fee of private unis)
500-1,000 euros a year covering transportation fee in many cases
(btw, German universities do not use the term tuition fee but student fee to attract more foreign students)
500-1,000 euros a month
570-1100 euros a month

Dormitories in a serious shortage.
If you live in Seoul, you have to place a deposit as much as 3,000 – 7,000 euros in advance.
Dormitories also in shortage
Deposit of 3 months rents.
Almost no loan free of interest
Very rare full scholarship
Even state loan with 2.9 percent of interest
BAfoeG(possibly not available when you are over 30, Kindergeld(only unti 25), or state loan free of interest
Minimum wage as low as 5 euros

You can earn 600-800 euros working
20 hours in school or companies.
Age discrimination
Discrimination against or on elderly people due to rigid age hierarchy
? is there any?
Women issue
If you are pregnant or a single mom, it is hard to keep studying due to financial problems and stigma
Almost no stigma.
Financial help from the state

Now do you see why we, Koreans, do not stand a second chance in Korea? 

If you are 35 old years and if you want to study in Korea, you must feel extremely hopeless by now. You are already overwhelmed by the admission process. If you have no wealthy parents or no stack of money, you have to work for 149.3 days (24 hours long, if you sleep, even more than 3 years) to finance tuition fee and living costs of one year study.(20,000 eur /5 eur/24) 

On the other hand, here in Germany, if you already have Abitur, you can be easily admitted to any study except medicine or psychology. Once securing your place in university, you do not have to worry about tuition fee, as it is almost free. You can also finance your study doing student job. 

So, what do you think now? You are never too old to study again here in Germany, no?
Now, Germans, do you see how much blessed you are? Of course, you are not free from any obstacles or social problems, but still, you are in a far better situation than we are to start again.

This music video is as relevant to the article as the message of the song is that man is never too old to fall in love. We are never too old to start again!

Before finishing, I would like to introduce the story of the aunt.

She majored in mechanic engineering in Eastern Germany and worked as a civil engineer for 20 years. Euro crisis in 2005 lost her the job. In spite of fear and desperate anxiety, she decided to stand again and made a step ahead to do master of education.

At the moment, she is as happy as never before. 

“If I had had to pay for my study, I could not have made it or even dreamt it.”

“I have never had any problems with my classmates in university as they were as old as in their mid thirties.)

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