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Excerpted from the Korea Career Guide

General Trends

The world's 12th largest economy, South Korea is a real success story. A poor nation when it emerged from under colonial rule after World War II and from US trusteeship following the conflict with North Korea, South Korea has achieved a remarkably high level of economic growth and prosperity under an increasingly democratic form of government.

Economy and Trends

South Korea’s economy is expected to grow 3.8 percent this year, but in the longer term, its dependence on exports, and the country’s rapidly aging population and inflexible labor market will likely pose challenges.

Employment Outlook

Foreign workers

Estimates of South Korea's foreign residents vary from 660,000 to 1.4 million. The number has increased in recent years but remains only a small portion of the total population. Many newcomers are unskilled laborers. The South Korean government is attempting to control that number by limiting how many low-skilled foreign workers can be hired each year.

While the number of foreign professionals remains small (only about 50,000), it is growing. In an effort to attract foreign professionals, the government is easing visa procedures. In addition, South Korea offers special tax support to foreign workers, including engineers. Foreign engineers are entitled to a 50 percent reduction of income tax on income earned either from a Korean firm in Korea or a foreign company exempted from corporate tax by the Foreign Investment Promotion Act. Other foreign workers can also receive special exemptions or reductions.

Areas of Job Promise

South Korea’s services sector is the country’s major job creator, accounting for about 70 percent of its labor force and 58 percent of its GDP (a measure of a country’s wealth).

Job creation estimates are expected to reach a 12-year high, with about 500,000 new jobs this year, in part as a result of more part-time positions becoming available, according to the Korea Employment Information Service.

Driven by the country’s aging population, some of the greatest demand for talent will be in South Korea’s health care sector. The need for educated, specially trained professionals is expected to persist through 2020.


Compensation in South Korea varies widely by company size. Employees at the country’s largest companies earn roughly twice as much as those working at the smallest companies. SK Telecom was recently the highest-paying employer in South Korea. Its employees earned an average annual salary of about 90,000 USD. Hyundai Motor, Korea Exchange Bank, Kia Motors and LG International are the other top-paying employers. The annual paycheck for employees at Samsung Electronics averaged just over 60,000 USD. But Samsung Electronics led in executive pay, which averaged about 4.6 million USD last year.

This is just a sample of what you'll find in the complete Korea guide.

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