Intel Korea offers most handsome paycheck
By Park Si-soo
What is your dream job?
If the first thing that pops up in your head is a high salary, knock on the door of foreign-invested companies here. Their latest internal audit reports rendered to the country’s financial regulator show why.
Intel Korea’s average annual salary was 146.7 million won ($128,600), the highest of 10 foreign-invested firms famous in the local job market for handsome payment.
It is nearly 50 million won higher than that of the best-paying Korean firm, Kolon whose average salary is 97 million won, according to the Financial Supervisory Service. Kolon is Korea’s foremost manufacturer of textiles and chemical materials.
Cisco Systems Korea, a local unit of the U.S.-based networking equipment maker, came second with 128.1 million won, followed by Swedish cell phone manufacturer Nokia’s Seoul office with 114.6 million won.
The top three firms are in either information technology or telecommunications industries, indicating those areas robust growth and ensuing handsome returns to their employees.
The two industries are expected to enjoy strong growth in the second quarter of this year, underpinned by growing international demand, according to a report by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“We have many experienced staffers who moved from Korean IT giants such as Samsung Electronics or LG Electronics,” said an employee of a foreign-invested information technology firm. “The primary reason for their move was a higher salary and better welfare.”
Nokia’s presence in the upper rankings comes as a surprise since products of the Swedish mobile phone brand are hardly seen in Korea.
There are only a small number of Koreans using Nokia phones despite its decade-long dominance in many other markets around the world. The local mobile handset market, particularly smartphone, is virtually monopolized by Samsung Electronics and Apple.
Nokia is currently flexing its corporate muscle in advance of its full-scale competition with the two rivals. It will put on sale its ambitious mid-price new smartphone, the Lumia 610, during the second half of this year, looking to achieve a bigger presence in Korea’s lucrative handset market.
Global drug companies also showed a strong presence.
The fourth highest-paying company is British multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Each employee of its Seoul office received 80.4 million won on average last year. Another multinational pharmaceutical giant, Boehringer Ingelheim, came next with a slightly lower average salary of 79.7 million won.
American pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer, known as the developer of the world’s first solution for erectile dysfunction, Viagra, ranked sixth with 77.7 million won.
Pharmaceutical companies’ high payment was largely attributable to increasing demand for their products among health-conscious local consumers, analysts said.
They expressed a brighter outlook for the industry under Korea’s tariff-free trade with the United States and European Union. In particular the Korea-U.S. free trade deal, which went into effect in March, is expected to be a great boon to multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers.
The deal is set to provide stronger intellectual property protection for American drug companies in their upcoming products and this is expected to significantly hurt their smaller Korean rivals, which have relied heavily on sales of generic drugs.
Not every foreign-invested firm provides employees with decent paychecks.
Robert Bosch, a Germany-based multinational auto parts supplier, pays 34 million won on average in annual salary, while Shiseido, a Tokyo-based cosmetic company, offers only 27.3 million won that is tantamount to the income of employees at small- and medium-sized Korean firms.
Experts advise job hunters that money is not everything. They say income-oriented searching for employment could lead people in the wrong direction.
“What matters most in job searching is comparing your characteristics and interests with that of a company you are considering applying for,” said Grace Lee, recruiting director at headhunting agency CB Search. “Foreign-invested firms pay relatively more than Korean firms, but they work much harder.”
She said the two parties ― foreign-invested and Korean firms ― have starkly different corporate cultures.
“In Korean firms, working capability is only one of many requirements to climb the corporate ladder, which means there are many external factors that can affect your career such as academic background and personal networks, while foreign-invested firms assess you with the sole yardstick of working capability and performance,” Lee said.