Hiring practices still ignore privacy

2015-01-28 : 16:45

By Jung Min-ho

Many companies in Korea require job applicants to provide standard information such as age, gender, height and weight but also whether they own a house, what their parents do and even how much money they make.

Of course, in Korea, photographs are necessary for almost any job application submitted.

It would be illegal in many developed countries in North America and within Europe to ask job-seekers to provide such information. But here, it is not.

“Korea is a country where discrimination is legal, including racism,” said one 24-year-old job-seeker. “Who knows how they use such information for different forms of discrimination? It is no secret that many companies prefer those who have wealthy, powerful parents.”

The real danger is that few know that such information is used this way.

When asked about the reason for requesting the private data, no companies and headhunters provided plausible explanations about why they collect such detailed profiles of job applicants and their parents.

“But certainly, they want it badly, refusing to change their job application formats despite the growing public criticism,” said the job-seeker. “It’s a violation of human rights, which has long been condoned by the government without any legal protection.”

Under laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information. So asking for such information on job application forms is not permitted.

“As for weight, even models are technically not supposed to be asked that by employers in the United States,” Aquira Foster, an English teacher who works in Daejeon, said. “I have never ever heard of any company asking for information about the income of an applicant’s parents. If a company made these questions mandatory, it would face so many lawsuits...and would of course, lose.”

In response to this issue when it was brought up by The Korea Times, Asiana Airlines, the nation’s second-largest flag carrier, removed a requirement on its job application forms for people to provide information about their parents.

Yet the company still retains many other job-unrelated questions on the forms, including whether applicants have any siblings and if they are married.

But Asiana is not the only firm to carry out such practices. Almost all Korean employers are responsible for rampant practices of discrimination.

According to government research last year, 87.5 percent of companies asked from which high schools job applicants graduated, even if they had university degrees; and 21.1 percent of companies asked about the education level attained by their parents.

The blame can also be partly attributed to the nation’s human rights organizations that have done little to eradicate the obvious human rights violations.

The National Human Rights Commission conducted a research to resolve the issue in 2003 but has remained ignorant about it since.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission (ACRC), which claims to aim to resolve people’s grievances and protect their rights, is struggling to even take it as a problem.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with it,” said the ACRC spokesman. “Is it legally banned?”

Not yet. But changing the intrusive hiring culture of Korea is essential for lifting the country to the next level and change is overdue.