South Korean President Yoon Seok-won slammed Chang Sang-wan, vice minister of education, at a cabinet meeting in recent days, after the latter pointed out that the government is increasingly demanding that local universities open more semiconductor-related majors. The call was slow to respond.
“If the Ministry of Education cannot play a leading role in cultivating the talents needed by the Korean economy, then it will be the Ministry of Education itself that needs to be reformed,” Yoon Seok-hye told the meeting, according to the Korea Economic Daily.
At Yoon’s urging, South Korea’s education ministry is looking for a solution to the shortage of high-quality semiconductor workers, which could include major changes to regulations. The move comes as the U.S., Europe, mainland China and Taiwan are ramping up spending to develop their homegrown chip industries.
The Korea Semiconductor Industry Association said the South Korean semiconductor industry is expected to face a shortage of at least 30,000 workers in the next 10 years. During this period, the chip industry will create approximately 1,500 to 1,600 new jobs each year. But South Korea has only 650 fresh graduates of semiconductor or semiconductor-related majors each year, less than half of that number.
In an interview with the Korea Economic Daily on the 9th, a person from the Ministry of Education said: “In addition to opening employment-related majors in universities, various plans to expand (semiconductor-related) enrollment are being studied.”
But it’s not as simple as it seems. The “change of thinking” will be strongly opposed by non-metropolitan MPs and politicians.
First of all, the problem of student capacity at universities in Seoul and Gyeonggi has been a major obstacle to the increase of semiconductor-related majors in local universities. South Korea introduced the quota in 1994 to reduce population density in the capital region. About half of South Korea’s 50 million people live in the capital region.
Universities could potentially bypass the law by reducing enrollment in other majors, especially non-mainstream majors, to make room for semiconductor-related majors. But this proposal was strongly opposed by professors and alumni of relevant departments.
In addition, special standards can also be formulated to give special treatment to universities or semiconductor-related departments to expand the number of students enrolled. That said, they risk being excluded from the current population concentration mitigation laws.
Prime Minister Han Ti-soo visited SK hynix’s main production base in Icheon, Gyeonggi on the 9th, and said, “The government will significantly increase the number of students enrolled in universities in the capital region and other regions.” To this end, the government is willing to provide financial assistance to academic institutions.
However, these plans must be approved by Congress, and for the next two years, liberal democrats who favor balanced regional development will continue to hold a majority.
On the other hand, Seoul National University has always disagreed with the establishment of a semiconductor major. Graduates of this major can work in sponsoring companies such as Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, etc., and can also receive scholarships, admission fees and tuition fee waivers. Most of the university’s professors opposed the proposal, arguing that the university was not a place to train skilled workers. Buy IOS reviews.
Beyond that, how to get the support of parliamentarians in rural areas is the most thorny issue. If universities in Seoul and surrounding areas increase their capacity, enrollments in other areas will decrease further. Universities in non-Seoul areas face greater financial difficulties due to lower enrolments as birth rates fall. As a result, lawmakers elected in rural areas are fighting to block the passage of laws that would increase student numbers or open semiconductor-related majors at capital-region universities.
Similar policies by former President Moon Jae-in have also not received support from Congress. “In order to achieve this goal, universities in the Seoul region should reduce their total enrollment while securing places for semiconductor-related majors,” said the president of a private university in Seoul. “It is necessary for universities in other regions to take a step back in the national interest.”
In response to the shortage of manpower, the South Korean government has decided to relax the selection criteria for universities that meet the requirements for establishing cutting-edge disciplines, in order to reduce the number of students enrolled. This comes after Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix made large-scale investments over the next five years in order to maintain their dominance in the semiconductor market.