SEOUL, June 24 (Korea Bizwire) — A decision by Incheon International Airport Co. to give full employment status to temporary workers has stirred up a furious debate about a level playing field and angered some for what they called reverse discrimination.
Earlier this week, the public company, one of the country’s most coveted among jobseekers, announced a plan to directly employ some 1,900 security agents whose contracts were about to expire.
The move was in line with the public company’s aggressive efforts since May 2017 to give job security and other welfare benefits on par with those of its full-time workers to some 10,000 temporary employees.
The company’s employment policy has attracted public attention after President Moon Jae-in visited there on May 12, 2017, only three days after taking office.
At that time, the liberal president promised to create only “good jobs” and eradicate temporary positions in the public sector.
“Everyone will have equal opportunities, the process will be fair and the result will be righteous,” the president said in his inaugural speech, sending out a message that moved many people who remembered the Korean saying “Efforts do not betray” by heart.
As one of his core election pledges, the plan was meant to ensure fairness and equal treatment for all workers regardless of their employment status.
However, the move seemed to deeply frustrate the country’s young people who, believing in fair rules, fiercely compete with each other to secure a spot at a cushy and well-paying public company like Incheon International Airport.
According to a survey by the online job portal site Incruit released on Monday, the company topped the list of companies that university students want to enter the most for the third consecutive year.
On the presidential Cheong Wa Dae website, a frustrated petitioner called it “reverse discrimination” and an “unfortunate” development for the country’s young people.
“Is it equality to take a spot away from those who work so hard?” the petition read. “How sad it is for all these jobseekers who are building up their credentials and studying hard only for the purpose of entering (the company)?”
As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, more than 205,170 people had signed the petition posted the previous day. Any petition that garners support from more than 200,000 people within a month mandates an official response from Cheong Wa Dae.
According to the statement released by the company Tuesday, among 9,785 workers subject to the status change, 2,143 people from the departments closely related to life and safety, including 1,902 security agents, will be hired directly, while the rest will be hired at its subsidiaries.
Directly hiring the security agents was necessary to protect the core national infrastructure, it said, clarifying that some of them should go through a screening process again.
It also said it would proceed with all its hiring process in a fair and transparent manner.
Despite the company’s explanation, the prospect of landing a much-envied job — effortlessly to some — does not seem to sit well.
Lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of the opposition United Future Party lambasted the company’s decision on his Facebook page Tuesday.
He called it an act of “kicking a ladder of opportunity” for “hundreds of thousands of young people” who “study at this hour with bleary eyes.”
“Fairness is a belief that young people who work hard get rewarded more than those who work less,” he wrote, urging to drop the “no strings attached” hiring plan “before it is too late.”