Graduates of universities in the provinces have overtaken their metropolitan counterparts in Seoul, Incheon and surrounding Gyeonggi Province for the first time in terms of finding jobs after graduation.
According to statistics revealed by the Education Ministry last week, 55.1 percent of graduates of provincial universities found jobs compared to 54.3 percent of their metropolitan counterparts.
The employment rate of graduates of universities in Seoul and surrounding areas stood at 53 percent in 2010 compared to 51.3 percent at provincial universities. But the gap narrowed to 56.7 percent and 55.8 percent in 2012 and this year provincial universities soared ahead.
Among the top 20 universities in the nation boasting the highest employment rates among graduates, only five are in Seoul or surrounding areas but 15 in other parts of the country.
The employment figures alone do not mean that provincial universities are better suited to meeting the needs of corporate employers. Among universities with more than 3,000 students, Korea University, Seoul National University, Sungkyunkwan University, Yonsei University and other universities in the capital still boast much higher employment rates than their provincial counterparts.
But the provincial universities that did boast high employment rates offer tailored programs to help their graduates find jobs or finance their training for various certifications. Also, students of these provincial universities seem to find it easier to lower their sights and seek employment in their provinces as well as small and mid-sized enterprises.
Last year, 71 percent of high-school graduates went on university, but only 59.3 percent of university and college graduates were able to find jobs. The number of unemployed people between 15 to 29 years of age has surpassed 400,000.
Now young jobless people often cause a headache for their parents who still have to support them.
Yet young graduates continue to insist on jobs with major conglomerates in Seoul, which are not only growing scarce but extremely competitive, while small businesses have a tough time finding people to work for them.
A study by the Ministry of Employment and Labor shows that there will be a shortage of high-school graduates to the tune of 320,000 by 2020 and more than 500,000 excess university graduates.
Unless university graduates lower their sights and seek a wider range of job options, the day may come when a degree becomes utterly useless.