April 26, 2016 08:33
A growing number of young office workers are quitting their jobs to take a year out because they missed the gap year that high-school graduates in the West often take before university to see the world or do good.
They often see it as an opportunity to reflect on the rat race and their future in it, and do some general soul searching.
According to Korea Gap Year, which offers gap year programs for young adults, more than 500 office workers quit their jobs or took sabbaticals and signed up last year.
"Just three years ago, most of the applicants were university students taking time off or graduates looking for jobs, but now more than 30 percent are young workers who quit their jobs," a staffer said. "If you include those who didn't sign up for our program but organized their gap year on their own, the total number probably rises to the thousands."
Lee Ban-hee (31) has a degree in art but worked for a major electronics company. She quit her job in October 2014 and traveled to Italy, where she learned metalworking for three months. She returned to Korea and found work as a freelance jewelry designer.
"I make half of what I used to make, and this makes me nervous at times, but I have no regrets since I'm doing what I really want to do," she said.
Jeon So-ra (32) quit her government job in 2012 and spent the next year and a half doing volunteer work in the Third World. She later found a job as a consultant on doing business in developing countries.
"Since high school I never had time to look back on my life," Jeon said. "My annual salary has dropped by around 10 percent, but my work satisfaction has increased tremendously."
Jeon quit her job again recently and headed to Brazil, where she plans to get married to her Brazilian boyfriend whom she met during her gap year.
But the way home can be difficult. One 28-year-old woman who quit her job in PR for a cosmetics company in 2014, is still looking for a new job. "I thought I'd find another job quite easily after traveling through Europe for two months, but I've been out of work for a year and a half now," she said. "I think corporate employers have a negative view of people who quit their previous jobs for some recharging."
Ham In-hee at Ewha Womans University said, "Young Koreans who grew up trying to live up to the expectations of others increasingly take charge of their own lives and begin to take on new challenges when they turn 30."
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