This article is from last summer - I'd say it's even more true now. Pay attention to the numbers you see in this article - for example, the 800 interns from Inha university alone, or the 66 to 1 ratio of applications to available internships:
Kim Sung-won, a Dongguk University senior majoring in international commerce, didn’t go to class last semester. Instead, he got his education at COEX in southern Seoul.
Starting in March, Kim interned with the COEX Exhibition Planning Team, which helps organize international exhibitions and conventions. Despite his absence from school, Kim was still registered as a full-time student and received 15 credits for the internship. He was even paid 600,000 won ($574) a month, most of which came from the Ministry of Labor. Kim studied things like exhibition types, costs and visitors and entered the information into a database.
“I learned a lot more than I would have from just listening to lectures at school,” said Kim. “The experience with corporate life was very helpful.”
Park Jae-sung, head of the service development team at NHN Corporation, which runs the portal site Naver, teaches at Soongsil University every Wednesday. NHS and TmaxSoft, a software company, agreed to create a Web developer training program with the university last September and as a result, Park has been instructing a course in the school’s computer science department since March. It doesn’t have any exams, but focuses instead on more practical aspects of the field.
Park said “exams test memorizing ability rather than talent,” adding that “students are evaluated based on computer programs that they make themselves.”
“College lectures cover a lot of material, but most of them teach things that are far from actual technologies used in the field,” Park said. Students also receive the chance to intern with TmaxSoft in the second semester of their senior year, with the possibility of getting hired when they’re finished. They can also earn bonus points toward job interviews at NHN.
Such student internships are now a must when trying to distinguish oneself from other job-seekers. As students increasingly look for such posts, corporations are inviting them in for on-the-job experience and sending employees to give lectures at universities. Universities are also giving academic credit for up to four months spent at an internship in an effort to bring down the wall between studies and actual work.
According to the employment Web site Career, the competition rate for internships at 28 corporations last year was 66 to 1. One foreign company even received 3,000 applications for just 13 five-week internship spots.
Some companies provide benefits to students who have done internships, such as exemption from the application process, bonus points for job interviews or special employment opportunities.
The number of companies that offer school credit is on the rise as well. Risk Consulting Korea, for example, has made an agreement with Kyung Hee, Dongguk and Hangyang universities to award three credits for a five-week internship.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies runs internship programs at embassies and legations abroad. Last semester alone, 35 students who were proficient in foreign languages were sent abroad to Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and other nations to work for six months in exchange for 12 credits.
But even though demand for student internships is on the rise, government support is decreasing. The Ministry of Labor reduced its workplace experience program budget, which provides financial benefits to companies that hire interns, from 34.7 billion won ($33.3 million) to 22 billion won this year based on a belief that there is no relationship between experience as an intern and future employment.
“About 1,600 students, half of the graduating class, are doing internships. The government should increase support considering the demand,” argued Kim Tae-seok, leader of educational planning at Inha University.