Korea Times

Seoul advised to improve quality of living to attract foreign talent

Seoul exhorted to buck up on various aspects like language, culture, art, and cost of living if they are to attract young talent

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 3:52pm

By Kim Se-jeong

Attracting young talent is now a mounting task for leaders around the world and Seoul is no exception.

That was the topic at a meeting of the Seoul International Business Advisory Council (SIBAC), a group of 25 volunteer advisors that gives the mayor policy recommendations, Friday.

The three-hour session on Monday began with a reality check.

“Seoul has low productivity and a low quality of living (compared with other big cities),” said Peter Zec, president of Red Dot GmbH & Co., referring to analysed data from his company. He stressed that the young generation look more for places with a high quality of living than job opportunities, so creating a friendly environment should be an important priority for Seoul.

What would make Seoul friendlier?

Language, culture, art, cost of living and quality of education were among those things mentioned, and all council members maintained that Seoul has room for improvement on all fronts.

Yan Lan, managing director at Great China Investment Banking, chose the language barrier, expensive international school tuition and a lack of cultural and social events that would encourage foreigners to integrate into society, as having room for improvement.

Quoting her friends who moved to Seoul from Hong Kong, the CEO said, “The language barrier is most important. And when they’re here with family, they find the tuition at international schools so high.”

Christopher Forbes, vice chairman of Forbes, also stressed the openness of locals toward those coming to Seoul to live and work.

Others asked the city government to focus more on adding artistic taste to the city.

Mayor Park acknowledged their points for the most part but fended off the language barrier by saying it is improving and will get better as time goes by. “When I was a student, it was difficult to run into anyone who spoke English,” he said.

Dominic Barton, global managing partner of McKinsey & Co. and chairman of the council, recommended that Mayor Park create academic and career opportunities first.

Barton said developing an R&D hub for healthcare and artificial intelligence would be a good fit for Korea. Barton emphasised it’s important to take advantage of what Seoul has. Korea is ranked high in information technology.

Then, “have a marketing arm” to attract people, Barton said. He also suggested scholarships and academic programmes to attract talented young people.

The importance of city branding efforts came up repeatedly. “The Korean wave can be used as basis for a branding exercise and can be used to attract much talent,” said Edward Dolman from Philips Auction, an art auction company.

The council consists of 25 international business leaders and they meet once a year for the conference.