+ A

Researcher’s job offer postponed

Kaeri deferred hiring after learning applicant is a Chinese national
Dec 12,2019
The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (Kaeri), a Class A national security facility in Daejeon that leads the country’s nuclear research and development, has recently deferred the hiring of a full-time researcher upon learning that she is a Chinese national, sparking a public outcry as to whether the state-backed nuclear institute should offer jobs to foreigners at all.

A spokesperson for Kaeri told the Korea JoongAng Daily on Wednesday that the Chinese applicant had applied to the institute earlier this year through a “blind hiring” process in accordance to the government’s guideline for public institute employees, which normally means employers aren’t allowed to request job applicants provide their photos, age, gender, the names of schools they attended or where they were born, among other personal information.

The spokesperson, who wished to speak on the condition of anonymity, said the blind hiring process made it impossible for the institute to learn about the Chinese applicant’s nationality, even during the final interview round. An official at the institute told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday that the candidate spoke fluent Korean, which was why none of the judges thought she could be a non-Korean.

It was only after she got qualified for the last round and had to submit paper documents proving her personal and academic background that Kaeri realized she was a Chinese national and decided to postpone its decision to hire her for a full-time researcher position in a field related to the analysis of the fluid system and heat flow.

However, the spokesperson stressed to the Korea JoongAng Daily Wednesday that the postponement wasn’t solely due to her nationality, adding the institute simply needed more time to receive papers from her and review them.

“The Chinese applicant didn’t get disqualified because she’s Chinese or because she’s a foreigner. She didn’t get disqualified at all yet,” the Kaeri spokesperson said in a telephone interview. “We don’t have a rule banning foreigners from getting employed at the institute for full-time research positions, and we’ve had some foreign applicants in the past, but somehow, they all got disqualified before the final interview round, and the Chinese person is the first non-Korean to have passed that last step, so this is all new to us,” the spokesperson continued.

The state-backed nuclear institute was founded in 1959, and in the 60 years since then, there has not been a single non-Korean full-time researcher, the spokesperson added.

Apart from receiving documents from the Chinese national through China’s consulate in Korea, the spokesperson said that the institute was also reviewing the kind of work that the Chinese national would do at the institute if she were hired for a full-time position because some tasks were off-limits to foreigners according to laws on national security.

The Kaeri official who spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo said the Chinese applicant earned her bachelor’s degree from China, and after graduating from college, traveled to Korea, where she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from KAIST in Daejeon. Some 60 other researchers who were newly employed through the same hiring process began work on Dec. 1.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, CHOI JOON-HO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]