Cover Image
close this bookThe Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)
close this folderChapter III. Transition from school to work in Korea: reforms to establish a new pathway structure across education and the labour market by Kioh Jeong
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. Economic adjustment and youth in Korea
View the document2. Roles of institutions in school-to-work transition
View the document3. From school to work: business and industry involvement
View the document4. Ongoing education reform and implications for youth
View the document5. Conclusions: developing pathways


Sociologists have developed the Theory of the segmented labour market (W.S. Jang, 1997). Their arguments can be summarised as follows; (i) labour markets are segmented by different opportunity structures; (ii) opportunity structures are based on educational credentials; (iii) different opportunity structures and the segmented market serve mainly the interests of ruling coalitions in a society. The theory of the segmented labour market still lends much to the studies of the relation between education and labour. In the meantime, policy-makers and experts in education and training came to use the term 'pathways' to describe different possible transitions from school to work. 'Pathway', however, has more analytical uses in discourse among experts in this field.

The two similar terms, that is, opportunity structure and pathways, seem to refer to almost the same objectives. Differences between the two come from the context of their theoretical perspectives. There have been two different approaches in viewing education's role in society. One is the screening theory; the other is the human capital approach. Using the term 'opportunity structure', researchers tend to stand by the screening theory, perceiving the education system as a screening and allocating device. The term 'pathways', however, is preferred by those considering education from the learners' point of view, and frequently from the human capital approach.

Aristotle introduced the moral dimension in classifying political systems. Aristotle's theory suggests that democracy should be differentiated into bad and good democracy. In discussion, particularly in terms of policy development regarding youth transition from school to work, one necessarily pays much attention to the structural aspects of the transition from school to work. This paper emphasizes the structural development from the bad and oppressive opportunity structures to the good and open pathway structures.

It might be said that the Korean labour market has kept the characteristics of the segmented labour market. However, the recent economic crisis that struck the Korean economy has greatly shaken the long practices and patterns of school-to-work transition. The system now stands at a crossroads. The choice is either to devolve into a system of oppressive and segregated opportunity structures or to evolve into a pathway structure leading to lifelong learning for all.