In South Korea, white-collar workers’ salaries and job titles in their 60s can often be predicted by which university they attended. The jostling for position starts in kindergarten, with some rich parents spending thousands of dollars a month on private tutoring to help their children secure spots in elite prep schools and top universities.
Well-connected families often resort to dubious tactics to get their children into the best universities, such as helping them land coveted internships at big corporations, research think tanks and university labs, which offer opportunities to get credit on research papers.
The Education Ministry’s audits of universities since 2017 have uncovered 794 research papers where middle school or high school students were listed as co-authors, including at least 11 where professors named their own children as co-authors. When economists from Seoul National University compared two boroughs of Seoul in 2014, they found that children from the wealthier borough were 20 times more likely to enter the university, the country’s most coveted, than children from the other.
According to the University of Pennsylvania, there are 60 think tanks in South Korea. According to UPenn, the country's top-ranked think tank is Korea Development Institute (KDI), ranked 20th in the world.