KOCHI: Kiran KS, 32, an MBA graduate who lost his job during the first wave of the pandemic, has been desperately looking for a means to survive. A native of North Paravoor, Kiran was one of the 800 applicants who thronged the Ernakulam Town Hall to attend a recruitment seminar for an onion farming job at South Korea organised by Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultant (ODEPC) — a state agency.
“I have no prior experience in agriculture. But I am desperate for a job with a decent salary. I am ready to toil abroad for that. I could not apply online for the job as the ODEPC website crashed after many people submitted applications through the site,” said Kiran. The seminar organised to explain the work atmosphere, climate, living conditions and food style in South Korea was held in two sessions — 300 people in the first batch and 500 in the second batch.
A similar orientation was held in Thiruvananthapuram too, attended by around 600 persons on Wednesday. “This recruitment is for a South Korea government-aided onion farming project. A South Korean agency entrusted ODEPC to conduct recruitment for 100 vacancies. The agency said that they may recruit 1,000 more people in future. We received over 4,000 applications and our website crashed because of the traffic. Though the required qualification was Class 10 pass, we received applications even from youngsters who have completed MTech and MBA,” said Anoop K, managing director of ODEPC.
The onion farms are located in the Sinan and Muan islands in the southern part of South Korea. The salary promised is $1,500 monthly (around Rs 1,12,500 going by today’s exchange rate). Those selected will work for 28 days a month from 8am to 5pm — 9 hours daily.
“The weather sometimes turns extreme. Temperature can drop to minus 20 degree celsius. South Korean food is very different from Kerala. Pork is the staple there. Employers will not manage the workers’ accommodation,” Anoop said A 26-year-old Kakkanad-native who is employed in an IT company was at the recruitment drive too, because this opportunity would help him explore other jobs once he reaches South Korea. “I completed B.tech in electronics two years ago. There are several multinational companies in South Korea that offer good salaries to engineers. If selected, I will work at the farm for a year and try engineering jobs afterwards,” he said.
According to Anoop, three kinds of youngsters have applied for the job. “The first kind genuinely likes farming and wants to learn new farming techniques used in South Korea. The second category just wants to reach South Korea and take up other careers there. The third category is ready to take up any job. We will scrutinise the applications and complete the selection procedure in 10 days,” he said. Covid vaccination will be a hurdle for many applicants apart from the maximum age limit of 40. “The agency has stated that people who have taken two doses of WHO-approved vaccine will be selected for the job,” an ODEPC official said.