The Korea Herald


New space agency hints at ‘no salary cap’ for workers

Recruitment campaign plans to hire some 120 personnel by May 27 launch

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : March 14, 2024 - 15:47

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South Korea launches its homegrown Nuri rocket for the third time from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province on May 25, 2023. (Korea Aerospace Research Institute) South Korea launches its homegrown Nuri rocket for the third time from the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province on May 25, 2023. (Korea Aerospace Research Institute)

South Korea on Thursday began the official recruitment process for its new space body, Korea Aerospace Administration, or KASA, hoping to attract the best talent from in and outside the country.

The government’s preparatory office for KASA held its first offline recruitment presentation in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, where the KASA headquarters will be launched on May 27.

As Korea has repeatedly underlined its interest in drawing in top-tier space professionals regardless of nationality, KASA said it will have no limits on wages for those committing themselves to the country’s new space body.

The tentative salary guidelines for the annual figure begin at 60 million won ($45,600) for junior researchers at the lowest rank. For the highest position of the aerospace mission headquarters’ leader, which is directly under the head of KASA, the annual salary has been set at 250 million won, which is on par with that of the president.

“(If necessary,) the consensus within the government is that there should be no cap on the wages (of KASA employees),” said Lee Jae-hyung, director general of the preparatory office for KASA.

“(For overseas talent,) the central and local governments are also considering options to provide some kind of financial support.”

The chief of KASA will determine whether a raise above the guidelines should be given, considering the complexity of tasks and what the candidate’s salary was at their previous job. The presidential office is in charge of appointing the head of the new space body, but no specific names have surfaced yet.

KASA recruitment has been divided into two parts. The first one is for Koreans applying for researcher positions. The second is for Koreans hoping to get leadership positions and foreign nationals applying for both types of positions.

“We are taking various methods such as promoting the recruitment notice through LinkedIn and spreading the news via overseas Korean science associations,” said Lee.

Both recruitment processes began together on Thursday but the first recruitment process for Koreans will end accepting applications on March 25, whereas the second recruitment process for both Koreans and foreigners will accept applications through April 15.

The recruited researchers will have contract-based jobs. For the leadership positions, they will be given a three-year contract term at KASA with an option to extend it up to 10 years. For the researcher positions, the initial employment contract will be five years with the same option to extend it for a maximum of 10 years.

The KASA preparatory office said that the 10-year cap on employment is designed to make the agency's employees "go out into industry and academia."

Paul Yun, a Korean American solar system ambassador for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, advised that utilizing talented space professionals of foreign nationality already working in Korea should help the recruitment process.

"Active exchanges between foreign scholars at the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute are natural and helpful in establishing the purpose and direction of space exploration. I believe that natural human exchanges will provide an opportunity for foreign talent to take up positions at KASA," he said.

The KASA preparatory office said it expects to begin with about 120 personnel at the launch of KASA and plans to continue expanding the size of the space body to a little less than 300 eventually.

According to the KASA preparatory office, over 300 people signed up for the three offline recruitment presentations as of Wednesday. The KASA preparatory office plans to hold two more offline presentations in Seoul on March 19 and in Daejeon on March 22.

The full version of the offline event will be uploaded on the YouTube account of the Ministry of Science and ICT with English subtitles for global viewers.

Detailed information about the recruitment process is available on the KASA official website.