The Top Asian Country with Background Screening Complexities

March 24, 2021 | Antique Nguyen

“Even if you are accomplished in Korea, people are constantly asking about your college degrees; you have constant pressure to fake it,” says Whang Sang Min, Professor of Psychology at Yonsei University in Seoul.

South Korea surpasses every Asia-Pacific region for holding the top and most complex background screening challenges. Factors such as legislation on the prohibition of performing criminal checks using police records (except in specific circumstances, such as where it is necessary for a criminal investigation or trial) render organizations incapable of completing criminal verifications on their candidates. While HR executives can utilize adverse media checks to help gather more information on a candidate, this does not suffice in the place of criminal verifications. In fact, most global companies in Korea do conduct background checks on their candidates through partnering with renowned and global screening solution providers such as Cisive. However, this practice is far from common in local companies as most South Korean firms typically choose to conduct background checks in-house and focus solely on a candidates’ education and previous employment. This increases the risk of how HR may easily overlook or miss discrepancies in a candidates’ resume, as well as less accuracy in distinguishing fake credentials due to lack of expertise, having to handle multiple workflows or attempting to urgently fill a vacant position. It also highlights how local companies in South Korea are neglecting crucial information that can help with making safe and accurate hiring decisions for the long-term.

The 2019 scandal involving the child of a South Korean politician and a university professor highlights the severity of the fraudulent credential epidemic in South Korea. It was found that the parents’ child, a high school student, had suspicious academic achievements which stemmed from the parents falsifying her academic achievements; this includes listing their child as the primary author of a pathology paper that had been published in an international medical research journal. The paper was later retracted due to violations of ethical guidelines and was condemned as one of the most serious cases of academic misconduct in South Korean history by a senior associate of medical experts. Despite this, the student used the paper and other falsified experiences (possessing multiple scholarships normally reserved for financially challenged students) to successfully enter prestigious universities such as Korea University and the Busan University medical school.

In fact, by law, any background checks that concern personal information require the applicant’s consent prior to collection. Additionally, South Koreas’ strict data protection laws require separate consent from the applicant to release personal information and have restrictions on how employers process the information collected from background checks. This applies to medical screening, fingerprinting, drug and alcohol testing, social media searches, admission to or withdrawal from a trade union or political party, political opinions and so forth. If an employer fails to conduct background checks in a lawful manner, harsh repercussions such as sanctions are often applied.

For instance, under the Personal Information Protection Act, one of the various sanctions that can be applied against employers includes: If personal information is collected and used without consent, the employer may be subject to an administrative fine of up to KRW50 million. Apart from this, language barriers pose additional challenges for successful background screening in the region. According to market research, the above issues are noted as the main contributors to South Koreas’ top rank on the overall complexity index score of conducting background checks.



Tackling the numerous screening complexities and successfully transforming local HR operations in South Korea will not be easy. Background screening companies, however, can help organizations by formulating strategies through industry expertise, understanding and analysis of the markets’ laws, economic conditions, culture, background screening needs, and accessible resources. It has been observed that the background screening concept is less familiar and often not practiced by local organizations in South Korea. Thus, forming awareness and making business leaders in the region realize the criticality of adopting pre-employment screening services is the first step toward tackling the issue.

Running promotional awareness campaigns in the region that highlight corruption figures, forms of corruption, and explain the need, importance, and benefits of background screening services in overcoming corruption and other offenses can help demonstrate this to the public. In addition, partnering with quality background screening providers that are world renown for having a proven track record of consistently meeting legal requirements whilst enabling their partners with organized, seamless and flexible systems is another investment that companies should consider. For example, unlike other major background screening providers, Cisive has had zero class action lawsuits throughout our 40 years in business – reflecting our commitment to providing world-class quality intelligence for HR leaders and ensuring employment screening accuracy and compliance.


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