23-year old Seoyeon Oh will never forget the amount of stress she felt when taking South Korea's college entrance exam four years ago.
The annual exam is a pathway to obtaining a spot at a prestigious university and landing a job at a top-ranked corporation, or chaebol. It also shuts down most of the country: stock markets and offices open later on test day to ensure students don't get stuck in traffic, and this year saw the central bank delay its monetary policy meeting by one hour. If a student is late for the exam, they can dial the police who will escort them to the testing site. Furthermore, no airplanes are allowed to take off in Seoul during the exam's listening comprehension section to minimize noise levels.
"Personally, having been through the exams and then entering the work force, job searching was definitely harder in hindsight," Oh told CNBC via e-mail.
She isn't alone; youth unemployment in Asia's fourth-largest economy remains high due to a severe labor mismatch, experts say. In October, the jobless rate for people aged 15 to 29 stood at 8 percent, not far from a decade-high of 10 percent in February.
Graduates tend to avoid jobs in small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), said Wai Ho Leung, senior economist at Barclays. "Nobody wants to work for small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because of the lower pay, only big chaebols like Hyundai and Samsung. Expectations are skewed since everybody goes to college with big dreams."