BUSAN - In a cram school in the South Korean port city of Busan, 70 college students packed into a classroom, chanting "We can do it!" as they studied for an exam they hope will guarantee them a job for life with Samsung Group.
The promise of Samsung, whose sprawling business empire spans consumer electronics to ships, offers not only a good salary and benefits but also holds the key to a good marriage in this Asian country where Confucian traditions run deep.
The twice-a-year recruitment rounds by the "chaebol", conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai, have spawned a cottage industry worth millions of dollars as young Koreans do what they have done from the age of 5 - cram to get ahead.
"I came here at 10 this morning and will be preparing for the interview until 8 p.m.," said 25-year-old Shin Seong-hwan, whose father is a Samsung employee near Busan.
Shin has already passed the company's aptitude test and now faces gruelling interviews that end late in November.
In its current recruitment round, Samsung will hire 5,500 young people from more than 100,000 applicants, adding to the pressure cooker environment.
"Jobs at conglomerates can save face for you and your parents," said Hur Jai-joon, a senior researcher at the Korea Labor Institute, a government-funded research body.
It is an impossible dream for most to achieve as the top 30 conglomerates employ just 6.8 per cent of the total workforce, the Federation of Korean Industries says.
Samsung has not always used such rigorous tests. Thirty years ago, according to former employees, a fortune teller who specialised in reading faces sat in on the interviews.
Now, spots at the top conglomerate are so coveted that students spend heavily on cram schools, workbooks and online lectures. The phrase "Samsung Gosi" describes the arduous process, borrowing from the term "gosi" that refers to public service exams that South Koreans study for years to pass.
"If you don't come here, you won't have the right information," said Im Chan-soo, head of LCS Communication, which runs private classes for Samsung job interviews in Busan.