A group of high school students in Seoul is suing the government after a teacher ended their crucial eight-hour college admission exam 90 seconds early.
What they are saying: The lawsuit, filed by at least 39 students on Tuesday, alleges that the teacher’s early bell ringing affected their performance on the “Suneung,” South Korea‘s annual college admission test.
The students are each seeking compensation payments of 20 million won ($15,380) to cover the costs of a year’s studying to retake the test. According to their lawyer Kim Woo-suk, the education authorities have not apologized or proposed preventive measures.
When it took place: The alleged error occurred during the first subject of the exam, Korean. The mistake was later acknowledged and students were given 90 seconds during the lunch break to mark blank columns and solve problems without changing existing answers. But as most of the students were already upset, some of them reportedly gave up and left.
Why it matters: The lawsuit highlights the significance of the exam for future prospects in the country. Success in the Suneung, notorious for its steep difficulty, is seen as the key to admission to top universities and coveted jobs in major corporations, impacting social status.
The significance of the exam is evident in nationwide measures to minimize distractions, including restrictions on aircraft activities during specific test sections, causing logistical challenges such as the rescheduling of over 90 flights.
Pressure on students: South Korea‘s ultra-competitive education system, including the annual exam, has been criticized for its intense pressure on students, contributing to high rates of teenage depression and suicide.
Not the first time: Similar cases have reportedly occurred in the past, underscoring the sensitivity and importance of the college admission process in the nation. In 2020, students and their parents from a girls’ high school sued the state and the Seoul government when the bell rang three minutes early during the exam. The legal action resulted in victory, with an appeals court in April directing the state to provide each student with a compensation of 7 million won ($5,380).