~590,000 Korean students took their College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT, 수능 Suneung) on Thursday (Nov 13) – a day where the students had to endure a gruelling nine-hour tests that would significantly influence their future career prospect.
It’s a day where stock market and offices were opened an hour late to ease the morning traffic; where flights had to be rescheduled during the listening test to avoid the slightest disturbance; and it’s a day where temples and churches were packed with parents praying for good performances from their kids.
The CSAT would determine which university/college the Korean students would be enrolled to, and the reputation of the universities will make a huge impact on their career path, which is true in most nations but far more definite for Koreans.
The larger-than-life exam culture is not entirely unique to Korea. Most of the East Asian countries are adopting similar ideology, presumably originated from the Chinese civil servants’ exams in ancient Chinese dynasty thousand of years ago. The Koreans however seem to be taking the idea to its extremity.
Many quarters have criticised that the high pressure of preparing for the CSAT attributes to the high suicide rates of Korean teenagers. Some others are also criticising that the system are undermining the students’ creativity and other talents.