South Korean Students Sue After Teacher Ends Exam Early

Empty school classroom

( – A group of South Korean students were so upset by the loss of 90 seconds during the annual college entrance exam that they’re suing the testing organization. To understand their position, it’s important to note that the Suneung (the test) is rated as one of the most difficult tests in the entire world, and in South Korea, the results not only impact which college you attend but also your future job and romantic and social prospects.

It consists of an 8-hour marathon of different exams and is only held once a year. The examination is taken so seriously in South Korea that they ground flights during the English portion and delay the opening of the stock market to give students the mental bandwidth to focus.

Over half a million young people took the exam in 2023, and the results were published on December 8th.

A group of 39 students are suing due to the bell on the Korean language section being rung approximately 90 seconds early. The section is the first part of the test, and the plaintiffs argue that the disruption impacted all subsequent test sections. The students and teachers all knew the bell rang early at the time, and the time was granted back to the students during their lunch break.

The damage was done already, however, and students could not go back and alter answers on previous test sections. Many students were so upset they gave up and refused to participate any further. Plaintiffs in the case are seeking damages of approximately $15,000 each or the equivalent of one year’s tuition.

Attorney for the group Kim Woo-suk said that there has been no apology from the responsible authorities, while Korean media quoted officials who said plainly that the supervisor in charge of the bell made a mistake misreading the time.

An early bell during the 2021 Suneung exam resulted in compensation being awarded to students in April of this year. A Chinese man from the Hunan province was slapped with a suspended 1-year sentence for ringing the bell and stopping students during their college entrance exams nearly 5 minutes early.

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