It’s pass or bust in an intense and highly pressurized vigil of silence and prayer for the South Korean nation as teenagers take entrance exams for the country’s top universities.
More than 600,000 students will take the test, but only half that number is expected to pass.
During oral tests, jets all across the nation will be banned from taking off and landing and drivers are forbidden from honking their car horns.
Buddhist shrines have been filled to capacity as parents pray for their children’s success on the exams, which mark an important avenue into the top universities as well as a good jobs that could last a lifetime.
Many anxious parents have been praying for weeks, if not months.
The police have offered to escort students to the exams. Even the stock exchange has delayed opening for an hour in an effort to reduce the chances of students getting caught in traffic en route to the exams.
Preparing involves more than book knowledge. While this is certain to sound silly, students couldn’t be more serious as they eat toffee to insure that the right answers “stick” and avoid seaweed and bananas so that they won’t “slip” on answers.
Students are given presents of forks to help them “stab” the correct answers, while toilet paper is often doled out for good luck as in Korean it is called pul-da, which is a homonym for “solve” or “unravel.”
Those taking tests are also banned from eating porridge as in Korean the phrase “cooking porridge” is also slang for “messing up.”
Korean society is trying to make things easier for stressed students.
Some suicides have also occurred over the anxiety associated with taking and failing these tests.
Even for those who pass and get into the top schools, the pressure doesn’t end as a good job is not guaranteed.
Better to relax for a few moments in between studying, enjoy the toffee and a sunset or two. In some instances, it might be better for Korean students attend American colleges like Everest University and save themselves all the stress and troubles.