SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea went into “hush” mode Thursday, as nearly 650,000 students sat the annual college entrance exam that will play a large part in defining their adult lives in the ultra-competitive society.
Preparation for the crucial exam starts from primary school, and so does the relentless pressure that has been blamed for everything from early burnout to teenage depression and suicide.
A 17-year old boy was found dead Wednesday evening having apparently jumped from the window of his family’s apartment. His parents told Yonhap news agency that he had become extremely stressed as the test neared.
Success in the exam means a secured place in one of South Korea’s elite universities a key to future careers as well as marriage prospects.
With so much riding on the outcome, the day of the test – held simultaneously in 1,257 centres nationwide – sees the entire country switch to silent running.
The transportation ministry bans all airport landings and departures for a 40-minute period to coincide with the main language listening test.
The military also reschedules airforce drills and live-firing exercises, while traffic is barred within a 200-metre radius of test centres.