Cheering crowds gathered Thursday in front of many of the 1,190 test sites, including Yongsan High School in Seoul, to wish best of luck to students taking possibly the most important test for youths here. They beat drums and cheered loudly early in the morning, as test takers made their way through the school gate.
"It does not feel real (that it is Suneung day) yet. Time went faster than I thought and I am a little nervous,” Park Sung-ho, a third-year student at Hwanil High School in Seoul, told The Korea Herald as he entered the test site in Yongsan.
“I hope I do not get too nervous (taking the exam) and want to do well, as usual.”
Suneung is the culmination of 12 years of elementary, middle and high school education for students in Korea, and a rite of passage into adulthood. For the sake of the national exam, airplanes waited on land and in the air for takeoffs and landing temporarily, while the opening of banks and government institutes were delayed an hour to keep traffic off the streets in the morning.
Koh Jung-hee, a mother who came to send off her son, stood in the crowd at Yongsan High School and prayed.
“I am more nervous. I believe my son will do well because he is very calm and has been preparing a lot (for the exam). I told him to solve the problems as usual,” Koh told The Korea Herald before hurriedly leaving for church to pray for good results.
Those who came to cheer on their seniors expressed both excitement and worries.
“We have been here since 5:30 a.m. to show support and wish good luck to our seniors,” said Kim Yu-jin, a second-year student at Hwanil High School. “I am not sure if I will be able to smile like this for my Suneung next year. I will try. I wish best of luck to all today.”
According to the Education Ministry, 594,924 people applied to take the test this year, 11,397 more than last year.
The level of difficulty for this year’s Suneung appears to be similar to that of the previous year. The test results will be released on Dec. 5.
The multi-subject standardized test officially started at 8:40 a.m. and ended at 5:40 p.m. All test takers were to be seated in test venues by 8:10 a.m.
While cold waves have often hit the country on Suneung days -- which take place on the third Thursday in November -- the weather was warmer than last year.
Across the country, the morning temperatures went down as low as 2 degrees Celsius, and climbed up to range between 13 C and 18 C during the day.
However, fine dust levels were in the “bad” range in the metropolitan regions, including Seoul, South Chungcheong and North Jeolla provinces, according to the National Institute of Environmental Research. Some students were seen wearing masks.
Regional police agencies dispatched hundreds of police officers around cities to help transport test takers in case of emergencies, and to manage traffic.
City and provincial governments expanded the operation of public transportation. Some cities also had emergency transportation vehicles ready near stations to transport students to their designated test sites.
Airplane takeoffs and landings at airports near test sites were banned during the English listening comprehension test from 1:05 p.m. to 1:40 p.m., and activities at nearby construction sites were also held off.
Banks, stock markets and government offices opened an hour late at 10 a.m. to keep traffic off the streets. The closing time for the stock market was pushed back to 4:30 p.m.
Over a typo made in one of the questions of the Korean Language test, the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation apologized and said that it found the mistake on Saturday, after all test sheets were printed.
“We considered reprinting the test sheets, but we concluded it was physically difficult, due to a lack of time. So we decided to distribute errata along with the test today,” said Lee Gang-rae, chairman of the examination committee, on Thursday.
While the typo did not hinder solving the question, Lee said the committee will prevent future mistakes from occurring.
By Jo He-rim, Lim Jeong-yeo (firstname.lastname@example.org)(email@example.com)