SOUTH KOREA SUSPENDS FLIGHTS, DELAY OFFICE HOURS AS THOUSANDS ATTEMPT NINE-HOUR ENTRANCE EXAM

As thousands sat for the crucial national university exam in South Korea, the country’s government undertook some extraordinary measures to minimise possible distractions for the school students.

The timings of all public offices, major businesses and the opening of the stock market were delayed by an hour to ease the traffic in order to ensure that the students reached their exam venues on time. Also, there were provisions for police cars and motorbikes for those stuck in traffic.

All takeoffs and landings at South Korean airports were suspended for 25 minutes to coincide with an English listening test, and all airborne planes were ordered to maintain an altitude higher than 3,000m (10,000 feet), according to a Channel News Asia report. According to South Korea’s Transport Ministry, 134 flights were rescheduled because of the exam.

About 595,000 students sat for this year’s exam which holds key to admission in top universities, raised social recognition, elite jobs, and even marriage prospects.

President Moon Jae-in, who is attending a regional summit in Singapore, wished the students on his Facebook page.

The intense effort they had put in over years of study was coming to fruition, he said in his Facebook post. “Believe in it and you will be able to show your full competence,” he wrote.

School students from lower grades had gathered in huge numbers in front of exam centres, singing in chorus and holding colourful banners that said, “Don’t mess up!”

Jung Ho-yun, a student at Ehwa Girls’ Foreign Language High School in central Seoul, told Channel News Asia report: “Their lives depend on this exam, so it’s very important.”

Parents who came to drop their wards gave them long hugs, wiping away their tears. Some even went to church to offer prayers before the exam.

Strict rules for the exam meant that electronics were strictly prohibited and leaving the school premises before the test ends is also forbidden to reduce the possibilities of cheating. However, masks have been allowed during the exam this year due to the intense pollution level persisting on the peninsula, said the education ministry of South Korea.

The results for the exam will be out on December 5.