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South Korea: Students Sue Over Teacher Cutting Exams Short

A group of South Korean students is taking legal action against the government after their college admission examination concluded prematurely, 90 seconds before the scheduled end time.

Each student is seeking compensation of 20 million won ($15,400; £12,000), which is equivalent to the cost of a year’s study to retake the exam. The students’ lawyer claims that the error had a ripple effect by impacting the rest of the students’ exams. South Korea’s college admission test, known as Suneung, is notorious for its rigorous nature, consisting of an eight-hour marathon of consecutive papers covering multiple subjects.

South Korea’s High-Stakes Exam

The Suneung is widely considered to be one of the toughest exams globally, with high stakes involved. Its outcome not only determines university placements and job prospects but can even impact future relationships. To ensure optimal concentration for students, several measures are implemented during the annual event, including closing the country’s airspace and delaying the opening of the stock market. The results of this year’s exam were released on 8 December.

However, a lawsuit has been filed on Tuesday by a group of at least 39 students. They claim that the bell rang earlier than scheduled at a test site in Seoul during the first subject of the exam, which is Korean. Despite immediate protests from the students, the exam supervisors confiscated their papers. The teachers later acknowledged the error before the start of the next session. During the lunch break, students were given an additional one and a half minutes, but they could only mark blank columns on their papers and were not allowed to change any existing answers.

Lawsuit Filed Over Early Bell

Local media reported that the students’ lawyer, Kim Woo-suk, criticized the education authorities for failing to apologize for the incident. Officials from the public broadcaster KBS stated that the supervisor in charge of the specific test center had misread the time, leading to the premature ringing of the bell.

This is not the first time students have taken legal action over an early bell ringing during the Suneung exam. In April, students who claimed to be disadvantaged by a bell ringing two minutes earlier were awarded 7 million won ($5,250; £4,200) by a court in Seoul.

It is worth noting that the consequences for early bell ringing can be even more severe in other countries. In 2012, a man in China received a one-year suspended sentence for ringing the bell four minutes and 48 seconds early during the national college entrance exam in Hunan province.

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