Hundreds of thousands took the Suneung, South Korea’s college scholastic ability test, Thursday, starting at 8:40 a.m.
According to the Education Ministry, 594,924 people applied to take the test this year, 11,397 more than last year.
Groups of students and parents who came to wish the test takers luck gathered in front of many of the 1,190 test sites, including Yongsan High School in Seoul. They beat drums and cheered loudly as the test takers made their way through the school gates, looking both determined and nervous.
“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.
Koh Jung-hee, who came to send off her son, stood in the crowd 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 and hurriedly left for church to pray for good results.
Those who came to cheer for their seniors expressed both excitement and worries.
“We have been here since 5:30 a.m. to show support and wish good luck for seniors,” Kim Yu-jin, a second-year student at Hwanil High School, said. “I am not sure if I will be able to smile like this for my Suneung next year. I will try. I wish the best of luck for all today.”
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 takes 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, the fine dust levels were in the “bad” range in the metropolitan regions, including Seoul, South Chungcheong and North Jeolla provinces, according to National Institute of Environmental Research. Some students were seen wearing masks.
Regional police agencies dispatched hundreds of police officers around the cities to help transport test takers in case of emergencies, and to manage the road 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.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)