UPDATE (24/11/2005): Uh, what happened? The roads weren’t blocked this time, nothing like last year when they were jammed insanely tightly. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, actually. Maybe I was misinformed, but I wasn’t the only one… other people at work had heard the same as me.
If you do, please give them something nice tonight. For many of them, tomorrow is going to be a brutal day. Yes, tomorrow is the day of the University Entrance Exams. It’s a day of unbelievable stress, of pressure, of anxiety and it’s also the release from a year (or more) of scholarly bondage to these kids who, even the least studious, were subject to constant calls to study more, harder, and better.
By the way, for those of you who don’t know any Korean highschoolers: the traffic is going to be insane in the morning. Leave at least an hour early for anything, or perhaps try the back route. That’s going to be my strategy… 30 minutes early, and if the road looks bad, take the long way to the back gate of the Uni.
Lime told me an anecdote about the University Entrance Exams that I wanted to relate here; it tells you something about just how important they are considered to be in Korea. She told me that about ten years ago, such exams were also taken in the summer, and at that time, the concern was so high that kids would be able to take the listening comprehension part of the exam that a mass campaign was launched to eradicate the nearby trees of cicadas. I assume there was simply heavy spraying of pesticides, and apparently it was relatively successful; it was quiet enough to ensure the exams would go ahead. (No word on resultant illnesses or birth defects among the exposed, though.)
Lastly, I found a very interesting passage in a book written by a Scotswoman visiting Korea while under Japanese rule, about the effect of Chinese-language focused education in Korean history.
She was speculating on the relationship between an overvaluation of supposedly objective foreign-language examinations (and their linkage to governmental/bureaucratic employment opportunities) and the disrepair of the Joseon governmental branches and, I seem to recall her suggesting, the resultant ease of Japanese takeover. It was, needless to say, an extremely interesting passage. However, my scanner has once again decided to stop working, so I shall have to try reinstall software and try scan it tonight. Perhaps you shall get a chance to see it later, then.