Students file lawsuit over exam ending 90 seconds early

In South Korea, a group of students is suing the government for prematurely ending their college admission examination by 90 seconds. The students are each demanding 20 million won (approximately $15,400 or £12,000) — the cost of a year's study to retake the exam.

Publication: 20.12.2023 - 17:50
Students file lawsuit over exam ending 90 seconds early
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The lawsuit argues that this error disrupted the students' performance in subsequent sections of the exam. South Korea's college admission test, Suneung, is an infamous eight-hour ordeal with consecutive papers in multiple subjects. Renowned as one of the world's most challenging exams, it plays a pivotal role in determining university admissions, job prospects, and even future relationships. To facilitate student focus during this critical annual event, the country implements extraordinary measures such as closing its airspace and delaying the stock market opening. This year's exam results were released on December 8.

At least 39 students filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging that the bell signaling the end of the Korean language section — the first subject of the exam — rang early at a Seoul test site. Despite immediate protests from some students, supervisors collected their papers. The teachers realized their mistake before the next session and compensated by adding the lost time during the lunch break. However, students were only allowed to fill in blank columns and could not revise existing answers. According to Yonhap news agency, the students claimed the incident significantly hampered their concentration for the remaining exam sections, with some even giving up and going home.

Their lawyer, Kim Woo-suk, stated that the education authorities had not apologized for the error. KBS, the public broadcaster, reported that the test center supervisor had misread the time. This incident is not unprecedented; in April, a Seoul court awarded 7 million won ($5,250; £4,200) to students affected by a prematurely rung bell at the 2021 Suneung exam. Similar incidents have occurred internationally, such as in China in 2012, where a man received a one-year suspended sentence for ringing the national college entrance exam bell nearly five minutes early.

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