SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Korea Bizwire) – With the unprecedented postponement of the country-wide college entrance exams declared yesterday, the nation’s 18-year olds have seen their fair share of unexpected disruptions to their academic lives, occurrences that have left some to wonder whether being born in 1999 was a stroke of bad fortune.
This sentiment was expressed by one high school senior, who said, “Because there were repeated occurrences of natural disasters throughout our student lives, there are some among us who have never even been on a school trip.”
School trips are considered a rite of passage for South Korean students and a necessary part of school life. Typically lasting three days, Jeju and other tourist sites are popular destinations.
This particular age group of students faced their first national emergency in fourth grade when the 2009 swine flu pandemic swept the country. By November of the following year, 49,500 students had been diagnosed with the disease, leading not only to school trips and activities being halted, but schools being closed for a temporary period.
According to data provided by the Ministry of Education at the time, 7,262 schools cancelled classes at least once because of the flu outbreak, constituting 39.9 percent of all K-12 schools in the country.
Five years later, the now ninth-graders saw their school trips cancelled once more after the Sewol Ferry Disaster, a catastrophe in which hundreds of high school students on a school trip perished in the capsized ferry.
The next year (2015), over 2,000 schools closed again after the MERS epidemic resulted in the deaths of 36 infected individuals. Other schools that remained open cancelled extracurricular activities.
And finally, this year’s 5.4-magnitude earthquake, the second most powerful ever witnessed in South Korea, and the decision to postpone the college examination. The College Scholastic Ability Test had never before been delayed in its 24-year history, not even during the previous epidemics.