INCHEON, March 10 (Korea Bizwire) – The honor system of Incheon’s Jemulpo High School, which has been a special tradition since the school was founded 62 years ago, is undergoing consideration for registration as a national cultural asset.
The midterms and final exams at the school begin with a special ceremony. Five minutes before the first test starts, the students take an oath, saying the honor system is the treasure of their school. The students repeat a chant promising to keep their conscience and dignity before every test.
After the students finish the short ceremony, teachers hand out the test papers and leave the classroom. They return 10 minutes before the test ends to gather the answer sheets.
The school, which has turned out many excellent students over more than half a century, started the tradition over 60 years ago.
Gil Young-hee (1900-1984), an educator who fought for Korean independence in the Japanese colonial period, and the first principal of Jemulpo High School, started the tradition when the school was founded in 1954, right after the end of the Korean War.
In 1956, the first test period without supervision was held. Despite some doubt, the results were surprising. Among the 569 students, 53 failed, achieving a lower score than 60 points.
Principal Gil Young-hee gave praise to the students who failed, saying they were “the trustworthy students of Korea”, and encouraged them to study harder and pass next time. All of the students who failed were said to have passed the next semester.
The honor system, which is on the same page as the school motto, ‘learning is the light of society, and conscience is the salt of our people’, was also thought to be part of the movement to save the nation tarnished by war and poverty.
With increasingly competitive college entrance procedures, the tradition was at risk of being abolished. The honor system was controversial due to its questionable fairness and equity. However, the superiority of the tradition was recognized when a survey was conducted with the participation of students, parents, teachers and alumni, and it was decided that the tradition be continued.
Current deputy principal Park Seong-woo commented on the issue, saying, “the belief that conscientious and honest people can be leaders and become the foundation for a rightful society has been supporting the tradition for such a long time”.
The Jemulpo High School alumni association is taking steps to register the honor system as an intangible cultural asset. Four professors who graduated from the high school finished studies on the achievements of the honor system over the past 60 years, and the meaning that lies beneath it.
Officials at the alumni association hope to achieve their goals, which are beyond all precedents. “Since Jemulpo High School started the honor system, we confirmed that 10 junior high schools and high schools are currently operating the honor system. Although it is unprecedented that a school policy be designated as a cultural asset, we hope to push through as our tradition is the first and longest lasting honor system,” an official said.
The integrity practiced by the students of Jemulpo High School for over 60 years is exemplary in an era when it seems like people will do anything to achieve their goals.
By Lina Jang (email@example.com)