SEOUL, Nov. 15 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea decided on Wednesday to postpone the state-administered college entrance exam by a week as a rare 5.4-magnitude quake struck the southeastern city of Pohang and caused fissures in some school buildings there.
The Ministry of Education announced that the date for the College Scholastic Aptitude Test has been pushed back to Nov. 23. The test was due to be held nationwide on Thursday.
It is the first time that the test has been rescheduled due to a natural disaster.
The earthquake, Korea’s second most powerful on record, took place at around 2:29 p.m. in an area some 9 kilometers north of the coastal city with a shallow depth of 9 kilometers. Eight aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 2.4 to 4.6 followed.
The quake was felt across the nation, including Seoul about 374 km away from Pohang, as well as the island of Jeju, sparking a flood of reports of buildings shaking, books falling from shelves and frames falling off walls.
“The fact that students’ safety is the most important, and the need to ensure fairness in carrying out the test, has led us to the decision,” Education Minister Kim Sang-gon said at an emergency press briefing.
He explained that the interior ministry and the education office in North Gyeongsang Province recommended the delay after they grasped the situation in the affected areas.
“After they did full inspections in all 14 schools in Pohang that have been designated to hold the exam, five of them were found to have developed cracks,” he said.
The education ministry had said earlier there would be no change of plan in the test schedule.
The ministry said it will make sure the exam takes place according to the adjusted plan by closely coordinating with officials in charge.
Hundreds of thousands of high school students sit for the entrance exam that is only held once a year. The test is deemed so important for students and parents, over a long-held perception that getting into a top-tier college is the way to career success.
Police forces are dispatched in the early morning of the exam day to escort students to the designated school by motorcycles during the rush hour. All flights are banned from landing and takeoff during the English listening test that runs for about 40 minutes around lunch time.
The college entrance exam was first adopted in Korea in 1993. It has been postponed twice in the past but they were because of the summit-level meetings — APEC and the Group 20 — that Korea hosted in 2005 and 2006, respectively. The announcements were thus made months ahead.
This year, 593,000 students are registered to take the test in 1,180 schools around the country.