A group of South Korean students have filed a lawsuit against the government, demanding compensation for the disruption caused by an early bell in their college entrance exam. The students claim that the bell rang 90 seconds earlier than scheduled at their test site, affecting their performance and results.
The incident occurred on November 18, 2023, during the Suneung, the country’s highly competitive and stressful college admission test. The Suneung is an eight-hour exam that covers multiple subjects and determines the students’ future prospects in education, employment, and even relationships. The exam is taken so seriously that the country takes various measures to ensure the students’ concentration, such as closing the airspace and delaying the stock market.
According to the lawsuit, filed on Tuesday by at least 39 students, the bell rang earlier at a test site in Seoul during the first subject, Korean. The students said they protested immediately, but the supervisors still collected their papers. The supervisors realized their mistake before the next session, and gave the students back the lost time during the lunch break. However, the students could only fill in the blank spaces on their papers, and could not change any of their previous answers.
The students said that the error affected their performance and results in the rest of the exam, as they were too upset and distracted to focus. Some of them even gave up and went home. The students are asking for 20 million won ($15,400; £12,000) each, which is the cost of a year’s studying to retake the exam. Their lawyer, Kim Woo-suk, said that the education authorities had not apologized or offered any remedy for the mistake.
The government has not yet responded to the lawsuit, but the public broadcaster KBS reported that the supervisor in charge of the test site had misread the time. This is not the first time that students have sued over an early bell in the Suneung. In April, a court in Seoul awarded 7 million won ($5,250; £4,200) to students who claimed they were disadvantaged at the 2021 Suneung exam because their bell rang about two minutes earlier.
The case also highlights the pressure and anxiety that the students face in the Suneung, which is widely regarded as one of the hardest exams in the world. The exam has been criticized for its excessive influence and impact on the students’ lives, and for its lack of flexibility and diversity. Some experts and activists have called for reforms and alternatives to the Suneung, such as introducing multiple exams, reducing the number of subjects, and increasing the weight of other factors, such as grades, extracurricular activities, and interviews.