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The Suneung World Cup final

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14.11.2019
David Tizzard talks with his students. Courtesy of Tizzard


By David Tizzard

Halo walks into the room clutching a chocolate milkshake in a desperate attempt to rid herself of a hangover from last night's boozing. She is filming something for television today yet yesterday's clothes still cling to her with a sense of familiarity.

She is a 19-year-old studying Japanese at a Korean university. Her unashamed blue hair hangs down way below her shoulders.

As we begin discussing her views on the Korean "suneung" university entrance exam, it doesn't take her long to swear comfortably and fluently in English. She's exasperated by her own memories and those a whole new batch of hopefuls are to be exposed to.

She is, in essence, the very personification of a middle finger to the standardized model. She rejects both the accepted appearance dictated to her and the academic path she is supposed to tread.

Despite this refusal to acquiesce, or perhaps because of it, she possesses a sharp instinct and acute awareness of what's going on around her. She scores high on her papers and often outperforms her peers.

And she is most opinionated when it comes to Korean education. She is no stranger to the Daechi-dong system and yet holds it in great contempt.

Ultimately, she wants a change in the entire education paradigm. Not just a change in the number of tests, the order of exams, or how many airplanes detour over the city on the day, but rather an entire reshaping of the national consciousness.

"It's got to be OK to fail" is the one message that seems to reverberate from her. It's OK not to........

© The Korea Times