[imText1]The recent leak of test questions for Gimpo Foreign Language High School entrance is arousing controversy in South Korean society. Many are wondering about whether an elite school like this would nullify admissions for those who passed the examination for the first time in the history of the country.
Some say that the leak incident is one of those structural problems caused by laxity of official discipline often observed at the end of the administration. Others say that the incident is only the tip of the iceberg among many scandals occurring in the field of education.
Such scandals are not unheard of in North Korea. Many North Korean parents have as much education frenzy as their South Korean counterparts do.
A few years ago, the entrance exam for Kim Il Song University was leaked. In North Korea, college applicants have to take both a national exam and a college-specific entrance exam. The latter exam is of much importance, and those who apply to a specific university must achieve a certain score predetermined by the school.
As for Kim Il Song University, each department has set its own standard for admission scores. For instance, individuals who apply for the admission to the Department of Law must score at least 22 out of 35 total points, whereas those applicants for the less competitive Department of Nuclear Engineering must receive 14 points. In other words, the higher a student scores on the entrance exam, the more likely s/he would get into promising departments such as the Department of Law, Economy and Languages.
The entrance exam for Kim Il Sung University takes place in early February whereas the entrance exam for most universities is scheduled in early March. Most applicants for Kim Il Sung University are high school graduates, and their exam results are available at the end of February. Those who fail to get into the university are not allowed to apply for other first-tier universities such as Kim Chaek University of Technology or Pyongyang Medical School. However, they can apply for the second-tier universities such as Light Industry University, Printing Industry University and Machinery University.
The entrance exam for Kim Il Sung University takes place at a school gymnasium and is tightly supervised by professors. There is also a surveillance camera to monitor cheating activities. Once the test is over, the exam papers are moved to other universities where they are graded under tight supervision.
Therefore, it is hard to manipulate the exam once it is over. The children of the central party cadres can get into Kim Il Sung University even if their test scores are low through the formalities of so-called “extra admission.” However, students from ordinary families must pass the entrance exam to get into the school.
Many North Korean parents try every possible means to put their children through prestigious colleges. A few years ago, there appeared some individuals who took advantage of those parents and made a fortune leaking the entrance exam for Kim Il Sung University.
One day in early February 2003, many students and parents gathered around the main entrance of Kim Il Sung University. It was the entrance exam day for the university. An hour before the test, the entrance was crowded with many people. Among the crowd were individuals who approached some well dressed parents and sold the exam for $100.
Of course, the children of those who bought the exam, checked the exam answers beforehand, and took the test. However, there were eyewitnesses to the transaction. Once the misconduct turned out to be true, many parents protested against the exam scandal, and the authorities launched an investigation.
It turned out that the exam was first leaked from within the Ministry of Education. An official in charge of typing the exam questions leaked exam papers and sold them to some parents each for $500~$600. However, the incident took an unexpected turn when some of those parents resold the exam to other parents for $ 100 each on the exam day.
Once the truth came out, many people asked for a re-examination. However, the Ministry of Education settled the situation by nullifying the admission of students who cheated on the exam.
The official who first leaked the exam was sent to prison, and those parents who resold the exam were banished from Pyongyang to rural areas.
Corruption is prevalent across North Korea especially in the field of education. Education-crazed parents in North Korea would do anything to send their children to elite universities as their South Korean counterparts do. People of both Koreas must self-examine their own excessive zeal for education.