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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Despite Pandemic, South Korean Students Take the Exam of their Lives

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
A health official disinfects as a precaution against the coronavirus for the upcoming college entrance exams in a classroom at a high school in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020.

Many states and countries are struggling with a rise in the number of cases of coronavirus. That includes South Korea, where tomorrow there will be an additional focus across the country — one that will be complicated by the virus.

Nearly half a million students in South Korea are likely feeling a little nervous today.

Tomorrow they will sit for what may be the most consequential test of their lives — the annual national university exam known as the Korean College Scholastic Ability Test.

It’s actually a series of tests — including sections on Korean, math, history, social studies, English, and a second foreign language.

The stakes are so high that airlines change their flight times so they won’t cause distractions by roaring overhead. Students who are running late can get a police escort to their testing site.

The entire event lasts eight hours, with test-takers sitting in one location, indoors — and that’s the first challenge with the coronavirus.

The exam has already been postponed once. And the Yonhap News Agency reports plans are now to go ahead with administering it at nearly 1,400 test centers around the country — in more than 31,000 classrooms.

Government officials say they’ll open the windows during breaks, there will be distancing, and temperature checks — and masks will be mandatory, of course.

There will also be separate facilities set up for students who show symptoms of COVID-19 that morning — as well as special arrangements for some in isolation or even undergoing treatment for the virus.

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