Finally, a Korean protest I agree with…

Now, Koreans have a reputation for volatility and protests.  In fact, there have been articles published to this effect in the US, referring to Korea’s “culture of protest“.  This spring it was the Mad Cow protests, which drew quite a bit of international press, but believe me, there are protests here all the time that don’t draw quite so much attention (for instance, the Dokdo debate).  Usually, these protests garner a reaction from me (and other expats here) that ranges from eye-rolling to outright anger.

But, finally, this time they seem to be striking about something that I actually agree with.

Korea’s education system revolves almost entirely around a series of national standardized tests.  There is tremendous pressure put on students to do well on these tests, and around the time that they are taken, Korea’s suicide rate spikes heavily(in fact, there was a suicide here in Jindo during the mid-terms this semester that the other foreigners discovered, but I won’t go into that).  The tests are stressful for elementary students, and by the time they reach high school, it reaches almost absurd proportions.  It is such a big deal culturally, in fact, that on the day of the high school exam, police ferry students who are running late to their testing site, and fellow students who are not testing that day wait outside the schools to cheer on their friends.

There have been student protests before, but this is the first time, to my knowledge, that the teachers themselves have had a protest/strike (well, the second, I suppose, if you count the original incident which led to this current demonstration).  Now, I am actually a fan of civil disobedience (I was somewhat of a troublemaker in high school and especially college, and hell, I date a Frenchman), when done properly (nobody is hurt and property is not damaged) and for a good cause , and this, to me, qualifies.

Personally, my favourite is the teacher who decided to hold his class outside.  Props to the guy and students who decided to brave the cold of Korean winter to make a point.  Kind of like instead of a teach-in, it was a teach-out!

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1 Response to “Finally, a Korean protest I agree with…”


  1. 1 morningjoy January 1, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    I’ll have to jump on-board in agreement. State testing seems to be a world-wide trend. I seriously question its validity in showing student progress. Rather it seems to serve other less honorable purposes. So, protest away! I’m with you.


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