South Koreans sit key exam as flights halted to limit distraction

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More than half a million students in South Korea sat the crucial national university entrance exam on Nov. 15, with authorities taking extraordinary measures, including halting flights, to minimise distractions.

The nine-hour test, which was taken by 504,588 pupils this year, is crucial for securing spots in top universities. It is also considered key to elevated social status, lucrative careers, and even marriage prospects.

Enormous pressure placed on students in South Korea’s ultra-competitive education system has been blamed for teenage depression and suicide rates that are among the highest in the world.

“I’m nervous and trembling because what I’ve been studying for three years ends with this exam today,” Lee Min-yup told AFP before going to take the test at Kyungbock High School in central Seoul.

The importance of the test was reflected by the aggressive measures authorities were taking to prevent any disturbance.

To reduce noise disruption during the listening portion of the English test, Seoul’s transportation ministry imposed a nationwide ban on all aircraft takeoffs and landings outside of emergency situations.

The ban was implemented for a duration of 35 minutes, from 1:05 pm to 1:40 p.m. local time (0405 to 0440 GMT).

With the exception of aircraft in distress, all airborne planes were required to maintain an altitude higher than 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) during the restricted time.

More than 90 flights had to be rescheduled because of the exam.

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