South Korean Students Take Legal Action Over Early End to College Admission Exams

A group of South Korean students has initiated legal proceedings against the government, seeking compensation after a crucial college admission exam concluded 90 seconds prematurely.

The incident left at least 39 students demanding 20 million won (£12,000) each to cover the expenses associated with an additional year of study to retake the exam.

The Significance of Suneung:

The eight-hour college admission test, known as Suneung in South Korea, is renowned for its difficulty, featuring consecutive papers on multiple subjects.

Suneung outcomes carry significant weight, determining not only university placements but also future job prospects and relationships.

The Bell Rings Early:

During the exam’s first subject, Korean, a bell rang prematurely at a test site in Seoul.

Although students protested immediately, supervisors proceeded to collect their papers.

The error was acknowledged before the second session, and the 90 seconds were returned during the lunch break.

However, examiners permitted only blank columns to be marked, disallowing revisions to existing answers.

Impact on Students:

The premature conclusion of the exam left students emotionally distressed, making it challenging for them to concentrate on the subsequent sections.

Some students reportedly left the exam venue early, expressing their frustration at the unfolding situation.

Legal Action and Compensation Demands:

In response to the perceived injustice, 39 students have taken legal action, demanding compensation of 20 million won each.

This amount is intended to cover the costs associated with an additional year of study required to retake the exam and pursue their academic aspirations.

Previous Instances and Authorities’ Response:

This incident is not the first of its kind. In 2021, a court in Seoul awarded compensation to students who faced disadvantages due to an early bell ring.

Despite the recurring nature of such errors, students claim that education authorities have not issued a formal apology.

Authorities’ Explanation:

Officials attribute the premature bell ring to a supervisor’s misreading of the time at the specific test center.

The incident has sparked renewed discussions about the immense pressure and stakes associated with Suneung, prompting calls for enhanced oversight and prevention measures.


The legal action taken by South Korean students sheds light on the profound impact that seemingly minor errors in high-stakes exams can have on individuals’ academic journeys.

As the legal proceedings unfold, questions about the fairness and reliability of Suneung are likely to come to the forefront.

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