Every November in South Korea, there’s a day where everyone makes silence to help students concentrate for their most important exam of their lives. Planes are grounded, constructions are paused, banks close and even military training ceases. This day is called Suneung.
The infamous Suneung, an abbreviation for College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) in Korean, is an eight-hour marathon of back-to-back exams, which not only dictates whether the students will go to university, but can affect their job prospects, income, where they will live and even future relationships.
Silence descends across the capital Seoul as shops are shut, banks close, even the stock market opens late. Most construction work halts, planes are grounded and military training ceases.
Many nervous parents spend the day at their local Buddhist temple or Christian church, clutching photos of their children – prayers and prostrating are sometimes timed to match the exam schedule.