Shh...! South Korea hushes for crucial university entrance exam

This year nearly 595,000 students are sitting the grueling national university entrance exam, which stretches over nine hours. (AP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Shh...! South Korea hushes for crucial university entrance exam

  • This year nearly 595,000 students are sitting the grueling exam, which stretches over nine hours
  • The results of the daunting exam will be released on December 5

SEOUL: South Korea dialed down the volume on Thursday as hundreds of thousands of students sat a crucial national university entrance exam, with authorities taking extraordinary measures to minimize possible distractions.
The college entrance test is the culmination of South Korea’s highly demanding school system, and in an ultra-competitive society it plays a large part in defining students’ adult lives, holding the key to top universities, elevated social status, good jobs, and even marriage prospects.
This year nearly 595,000 students were sitting the grueling exam, which stretches over nine hours, according to the education ministry.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was in Singapore for regional summits, posted a good luck message to the students on his Facebook page.
The intense effort they had put in over years of study was coming to fruition, he said. “Believe in it and you will be able to show your full competence.”
Extraordinary measures are taken nationwide to remove anything that could disturb the test-takers.
Public offices, major businesses and the stock market opened an hour later than usual to help ease traffic and ensure students arrived on time for the exam, which began nationwide at 8:40am.
Any students stuck in traffic could get police cars and motorbikes to rush them to the exam centers.
All takeoffs and landings at South Korean airports are suspended for 25 minutes to coincide with an English listening test, and all airborne planes must maintain an altitude higher than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet).
The Transport Ministry said 134 flights had to be rescheduled because of the exam.
Electronics are strictly forbidden and students cannot leave school premises until the test ends to reduce the chances of cheating.
But they will be allowed to wear masks during the exam this year, the education ministry said, with fine dust pollution levels persisting at “bad” on the peninsula.
The results of the daunting exam will be released on December 5.


Cliff divers leap from Beirut landmark in international tour

Updated 16 July 2019
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Cliff divers leap from Beirut landmark in international tour

  • The competition was the fifth of this year’s Red Bull Cliff Diving Series that began its 11th season in April
  • Raouche Rock has featured on the back of postcards, on stamps, in family photographs and many Arabic songs and films

BEIRUT: Cliff divers used to competing in isolated spots have been leaping into the Mediterranean in bustling Beirut, the first time the Lebanese capital’s landmark Raouche Rock has hosted an international contest.
The towering rock, also known as Pigeons Rock, is an enduring symbol of a city where many other landmarks were destroyed by the 1975-90 civil war.
“Normally when we have cliffs like this, it is in the middle of nowhere. I have never been to a place with an amazing cliff right in the city center,” said Gary Hunt, a Briton who won the men’s competition on Sunday.
The competition was the fifth of this year’s Red Bull Cliff Diving Series that began its 11th season in April on El Nido island in the Philippines and winds up in Bilbao, Spain in September.
Hunt became the first diver in the series history to receive a perfect 10 score from each of the five judges at Sunday’s competition.
In the women’s contest, Australia’s Rhiannan Iffland, 27, scored her sixth consecutive win of this series.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you perform a dive. You still get up there 22 meters (72 feet) high and you still have all these negative emotions,” said Iffland, who has been diving since she was nine.
“To overcome that fear is something that I cannot express.”
Raouche Rock has featured on the back of postcards, on stamps, in family photographs and many Arabic songs and films.
Daring Lebanese have leapt from the rock for generations. Some have also committed suicide from it.
Hundreds of spectators watched the competition, which ended on Sunday, from the adjacent rocks and promenade.
’Young again’
Among them was 63-year-old fisherman Mohamed Itani, who said he had jumped off the cliff 36 times over the years for fun. “It is beautiful,” said Itani as he watched the divers. “It makes me feel young again.”
Judges mark the divers on their take-off and entry to the water and number of twists, somersaults and position in the air.
Hunt, 35, said he used to count to three just before he jumped but now just takes two breaths: one when he lifts his arms up and one when he leaps.
“There are three seconds in that air where you are just in total control. Your brain and your body decide what you do and you are completely free,” he said.
Itani described a similar feeling. “You’re like an eagle in the air,” he said.