FESTIVALS: * World Premiere: Busan IFF 2015
* International Premiere: DOK Leipzig 2015
AWARDS: * Ensor for Best Flemish Documentary 2016 - Filmfestival Oostende
* Best Belgian Documentary - DOCVILLE 2016
Reach for the Sky
Current Affairs, Education, Human Interest, Social Issues, Youth
Running time |
90’ & 52’
VisualAntics, Boda Media Group
Steven Dhoedt, Choi Wooyoung
Every year, on the 2nd Thursday of November, the entire country of South-Korea is put to the test. That day, more than half a million senior high school students take part in the National Exam, better known as suneung siheom in Korean.
On the morning of Suneung, companies – even the Korean stock market – open up for business an hour later than usual to reduce traffic jams. Those students who do get stuck in traffic can dial 112, a number normally reserved for emergencies, to get a special police escort to their school. In some parts of the country, military police vehicles, ambulances, and food delivery motorcycles have reportedly been deployed to accommodate the most desperate of students.
That day, few planes are allowed to land or take off, so students can fully concentrate on the listening tests of the examination. Parents flock todo the exam centres where they spend most of the day praying while holding on to the closed school gates. Some can be found praying at Buddhist temples with their child’s photo and exam day identification form lain on the temple floor.
Months or even years before the exam takes place, Korean students often live a life of strict routine. On an average day they get up as early as 6am to go to school. When school is finished, they then attend a hagwon, a private academy, where they are primed for the big day for months in a row. Usually the school day comes to an end when they arrive home well after midnight.
Suneung isn’t a regular high school test. The test will not only determine where the high school seniors will attend university but ultimately also their status in the Korean hierarchical society. At the most prestigious universities, spaces for freshmen are very limited, with chances of acceptance being less than 1%.
Getting into a university with a good reputation is one of the most competitive experiences Korean students will ever experience in their life.