Seoul is “crazy,” let’s put it that way – one of the most lively city of all. It is no surprise that everybody is busy in Seoul. As I watch people hurry on the streets, for a moment, I thought they are just too busy being busy like many many people in big cities. Then I quickly learn, once and again, that the old-boy system in Seoul is incredibly strong. If one graduates from, according to general ranking, the top three universities in Seoul (Seoul National, Yonsei, Ehwa) – also top of the country, they belong to a powerful matrix of network and the big door of opportunities is open to them. If you have any kind of ambition to climb the social ladder, or any ambition at all, you have to get in this network. That means getting into these universities. There is one extra tricky thing: those graduates from the top university already take 70-80 percent of “everything.” Feel free to imagine all the rivalry and layers of complexity involved in all this, and how South Koreans are conducting their lives to achieve some goal. I was told that students are getting ready for the entrance examination to university from elementary school! Spare me the details.
So, Seoul life is organized to cater to this “pattern.” For parents, students, and the rest – between trying to survive the traffic while keeping your sanity to get to your destination on time and participating in all the activities in an effort to elevate or maintain your social status, 24 hours a day is way too short. I feel their pain as I talk to people and find my way around Seoul for the second time.
Hi there… You are right, it’s really sad the examination hell that some children are subjected to. It happens in most of Asia really. What’s even sadder is some other Asian countries where the kid actually goes through the hell and then is STILL not in the elite because he or she doesn’t have a good enough proletariat or party pedigree!!!
Thanks for these Korean posts. I’ve really enjoyed them.