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[Newsmaker] College admissions reforms coming amid controversy

Seoul-based universities will select more freshmen through a state-administered college entrance exam to be held once a year starting in 2023 as part of college admissions reform measures unveiled by the Education Ministry on Thursday. 


Under the measures, at least 40 percent of applicants at 16 major universities in Seoul – including Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University – will be selected through the College Scholastic Ability Test, or Suneung.

The measures come as the illicit advantages former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s daughter enjoyed in entering a university allegedly on the back of her powerful father sparked controversy over the fairness of the current college admissions system.

“Education policy should be fair for everyone, and (a situation in which) a child’s school or workplace depends on their parents’ socioeconomic status and capacities is not acceptable,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said during a press briefing at Government Complex Seoul.

Korean universities largely select students through a “Jeongsi” -- the traditional admissions track -- based on the nationwide college aptitude test scores and “Susi” -- nonstandardized admissions track -- based on other factors such as school grades and extracurricular activities.

The former currently accounts for around 20 percent of admitted students.

The extracurricular activities section in students’ university application portfolios, where parents can use their financial and social resources to help their children, will also be scrapped to curb private education.

A new college admissions system reflecting future-oriented ways to assess students’ performances will be drawn up by 2021 and go into effect for academic year 2028, according to the ministry.

Korea has moved away from Jeongsi in selecting university freshmen to prevent students from being stuck in cram schools preparing for the multiple-choice tests, but criticism has persisted that Susi only benefits children of privileged backgrounds.