95 percent of South Koreans of the right age today are enrolled in a college of one type or another, of which 75 percent are in 4-year programs.
In 1992 the number was still at 39.5 percent rising to 91 percent in just twelve years, and hitting a record 99.7 (!) percent in 2011.
If you were looking for a nation the most willing to subject itself to long years of mind-numbing horror of the modern madrasa system you’ve found it! It’s those poor Confucian saps on Asia’s most unlucky peninsula.
To be fair the reason Koreans are so eager to rub college benches is because between the poverty (up into the 1980s South Korea was still a very poor country) and very limited space in public universities (private institutions which now take in 80 percent of students didn’t exist) their parents couldn’t.
That however doesn’t make it any less of a disaster:
A 2013 study by McKinsey Global Institute, the economic-research arm of the international consulting firm, found that lifetime earnings for graduates of Korean private colleges were less than for workers with just a high-school diploma. In recent years, the unemployment rate for new graduates has topped 30 percent.
Who knew? The people clever enough not to follow are doing better than the herd.
On the bright side Koreans are now so good at cramming they can outdo native speakers on a standardized TOEFL test without being able to hold a basic conversation in English:
A video of an American being outdone on an English test by two South Korean TOEIC teachers has gone viral, but not for the reasons most would think.
Native English speaker Dave scored 76 on the English-language section of Korea’s college entrance test called Suneung whereas his Korean counterparts scored 96 and a perfect 100.
However, when Dave spoke to them in native-style conversational English they could not understand or reply.
“A lot of my friends who are studying TOEIC/TOEFL have trouble with basic conversation, which is why I created this video experiment in the first place, to see the contrast between testing ability and speaking ability in English,” he said.