Saturday 19 June 2010

Korean Students Abandon Studies, Failing Classes to Be Like Kim Yuna

Since word spread that sports hero and national icon Kim Yuna failed two of her courses at Korea University, the internet and newspapers have been abuzz.

Some were supportive: "She works so hard to be a skating champion: we need to understand her situation.  She's had a hard life," said Seung Chul-mo, generously offering a justification that is usually only reserved for old men.

Others were critical, "Her school performance is an embarrassment to Korea: after Barack Obama praised Korea's education system, such news seems to contradict other positive reports about Korean education."

Many blamed her mother: "Why doesn't she make her stay up late to study?"

And others were pragmatic: "She should return to school after her skating career is over; what the hell is a world class athlete doing in school, when she should be focusing on her sport?"

Meanwhile, thousands of young Koreans, who idolize Yuna as their conquering hero, haven't been able to skip their classes fast enough.

"I always wanted to be like Yuna," says Yumi, eleven, "I thought that meant slaving for long hours practicing jumps and turns to skate like her... but it turns out all I have to do is avoid my schoolwork!"  Yumi has not attended class since she heard.  She tells people she is training in toronto.  Jang-soo, a young male student in Cheonan, has also been skipping his classes.  "For me, it's not so much trying to BE like her, as showing devotion.  Maybe she won't feel so bad, and maybe she'll finally answer the 174 fan-letters I've written her, if she sees that I'll even throw away my future prospects for her."

Parents across the nation are concerned that their students are doing poorly in class, on purpose, but Education Officials have a different view again.  "For one," explains Ulsan's education director, Mr. Ha, "this makes it easier for us to administer the educational districts: so much intentional absenteeism makes overcrowded classroom and teacher shortages less of a problem.  For another thing, if the undermining of a generation's education prospects is the price of having a Korean at the top of the podium, claiming "World best" status, I think most Koreans would pay that price happily."  Mr. Ha is trying to coordinate a "World Cup Support" absentee program, where students also skip class to help South Korea's team to success in the FIFA World Cup.

For parents worried about their children's suddenly nonexistent studies, Mr. Ha had some practical advice.  "Just get online and watch Yuna's short skate from the Olympics again.  Or if you feel really bad, maybe watch the long program and the medal ceremony.  By the closing bars of Korea's national anthem, you'll see why it was worth it."

No comments: