A Taste of Failure Fuels an Appetite for Success at South Korea’s Cram Schools

Choe Sang-Hun:

As the sun was dipping behind the pine hills surrounding this rural campus one recent Monday, Chung Il-wook and his wife drove up with Min-ju, their 18-year-old daughter. They gave her a quick hug and she hurried into the school building, dragging a suitcase behind her.
Inside, a raucous crowd of 300 teenage boys and girls had returned from a two-night leave and were lining up to have their teachers search their bags.
The students here were forsaking all the pleasures of teenage life. No cellphones allowed, no fashion magazines, no television, no Internet. No dating, no concerts, no earrings, no manicures — no acting their age.
All these are mere distractions from an overriding goal. On this regimented campus, miles from the nearest public transportation, Min-ju and her classmates cram from 6:30 a.m. to past midnight, seven days a week, to clear the fearsome hurdle that can decide their future — the national college entrance examination.