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CSAT, plastic surgery and quake
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.11.21 16:59
  • Updated 2017.11.21 16:59
  • comments 0

Most high school students would plead their parents for a laptop or a designer handbag for their high school graduation gifts. But in Korea, high school seniors are pestering their parents to pay for plastic surgery as a college entrance present before the test is even over.

As the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) season rolls in, cosmetic surgery clinics/hospitals are busily preparing for the waves of appointments; some of them made several months in advance to be bumped up onto the waiting list.

It has long become a standard “coming of age” celebration for CSAT-takers to visit cosmetic surgeons straight after the test so that they can improve their looks before entering university. Even teenage boys are seduced in the appearance-oriented trend and are signing up for dermatologists and human growth hormones.

From cancelled surgery appointments to mis-scheduled birth control pills, students that are about to take the College Scholastic Ability Test are suffering from the earthquake last Wednesday.

Koreans are now living in an era where appearance is just one more area to compete in. The reason many high school students are obsessed with slicing their eyes open is that the moment they enter university, they recognize that appearance is an essential way of raising their value.

That also explains why hospital and clinics, mostly huddled in the Gangnam area, are scrambling to compete against one another to offer exclusive discounts to students who present their test identification slip. According to Fox News, one hospital would set two surgeries — one for the eyes and one for the nose — for 3.7 million won ($3,273) if done separately, but the CSAT special discount offers a discount of 900,000 won for those having both.

The JoongAng Daily reported that one hospital advertised free Botox shot for mothers who bring their daughters wishing for surgery on their eyes and nose at the same time.

Under the present medical law, it is forbidden for medical practitioners to offer a fee discount to attract customers but cosmetic surgeries are not much affected in this case.

But ever since a magnitude 5.4 quake hit Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province, the CSAT’s, originally scheduled to be conducted nationwide last Thursday, was postponed by a week to Nov. 23 due to safety concerns. Because of the earthquake, some students reportedly had to cancel their surgery appointments, too.

Frustrated students used social media platforms to complain about the misfortunate events. "I tried to receive my double-eyelid surgery after the test, but I have to wait again,” one ranted. "I planned my reservation on Nov. 17, what can I do now?"

Some of the CSAT-takers are also expressing their worries about whether they should take birth control pills to adjust their menstrual period so that they would not overlap with the day of the test.

"I have been on the pill for 10 days; do I have to take the pill until next week?" One female student asked in an online café community where applicants are gathered. Another student posted, “My period is supposedly on the Nov. 23, so do I have to take the pill from today?”

Although some experts, including Korea Meterorological Administration head researcher Kim So-gu, believes it’s just a matter of time before Korea experience more destructive quakes, the Ministry of Education교육부 confirmed Tuesday that CSAT’s must take place this Thursday, even in the event of another powerful earthquake.

The ministry and other government bodies jointly set up a three-stage contingency plan to ensure the test's fairness.

If the quake is at an "endurable level," students may continue taking the test. A "medium level" tremor will force students to take cover under their desks and resume taking the test once the quakes are over. In case of a severe emergency situation, students will be ordered to evacuate.

The government has also announced that only the teachers, test supervisors, or the principal will be the primary decision-makers when evacuating students.

However, many have expressed skepticism that teachers and principals who don’t have any expertise in earthquakes should have the authority to halt or continue the examination.

According to a report from the ministry, test-takers must wait for the supervisor's instruction even if they feel a vibration during the test. If students leave the classroom because they deem it’s too dangerous without the supervisor’s permission, the student’s exam will be canceled.

"We don’t know how many aftershocks will occur, and how risky it is for teachers who do not have expertise in earthquakes to judge whether it’s safe or not," said Kim Jae-chul, a spokesman for the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations. "The government should give clearer guidelines."

It is also necessary to have clear instructions that the state will take responsibility for the judgment that teachers have prioritized student safety, Kim added.


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