Quake-hit South Korea delays key examinations

AFP
South Korean authorities took the unprecedented step of delaying nationwide college entrance exams after a rare 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit the country's southeast on Wednesday.
AFP
AFP

A car damaged by falling bricks after a 5.4-magnitude earthquake is seen in the southeastern port city of Pohang on November 15, 2017.

South Korean authorities took the unprecedented step of delaying nationwide college entrance exams after a rare 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit the country’s southeast region on Wednesday, sparking alarm in a country that seldom experiences significant tremors.

The quake, the second most powerful recorded in South Korea, struck at a depth of 9 kilometers near the industrial city of Pohang at about 2:30pm local time, said the Korea Meteorological Administration.

Seven people were injured, said Seoul’s public administration ministry, but they warned that number could rise because the quake was shallow.

The Korean peninsula is rarely troubled by significant quakes but seismic activity is closely monitored because a spike in activity is often the first indication that North Korea has carried out a nuclear test.

On Wednesday’s quake was felt across the country, including in the capital, Seoul.

It came a day before the all-important college entrance exam during which the whole nation falls silent to help teenagers focus on the annual event, whose result could define their future in the hyper-competitive society.

The Ministry of Education announced on Wednesday that the exam would be postponed by a week because damage had been caused to five schools in Pohang where students were set to take the test.

“The fact that students’ safety is the most important, and the need to ensure fairness in carrying out the test, has led us to the decision,” said Education Minister Kim Sang-gon.

“After they did full inspections in all 14 schools in Pohang that have been designated to hold the exam, five of them were found to have developed cracks.”

This is the first time a natural disaster has forced such a reschedule of the crucial exams.

South Koreans take significant steps to ensure that young students are not distracted during the annual exams. Seoul’s financial markets and many businesses open late in the day to clear traffic for test-takers, while airport landings and takeoffs are suspended for 30 minutes during the main language listening test.

On Wednesday’s quake was followed by several aftershocks, including a 4.3-magnitude tremor that hit about two hours later.

Local nuclear reactors were operating without disruption, said Yonhap news agency.

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