Culture Capsule 3

"Tasty test-taking" culture

In the beginning of November, a diverse number of pre-packaged gifts can be seen on the display counters of Korean department stores, gift shops and candy stores. These gifts are intended for high school students that are getting ready to take colleage entrance exams at the beginning of November. One mights be surpised when taking a look at what is included among the gift items. For instance, why do Koreans give traditional sticky candy (엿) as presents?
In Korean, the verb "붙다" means "to pass a test." "붙다" also has the alternate meaning of "to stick to." Hence, Korean hoping that their friends can "stick" themselves to a passing score on the colleage entrance exams give "엿" as a symbolic present. Traditionally, a sticky rice cake(찹쌀떡), is given as a present to students. Student receive presents of "엿" and "찹쌀떡" for good luck up until the day before the exam.
Recently, it has become a trend among young Koreans to use alternate meanings of verbs as the impetus for gift-giving. Forks are given to friends in hopes that they can make better guesses on tests. This is because the verb "찍다" has both the meaning of "to guess" the answer to a multiple-choice question as well as "to pierce" something with a fork. Tissues are also given before tests because the verb "풀다" can be used in the sense of "to solve" a test problem as well as to "to blow" one's nose into a tissue. The practice of giving gifts to test-takers in hopes that they will do well is one example of the warmth that pervades Korean culture.

** Dose your country have a practice of giving a special gift to test-takers about to take an exam? What is this special gift?

-Write reference Korean Languge Education Center, Sogang University

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