Talmud-inspired learning craze sweeps South Korea

A Korean-language translation of the Haggadah, the book Jews read at the Passover seder. Korean translations of and commentaries on classic Jewish texts are common in a country where many revere Jewish wisdom literature. (Tim Alper)

SEOUL, South Korea- In 2014, Kim Hye-kyung found herself staring into an educational abyss.

The mother of two lives in study-mad South Korea, a nation where parents fork over a combined $17 billion on private tutoring every year. Children start early – 83 percent of 5-year-olds receive private education — and the pace keeps intensifying until, at age 18, students take the dreaded eight-hour suneung university entrance exam. Flunk the suneung and your job prospects could nosedive. Pass with flying colors and you may land a coveted spot at a top-ranked university.

“I hated the idea of sending my children to private academies, where teachers cram information into young heads with no thought for nurturing creativity,” Kim Hye-kyung said. “When my kids were younger, I read them books or took them out instead of sending them to academies. But as they grew older, I started worrying that their school results would suffer as a result of my decisions.”

Archive Search

Search the world's largest online archive of material about Jewish diversity.


Archive Search

Search the world's largest online archive of material about Jewish diversity.


.