After my older brother fell ill from the stress of being a student in South Korea, my mother decided to move me from our home in Seoul to Vancouver for high school to spare me the intense pressure to succeed. She did not want me to suffer like my brother, who had a chest pain that doctors could not diagnose and an allergy so severe he needed to have shots at home.
I was fortunate that my mother recognized the problem and had the means to take me abroad. Most South Korean children’s parents are the main source of the unrelenting pressure put on students.
Thirteen years later, in 2008, I taught advanced English grammar to 11-year-olds at an expensive cram school in the wealthy Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam. The students were serious about studying but their eyes appeared dead.