Korea's President calls for entrance exam overhaul

President Park Geun-hye urged officials on Tuesday to devise ways to overhaul the nation's college entrance exam, which came under fire after errors were found on the annual test, throwing test-takers and their parents into confusion.

"Errors on the college entrance exam affect not only test-takers, but the entire nation, including students and parents, and also have an important influence on (public) confidence in education policies," Park said at a weekly Cabinet meeting.

"By reviewing the current question-setting system and reexamining the objectives of the exam, I hope you (are able) to devise fundamental measures in order to prevent a repeat of such an incident," she said.

The remarks came a day after educational authorities admitted the test contained errors and said they would accept multiple answers for two questions on this year's college entrance exam, known as the Suneung here. Kim Sung-hoon, head of the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, the agency in charge of administering the test, also offered to step down from his post. The test was administered on Nov. 13 for more than 640,000 students wishing to enter college next year.

The president's instruction, delivered in a strong tone, is expected to push educational authorities, including those in the Education Ministry, to immediately undertake a comprehensive review of the test.

Park also stressed that this was not the first time an error was found on the test. The education agency had already been rebuked for making mistakes in the world geography section for last year's entrance exam.

She also urged officials to ferret out deeply rooted corruption in the defence industry.

"Problems related to defence industry corruption and others that have wasted the people's money should be revealed before the people," the president said.

"It's not a matter that can be compromised but something that shouldn't be repeated."

The remark came in the wake of a series of corruption cases involving incumbent and former military officials. Among the list of corruption cases, defence acquisition officials were found to have manipulated the results of operational tests on major parts of a naval warship to help specific contractors win the supply orders.

A local firm was also found to have raked in some 1.34 billion won (S$1.56 million) by equipping 14 Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats with secondhand parts. The company sold them to the Navy between 2009 and 2013 as if they were brand new.

The government came under severe criticism for wasting taxpayers' money at a time when North Korea's military threats are escalating. Calls have also been mounting for a sweeping reform of the state defence procurement mechanism.

The government said last week that it plans to launch a large-scale investigation team of state and military prosecutors, state auditors, police officials and tax agents to stamp out corruption in the local defence industry.

Park also urged officials to review the feasibility of current regulations to figure out if they are blocking any efforts to create jobs and lure investment.

"From now on, I will remove regulations that have nothing to do with the people's safety but that hinder job creation, investment and technological development," said the president, adding that she will expand the use of "the guillotine" to abolish unnecessary regulation.

Park believes that deregulation is a key part of her three-year economic innovation plan announced early this year. She has been enthusiastically calling for regulatory reform, branding unnecessary regulations "an enemy that must be crushed" and "a tumour that needs to be removed."

Also at the meeting with ministers, Park urged the parliament to ratify the country's free trade agreements with China and New Zealand, stressing that deals are crucial to stimulate the nation's sluggish economy.

The meeting was the first since she attended multilateral summits held in China, Myanmar and Australia earlier this month.

On the sidelines of the summit, South Korea concluded two separate free trade deals with China and New Zealand.