‘Extreme’ Hagwon Adverts Start Korean Education Debate


The Korean addiction to private for-profit cram schools, know as hagwons [학원 – 學院], is well know both in and outside Korea.

At the start of each new school year, South Korea becomes flooded by hagwon advertisements and, in an increasingly tough economy, some hagwon are resorting to new tricks to win would-be students over with controversial advertising campaigns.

The adverts excessively emphasise competition with peers, implicitly suggesting that friends – and even family – are obstacles to successful study.

The non-profit organisation “World Without Worries About Private Education” argues that this kind of irresponsible marketing puts even more pressure on students and their parents, and calls for a change in an environment of limitless competition which pushes children to the edge.


Translation of above images(clockwise):

Megastudy (left):

Now the new term has begun
you will start spending
more time with your friends
saying it’s for your friendship.

Every time you do that
the study you had planned to do
will be postponed little by little
But what to do…
you can’t postpone the College Entrance Exams.

Don’t start wavering now,
your friends will not do your study for you.

Advertisement (upper right):

Let’s make them study to death!!

(English and Maths classes)

Advertisement (lower right):

‘Only send them home to sleep’

(After-school all-subjects study class)

Comments from Naver:


This crazy country… They have no philosophy no thought, young people don’t even know what they want to become, their parents are telling them do this do that with their way of thinking frozen back in the 90s, it’s all gonna result in a futile effort


Teach them some manners too, not just this crazy study. This is not a developed country at all, civic consciousness here is really rubbish.


This is why Korea is the No. 1 among OECD countries in numbers of suicides… tsk


The most appalling thing is that there are many students who have no dreams.


private education… one day it will become death-education

[Korean Chinese character (hanja) joke: the sa character 私 meaning private was changed to death sa 死 character]

wpep**** :

We have to first get rid of the stereotype of not being able to succeed in life without getting into a prestigious university.

ente**** :

I wonder if there is any other country like this in the world..

nave**** :

I saw an advertisement for a boarding hagwon boasting that they do study military style… ke

wpep**** :

Korea still has a long way to go to become a developed country

sara**** :

‘Let’s make them study till death’ that thing is just really wrong. You people! It’s disgusting, you make it look like there is a crazy amount of passion in this, but it’s just plain fake, monstrous thinking. You need to start by getting some education yourself.

tend**** :

You should try making your own child study till death… the child will grow up suffering many mental problems… the best kind of education is encouraging children to study by themselves, and even if a child is not good at study, we can always just help her/him develop his other talents. This way we will be able to raise another Yuna Kim and Ji-sung Park to entertain us.

ktng**** :

I’m not gonna raise my kids like this.

ksg3**** :

Old Germany also had a cramming system of education, like us. As a result of this, a monster called ‘Hitler’ was born. That’s why Germany changed and improved their education system. Korea also urgently needs to change this education system which only makes students cram and buries children who have talent in another area.


As a high school student you normally get up at 6am and get back home at 11pm after finishing ‘self study’ ke [note: staying at school for evening ‘self study’ after class is compulsory in Korean high schools and some middle schools]. After having shower and packing your school bag it’s already midnight ke After that you have to study until 2-3am, if you fall asleep you are screwed.


You kids are still too young to really know why you have to study like this right? When you get older you will realize that school time is the most comfortable time of your life. You really have no other worries apart from mid-term test, final test, and the College Scholastic Aptitude Test.

wlsw**** :

The lifestyle of high school students is – getting up at 6am > arriving at school at 7am > school from 7am to 11pm > getting home at midnight. Hagwon on days off, evening self-study at school during weekdays. Fuck it, I just wanna die.


Get up at 5am, until 7am do yesterday’s homework and solve problems in workbook, by 8am eat breakfast, brush teeth, wash yourself, go to school, school until 9.30pm, then hagwon, then eat quickly within 20 minutes, do homework until 1am, sleep, end. What’s this, I just wanna die. Damn, it’s almost 3am, have to go to hagwon [in the morning]. This is my cousin’s daily schedule. Since last week, my cousin is no longer with us.

sswo**** :

Get up at 6am, morning study till 7.30am, eat breakfast and go to school by 8am, school until 5pm, come home, rest for 30 minutes, if there is private lesson, have private lesson, then study until 2-3 am at night. That’s my younger sibling’s (middle school 2nd grade) schedule.

mita**** :

I never went to hagwon ke ke and I have no regrets. I just went to school and then hung out with friends. If I hadn’t studied like that, there would have been only rivals left around me now…

yyuu**** :

Nowadays you only see kindergarten children in the playgrounds.

joow**** :

I few years ago I saw a slogan on a hagwon bus saying ‘ Grandmother, I will not come to visit you this Chosok holiday!’ That gave me goose bumps. Hagwons trying to estrange even family relatives.

rosu**** :

Parents think that if you go to a vocational university you screw up your life.

qkrw**** :

My cousin, who emigrated to Canada, used to go to school only from 8.30am to 2pm. In their neighbourhood you could find Taekwondo or piano academies but no study hagwon. He just enjoyed his free time, and studied well by himself. He got into a medical university, the name I can’t recall, but it was a renowned university. That’s something that Korean students can’t achieve even while studying at school from 7.30am to 10pm and after that going to hagwon or having private lessons ke ke ke What’s the problem here? ke ke ke

gaps**** :

‘Korean students waste 15 hours a day studying at school and hagwon, learning things they won’t need in the future for jobs that don’t even exist’. – Alvin Toffler

wntk**** :

I attend 5 different hagwons after school… I get home at 3am… My mum and dad are already sleeping… It seems like study is my parent…. I just want to live.. I don’t do it because I want to study… I just want to live…

dleh**** :

I’m go3 [high school 3rd grade, the busiest time in a student’s life]. All the students around me are really studying hard. But if you ask them what they want to become, they all say they don’t know. This is a really serious problem.

tbfm**** :

The reality is that even if you study with your nose at the grind stone, you will still end up doing a job you hate and living your life like a robot ke

syw9**** :

You know, at our school we study even P.E. from a textbook. What do you want? — In Korea it’s only foodstudystudystudyfoodstudystudysupperstudy studyhagwonsleep. — This is the reality.

wpep**** :

Had Einstein been born in Korea, he would have become just another neighbourhood dentist.

wjdt**** :

People now perceive school as hangwon and hagwon as school.. The importance of hagwon has gotten bigger..

sino**** :

 My elder sister got into Korea University [note: one of the SKY universities, SNU, KU, Yonsei, – the three most prestigious universities in Korea]. So I will tell you this.. If you ask my sister what she wants to become, she doesn’t know. She is just caught up in increasing her spec.. What should I say? My sister, who is clever enough to get into a prestigious university, doesn’t know what her dream is. But despite that, she just keeps worrying that she might fall behind the competitors and just worries about building up her specs… If you look at her, it looks like she is caught up in some kind of competitive obsession. It seems that students who are good at studying are not happy. It’s really funny isn’t it. Korean education produces ‘clever fools’ who don’t even know what their dream is.


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