Controversy and Criticism

Students' health
South Korea's scarcity of natural resources is often cited as a reason for the rigorousness and fierce competition of its school systems; the academic pressure on its students is arguably the largest in the world. In an article entitled "An Assault Upon Our Children", Se-Woong Koo wrote that "the system's dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by tiger moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay." In a response to the article, educator Diane Ravitch warned against modeling an educational system in which children "exist either to glorify the family or to build the national economy". She argued furthermore that the happiness of South Korean children has been sacrificed, and likened the country's students to "cogs in a national economic machine". A 2014 poll found that over half of South Korean teenagers have suicidal thoughts, with over 40% of respondents reporting that school pressure and future uncertainty dismayed them the most. Furthermore, suicide is currently the leading cause of death among South Korean youth.

Lee Ju-ho, the Minister representing the Ministry of Education & Science Technology, announced a plan on February 8, 2011 to dispatch un-hired reserve teachers overseas for extra training despite the opposition from the Korean Teachers Union and other public workers in the city-level and the provincial level.
South Korean schools have a strong tendency to neglect physical education due to the over-emphasis of classroom-based education.
81% of middle and high schools forbid relationships among students.
A citizen group under the Unification Church gives out sexual virginity awards under an uncertain standard.
The low emphasis on vocational education and stigmatization in Korea with regards to skilled trade or vocational careers (often dismissed as DDD jobs, 'dirty, dangerous, and demeaning' with low social standing). It has been additionally been criticized for producing an oversupply of university graduates in the country which means that university graduates often have difficulty in finding jobs while many vocational occupational positions sometimes go unfilled. According to Jasper Kim, a visiting scholar of East Asian studies at Harvard University, "There are a lot of highly educated, arguably over-educated people, but on the flip side, the demand side, they all want to work for a narrow bandwidth of companies, namely the LGs and Samsungs of the world". Kim also states that many highly educated South Koreans who don't get selected often become second-class citizens, with fewer opportunities for employment and even marriage.
There are concerns of overload of schoolworks and exam preparations that could threaten the students' health and emotions.
The South Korean education system does not allow any leeways for students' rights. The Superintendent of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Kwak No Hyun made a remark how "it is very embarrassing to discuss verbosely about the poor development of students' rights within the South Korean society" during his seminar on March 3, 2011.
There are concerns about the severe lack of community spirit among South Korean students that comes from examinations as the main educational direction and from an analysis according to Dr. Lee Mi-na from SNU Sociology: "harsh competition-oriented and success-oriented parenting among the parents".
The Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations (한국교원단체총연합회) announced that 40% of teachers are not satisfied with the loss of teachers' powers in classroom due to the new Teachers' Evaluation System.
The Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Korean Federation of Teachers' Association signed an MOU on May 25, 2011 to a verbose national security education to younger kids, in which it potentially violates the UN Children's Rights protocol.
OECD ranked South Korean elementary, middle, and high school students the lowest in terms of happiness compared to other OECD countries. This survey also echoes similar results to students in Seoul according to SMOE.
Dr. Seo Yu-hyeon, a brain expert from Seoul National University Faculty of Medicines criticized South Korea's private educations among toddlers due to the forceful nature of these educational pursuits that could deteriorate creativity and block any healthy brain development.
The Korean Educational Development Institute reports that the majority of university students lacks the ability to ask questions to instructors mainly due to the education system that promotes examinations and instructors having too many students to handle.
A survey from the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations found out that 79.5% of the schoolteachers are not satisfied with their careers; a growing trend that has been for three years straight.
The accounts of sexual abuses in school are increasing.

Academic elitism
The South Korean political system has a strong academic elitism. Conservative politician Jeon Yeo-ok openly opposed the nomination of the former president Roh Moo-hyun who did not graduate from a higher level institution, but passed the state-run judicial examinations.