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My First Moral Dilemma In Korea

“Samsung Aptitude Test Center for New Recruits”
Image source: Etoday News

Yes, you read that right. A Moral Dilemma. And no, I’m not talking about political choice or anything fancy like that.

Last year, approximately 100,000 graduates applied to take the SSAT, Samsung Aptitude Test. What? There’s a standardized exam to work for a private company? Just for a managerial job? And they rent entire school buildings for it? And people pay up to 200,000 KRW (approx. 200$ for online crash courses? And universities bring in private tutors and provide weeks or months-long courses to prep graduates? Well, actually, this may not have the shock value I was hoping for, since you already know I’m writing about South Korea. But anyway.

Despite the booming economy in East Asia (as compared to the US and Western Europe anyway), it’s becoming tougher and tougher to find a job in South Korea, especially if you’re leaving university with only a Bachelor’s degree. What? Isn’t that what BA graduates do, go work in companies, just precisely because they didn’t want to pursue an MA? Apparently not.

As Korean conglomerates have moved towards favoring engineering majors, even for administrative positions, even Business majors need to spice up their résumé.

Which brings me back to my story.

Last Saturday, a girl from my major, a year younger than me, called me out of the blue. I was surprised, because I knew she was busy cramming for SSAT (Samsung), HKAT (Hyundai-Kia Automobile), LG Fit, and whatnot. Let’s call her “Cram”.

Cram: Hey, how are you? Can I ask you for a favor?
Me: Of course, what is it? How’s the résumé-writing going?
Cram: Well, I got past the screening, and I’m taking the online aptitude test Sunday.
Me: Is that P&G?
Cram: No, no, it’s another one. Crème is taking the P&G aptitude though.
Me: Oh cool, so, what do you need me for?
Cram: I think I might need some help preparing for the aptitude test. It’s my first one, and it’s mainly logic questions. In English.
Me: Like LSAT, PSAT, and stuff?
Cram: Yeah, I know you’re great at those.
Me: Oh, sure. I’ve actually never taken one of those exams…
Cram: But you’re great at English and linguistics.
Me: So, do you want to go over some sample questions? You can probably find some.
Cram: Could you come help me on Sunday?
Me: What do you mean?
Cram: Can you translate some of the questions that I don’t understand?
Me: I can’t help you solve the questions, and I can’t guarantee I will be helpful (this was supposed to be a polite ‘no’)
Cram: No, no, you just need to be there, and help me.
Me: Oh, okay. You know, I can call up some friends and ask them how they took their exams.
Cram: Yeah, that would be great too. Thanks a lot.

Only when I hung up the phone did it hit me that this girl had just asked me to help her cheat on an exam! A career exam! By now you know I’m a little slow at analyzing situations I’m not familiar with, and also bad at declining when asked for help. By deduction, you also now know I’ve never cheated on an exam (I just flunked them instead).

The next day, after I went on a ride-out with my friend Lisa, I popped the question. (Lisa is Korean but born in the US, I’m not entirely sure but she might have US citizenship)

Me: Lisa, somebody I sort of know, but isn’t really a good friend of mine, asked me to help her cheat on an exam, and I said yes.
Lisa: What? What do you mean, you said yes?
Me: I don’t want to sound like the ethics police, but isn’t that wrong?
Lisa: Of course that’s wrong. What exam is it?
Me: It’s an internship exam. One of those aptitude test thingies.
Lisa: What? She asked you to go in her place? Are you crazy?
Me: No, she can take it online, and just needs to submit it on time.
Lisa: Why didn’t you say no?
Me: I didn’t really know she was asking me to help her cheat! She didn’t say “I need your help cheating on this exam”. I didn’t know what to do, I’ve never cheated on an exam, I’ve never stolen anything, I mean, this girl has a 4.5 GPA! It’s not something I expected from her.
Lisa: I’ve never cheated on anything either. I think that’s bad.
Me: I guess that’s how badly she wants this opportunity, even asking to help her cheat.
Lisa: Are you sure her GPA isn’t…
Me: Maybe she cheated out of her uni exams too then, huh?

When I posted this anonymously on my university’s community, most people’s reaction was: What’s the big deal? Why not just help her? Other people are doing the same thing anyways.
Although a few others shared my opinion towards cheating on such an important test.

However, my close friends all seemed repulsed at the idea of someone so casually asking to help herself cheat, and most reacted this way:
– Wow, she must have cheated through all her uni exams too then. Eww.
– But I’m afraid she’s going to get someone to cheat for her anyway.
– Even if she gets the job, they’ll know. Incompetencies show.

I don’t think I trust Cram as much as I used to (we were never close friends but were friendly). But I also don’t think I want to be patronising and give her a lecture on ethics. That’s just not my damn business.

This entry was posted in: Personal


Internationally lost since 2000, Emily was born in Seoul, raised in India, and has been living and studying in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands since 2014. A translator and interpreter by profession, she enjoys talking and debating just about anything.

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