Stress, loneliness for South Korean families heading overseas to gain edge in ‘brutal’ education system

Thousands of South Korean families are leaving home and heading to countries like Australia to get an English-language education and gain an edge in the “brutally competitive” system back home.

Hyemi and her two children – a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl – left home in South Korea in 2013 to come and live in Australia.

She also left her husband behind, even though they are happily married.

Their decision was all about the kids – putting them into an Australian school to give them the best chance of getting ahead later on in South Korea’s brutally competitive education system.

They are just one of an estimated 20,000 families who leave South Korea each year to go and live in an English-speaking country.

At home, the Korean media has dubbed them “wild geese families” – a reference to the lengths these parents will go for the educational wellbeing of their children.

South Korea regularly tops international academic league tables, but such brilliant results do not come without a cost.

Students work extremely hard, sometimes up to 15 hours a day by the time they are preparing for their final exam, known locally as the “Sunung”.

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