Korean school vacations: a history

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Korean school vacations: a history

While students from all over the world take part in school trips for experiences they would seldomly get from reading books or talking to teachers, Korean school vacations are different.

In Korea, the entire class - usually around 500 students - go on a three-day trip together, an activity called suhak yeohaeng.

The concept of schools traveling in large groups was first introduced in the nation in 1914. Such trips were launched to give students equal opportunities to explore major travel destinations in the nation pre-1970s, when the idea of families vacationing together was uncommon. These trips were mainly planned before graduation so that students could enjoy time together before leaving school.

The most popular place in the 1970s was Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang, according to Kim Min-hyung, president of Wiz-L, a travel agency that specializes in school trips.

Even after people started to travel domestically and internationally on a more frequent basis, the system of getting an entire class to spend time together remained to help students learn how to behave and harmonize with one another. Since Korea does not have many boarding schools, such overnight trips are often times the only chance for students to spend hours with one another after school.

Starting in the 1980s and until recently, the suhak yeohang has transformed to become more educational, especially in the case of elementary schools. If students learn about Baekje on their school curriculum, trips are arranged to see what’s left of the kingdom in the former capital of Ungjin, now called Gongju, South Chungcheong.

Middle and high school students, on the other hand, are frequent visitors to Jeju Island or the Gangwon area for hiking Mount Seorak or rafting on rivers.
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