Entering Seoul National University

It was merely the result of a simple mistake that I got in to Seoul National University, which had been well known as the best university in Korea.

When I was young, I dreamt of being a brilliant scientist. Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were scientists I admired most and I wanted to be a researcher after graduating college. I started hoping for this when I was an elementary school boy and wanted to be a scientist. During middle school, I made up my mind to join an engineering college. In high school, I narrowed it to major radio communications. (There was no terminology of electronics at the time and we understood electronics is a part of communication engineering.)

Since my father loved stockbreeding, he wanted me to apply to an agricultural college. We used to argue about this a lot and the final argument was a big one when I had to write an application to a college. We raised our voices in a conflict between agricultural college and communication major of engineering college. Finally, father gave up the agricultural college but he insisted electrical engineering rather than communication engineering.

My father insisted me to apply to electrical engineering rather than communication engineering because there  wouldnt be many job opportunities with a communication engineering back ground except the jobs in governement offices such as Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) or telephone office at Ministry of Communication, which was the reality at the time. He wanted me to major electrical engineering which would have broader range of choices. His idea made a sense but I was so obsessed with electronics (this used to be communication engineering) that I couldnt give it up. While most of my friends didnt even know what major or college to choose, my firm convictions led me to a dispute with my father. I think I was a quite a character.

Finally, being so upset, my father said,Damn it, have it your way. I wont pay a cent of your tuition if you apply to the communication engineering. Since I couldnt attend the college without his financial support, he won the dispute. But I still couldnt give it up. At that time, Seoul National University was the only college with communication engineering separated from electrical engineering and all other colleges had a electrical engineering major only to start with but later they could choose between the electrical engineering and communication engineering when they are juniors. An additional problem of Seoul National University I could guess was that there must be so many graduate students making it very hard to stay in school as a professor after the graduation. Meanwhile, Inha Engineering College was just founded in that year, started to recruit first freshmen and its only major was electrical engineering. (Communication engineering was not separated as all other colleges.) In addition, because it was just founded, I thought it would be much easier to stay at the college after the graduation. It was also founded by a group of Korean Americans living in Hawaii and I guessed there might be an opportunity for me to study in U. S. too. After all these considerations, I gave up Seoul National University and I applied to Inha Engineering College.

Since Yonse University exempted the written test for students with good grades at high school, I applied to the electrical engineering course of Engineering College of Yonse even though I knew its oral test day would be overlapped with that of Inha but just wishing it would not overlap. Because I didnt want to apply to the 2nd group colleges which were mostly 2nd class colleges having entrance examinations a few weeks later than 1st. group and I was also interested to be a pilot for a while, I applied to Korea Aviation College which had the examination even earlier than the 1st group. (When I was in 11th grade, I applied to Air Force Academy, as they allowed 11th graders to apply though most applicants were high school graduates, but I had failed.)

However, when our high school teacher who went Seoul with all applications of our class room, returned and gave us registration tickets for the entrance examinations, I found that the number of my registration ticket of Inha Engineering College was lower than 100, while they were recruiting 150 students and teacher said he registered me on the last day to apply. That gave me a question to reconsider Inha Engineering College- Did I study hard for 12 years to apply a college where 100% of applicants might be accepted? I thought I deserved better than that. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education annulled the national certification exam which was to qualify students to take entrance examinations of colleges, as they found there were some kind of serious mistake. Thanks to the Ministry of Education. We had another opportunity to apply again and I applied additionally to Seoul National University this time. On the day of the exam, I came from Chungju, went to an applicant orientation at Inha Engineering College and found out there are more than 150 applicants. Therefore, I decided to take the exam of Inha as planned. There was also the orientation of Seoul National University on the same day and I asked my cousin, Dong-Ik, who also applied to the university, to get the exam ticket for me.

Now, I applied to four colleges and I passed the exam of the Korea Aviation College first. If I attended the Aviation College, I would have been a captain of passenger airplane of KAL perhaps. Though I got exempted of the written test of Yonse University, the oral test of Yonse was overlapped with Inha Engineering College as expected and I had to give up Yonse, leaving Inha and Seoul National University to choose from and I decided to take exam of Inha.

On exam day, I left from my cousin Dong-Iks house in Kahoedong. Transportation in Seoul at the time was really scarce and there were still limited number of street cars operating in whole city of Seoul as the public transportation. Kyung-Sung Electric Power Corporation (Todays Korea Electric Power Corporation) was operating a few buses with modified army trucks but they werent good enough either to meet needs. I walked from Kahoedong to Jaedong and waited for the buses which never came. Though I left home early in the morning, as time went by, I gradually became nervous. ( Inha Engineering College was located in Inchon but held the exam in Kyungdong High School at Donamgyo in Seoul for the examinees convenience.) Finally, the bus came and I rode to Hyehwadong where I saw a streetcar going to Donamdong waiting for us. I was very glad to see it and jumped in. However, it was a express car, didnt stop at Donamgyo and went directly to Donamdong. It was ten to eight already and the exam was to start at eight oclock. I ran from Donamdong to Donamgyo all the way but it was 10 minutes past eight when I arrived at the Kyungdong High School – 10 min. late.

However, I was surprised and relieved to see so many applicants in the playground. The exam seemed to be delayed as usual, according to the so called famous Korean Time. But when I saw a friend, who used to be my classmate of Chungju High School, I became nervous again because he was a liberal art student who should not be taking an engineering college exam. As I expected, he said he came to take an exam for Korea University, which held the exam at the same place on the day. Now. there was no guarantee that the exam hadnt started. I hurried to check all the classrooms but there werent any exams going on. Meantime, it became 8:30. 

I had to give up Inha Engineering College, took a taxi with all my money in the pocket and rushed to Yongdoodong where the Engineering College of Seoul National University exam would be held at 9 oclock. I met Dong-Ik there who applied to same college, got a brief explanation regarding the classroom where I was to take the exam and waited for a while. However, nobody entered to the classroom even as the time passed nine oclock. I went to the restroom and took a look at my watch again. Damn it! It was 8:15, not 9:15!! What a stupid. I was so nervous that I had been looking at long hand of my watch only, not paying much attention to short hand. And I had been reading my watch one hour earlier all the way!!! I considered to return back to Inha Engineering College but it was too late any way. I thought to myself that it must be my destiny to take exam of Seoul National University and I took the exam of Engineering College of the Seoul National University. Fortunately, all the required and optional subjects were identical to what I had prepared for Inha and I passed the exam. What a clumsy guy am I? This was the incident of changing my whole life thereafter, though I dont regret it now in fact. From then on, it became my habit to look at my watch two three times always whenever I check the time.

This is the story that it was merely the result of a simple mistake that I got in to Seoul National University, while I came out home to get in to Inha Engineering College in the morning, which changed my whole life.