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"Permission to Exist" Film Trailer (documentary on South Korean high school)
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Image by Kevin Oetiker

In just sixty years, South Korea went from being one of the poorest countries on the Asian continent to having the 12th largest economy in the entire world. Every year, it is measured that Korean students have some of the highest test scores and a higher rate of acceptance into Ivy League schools compared to all other nations. But on the flip side, South Korea also has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world, the highest gender pay gap of all developed countries, and the highest plastic surgery rate per capita. Always expected to receive top scores and constantly bombarded by media and messages that seem to demand nothing short of visual “perfection, how do these individuals come to accept and learn to love themselves as they are?


PERMISSION TO EXIST follows four students during one of the most stressful periods of their lives - their senior year of high school. On many days, with their heads down and noses buried in booklets filled with practice test questions, the students fight back tears and muster all their strength to study for up to sixteen hours. And with the arrival of the second Thursday of November, half a million high school seniors take a nine-hour college entrance exam. Their futures boil down to this one test, a test that has the power to positively or negatively influence their socioeconomic statuses and future. But as the exam looms ahead, some students start to question the legitimacy of the exam itself, wondering if it is an accurate measurement of their true worth.


Do I really need a standardized test’s permission to pursue my dreams?


Going against the grain is never easy, but these growing pains lead to a path of self-discovery and acceptance. Surely, nothing is more eye-opening and inspiriting than the truth and the new doors it opens.

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The quest for self-acceptance

                                                                                                                        in a world that demands perfection

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