Kelley Katzenmeyer’s portrait of Korean high schools

Words by Emma Do

South Korea is a country obsessed with education. So much so that police are hired to shut down “hagwons” (afterschool tuition the majority of school students attend) operating past 10pm. By law, it is illegal for a hagwon to be in operation past that time, so many simply masquerade as self study libraries to keep the lights on until two am. Education is a huge business.

19 year old Kelley Katzenmeyer is documenting the lives of ordinary Korean high school students, all part of the incredibly competitive, in some cases, crippling education wheel; South Korea has the highest under 30’s suicide rate. The country produces enviable results particularly in science and math, but where Western governments are looking towards the East for tips, the East may in future look towards the West. High school students are placed under unbelievable amounts of pressure, ranging from academic success to plastic surgery, and the crackdown on “hagwons” is one way the Korean government is attempting to alleviate the stress. But as Katzenmeyer told us, the system very much remains a pressure cooker. Her documentary aims to raise awareness within Korea and push for wider reforms in the country’s approach to education.

Kelley’s team are raising money for some more handheld cameras so students can create video diaries. Lend your support