On April 21, a popular university online community “Everytime” announced the start of its new feature “Test Information.” This was immediately understood by Ewha students as a creation of the website’s own jokbo, a common term between Korean university students that refers to a genealogy of each class’ previous tests.
Jokbo archives are common in many student groups; alumni communities, online study cafés, smartphone applications, and even the school’s largest online community “Ewhaian” has a special board for accumulating information on previous test questions.
The newly-made Test Information of Everytime is more or less a prototype of an online jokbo board. Based on a point system, it requires a student to have a certain amount of points to gain access, thereby inducing others to provide questions from his or her own exam. The system creates a chain of shared information, resulting in a genealogy of test questions made by the students themselves.
Despite its commonness, there has always been a controversy surrounding the justification of jokbos. Considered as a grey area between cheating and study tactics, many students admit their effectiveness but at the same time worry about its equity.
“I’m actually glad that there was at least an online jokbo,” said Lee Ju-hyun, a freshman in the Department of English Language and Literature. “As a freshman, I don’t know many seniors. I wouldn't even have known if there were offline jokbos passed between students. If that was the case, it’s just unfair.”
However, an open school community did not always ensure every Ewha student’s access to the accumulated jokbos. This leads to perhaps the biggest problem of these kinds of online jokbos; that it promotes students’ use of a certain online community or website with information directly connected to one’s grades. When it becomes clear that users of a certain service have access to more information regarding one’s exams, others are pressured to join it for the sake of their grades. Online services such as Everytime and Ewhaian cannot escape from the criticism that they are using school materials to lure users to their websites by excluding non-users from test-related information.
“I’m not really interested in online communities, but I guess I’ll have to use Ewhaian someday, if I end up in a class where jokbo is a big help,” said No Ji-won, a freshman majoring in Korean Language and Literature.
Despite its contentious nature, jokbo has been a part of the Korean college culture for a very long time. One of the first reports on the exploitation of college test genealogies dates back to 1997, and since then there have been numerous attempts to ban it, most of them only to fail from the lack of student cooperation. If jokbo itself is ineradicable, it may be more desirable to promote an online jokbo system that is open to any Ewha student, rather than the current exclusive one.
However, many students admit that getting a good grade by relying on jokbos is not justified, regardless of its popularity. Even users of the jokbos understand that simply memorizing previous questions goes against the purpose of their class, and when memorizing them did not help improve their grades, they cannot complain.
“I guess it’s like necessary evil, or maybe it’s not even that bad,” said Lim Won-jin, a freshman in the Department of English Language and Literature. “Some jokbos just contain the style of questions, and that information should be available to everyone. If the professor wants a difficult test, he or she could just make a less predictable one, which makes sense.”
Right now, no one can stop students from using jokbos, nor can one blame them for doing so. One difference from the past is that everyone, including professors, is aware of its existence. The choice is up to the student; to rely on it, use as secondary aid, or refuse to take a look at it. How this will influence the campus, whether negatively or positively, is totally up to the ones who use it.