Dealing with Late Students in Korean Universities

Dealing with late students

You know that saying: “You’re not running late, you’re just rude.” I totally agree with it and if I hate anything, it’s the late.


It’s No Problem! Chill out Teacher

Korean university students often seem to think that walking into class 30, 50 or even over an hour late (in a 2 hour class) is acceptable. And they want their little attendance mark when they do it, because if they have over a certain numbers of absences, then they automatically get a failing grade according to university policy.

I Loathe the Late

I loathe this and loathe isn’t even actually a strong enough word. It totally and completely disrupts any sort of flow going on in the class if there is someone streaming in every minute or two for the first half hour.

My System for Dealing with Late Students

First of all, I refuse to allot more than 10% of student’s final grades to attendance, contrary to university policy where it’s often 20% and can even be up to 30.

Getting grades for breathing the classroom air goes against everything in me, so I compromise at 10% and so far, nobody has noticed, or they just don’t care what I do. Then, each time a student is late they lose 1% of that. 1 minute late = late. No exceptions. You must be sitting in your desk before the class start time with your pencil and book on your desk.

An absence is -2% and I only accept paperwork for very serious things.


Students are rarely late (maybe 1/week) and almost never absent in my classes. They quite often show up sweating, and out of breath from running up 10 flights of stairs, mountain, or subway station or some such crazy thing but they’re not late.

Why am I the Late-Nazi?

I call the regime training for life. If you’re late for your job every single day, what’s going to happen? You’re probably going to get fired. If you’re late for all your appointments, what kind of reputation will you have among your friends and family members? You’ll be known as the ridiculous person who can’t get their crap together. The students seem to get it when I put it this way.


This system obviously works best when there are almost no exceptions. But, I will be kind if a previous class got out late or there’s a snowstorm or heavy rain or something like that.

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  1. keneckert

    Good post. This has been a perennial problem for me in my classes, with getting people to read the books I assign in second place. I’ve tried different experiments: refusing all sick notes and taking 2% off for each class skipped; not changing any absent grade if the student is 15 minutes late. This semester I tried something new in not having any weight at all on attendance so long as it didn’t surpass 1/4 of the course (uni regs), but I had a loophole in that I had lots of surprise quizzes at the start of class, which was a strong discouragement to show up late. These quizzes are a nuisance to grade, but I do think they help– I find students are more likely to show up for class on time or not at all.

  2. J. Grant

    I give them 15% for attendance so 1% for each day they’re there. 3 lates = 1 absence. They all know that. I used to have a lot of late students, but if they come late, I actually look at them in the eye and tell them not to be late. They’re not dumb – they get it. It’s a matter of whether they care or not. If they care, they’ll do their best not to be late. Those that don’t… well, that becomes their problem, unless it’s so frequent that I tell them not to come to class at all.

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