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A record 45,622 people applied for the secondary national bar exam for this fiscal year, up 17.2 percent from a year earlier and exceeding 40,000 for the first time, the National Bar Examination Administration Commission said Thursday.

The commission said the increase partly reflects the government’s decision to increase the number of successful candidates by 20 percent from the previous year to 1,200 and to about 1,500 in fiscal 2004.

This is part of a judicial reform plan aimed at dramatically increasing the number of judges, prosecutors and lawyers.

The sluggish economy also played a role, the commission added, as people tend to seek additional qualifications when times are tough.

According to the commission, 35,637 men and 9,985 women have applied to take the national bar exam. The percentage of women — 21.88 percent — was the most ever. The overall number of applicants has been increasing over the past decade.

The first round of the exam is scheduled for mid-May, with final successful candidates being determined in November.

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