Essay Competition Rules and Information

Deadline: 11:59pm, March 6th, 2017 (CST)


Adult division (age 25 and younger)

"That Girl's House" by Park Wan-suh

Topic: In Korean literature after the Korean War, it is common to find the divided country compared to two separated brothers or half-brothers who have the same father. Another common metaphor is the divided nation represented by a character with psychological problems (obsessive nostalgia, amnesia, depression, etc.). Park Wan-suh’s story seems to be a rather straightforward depiction of the effects of World War II and the Korean War on members of Apricot Village through the story of Gop-dan and Man-deuk. (It even resonates with the popular song about the unrequited love of Gapdori and Gapsuni, which all Koreans know and often sing at family gatherings.) The very end of "That Girl’s House" adds an abrupt twist to the story we become comfortable with as we identify with the narrator and then perhaps Gop-dan’s wife. How does the ending change our view of Gop-dan and the whole narrative of his life, which might have been misrepresented all along? (One thing to consider is whether he is telling the truth at the end. If he is not, why would he be lying?)

Read "That Girl's House" on our website

Senior division (grade 12 and younger)

"Kapitan Ri" by Chon Kwangyong

Topic: "Kapitan Ri" is generally seen as a satirical representation of a certain type of opportunistic Korean. The story can also be read as an allegory and a criticism of the Korean nation as a whole that applies even today, but what makes it such an important part of modern Korean literature is that its details are very true to life. How do you, as a contemporary reader in the U.S., judge Dr. Yi? How would that compare to how a Korean of the older generation would judge him? Is there anything about him that is redeeming from either point of view? As you compare how different readers might regard Dr. Yi, what do you learn about the themes of the story?

Read "Kapitan Ri" on our website

Junior essay division (grade 8 and younger)

Folktales index

Korea has a rich tradition of storytelling, and its folktales reflect important aspects of its history and culture. Many of the old historical texts are full of local legends and myths. Folk tales can be entertaining and educational, but they can also strike a deep chord in our personal lives, and many Korean folktales demonstrate the universal tragedies and triumphs of daily life in the family.

Topics (choose one): Each topic refers to the list of Korean folktales found on our folktales index page. Please make sure to select a folktale under the "2017 Writing Competition" list. When writing your essay, please be sure to include specific references to the tale you chose to write about. In your analysis or interpretation of the stories, you may also want to make references to your own life experiences.

  1. Select one folktale from the list and explain your interpretation of the story. What do you think it means? What is its importance? Why do you think it was created?
  2. If you could change one of these folktales, what would you change and why? Do you disagree with something the tale is trying to convey?
  3. Which Korean folktale character do you relate to best? Why? Would you make the same decisions as that character?


Divisions: adult (age 25 and younger), senior (grade 12 and younger), and junior (grade 8 and younger)

  • Essays must not exceed 1,000 words in length.
  • Junior division students should refer to our folktales index when choosing a folktale to write about and select one of the stories listed there. Please choose only one topic and folktale to write about.
  • Entries must be submitted through our website.
  • One entry per category per contestant is permitted. (Contestants are permitted one essay and one sijo entry.)
  • All entries must be written in English.
  • Contestants' names cannot be written in their entries.
  • We reserve the right to use all submitted pieces in future publications of the Sejong Cultural Society with no compensation to the authors.
  • We reserve the right to not award any prizes.
  • Winners are generally announced by mid-April. This estimate is subject to change depending on the number of total entries received; a more accurate estimate will be posted on our website by the competition deadline.
  • Adult division: First ($1,000), Second ($750), Third ($500)
  • Senior division: First ($500), Second ($400), Third ($300)
  • Junior division: First ($300), Second ($200), Third ($100)
  • Honorable mention (for all divisions listed above): Friends of Pacific Rim Awards ($50 each)
  • Winners' works may be published in the Korea Times Chicago or the Korean Quarterly.