Essay Competition Rules and Information

Deadline: March 31, 2019 (11:59pm CDT)

Topics

Adult division (age 30 and younger)

"O. Cuniculi" by Pyun Hye-young

Please note that the adult division age limit has been increased to age 30.

Topic: Along with Han Kang and Jo Kyung-ran, Pyun Hye-young is among a group of new "international" Korean women writers whose work is characterized by its exploration of the darker aspects of contemporary society. Pyun is often compared to Western writers like Kafka and Camus, and to the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. "O. Cuniculi" is a very representative Pyun story, which can be read on many levels as allegory, psychological realism, social criticism, and even surrealism. What is it about the story that you find most powerful, and what insight does the story provide into Korean society (or society in general)? You may draw comparisons with other writers or provide a close reading of the story on its own terms. Be sure to explain the reason for your interpretation or comparison.

Senior division (grade 12 and younger)

An Appointment with His Brother by Yi Mun-yol (also known as Meeting with My Brother)

Topic: Although it was written in 1994, Yi Mun-yol's An Appointment with His Brother is still highly relevant today, particularly with North Korea's almost continuous presence in international news headlines. What does the novella show you about North Korea, its culture, and its people that is different from what you imagined from the media coverage of North Korea? What does it tell you about the complex issue of reunification and the potential problems it raises for both North and South? Given what you learn from reading the novella, how would you describe its underlying central theme? Use examples from the text and from the media to illustrate your points.

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 "2019 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 is its importance? Why do you think it was created? Which Korean folktale character do you relate to best and why? Would you make the same decisions as that character?
  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?

Guidelines

Divisions: adult (age 30 and younger), senior (grade 12 and younger), and junior (grade 8 and younger)

Rules:
  • 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.)
  • Essay division age limits do not have a lower limit, but the sijo adult division is limited to age 19 and older. If a pre-college student would like to compete in the adult essay division and pre-college sijo division, s/he must create two separate application accounts.
  • 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 early May. This estimate is subject to change depending on the number of total entries received; a more accurate estimate will be posted on our website soon after the competition deadline.
Prizes:
  • 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.