2009 Sejong Writing Competition

Essay Winners


  Senior Division Junior Division
First Place Hannah Ruebeck
Easton, PA
9th grade, Moravian Academy
essay
Yegina Whang
Northridge, CA
8th grade, Alfred B Nobel Middle School
essay
Second Place Gene Kim
Fort Lee, NJ
11th grade, Fort Lee High School
essay
Victoria Tu
Northbrook, IL
5th grade, Sabio Academy
essay
Third Place Alee Cho
Palo Alto, CA
11th grade, Henry M Gunn High School
essay
Sharon Bae
Des Plaines, IL
8th grade, Sabio Academy
essay
Marian Baker
Canton, GA
8th grade, Freedom Middle School
essay
Honorable Mention

Friend of the Pacific Rim Award
Junsuk Ahn
Flower Mound, TX
11th grade, Flower Mound High School
Janice Cheon
Tenafly, NJ
5th grade, Ralph S Maugham School
Richard Chung
Los Angeles, CA
9th grade, Harvard-Westlake School
Younji Lee
Alpharetta, GA
8th grade, Webb Bridge Middle School
Stella Tu
Northbrook, IL
9th grade, Sabio Academy
Joanne Jun
Deerfield, IL
7th grade, Sabio Academy
Sophia Liu
West Windsor, NJ
11th grade, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North
Michelle Kim
Bellevue, WA
8th grade, Forest Ridge School
Mark Montellana
North Hills, CA
11th grade, James Monroe High School
Reina Gattuso
Milford, NJ
10th grade, Delaware Valley Regional High School
Kelsey Denton
Richmond, VA
10th grade, Delaware Valley Regional High School

 

Hannah Ruebeck

first place, senior division

Hannah Ruebeck

My name is Hannah Ruebeck, and I am a rising sophomore at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I heard about this competition from my English teacher, and with her encouragement, I wrote and entered my essay. While writing my essay, I realized just how much all cultures have in common, and the importance of opening our eyes to all of the variety in literature and customs. At the same time, it is the differences between these cultures that enrich the lives of those who explore all ways of life.

Although I do not know what exactly my future will hold, I look forward to every new day and opportunity. I do believe that I will continue to write, no matter what else falls into place. I would like to enter the field of psychology or therapy, as understanding the human mind seems incomprehensible, yet very, very interesting.

At Moravian Academy, I am a member of the field hockey and basketball teams. I also write for the school newspaper and bi-annual LitMag. I love ringing in the Handbell Ensemble, and I am also a member of the Chorale. I also love the French language, and I will be participating in a pen-pal exchange trip during this coming year. Over the summer, I play basketball for an AAU team, I am a councilor-in-training at Moravian’s Day Camp for kids, and I read and write as much as possible.

Although ‘merely’ a character in my favorite book, my personal hero is Jane Eyre. Her courage, curiosity, and confidence make her a strong feminist symbol, one who stands up for her self and her sex in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Jane’s ability to quietly topple social structure, her intelligence and strong will, and her predetermined nature to follow her heart are traits that I hope to find within myself.

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Gene Kim

second place, senior division

Gene Kim

I enjoy writing as a method of releasing and organizing my emotions and thoughts and of asking and attempting to answer questions of all sorts. Writing an essay for this competition was no exception. With much encouragement and great guidance from my English teacher, I decided to enter into this competition. The experience not only allowed me to compare two different (and yet similar) cultures but also gave me the opportunity to look into my own identity as a Korean-American.

In addition to writing, music is among my personal interests and playing the flute is one of my hobbies. In school, I am involved in band, orchestra, chorus, and Salt, a small chamber ensemble that my friends and I began in our freshman year. I also enjoy working for the Class of 2010 as class president. Each day I strive to truly appreciate the wonderful people, family, and friends around me, and to emulate my personal hero, Jesus Christ.

In the future I hope to become a doctor, perhaps a heart surgeon, and do humanitarian work in places like North Korea.

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Alee Cho

third place, senior division

Alee Cho

As a child, I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea until I was 6 years old. We originally immigrated to Davis, California but later got the opportunity to live in Plano, TX, Frisco TX, and Palo Alto, CA. As a child I always thought western and Asian cultures were polarized and had no similarities. However, as I got older I started to realize there are more similarities than differences in the two. Writing this essay helped me further realize that despite the misconceptions, the cultures are easily comparable.

I always loved making up stories as a child and never lost the passion to write as I got older. Writing always lets me express myself creatively and emotionally, and I frequently write whenever I get the chance. I also enjoy playing the flute and participate in many musical activities such as playing music for the elderly or for patients at hospitals. I am also a big people person and I love talking and meeting new people. Although I do not know what kind of career my interests will lead me to in the future, I am always open to new ideas and I am willing to experiment~

To me, my heroes are my parents because they are always full of support and trust. They back me up 100% and encourage me to always pursue my goals. They allow me to explore new territory and be creative. Their optimism has kept me positive and without them I wouldn’t be able to reach new heights and break my limits.

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Richard Chung

honorable mention, senior division

Richard Chung

I chose to enter the Sejong Writing Competition because it was an interactive way to learn more about my culture and heritage as a Korean-American. By composing a sijo I learned an ancient Korean form of poetry that I would never have otherwise encountered. By writing an essay about the differences between American and Korean folktales I was able to find common ground as well as unique aspects of my Korean and American background. My goal is to discover and pursue a career that I am passionate about. I enjoy reading and writing and I play the violin. At my school I am a member of the Bible Club, an orchestra member, and on the football team. My personal heroes are my parents because they work hard but also spend lots of quality family time with me.

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Sophia Liu

honorable mention, senior division

Sophia Liu

My name is Sophia Liu, and I am a rising senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. I enjoy photography, writing, and singing a-capella at my high school! I also run Cross Country, as well preside over the Environmental Club and Red Cross as an active officer. I heard about this competition from some of my Korean friends, who wanted me to look over their essays. Inspired by the topic itself, I decided to take a risk and write my own composition.

I am not Korean by blood, but I have always found Korea's culture to be extremely enjoyable, diverse, and fascinating. Thus, while composing my essay, I tried to incorporate my knowledge of the Korea that I knew, as well as add some tidbits from my own research. Needless to say, I was extremely pleased to have received this reward, as it really showed how far my efforts and my love for a country can go. Although we were only supposed to concentrate on one pair of fairy tales, I still read all the Korean folk tales on the site for my own leisure!

In the future, I plan on studying environment related law, because environmental problems an extremely pervasive area of concern here in New Jersey, as it is throughout the world today. How can culture -- Korean culture, Japanese culture, or any culture for that matter -- be preserved when the very sites of our heritage are being eroded away by carelessness?

My personal hero will always be my grandmother, who took care of my autistic uncle and two aunts long after my grandfather died. She visited South Korea two years ago, and enjoyed the trip very much!

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Reina Gattuso

honorable mention, senior division

Reina Gattuso

This competition was brought to my attention by my English teacher, and I thought it was an interesting opportunity to develop both my writing skills and my understanding of a culture I had rarely encountered before.

Through inspecting and comparing the folktales of both Western and Korean tradition, I have come to a deeper appreciation not only for the unique elements of both, but the deep similarities between them. It has both broadened my cultural understanding and introduced me to a different way of analyzing what may seem like simple stories.

In the future, I hope to pursue writing and my myriad other interests, which include reading, drama, Spanish, and history.

My personal hero is my mother, whose complete and selfless devotion serves as an awe-inspiring example of love.

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Yegina Whang

first place, junior division

My name is Yegina Whang, and I am a future freshman at Van Nuys High School. I just graduated from Alfred B. Nobel Middle School as the graduating class of 2009 and Valedictorian. I am interested in a variety of things, such as psychology, political science, and obviously writing. During free time, I enjoy dancing or hanging out with my friends. In high school, I hope to join the Debate team, KEY club, and volleyball team. I dream of becoming a student at Brown or Yale University and after I graduate, I hope to become politically influential enough to raise awareness for unpublicized world issues.

I first heard about the Sejong Cultural Society writing competition from my mentor and teacher, Kevin Lee; he suggested that I tried out just for experience and I was intrigued by the idea. Writing is one of my passions and strengths, and to write about elements that have to do with both my culture and ethnicity seemed interesting. While reading the stories, it was difficult to grasp what exactly I was supposed to write about; but then I realized it was more than just analyzing the Korean folk tales and it’s Westernized counterparts. The objective of this competition was to become aware of the bridge between two cultures that seem to clash on an everyday basis. With this in mind, I began to write.

My all time heroes are my parents and the Korean-American writer, An Na. My parents worked hard to put up with a stubborn child like me, and molded me to be realistic, but ambitious. They gave me the basic foundations and gave me an excellent learning experience. An Na, the writer of several famous novels, is truly my hero as well for her talent and style. Her fresh ideas illustrate the conflict between the Korean and American culture, which I can truly relate to. I hope that now or in the future, my genuineness through writing or speaking can have as big of an impact on others as An Na’s literature had on me.

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Victoria Tu

second place, junior division

Victoria Tu

My name is Victoria Tu. I'm 11 years old, and I'm going to be a 6th grader at Wood Oaks Junior High in Northbrook, Illinois. I entered my essay into this contest because it was interesting to find the smilarites and the differences in the Western and Eastern folktales. I learned through writing this essay that even through rough times, family always comes first. My goal in the future is to become a successful lawyer. In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, free writing, reading, and painting. I also play the violin and the piano. My personal hero is my older sister. I admire how she always tried her hardest at everything she does. She also always tries to help others.

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Sharon Bae

third place tie, junior division

Sharon Bae

My name is Sharon Bae, and I just finished my 8th grade year at The Willows Academy. I first heard about this essay competition from my tutor, Ms. Gretchen Dee from Sabio Academy. This year, I was a little hesitant whether I should pick Little Red Riding Hood or The Sun and The Moon to compare with one European folktale that I had already chosen. I decided to write about The Sun and The Moon because it was one of my favorite Korean folktales. While I was writing this essay I realized that writing requires a lot of critical thinking. This year, I entered this competition again because I wanted to show the readers how much I respect Korean culture. After receiving the second place award last year, it was rather a surprise for me to win this year’s competition. I personally thank all the judges, who chose me again to be in the third place. Since I really enjoy playing tennis, I plan to join high school tennis team. As I am currently the principal cellist of the McHenry County Youth Orchestra, I hold many responsibilities. Recently, I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the second time. It is definitely one of my favorite Harry Potter series. In the future, I hope to attend the school of my choice and study in a medical field. My personal heroes are my parents because they always encourage me to pursue and follow my dream. They made me believe that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to.

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Marian Baker

third place tie, junior division

Marian Baker

My name is Marian Baker and I heard about this contest while reading different Eastern folktales. I enjoy learning about other cultures, especially ones that are very different than my own. This contest helped me examine the similarities and the differences the cultures have, which are very interesting.

I learned a lot about Korean culture through researching my essay, and some things about human nature in general. Also, I had to learn to just let the words flow and fit together naturally while writing.

My goal for the future is to get a job as a mechanical engineer that works on surgical robots. At the same time, I would also like to travel the world with my job. I want to see all seven continents, and experience the cultures they are home to.

My main hobby is art; I like to draw, design digital art, paint, and sculpt polymer clay for jewelry pieces. I also love to sew. My other interests are writing, astronomy, history, geography, and especially reading. Some people tease me by calling me “Marian the librarian!”

My personal hero is Jane Goodall, because she has found something that she loves and that she devotes her life to. She also inspires people to help her cause and is largely responsible for educating the world about chimpanzees.

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Janice Cheon

honorable mention, junior division

Janice Cheon

Hi! My name is Janice Cheon. I’m a student in Tenafly, New Jersey. I heard of this writing competition from Mrs. Diane Schulthes, the gifted teacher at Tenafly Middle School. She told me that I might be interested in entering this competition. After I read it over carefully, I decided to enter. By participating in this writing competition, I learned that folktales from different cultures can have similar themes and morals, despite differences in the era the folktales were written and in the cultural traditions and beliefs.

My goal in the future is to become an award-winning author or/and a researcher.

In school, I participate in the Orchestra, Jazz Band, Hand-Chimes Ensemble, and the girl’s chorus. I am a very active representative of the student council, too. I am also a member of the Greater Newark Youth Orchestra. In September 2009, I will be a sixth grader in Tenafly Middle School, where I hope to continue and start many new musical activities and clubs. In my free time, I like to play the violin and the piano. Also, I love to read and write. My favorite books are Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Second Sight by Gary Blackwood. I swim and dance, too. Finally, I enjoy listening to classical and pop music.

My personal hero is Ludwig van Beethoven. Despite his deafness and adversities in his personal life, he wrote music that remains famous for centuries and, most of all, never gave up his passion about music. Although I’m not going to pursue a musical career, I admire his courage and determination.

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Younji Lee

honorable mention, junior division

Younji Lee

I entered this competition because my mother told me about it, and I thought it would be an excellent idea to learn more about my culture.

By participating in this competition, I learned more about my culture and the different folk tales within it.

My goal in the future is to enter a good college.

My hobbies are reading and playing piano.

My personal heroes are God and my mother.

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Joanne Jun

honorable mention, junior division

Joanne Jun

I entered this competition because my teacher, Ms. Gretchen Dee, told our class about the Sejong Essay Competition. Naturally, she had us write and send in one of our best essays. She tried to motivate us to write even better essays by telling us about the prize money that would be given out.

By participating in this competition I have learned more about the stories I included in my essay. When one reads two fairy tales, one doesn't really think about how the two compare and contrast. Instead, one just enjoys them separately. I have learned to find the similarities and differences between stories I have read to ultimately dig deeper into the ground of the stories.

My hope is to enter Cornell University where I may become a veterinarian. Then, I can first gain experience by working with an skilled veterinarian. After that, I hope to open my own animal hospital and work until retirement. During retirement, I would like to become an amateur photographer and take pictures of wildlife.

I like to draw people in my spare time. Although some pictures do not turn out that well, I believe that I can develop my skill over time. Also, I would like to learn about graphic designing if I ever get the chance. Sometimes, if I have nothing to do, I will play with my pets.

My heroes are my parents. Although the economy is steadily declining, my parents still work their hardest earning money in order to keep our family eating and under a roof. Even if a bad day comes, my parents always seem to overcome the worst and recover very quickly. These traits of theirs have inspired me to the same when I grow up too.

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