2017 Sejong Writing Competition
Adult prompt: "That Girl's House" by Park Wan-suh
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?)
Senior prompt: "Kapitan Ri" by Chon Kwangyong
"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?
Junior prompt: Read a Korean folktale and write about one of three topics — a) your interpretation of the folktale and its creation, b) why you disagree with it, or c) which character you relate to the best.