2018 Sejong Writing Competition
Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior first place
first place, junior essay division
The New Ending to Conjui's Journey
Every culture has their own version of a pretty damsel, born as a commoner, who through some miracle or act of magic becomes a princess despite the clutches of her step-family. Whether it be the Disney interpretation of Cinderella or the Korean folktale “Congjui and Potjui,” the story always seems to follow the same plot line and message: rags to riches. Congjui’s ascension is a well-earned journey to success. Despite her struggles with her cruel and unfair stepmother and a spoiled and selfish stepsister, Congjui still manages to prevail. While she suffers through difficult and sometimes impossible tasks, such as tending a huge vegetable garden with only a wooden homee, she never shows any hatred or resentment towards either her stepmother or stepsister. As such, the story’s ending, the public flogging and humiliation of her stepfamily in the town square, does not seem fitting. What seems to be justified and righteous revenge, upon further reflection, appears ugly and misshapen. Although Congjui’s stepmother and stepsister certainly deserve punishment for their unwarranted torment against Congjui, the savage beating seems like an inappropriate repercussion and it leaves the reader with the wrong sentiment. Indeed, the reader should be left with a feeling of fair justice, not petty revenge.
Throughout the story, Congjui is described as a girl with grace and elegance whose true beauty transcends her external appearance. In fact, she possesses a great inner beauty which is mentioned through the author’s comparison between Congjui and her stepsister Potjui. While Congjui has a pure heart and works through her many challenges while maintaining her kind disposition, Potjui is seen on numerous occasions complaining and crying. Additionally, no matter the difficulties that Congjui’s stepmother and stepsister pose, Congjui always persists. Her story of perseverance against all odds builds towards a divine message: no matter the situation, success can come to anyone, through hard work and caring for others. However, this message completely crumbles as Potjui and her mother receive a flogging. At first, publicly chastising Potjui and the stepmother satisfies the reader, for it feels like a victory against those who unfairly treat Congjui. But after further reflection, this ending seems contrary, useless and counterproductive. Instead of fortifying the significance of Congjui’s perseverance and the story’s overarching theme, the crass punishment dilutes the message that enduring through difficult times and cherishing others brings success to a person. The stepmother and stepsister’s punishment takes away from Congjui’s victory. Recognizing this, the fable no longer seems satisfying.
Instead of an ending that dilutes the fable’s moral, the focus of the ending should align with the overarching theme. Since Congjui has proved herself to be a kind, hard-working girl, she should face one more trial to prove this. Her stepmother and stepsister tormented her for years after the disappearance of her father. It would be natural for Congjui, after her magical ascension into a position of power, to wish for revenge. However, Congjui has a bigger heart than those who inflicted suffering upon her.
Congjui could stop the flogging of her stepmother and stepsister and publicly forgive them despite all of the evil committed. Such mercy would amplify the message and beauty of the story. In the new ending, Congjui could use her anointed power as the wife of the town magistrate to stop the public whipping. Afterwards, she could propose the punishment of public service in the form of maintaining townhall, and hosting the town events. After they atoned for their mistakes, the family could live together happily ever after, as is often the case with fairy tales. Although this new ending may seem cliche or even melodramatic, it sends a much better message. Moreover, Congjui’s stepmother and stepsister’s new punishment constructively helps them to right their mistakes and grow into better human beings. The idea of a constructive punishment adds wisdom to the story for it forces the reader to understand the negativity of revenge. Finally, if Congjui were to forgive her stepsister and stepmother despite all of their wrongdoings, the author could neatly couple the message of success through perseverance and hard work with one of magnanimity and forgiveness as well.