2020 Sejong Writing Competition
first place tie - Andy Zhao
first place tie - Elizabeth Flesch
second place - Matthew Umhoefer
third place tie - Riley Taylor
Adult and Senior prompt:
"Cranes" by Hwang Sun-won
Hwang Sun-won (1915-2000), one of Korea’s great 20th century writers of fiction, published “Cranes” in 1953, just as the Korean War ceasefire was coming into effect. The story has been seen and even criticized for being too optimistic—even naïve—about the possibilities for future reconciliation between the two Koreas, which, as recent news stories tell us, remain extremely hostile toward one another.
In a carefully developed essay, point out those parts of the story that do seem to suggest the possibility or hope of future reconciliation between the two main characters and, by extension, the two Koreas. But noting that now, more than a half-century later, hostile actions continue to occur, while still there is no peace treaty, show how Hwang’s story might be read as a more complicated rendering of the situation on the Korean peninsula than naïvely optimistic.
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. 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.
- 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?
- 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?