2023 Essay Competition Rules and Information

Deadline: March 31, 2023 (11:59pm CDT)

Topics

Adult division (age 19-30 years)

Topic:"The Glass Shield" by Kim Jung-hyuk

Prompts: It may help to know that among Korean critics, Kim Jung-hyuk is often called an “everythingist” for his wide-ranging interests and abilities (he even draws his own cartoons). “The Glass Shield” is one of Kim’s signature stories for its unusual tone and attitude but also for its confrontation of a major theme: What is art? It would be easy to classify “The Glass Shield” as a postmodern story and not apply standard rules to it, but the story is also very traditional. Describe how Kim uses both traditional and unexpected approaches to addressing the central theme of the story. Be sure to discuss the relationship between the unnamed narrator and his friend M along with the interrelated images in the story (lines and circles, for example) and the role they play in the central drama. 

Senior division (grade 9th - 12th)

Topic: "Waxen Wings by Ha Seong-nan

Prompts: Ha Seong-nan is famous for what Korean critics call her “microscopic” (and often dispassionate) descriptions that transform everyday reality into a heightened awareness.  Her story “Waxen Wings” seems to be a story about the repeated failures in the life of the character named “Birdie.” By American standards the story is probably a tragedy, but it does not follow the typical structure for that form. Is the story a tragedy? What is the underlying structure of “Waxen Wings,” and how does the use of the second person as the point of view change your reading of the story? Discuss some of the literary devices Ha uses to weave the story together and the effect they produce in the story as a whole 

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 2023 folktales index page. Please make sure to select a folktale under the "2023 Essay Competition" list. When writing your essay, please be sure to include specific references to the tale you chose to write about.

  1. Write an interpretation of a folk tale of your choice. Why do you think it was created? Which character do you relate to best?
  2. If you could change one of these folk tales, what would you change and why?

Guidelines

Divisions: adult (age 19 - 30 years), senior (grade 9th - 12th), and junior (grade 8th 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 June. 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 or Azalea: A Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, published by the Korea Institute at Harvard University.