2024 Essay Competition Rules and Information - CLOSED

Deadline: February 29, 2024 (11:59pm CDT)


Adult division (age 19-30 years)

Topic:"I'm Waiting for You" by Kim Bo-young

Prompts: Ursula K. Le Guin, probably the greatest woman Science Fiction writer of the 20 th  century, said many things about the nature of the genre. Consider two of these statements: First, she said that all SF, like fantasy, is metaphor. Secondly, she said that SF stories, while being speculative and extrapolative, needed to build on solid scientific principles. But she also pointed out that SF stories are permitted to contain a certain amount of what she termed inadequately-explained “PSG” (“pseudoscientific garbage”) as part of the genre backdrop as a kind of “given.” PSG would include such elements as faster-than-light travel and the transporter beam in Star Trek.
Kim Bo-young’s epistolary Science Fiction story, “I’m Waiting for You,” is a poignant human drama made all the more intense through its use of SF elements. What established PSG does it rely on as genre conventions and what solid scientific principle does it develop or extrapolate upon? How do those features in her story, combined with the emotional drama, make it all the more effective by the end? And—if all SF is metaphor—what is the underlying metaphor in “I’m Waiting for You”?


Senior division (grade 9th - 12th)

Topic: "I'm Waiting for You" by Kim Bo-young

Prompts: Kim Bo-young’s epistolary Science Fiction story, “I’m Waiting for You,” is a poignant human drama made all the more intense through its use of SF elements. Kim has been a screenwriter, a game developer, and a script advisor, most notably for the international hit, Snowpiercer.
The SF genre has a long literary lineage in the West while it is a relatively recent phenomenon in South Korea due to Korea’s modern political and economic history. And yet, given how rapidly Korea has developed, the SF genre (among others) has had explosive growth in the past two decades.
SF is a genre that very much builds upon itself, and you will have noticed that “I’m Waiting for You”—while it may not allude to many Western SF literary classics—clearly references Western SF films. Two of the more obvious influences are the recent The Martian and the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Kim has said that her access to SF literature was limited in her youth because she grew up under the administrations of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo- hwan, two military dictators, but even during those years many Western SF movies were popular in Korean theaters.)
What filmic influences do you see in Kim’s story, and how are those influences built upon or referenced to create the unique drama of “I’m Waiting for You”? (Pick only one or two films to reference in your analysis.)



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 2024 folktales index page. Please make sure to select a folktale under the "2024 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?


Divisions: adult (age 19 - 30 years), senior (grade 9th - 12th), and junior (grade 8th and younger)

  • 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.
  • 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.