2024 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Adult second place (tie)


In I’m Waiting for You by Kim Bo-young, the reader follows the story of a man beholden to time and space while desperately trying to reunite with his fiancée. This story utilizes well-known examples of PSG (pseudo-scientific garbage) such as time travel and spaceships. Including these objects means that details must be added into the story to give these aspects some grounding. For example, a captain gives the protagonist a spacecraft and some advice on how to operate it. The captain advises him to ride the orbit of Jupiter because gravitational force would help with propulsion. He also warns that one must decelerate for the same amount of time spent accelerating before landing. The author also introduces the concept of a “feed maker,” which allows matter to be broken down into its molecular components and reassembled into an edible form. These details allow the author to establish rules and explain phenomena in this fictional world. An established fact that the author extrapolates on is the relationship between time and space. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time and space exist together as a continuum known as space-time. Because space and time are not independent of each other, events that occur at one time for one observer could occur at a different time for another. This provides the basis for the main driving force in the story because the man’s goal is to be in the right place and time to meet his fiancée.

These features of science fiction combined with emotional drama produce a narrative centering around the conflict between people and time. Time is linear and cannot go backwards, so the characters try to control their futures by manipulating time through space travel. While their goal is to meet at the right time as soon as possible, they instead end up spending centuries alone. It highlights struggles that society is facing even today. Patience is a virtue, but it is one that many of the characters lack. The man and his fiancée hope to cut down their time apart, so they keep boarding spaceships to make time pass faster. However, something goes awry each trip. Rather than waiting on Earth, they become reliant on space travel. They continue to keep leaving Earth because they think the future will be better, even though it gradually gets worse. Although the two believe themselves to be “waiting” for the other, they are doing the opposite. Waiting implies remaining stationary and being patient until the other returns. However, the protagonist continues to try to rush their reunion by moving around. It is not until the protagonist has learned the value of time that he has a chance to reunite with her. In the beginning, the protagonist is obsessed with the future and only values convenience. In the middle of the story, he reminisces about the past. By the end, he has learned how to value the present and begins to take action.

Another major issue is communication, which causes problems for the characters. Even though this society is technologically advanced enough for space travel, the ability to communicate with others is still subpar. The letters that the protagonist writes are translated into morse code before being sent out into space with the hope that someone will pick up the signals and pass on the message. Even though these characters live in an age where they can travel at the speed of light, fast and effective modes of communication do not exist. This indicates that communication and interpersonal relationships are not prioritized in this society. There is not enough demand for new forms of communication, so none exist. This phenomenon mirrors communication today. Even though modern society has access to many different tools, our ability to communicate has become more and more impersonal. In some ways, the handwritten letters that the protagonist composes are more meaningful than the superficial or short replies received through texts or emails today.

Leo Tolstoy is credited for the phrase, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” In this story, these two warriors battle with each other for centuries before reconciling at the end. The protagonist and his fiancée attempt to manipulate time for personal reasons. However, it is the characters that grow older and must deal with consequences. Time remains unaffected and uncaring, looking upon the character’s plights with an attitude as cold as space’s atmosphere. The protagonist’s primary regret is that he chose to separate from his fiancée. He comes to realize that there may be matters that should be dealt with at once, as well as matters for which one must be patient (without time travel). He returns to earth time and time again only to be met with issues varying from political unrest to a global ice age. He is indebted to time, the very thing that he attempted to exploit. Although he claims he is waiting for a sign from his fiancée, he is truly waiting for that perfect time to return to Earth. This is why he continues to return to space. Up until the end, where he learns that he should have visited the church sooner to look for his fiancée, the protagonist consistently manages to be late in both realizing important information and carrying out actions.

In this story, people are both time and a place. They are transient and are always moving forward, like time. Therefore, “you” in the title also refers to time itself. The protagonist realizes that he can never return home because the people he knew are gone. Even if the buildings still stand, earth is no longer a familiar place to him. The protagonist is waiting for a better world, but the perfect time never arrives. In the end, he is the one changed by time and experience and comes to realize that there is no time like the present, which is where the story ends. The cliffhanger ending represents the uncertainty of the present, indicating that it is never-ending and full of possibilities.