2024 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior third place
TITLE: Family Takes Priority

The folktale titled “Shimchong: the Blind Man’s Daughter,” retold by Heinz Insu Fenkl, is a heartwarming story expressing the beauty of love between a Korean father and his daughter. This folktale sheds light on the state of being blind, while also expressing the need for love from family and empathy towards people with disabilities.

The story starts by giving details on the inseparable bond between Shimchong and her father. The author explains that this is because of the hardships the two had to endure from the death of Shimchong’s mother, Kwakssi, while giving birth to her daughter. One day, while Shim Hakkyu, Shimchong’s father, is out begging for alms, he comes across a strange voice speaking out to him from above after his attempt at escaping a ditch into which he had fallen. The voice offers Shim that if he gives 300 sacks of rice to their temple, they will restore his sight. Shim, acting on instinct, recklessly accepts this offer. Shim tells this predicament to his daughter, and she begins to worry as well.

Shimchong then proceeds to set out on a quest to gather 300 sacks of rice. She sacrifices herself to Dragon King in an underwater castle and gains the sacks of rice to send to her father, despite him not being able to see right away after giving the rice to the Buddha. Shimchong is happy down under the sea but misses her dear father, so, to repay Shimchong’s bravery of her sacrifice, the Dragon King sends her up to the surface in disguise as a giant lotus flower. She is soon discovered by another king and the two get married. Shimchong requests a banquet be held in celebration of their marriage, inviting all blind men to attend the feast.

On the very last day the feast is held, her father appears. They are both filled with joy to reunite, and her father’s vision is magically restored to see his beautiful daughter. It is said that any blind man who lays his eyes on Shimchong has his vision returned to him that day.

I hold a strong belief that this folktale was created to tell how family is always priority. The story has many interesting plot directions, and is a lot to take in, but even in the end, it clearly shows how much Shimchong and her father love one another and will do anything for each other. Shimchong was willing to take a very valiant risk and sacrifice to restore Shim’s sight, and even then, all she wanted was to see her father once more.

I would say that given the selection of characters, I am most similar to Shimchong because I, too, have a very strong relationship with my dad. If I were in a situation where I was taken away from my father, I would be devastated and would long to unite with him again, similar to Shimchong. My father has Parkinson’s Disease. If someone made me an offer to cure him if I sacrificed myself, I surely would take it.

Something I noticed that I would change about this folktale is its lack of relatable characters. I’m sure that there are daughters out there who miss their fathers; however, the fantasy aspect of the story makes it hard to put oneself in Shim and Shimchong’s shoes. In my opinion, it would be better to reduce the imaginative parts, like Shimchong being taken to an underwater castle and gaining the ability to breathe underwater. Overall, I think this change would really benefit the folktale, given that the story itself is already very engaging. Keeping some of the fantasy features would still be expected, however. For instance, Shimchong being turned into a lotus flower. I think her becoming a flower is a nice way to symbolize the irresistible beauty that Shimchong possesses.

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Shimchong: the Blind Man’s Daughter,” and it certainly had a pleasant impact on me. I liked this story so much that seeing a film based on this heartwarming folktale would be a nice addition to any other film catalog. I’ll see you in the theaters!