Essay Competition Rules and Information

Deadline: 11:59pm, February 29th, 2016 (CST)


Adult division (age 25 and younger)

"The Glass Shield" (2008) by Kim Chunghyŏk (also romanized as Kim Jung-hyuk)

Topic: 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.

Read "The Glass Shield" by Kim Chunghyŏk

Senior division (grade 12 and younger)

"Waxen Wings" (1999) by Ha Sŏngnan (also romanized as Ha Seong-nan)

Topic: Ha Sŏngnan 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.

Read "Waxen Wings" by Ha Sŏngnan

Junior essay division (grade 8 and younger)

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. Please make sure to select a folktale under the "2015 Writing Competition" list. 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.

  1. Select one folktale from the list and explain your interpretation of the story. What do you think it means? What is its importance? Why do you think it was created?
  2. 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?
  3. Which Korean folktale character do you relate to best? Why? Would you make the same decisions as that character?


Divisions: adult (age 25 and younger), senior (grade 12 and younger), and junior (grade 8 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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 and/or the Korean Quarterly.