Essay Competition Rules and Information

Deadline: 11:59pm, February 28th, 2015 (CST)


Adult division (age 25 and younger)

"Run, Dad! (2005) by Kim Aeran

Topic: Kim Aeran made her literary debut while she was still in her early 20s, and "Run, Dad!" which is one of her best-known works, is characterized by a young, first person narrator, whose voice is very lively and engaging. Because of the accessibility of this narrator, and her apparent naivete, many readers do not pay close attention to the sophistication of the story. The narrator is one we would classify as "unreliable," and we get the story only through her point of view. Discuss some of the unreliable qualities of the story. What underlying features of the story (imagery, structure, irony) contribute to our understanding of what is really going on in the narrator's relationship to her father, her mother (and to the reader)? (You will want to consider the narrator's telling of a story within the story, for example.)

Read "Run, Dad!" by Kim Aeran

Senior division (grade 12 and younger)

"Mama and the Boarder" (1935) by Chu Yo-sôp

Topic: Chu’s "Mama and the Boarder," one of the most popular and well-known short stories in modern Korean literary history, reads as a stylistic and thematic anachronism to contemporary readers. But it is important to remember that is was published in 1935, when the social conditions for Korean women and the nature of the short story were both very different. Some critics say that Chu's use of the naïve narrator Ok-hŭi is the greatest strength of the story, but it is also one of its problems, especially from a contemporary perspective. Explain how Chu uses that point of view for a range of purposes (for example: plot, dramatic irony, characterization, theme). Are there other literary works that share this quality? You may point out one or two and discuss Chu's story in comparison.

Read "Mama and the Boarder" by Chu Yo-sôp

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.