Sejong Cultural Society Essay

2013 Sejong Writing Competition

Essay Winners


 Young Adult DivisionSenior DivisionJunior Division
Firstnone Samuel Walder
Oak Park, IL
12th grade
Illinois Math and Science Academy
essay
Sharon Lin
Holmdel, NJ
8th grade
William R. Satz School
essay
Secondnone Hebin Hannah Jeon
Long Grove, IL
10th grade
Adlai E. Stevenson High School
essay
Jessica Hsueh
San Gabriel, CA
6th grade
Polytechnic School
essay
ThirdSharanya Kumar
Chesterfield, MO
Parkway Central High School
essay
Jack Snelling
Atlanta, GA
12th grade
Marist School
essay
Justin Olah
Pasadena, CA
6th grade
Polytechnic School
essay
Joanne Lee
Oberlin, OH
Oberlin College
essay
HM*Yelimi Chung
Oneonta, NY
Oneonta High School
John Ahn
St Louis, MO
10th grade
Maplewood Richmond Heights
Laura Chin
San Marino, CA
6th grade
Polytechnic School
Kyungjoo Park
Elk Grove, CA
Sacramento City College
Victor Corrigan
Atlanta, GA
12th grade
Marist School
Kirsti Kokko
Tappahannock, VA
8th grade
St. Margaret's School
Stella Tu
Northbrook, IL
Harvard University
Daniel Lee
Demarest, NJ
9th grade
Bergen County Academies
Nicholas Lapeyrouse
Metairie, LA
6th grade
Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies
Yasmina Milord
Atlanta, GA
12th grade
Marist School
Chitra Reddy
Houston, TX
8th grade
T. H. Rogers Middle School
Emily Mu
Naperville, IL
10th grade
Illinois Math and Science Academy
Meiren Park
Norwood, NJ
11th grade
North Valley Regional High School Old Tappan
Thomas Seitz
Atlanta, GA
12th grade
Marist School

*Honorable Mention - Friend of the Pacific Rim Award

Sharanya Kumar

young adult division, third place tie

My name is Sharanya Kumar. I am currently a freshman at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Missouri. Some of my interests include playing the viola and piano, reading, listening to music, and playing tennis. At present, I am considering a career in science.

I heard about this essay competition from my English teacher, who offered this as an extra credit opportunity. I enjoy reading fiction, which is why I was eager to read Our Twisted Hero. Although I can’t say I love writing essays, I was fascinated by this story. I felt that it had many important parallels to both the present and the past. Throughout the course of my research for this essay, I learned valuable lessons about history and human nature. I didn’t expect to win anything, but I had fun reading Our Twisted Hero and researching connections to the past. I would like to thank my English teacher for helping me improve my writing skills, and my family for all their support.

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Joanne Lee

young adult division, third place tie

I am a second year English major at Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college tucked away in a quiet corner of Ohio. I have always loved to read and write, and have long lamented the fact that I have read very little Korean literature. My family immigrated to Canada from Korea when I was in grade six, and my knowledge of Korean language and literature are sadly frozen at that grade level. Thus when I heard about this competition from a high school teacher where I tutored over the winter, I was immediately hooked: I get to study a celebrated Korean literary work and then write about it, and maybe win a prize while at it? What a sweet deal, I thought to myself.

I am an absolute literary nerd, and my interests range from reading Chaucer in the original Middle English to contemporary Asian American literature. I hope one day to become a teacher/professor and share my passion for literature, which to me is not a frivolous exercise reserved for an exclusive clique of aloof academics, but an utterly human form of expression that espouses both beauty and truth of the human condition.

For instance, I learned much about what it means to be human – to be extremely vulnerable and fragile – as I read and pondered Yi’s Our Twisted Hero. It’s not just the feeble-minded that break down under systematic oppression: even the most heroically resistant of people do, just as Han eventually submits to Om. The theme of authoritarianism in Yi’s work led me to think of North Korea, and prompted me to compare the Kim family’s regime with Om’s class in my essay, focusing specifically on their similar hierarchical structures. My heart and prayers go out to the millions of North Koreans and other people who are suffering under the tyrannical yoke of the Om’s of our world.

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Samuel Walder

senior division, first place

My name is Sam Walder and I am a senior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy. Some of my many passions are running, playing the mandolin, doing research in bioengineering, and occasionally sleeping. I also have an interest in language and history, gained from doing international scientific research, which prompted me to write my essay. I found out about the competition because I saw a poster on my English teacher's door. It was quite by chance—the essay prompts sounded promising, and the novella was extremely interesting, so I had fun reading and writing. I am indebted to the Sejong Cultural Society for introducing me to such a powerful part of history.

I felt a deep connection with Our Twisted Hero. To me, it bravely represented the idea of how easily a people can fall under authoritarian rule. Reading the book and writing the essay made me question how I would react if my own society fell under totalitarian rule. I believe that most readers would say that they would be like Pyongt'ae and resist totalitarianism, but historically that is not the case. However, Our Twisted Hero is not a pessimistic book that despairs over the trials of humanity. It demonstrates the fight which is necessary to combat totalitarianism and inspired me to doubly stick up for my ideals. I identified strongly with Pyongt'ae's emotions, and he made me ask a difficult question: can I trust my friends and fellow citizens to not capitulate to what is wrong? By writing the essay, I found my answer: for every Sokdae, there will be a Pyongt'ae. No totalitarian society lasts for long since there are always people willing to resist. The emotions that I felt for Pyongt'ae convinced me of the existence of an optimistic human spirit that will always resist what is wrong.

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Jack Snelling

senior division, third place

My name is Jack Snelling, and I am a senior at Marist School in Atlanta, GA. In my free time, I enjoy running, playing and watching sports, and hanging out with my friends. In school, my best classes are math and economics, and I also enjoy writing. I will be attending either the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or Wake Forest University next year, and I intend to study business.

I found out about the Sejong Writing Competition from my World Literature teacher, who assigned the senior division essay topic to my class. I had never been exposed to Korean literature before reading Our Twisted Hero, and I found it to be both enjoyable and thought-provoking. The idea of a totalitarian system of government is one which many Americans never consider, and it is interesting to ponder the reactions of people if they were put in that situation. Our Twisted Hero is very interesting and should not be taken lightly as it presents a relevant issue in our world today.

I would like to thank my teacher, Ms. Naitnaphit Limlamai, for helping me to learn to become a better writer and encouraging me to not be afraid to take risks. I would also like to thank the Sejong Cultural Society for everything that they do.

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Sharon Lin

junior division, first place

Hi, my name is Sharon Lin and I’m an eighth grader at William R. Satz School. I love dabbling among the various disciplines, and my many hobbies include tennis, painting, writing, and playing the flute. I have found that my goal-oriented personality and desire to achieve have given me the determination to succeed in anything if I set my mind to it.

Ever since I was young, I have aspired to change the world one day and I hope to do so through my writing. In addition, I have always wanted to travel the world and tour exotic destinations. I am currently involved in my school newspaper, various teen publications, and have published a young adult novel, Hidden.

I learned about this competition through a program at my school called Project Plus. Mrs. Kathy Bradley, the advisor of the program, helps students find enrichment opportunities to develop art and writing skills outside of the classroom. Because of my heritage and the fact that many of my friends are Korean, I was drawn to the essay competition, viewing it as a challenge. I am deeply honored to have been chosen as the winner of the competition and would like to thank all of my English teachers, my parents, and my peers for their continuous support throughout the years.

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Jessica Hsueh

junior division, second place

My name is Jessica Hsueh, and I am a 6th grader at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, California. Some of my interests include reading fiction, playing badminton, listening to pop and classical music, and playing the flute. My future goal is to become an eye surgeon and travel all around the world to treat people of all ages in countries who are blind or visually impaired so they can earn a living, see a loved one, or read a book. I would like to further develop and refine my writing skills and hopefully write and publish a book someday. My personal heroes are my parents, who show me that it is okay to follow our dreams and strive for the best, and to do what makes us the most happy. As immigrants in the U.S. my parents taught me to always stay optimistic and to give everything my best effort. They inspire me to do the best I can in everything I do. I want to take this opportunity to thank my English teacher, Renee Larios, who introduced me to this competition and showed me how to become a better writer. While reading the Queen Swallow’s Gift, I learned to explore and appreciate the deeper meaning hidden in folktales. This experience reminds me that nothing is impossible if you set your heart to it.

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Justin Olah

junior division, third place

My name is Justin Olah, and I'm a sixth grader attending Polytechnic School in Pasadena California. I enjoy playing basketball and soccer, reading fantasy novels and historical nonfiction, building Lego Mindstorms, and watching the History Chanel. My favorite subjects are Math, English, and Science. In the future, I hope to become an aerospace engineer and design innovative energy-efficient airplanes. My hero is my grandfather, George Olah, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of cleaner burning fuels. I learned about the competition through my English teacher, Mrs. Renee Larios, who has been introducing mythology and folklore from around the world to our English class. I want to thank Mrs. Larios for helping me become a better writer and encouraging me to enter this contest allowing me to become more comfortable sharing my writing with others. While writing my essay on the Korean folktale, The Goblin's Club, I learned that author's theme of the value of charity and the dangers of jealousy are the same values my parents have been teaching me all my life.

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Yelimi Chung

young adult division, honorable mention

I’m a seventeen year old, enthusiastic, always-ready-to-learn Korean named Yelimi Chung; I am currently a junior at Oneonta High School in Oneonta, New York and an aspiring pediatrician. I was only ten months old when I left my home country, South Korea; I’ve been living in America for seventeen years. My parents have always emphasized respect and gratitude, as taught in my culture and having been taught these important lessons, I want teach others to do the same and become a pediatrician that all children look forward to meeting. My other interests and hobbies include baking, cooking with my mother, fashion and styling, dancing, and sharing personal insights of current events and politics with other educated young adults.

This competition came to my attention through my school's newspaper advisor and English teacher. Being the only Korean at the high school, she brought the competition to my attention. I’m overall grateful to the teacher that brought me to participating in the competition, the Sejong Cultural Society, and the author of the essay topic-book, Our Twisted Hero, Yi Mun-yol. Rather than participating in a competition, I feel as though I was able to gain much insight and relate myself to the various elements of the human condition that are found within the book.

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Kyungjoo Park

young adult division, honorable mention

My name is Kyungjoo Park. I just turned 20, and I am currently studying to achieve my dream of being a Chemical Engineer. I was originally born in South Korea, and I moved here to attend high school when I was 15. I love baking, singing and playing tennis. I've always been very interested in learning new languages and seeing different cultures, and after I graduated from high school I went to Germany for a year to learn their language and the people.

I heard about this competition through my English professor, and I'm really glad I entered because I learned so much about Korean history while doing my research.

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Stella Tu

young adult division, honorable mention

Stella Tu is a freshman at Harvard University. She is involved in the Mission Hill After School Program as a counselor and is a part of Harvard’s Crimson magazine as a designer. In addition, Stella was a winner of the 2012 American Fine Arts Festival String Division and is currently a cellist in the Bach Society Orchestra at Harvard. She appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune’s May issue as an All-State Academic Team winner. Stella has also studied piano since she was four years old. She performed at the Carnegie Hall in New York at the age of 11 and has soloed on 98.7 WFMT's "Introductions". She is a winner of the 2012 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano competition. Furthermore, Stella recently won second place in the 2012 Goi Peace Foundation’s UNESCO International Essay Contest for Young People. In 2009, she was awarded by Mr. Arne Duncan as a first place winner of the Anti-Defamation League Contest for both her artwork and her essay.

In 2008, Stella decided to found the non-profit organization, Starlight Foundation, using accumulated prize money from her music, art, and writing competitions. She chose to do so because of the benefits she had gained through these arts. With the Starlight Foundation, Stella has aimed to provide artistic-expression opportunities for other young people, similar to the ones she had growing up. She recently organized the Kidney Assessment Test with the American Kidney Organization in Chicago. Currently, Stella is planning her art exhibition at the David Adler Arts Center in Libertyville, IL, in fall 2013.

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John Ahn

senior division, honorable mention

My name is John Ahn and I am a current sophomore at Maplewood Richmond Heights high school in St.Louis, Missouri. I'm involved in several different extra-curricular activities such as volunteering, varsity soccer, student council, superintendent's advisory council, and various internships. I've always had an interest in pursuing marketing, I absolutely love promoting certain products and services for a particular demographic. It's been an interest of mine since middle school, for student council I utilized posters and other forms of promotion to advertise a certain event or cause.

I learned about this competition from my mother; an avid supporter of mine who is in constant search of opportunities I could pursue. Although the topic was quite perplexing, once I began to write the connections I observed with the book I was wholeheartedly invested in the essay. This hasn't been my first entry for this competition, I previously submitted an entry during middle school and received another honorable mention. I can't say that I'm satisfied with my result, however, I'm more than certain that my efforts and passionate dedication will eventually yield the award I desire.

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2010 Sejong Writing Competition

Essay Winners


 Senior DivisionJunior Division
First PlaceJoyce Sim
Jericho, NY
11th grade, Jericho High School
essay
Elizabeth Dia
Germantown, TN
8th grade, Lausanne Collegiate School
essay
Second PlaceSeyoung Lee
Andover, MA
10th grade, Phillips Academy
essay
Una Koh
Conshohocken, PA
7th grade, Colonial Middle School
essay
Third PlaceDana Huh
Manhasset, NY
10th grade, Philips Exeter Academy
essay
Victoria Tu
Northbrook, IL
6th grade, Sabio Academy
essay
Honorable Mention

Friend of the Pacific Rim Award
Zedan Rong
Urbana, IL
10th grade, University Laboratory High School
Katharine Olinger
Glenside, PA
7th grade, Philadelphia Montgomery Christian Academy
Haa-Young Cho
Columbus, OH
9th grade, Dublin Scioto High School
Julia Shin
Dublin, OH
8th grade, Dublin Henry Karrer Middle School
Christopher Demetree
Alpharetta, GA
12th grade, Marist School
Shafeeq Ibraheem
Piscataway, NJ
8th grade, The Wardlaw Hartridge School
Bria Gepitulan
Roanoke, VA
11th grade, Hidden Valley High School
Ruth Eujin Hwang
Cypress, CA
4th grade, Margaret Landell Elementary School
Yunjae Choi
Silver Spring, MD
11th grade, The Barrie School
Eshpreet Kular
Chicago, IL
6th grade, Andrew Jackson Language Academy
Patrick Shin
Chesterbrook, PA
11th grade, Conestoga High School

 

Joyce Sim

first place, senior division

My name is Joyce Sim, and I am going to be a senior at Jericho High School in Jericho, New York. Since I was six years old, I have had an interest in the medical field and was fascinated by healthcare issues and the human body. I want to help people achieve and maintain good health, and comfort them and their families when they are suffering. Given these factors, nursing seems like a good fit for me, because it combines my desire to help people with my interests in science and healthcare. My personal hero is Florence Nightingale who believed “Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter's or sculptor's work.”

I first heard about the Sejong Cultural Society writing competition from my AP Composition and Language teacher, Nadine Bouler. First, I just wanted to see the list of folk tales and what I am writing about, since there are not many competitions that deal with Korean culture. I saw that “The Green Frog,” the folk tale that really affected me, was on the list. Hence, I decided to write about my experience and thoughts I got from this folk tale. While I was writing the essay, I read this folk tale over and over to get the real meaning the author tried to imply. When I finished writing the essay, I realized that I had picked up on so many things that passed me by when I first read the story. I had fun writing this essay and I would recommend it for anyone.

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Seyoung Lee

second place, senior division

Moving to the states when I was four, I never really thought about my Korean culture growing up. It was not until the very end of middle school that I was really faced with questions about my identity as a Korean American. Ever since, I have been trying to connect back to my heritage, reading Korean books and even learning traditional Korean dance.

I found out about this competition through one of my advisors at school, and believed it would great opportunity to embrace my Korean culture. Finding out that the essays would be based on Korean folktales, I was happy to read stories buried deep in my childhood. It was interesting to connect my past with my present, my Korean heritage with my American ideals.

The biggest goal I have set for myself is to work towards creating a more equal society. I am currently in clubs such as Model UN, Asian Society, and Andover Philanthropist’s Society. I believe my experiences in these clubs will help me come closer to specifying exactly how I will go about executing my goal.

My personal hero is Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. His pioneering in the concepts of microfinancing, I believe, is an answer to many of the world’s issues with fighting poverty. His initiatives and success show the world that there is still room for change and hope.

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Dana Huh

third place, senior division

My name is Dana Huh and I am a rising Junior at Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire. I entered this competition because I was excited about the idea of writing an essay about tales that I have heard countless times sitting on my mother and my grandmother's lap. As these childhood folktales influenced the way I see and learn things in the world, this writing process has allowed me to reflect on my past actions as well as my future ones. Through the tale of Shimchong the Blind Man's Daughter, I saw the hopes and the positive influences present in society. It taught me a lesson that when one overcomes hardships and makes sacrifices, those decisions eventually benefit not only that individual but everyone around him/her, and that even in society today, there are still "Shimchongs" in the world who are willing to make those decisions.

My personal hero is Maurice Sendak, the author of the well-known children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. The first time I read the book, I could not stop smiling at the pure creativity and happiness that one simple storybook can bring. As Maurice Sendak states, "Inside all of us is a Wild Thing" and I cannot think of a better job than one that brings hope and imagination to children all over the world. This belief is also the reason I want to go into a medical field that deals with children, such as pediatric oncology. My goal is to become someone who can bring support and relief to the children and their families who are going through these hardships, just as Mr. Sendak has been able to do.

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Zedan Rong

honorable mention, senior division

My name is Zedan Rong but I prefer to go by Annie, it's much easier to pronounce. I attend University Laboratory High School at Urbana, Illinois. I've always enjoyed writing and reading but it wasn't until my sophomore year that I realized how much value these gifts truly have. My English teacher has been extremely helpful and patient with me and for that I would like to insert a big thank you here for her (Thanks Ms. Linder!).

I first heard about this competition from my Freshmen year English teacher but it wasn't until this year that I managed to muster up enough energy and enter. Reading all the different folk tales was unbelievably fun and choosing just one to write about was harder than I imagined. Writing my essay made me thankful for what I have and just how much my family means to me.

I do not have a specific personal hero. Instead, I admire everyone who tries his or her hardest at everything he or she does. For me, their boundless efforts and accomplishments are the driving forces of this world and they all deserve our gratitude. In the future I hope to become historian so I can keep track of the lives of all these great human beings and learn from them as much as I can. 

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Haa-Young Cho

honorable mention, senior division

A Korean teacher who works at my school suggested that I participate in this competition and I thought it would be a wonderful chance to express my emotions and share my amazing experience in America. I learned and felt how beautiful my Korean culture is by composing my sijo. As to writing the essay, I learned more about myself . I seriously thought about who I truely am and how I have overcome difficulties in America. It made me really proud of myself and the fact that I am Korean. 

My goal is to be an attorney at the UN and help children who suffer from forced-labor, disease, and famine in the third world. I'm really interested in fighting against  forced child labor, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Thinking about how awfully these people suffer and how painfully they get hurt, not only physically but also mentally makes me feel so sorry for them and gives me very strong motivation and energy to work to reach my goal. 

My parents are my personal heroes. They've raised me with their infinite love regardless of how many times I hurt their hearts or disappoint them. They also have given me an amazing opportunity to be in America and experience diverse cultures and people. I am sincerely grateful to them. 

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Christopher Demetree

honorable mention, senior division

I entered this competition because the competition was a class project. I learned that entering a writing contest entailed much more work than I had previously suspected. My goal for the future is to work as hard as I can to become the best person I'm capable of.

My hobbies are watching all sporting events, playing golf, Jeopardy, and being in and around water. My personal hero is my sister, for she has always been a model of hard work, determination, and helping others.

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Bria Gepitulan

honorable mention, senior division

My name is Bria Gepitulan, and I am a rising senior at Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke, Virginia. I am an honor-roll student that has participated in BETA Club, Spanish Club, Prom Committee, and Spanish Honor's Society. I have been dancing for 13 years, and I am currently a Senior Company member of Southwest Virginia Ballet (SVB). In my free time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, playing guitar and writing songs, reading, writing, painting, and taking pictures. I plan to graduate with an advanced diploma to go onto college to be a dance major. After college, I dream of becoming a professional dancer and choreographer further in the future.

My English teacher informed me about this competition as an assignment. I was interested in learning about Korean culture through folktales and decided to write and submit an essay. By writing this essay, I found that many folktales and fables have the same morals and plot lines. It was interesting to compare and contrast the different cultures while still being able to connect to the stories. I found this experience truly eye-opening and enjoyed reading the collection of folktales.

My personal heroes will always be my parents and the Artistic Director of SVB, Pedro Szalay. My parents have always been supportive of me, and they are always willing to make sacrifices for our family. I consider them my biggest fans when it comes to my dancing. Pedro Szalay has brought out the best in me as a dancer, but more importantly, as an artist. He has pushed me to always do my best, and he is constantly inspiring me to explore my existence and purpose in the dance world.

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Yunjae Choi

honorable mention, senior division

My name is Yunjae Choi, and I am 17 years old. I go to The Barrie School, a small private school in Maryland and have interest in studying international relations. I entered sijo and essay because my 10th grade Humanities teacher, Paul, handed me a sheet of paper one day for me to write about my own culture. As the only Korean in my school, I felt it would be a special chance for me to learn more about my culture. While writing sijo and essay, I learned interesting and unlikely beliefs or plotlines that ancient Koreans had been using. My goal in the future is to major in international relations, education, and art history and learn French, other languages, and art as minor. I like learning and playing violin, drawing, cooking, reading, running, swimming, and hiking. My personal hero is my dad who always shows passion toward the people with whom he is working and for striving to keep reaching for the top even if he had already become a top hero to many others. From him, I learned that nothing is impossible with tenacious effort.

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Patrick Shin

honorable mention, senior division

My name is Patrick Shin and I am currently going to be a senior in Conestoga High School in Pennsylvania. I was born right around Philadelphia because of both of my parents, who are indeed quite Korean, were studying abroad. When I was around five, my dad got a job as a professor back in Korea so our family moved there. I lived there for five years and learned a significant portion of Korean language and adjusted myself to the culture. My parents decided that it was best of my interest and my brother’s to go back to America to receive education so my brother, mom, and I returned to America. Now, here I am.

The reason behind my entry is not that profound, but it was very peculiar. My English teacher received a mail from the Sejong Cultural Society about the writing competition. Now she was neither Korean nor had extensive knowledge or familiarity with the Korean culture so she had no idea why she received the mail. However, knowing that I was Korean she decided to give me the mail to see if I was interested in it. I am not the most diligent and prolific kid around, but I thought this was a very good opportunity to not only have a little something in my transcript, but actually get a closer understanding of the Korean culture. I read a lot of folk tales as a little kid in Korea, but now I started to realize some of the hidden implications behind these stories so I thought that writing for this competition might pique my brain into thinking about it.

My goal in the future is to just go by and have a fulfilling and healthy life. However, I would be really, really happy if I can do something that is going to be beneficial for mankind. My main interest is in history and cultural studies so I think I may become a professor regarding these subjects. I love history because I am a fanatic when it comes to human studies. The concept of different cultures and their interactions and the future consequences of such interactions to human society have always fascinated me.

My personal hero... well I have many figures I respect, but have never really sought of a great personal hero that I adore. It would be dishonest of me to make one up here, but I would say that my personal heroes are people who maintain their morals despite hardships and criticism. Figures like Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau come into mind.

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Elizabeth Dia

first place, junior division

My name is Elizabeth Dia and I am a rising Freshman at Lausanne Collegiate School. I entered this competition after my English teacher, Mrs. Reese, told my class about it. When I read the folktale "The Snake and the Boar", I was surprised at the complexity of the moral issues mentioned. This was a challenge when writing this essay. It was a unique essay prompt which I enjoyed responding to.

In the future, I will continue learning about different cultures. I want to major in both political science and international relations in college. In high school, I plan to become an International Baccalaureate student. I also plan to join Model U.N. and Debate Club. I am already part of Emerging Ethical Leaders and Girl Scouts. Volunteering is one of my hobbies. I also enjoy studying Spanish and art. Writing and reading are some of my passions too. This summer, I am traveling to France with a school group. I will be doing landscape painting, in addition to visiting museums and learning about French culture.

I have many heroes- all of those who work to make the world a better place, especially artists. Artists make the work more beautiful through song, the written word, paintings, murals, sculptures, dramatic performance, and drawings.

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Una Koh

second place, junior division

I entered my essay to this competition because my English teacher, Mrs. Feiler, told me about it and encouraged/suggested/strongly suggested/forced me to enter. (No, of course she didn't force me. She kindly gave me a paper all about the essay and sijo competition and for that I am extremely grateful.)

While writing and sending my essay, I read and learned about several Korean folk tales and learned what a sonagi is. I learned that it is very stupid to procastinate at certain, extreme levels and that those weird and crazy people who get started on things right away are actually very smart and must lead a much easier and simpler life.

My goal in the future is to become an artist or an author, or maybe both, or a graphic novelist, or... umm... perhaps something else. My hobbies are drawing and writing, if it wasn't too hard to discern from my dream professions, and my personal hero is Helen Keller, though there are many adults I know who are technically equally, if not more heroic than Helen (i.e. parents, teachers).

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Katharine Olinger

honorable mention, junior division

I entered my essay in this contest because I’m always in search of a good writing competition. My English teacher, Mrs. Rockey, introduced my class to the Sejong Cultural Society’s contest when we began our Korean literature unit.

Although I had never read Korean literature before, I found the selected folktales quite interesting. It was the character of Shimchong in “The Blind Man’s Daughter”’ that caught my attention most. In some ways she was just like any American folk heroine (an underdog). But, in other ways she was quite different, in fact, the polar opposite (motivated by filial piety, not her own dreams).Through this competition I have learned many things: from the big idea of unselfishness paying off, to the fact that a deadline can improve writing.

In the future, I plan to continue writing, but to expand to fictional stories for children, in addition to essays and book reviews. I would like to travel to the Mediterranean area someday because it was the literature of that region that first drew me to myths and folktales. I’m on my middle school’s soccer, basketball, and softball teams, and I also like to swim and to go fishing for hours on end. I play the flute in band and in solo and ensemble performances. I enjoy shopping, though I never hold on to my money (another plus to this contest).

Given my love of literature, it should be no surprise that my “heroes” are authors, Rick Riordon and Robin McKinley. I’ve heard it said, “Write what you would want to read.” Someday I hope to write a story that rivals Riordan’s in excitement and emulates McKinley’s creativity.

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Julia Shin

honorable mention, junior division

My name is Julia Shin and I just finished my 8th grade year at Dublin Henry Karrer Middle School. I first heard about this essay competition from my tutor, and I thought this would be a nice experience for me of knowing my writing ability.

While writing my essay, I learned that a lot of critical thinking is needed to write. I understood why writing a good essay or story takes a lot of time. I also learned a lot about the relationship between the reality and the folkstales.

My goal for the future is becoming a graphic designer as those people who design the word "google" in the Google company. I enjoy decorating and designing.

My personal interests are tennis, art, and reading. Whenever I have time I like to do one of these three. I try to play tennis almost everyday, and I try to read as many books as I can in my free time. However, my main interest is art. When I am drawing or doodling I feel very comfortable and peaceful.

Finally, my personal heroes are my parents because they always lead me to the road of success and trusts me that I will follow them. They are always there for me.

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Shafeeq Ibraheem

honorable mention, junior division

When my English teacher told the middle school about the competition, I decided to give it a try. I had no idea what sijo was (I had enough trouble with haiku), and didn't know anything about Korean culture. That changed after the competition, of course. With a little research, I learned the basics of sijo, and the folktales were easy to understand.

My goals for the future are to go through high school and then to a good college. I like using the computer. TV and stuff. My personal hero would have to be Barack Obama.

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Ruth Eujin Hwang

honorable mention, junior division

I wanted to enter this competition for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to see if I had developed as a writer. My essay writing needed improvement. I tried very hard to bring my writing grades up to all “A” work. Secondly, I was interested in learning about my heritage. When I read the story Shimchong, the Blind Man’s Daughter, I learned things about my Korean culture and the values that were important to my ancestors and that still apply to me, today.

By writing my essay for this competition. I learned to use more detailed comparisons. For example, when I described the similarities and differences of Shimchong and me, I compared how we were alike in our actions and values. I also discussed we were different in many ways due to our geography and our choices. That discussion helps me learn how to compare and contrast people and their situations. In sending the essay, I learned about following details in directions. I know that I had to submit my essay just as the judges had stated or risk being disqualified.

My goal in the future is to be a veterinarian, a dog trainer. I have always loved animals and they always loved me. I enjoy taking care of animals and have gained many animal friends.
I have many hobbies and personal interests. I like photography, reading, figure skating, and helping my mom baby-sit. I also like sewing and playing tennis.

My parents have taught me many things. They have taught me to work hard and think ahead. I also have learned to trust in the lord my God. Most importantly, they loved me, took care of me, and supported my life. I hope to be like my parents when I grow up. They are my heroes. A hero is a person that you look up to, admire, and want to be like. My personal heroes are my parents.

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Eshpreet Kular

honorable mention, junior division

My name is Eshpreet Kular. I currently attend the 6th grade at Andrew Jackson Language Academy in Chicago, Illinois. When my English teacher, Ms. Bacia told me about this competition, I knew I had to try out. I have always been amazed by cultures around the world and I knew that I would enjoy reading Korean folktales. All the folktales had very special messages, however, I chose to analyze, “Shimchong: a blind man’s daughter,” because I could connect to it the most.  I learned many things, but one thing I learned that I will never forget is that if you are caring and are willing to sacrifice yourself for someone you love, you and your loved ones might eventually benefit. This is a value I will remember for life.

In the future, I hope to become a great doctor. When I was young, my mom had a problem with her kidneys and I remember how much I wanted to help, so I am thinking about specializing in nephrology. I also hope to one day make an impact on the world in stopping global warming and saving the wildlife on our planet. In my free time, I enjoy writing stories, reading, or staying active doing sports such as badminton, soccer, and swimming. I also love traveling to different tourist spots across the nation.

My hero is my grandma. I admire her because I know she has been through many hardships through her life, having to evacuate from her own home country, Myanmar, to India. And to add on to all the trouble she also lost most of her great wealth during that time. I find it quite amazing, how even after the recent loss of my grandfather, she still has such a positive attitude towards life.

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