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2012 Irish Korean Essay Competition

Anniversaries


The Embassy of Ireland, Republic of Korea and The Irish Association of Korea, in association with Emerald Cultural Institute, proudly announce the

Irish-Korean Essay Competition 2012 for English as a second language university students in Korea. Entrants are invited to make essay submissions on the subject of Anniversaries 1st Place Return flights to Dublin, four weeks study in Emerald Cultural Institute*, Dublin, and 2,000 Euro spending money (total value approx. 7,500,000 Korean won) 2nd Place A cultural prize and cash to the value of 1,000,000 won 3rd Place A cultural prize 4th Place A cultural prize 5th Place A cultural prize


The Embassy of Ireland, South Korea, and The Irish Association of Korea proudly announced the winners of the second Irish-Korean Essay Competition for university students in Korea in March 2013. The competition sought to raise awareness about connections between both Ireland and Korea, and allowed contestants to compete for an opportunity to experience Ireland from an educational, cultural, and academic perspective. The competition offered the winner an opportunity to study in one of Ireland’s leading private language institutes for one month. Participants were invited to write an essay in the traditional format on any particular subject, provided that it is related to the topic Anniversaries. Details of the Competition The competition is administered by the Irish Association of Korea (www.iak.co.kr), a non-profit organisation which actively seeks to promote Ireland and all that falls under the banner of ‘Irishness’ within Korea, and supported by the Embassy of Ireland in Seoul. The competition is designed to highlight Ireland as a leading location for study abroad, and as a unique and fascinating cultural destination. The topic for this year’s competition is Anniversaries. The competition was open to full-time, registered, under-graduate university students in Korea[2] , who use or study English as a second language. [The competition is not open to students who speak English as a native language. Students must be enrolled as a full-time student and not as an exchange student or postgraduate student.] Essays were tp be written in any style the participant wishes but it is expected that all sources will be referred to using the appropriate academic format. The minimum length for each entry must not be less than 1,500 words and no more than 2000 words. All essays were to be written in the English language. Why Anniversaries? 2013 will be a big year for Irish-Korean relations in terms of anniversaries – 80 years of the Columbans in Korea; 60 years since the end of Korean War and 30 years of Diplomatic Relations, and the Irish Association of Korea would like to inspire thoughtful considerations of what anniversaries represent.


Of most importance to all in Korea, 2013 will mark the 60th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Korean War, a tragedy which tore Korea apart and still profoundly affects life on the peninsula today. Veterans and all those related to those who fought and died during the war will inevitably reflect on the conflict and its painful legacy. During the conflict a large number of Irish people died while fighting under the flags of other nations, notably Britain and the US. The Embassy of Ireland and the Irish Association of Korea in collaboration with the Somme Association in Northern Ireland are working towards erecting a memorial to all those who died. The Irish Association of Korea are currently leading a drive to raise funds for this memorial with the aim of completing this in 2013. (http://iak.co.kr/irish-war-memorial/ for details) Ireland will also be celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea. Also of significance will be the 80th year anniversary of the first notable Irish presence in Korea, the Columban missions, seven of whom died during the Korean War. The organisers are proud to welcome the Listowel Writers Week (www.writersweek.ie) into the judging panel. In return for assisting with the judging of winners, the winning essay will be published the Winners Anthology at the festival, a recognised anthology of writing published by the leading writers’ festival in Ireland.


Winner

A Valedicion: Forbidden Mourning Cho Min Kyeong Seoul National University


A Valedicion: Forbidden Mourning (Ed: The title for this essay was taken from a John Donne poem of the same name. Follow this link to read the poem online. The IAK cannot publish this poem for copyright purposes.) October 11th, 2007. It is the anniversary of my guilt – my first guilt. It is an anniversary not shared amongst many but of my own. It is an anniversary which I still cannot bring myself to celebrate. Every child must come across their first moment of guilt. My first pangs of guilt come from an incident involving a man, a half-stranger really, whose name I have engraved in my memory. As children, my friends and I used to charge towards a shabby old food stall for junk food as an afterschool ritual. A middle aged couple would greet us behind the deliciously scented vapour of tteokbokki* and veggie fritters. After six years of regular visits to the food stall for camaraderie and an unhealthy diet, the stall became a natural part of our neighbourhood, and a vibrant outpost in our childhood lives My mother used to occasionally drop by to converse with the old lady who ran the stall. The food stall was, shall I say, the gossip hub of the town. With every bag of tteokbokki and veggie fritters went the news of the day and ‘it’s-just-between-andme-but’s. My sister and I used to tug on my mother’s sleeve, one on each side, amidst the endless gossips, joining in here and there and sharing our childish insights. The lady always gave my sister and me a few extra veggie fritters under my mother’s nose. Whenever she pinched our cheeks as a sign of adoration, we scowled at her rough, pepper-scented hands. Her husband sold cotton candy or other kinds of sweets in front of the school, avidly waving hands to whoever was crossing the street. He was a typical overly affable neighbour who couldn’t stop caring about your day. Some children made fun of him for his ragged and saccharine scented cloths while others ignored him. I was much too embarrassed to be seen in public talking to a man as shabby and old as his food cart but whenever my friends weren’t there, I gladly took his sweets and listened half-heartedly to his jokes. We used to sit together along the unpaved road sucking on whatever was left from his cart that day. My favourite was cotton candy, a rarity as it was popular and often sold-out. He often told me of his daughter, the one who


never visited. She had gotten into college and every won they earned went straight into her tuition. I still remember how excited they both seemed as they told everyone who walked by, “She got into a university! The first in our family!” After I graduated from elementary school, I began avoiding our daily chats. As I grew older, I grew more and more tired of his saccharine junk foods. Listening to his small talks stared to wear me out. Most of all, I became a teenager who was too concerned about what my friends would think if I was caught talking to a man who made a living out of our pocket money. Since then, I didn’t bother to pay much attention to the lady, her husband, and the food stall. They had become a natural part of our lives that we hardly ever noticed that it was there. It had been there, it was there, and we had no doubt that it will always be there. One day I saw the stall smashed up into a few wooden boards and torn up PVC tents. The next day the corner of the street where they usually set up the stall was empty, as if nothing had ever been there. The mess had been cleaned up in less than a day by public officers. The corner was left spotless. The wife was wailing in front of the city hall amongst other street vendors. The next morning, the husband was found in a tree next to which he had always put up his stall. He had hanged himself. Several of my friends saw it. Terrified parents and police quickly removed the body but whoever walked across the park on their way to school saw the man who sold them their daily junk food droop from a tree, cold and stiff. I took a different route to school and only heard the news a few days later. I had just assumed that they had taken a vacation. He always said that it was his dream to go on a road trip on his little truck, the three of them all together. The next morning, his wife was on the front page of the local newspaper. The press had made a martyr out of him for supposedly fighting against the local government’s radical crackdown on street vendors. It seemed that the government had hired local gangsters to remove the vendors by force. As far as I was concerned, he did not care about the cities policy or making a political statement. All he cared about was meeting the tuition deadline, that’s all. The papers described him with such grandeur. They had gotten it wrong. They had gotten everything wrong. It could still here him saying, “Good morning there!”


“Want another cotton candy? I saved it just for you.” “A road trip would be nice, all three of us together in this truck.” “She got into a university! The first in our family!” Students began writing messages of mourning on their blogs. I did not. The city drove him away for the sake of cleanliness and order. I was embarrassed of him because I thought he was grungy and unkempt. Just a few days back I had awkwardly ignored him on the way home when I saw him eagerly waving his hands towards my direction. I pretended not to notice his disappointed hands as they went back into his worn-out pockets. How was I so different from those who had driven him off the streets? The following year, on the day he had hanged himself, there were candles lit up where the food stall used to stand. Bouquet of chrysanthemums and hand written letters were left on the street. We knew that by next morning, the corner would once again be cleaned with no trace what used to be there, as it did a year ago. But this time, people would remember; they would remember what stood in that corner and what it meant to our neighbourhood. Did I leave a candle on that day? No I did not. Perhaps flowers? Not them either. Surely I must have at least written a letter? No. I had not done anything to mourn his death. I had forbidden myself from mourning, not out of the inter-assurance of the mind by love so refined*, but out of guilt and shame. More than four years have passed but I still remember the couple. I now live in a different neighbourhood with different street vendors. But whenever I see tteokbokki stands on the street I am reminded of the middle-aged couple. The smell of spices and grease in the air comes as the scent of nostalgia and guilt – my first guilt. I still cannot bring myself to commemorate the birth of my conscience. It is like an abandoned child whose birthday is forgotten year after year. I have not, however, forgotten the birth of my guilt. His name is engraved in my memory and I can but hope that one day I may feel worthy of lighting a candle on October, 11th His name was Geunjae Lee. No one had known before he hanged himself. *tteokbokki: spicy Korean junk food


*inter-assurance ~ love so refined: allusions from John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”


Second Place

Anniversaries: Milestones in My Personal History of Struggles. By Choi Hyunsang Seoul National University


Anniversaries: Milestones in My Personal History of Struggles Recalling my elementary school time, I was such a boy who loved to run and play with mates. I rarely paid attention to what teachers were saying during class, and rather chatted and exchanged letters with best friends of mine. Whenever the day of sports competition came, I always ran the two-track-around relay match as a representative of the class team. Practicing for the match after school in the upcoming weeks before the competition was an utmost enjoyment. Outcomes and rankings of my team on the competitions did not matter as what mattered to me was the time I could share and hang out with my friends – not because we never won the match! Like every good thing comes to an end, however, the bright and vigorous childhood part of mine was calling to an end. It was then when the pivot on which my world had been turning was irrevocably changed. Around the time when I turned 11, I noticed something unusual and unthinkable had happened to me. I used to go for a walk up to a hill near my place every morning. Then I loved galloping down the path leading to the way home. One day, I was with my grandmother and two cousins. Several minutes after letting them go down the path before me as always, I started to run. It was then for the first time in my life, I just knew that my legs would not support my body. It felt my knees bending weakly losing strength. So I stopped, and started to walk down the road as awkwardly as the situation seemed to me. This scary and bizarre experience was only the beginning. As I was running the last relay competition of the year, I collapsed before the finish line. I was taken to hospital nearby. Not long after, I was moved to a bigger one, and had to go through an intensified medical checkup. Myasthenia gravis – that was the name of the disease I was diagnosed with. This disease is characterized by a feeling weakness in the entire body, due to interference with the nervous system, which delivers orders from the brain to the muscles all across the body. Being only 12, I understood less than half of what the doctor had said. I didn’t know what the name of the disease actually meant. The situation got bad to worse at an alarming speed. Several months later, I found myself struggling to climb up to the next floor. Sometimes it took me several minutes to become fully ‘recharged’ to step up a stair. Accordingly, I was losing confidence in myself. It didn’t take long for a once sociable


and merry boy who had countless friends to become a lonely and sometimes aggressive one. I had an operation at the age of 13. The doctor’s prognosis was that a onethird chance of a full recovery, another third chance of being able to cut the number of pills to take every day, while the remaining unfortunate third was the possible outcome that there would be no progress whatsoever. Put under general anesthesia to numb the great pains, I was always coming in and out of consciousness and unconsciousness for a substantial period of time even after the operation. Lying in bed, I dreamt a lot about running up and down the stairs freely with my cousins. In the end, I was discharged from the hospital healthier, but still totally reliant on the pills. As soon as the effect of one pill wore off, I had to take another pill right after. But when it hit me that I only made a slight recovery compared to before, I pledged to myself to a complete recovery within 5 years, albeit not sure how. In hindsight, now I see that was a kind of a self-consolation as without a hope for improvement I must’ve known that I would never be encouraged to make it through the long way ahead of me. I was as desperate as I could get. This slow road to recovery started on January 13, 2004 – the operation day. In addition to all the difficulties and troubles I had to sort out, living under medical treatment changed me a lot. I got accustomed to coping with physical hardships from real experiences. I grasped the knack of dealing with stairs with as little force as possible, and telling between things I could do and things I should ask help for. Besides, I had tons of free time that I would have spent participating in outdoor activities if it weren’t for my illness, culminated to hours of book reading, which helped me greatly afterwards. Further, my understanding of the relationships among people, especially between the weak and the strong deepened. Around graduation, deciding which high school to attend was one of the major concerns at that time. I could apply for the schools in downtown Seoul, or let the education authority pick one nearby randomly for me, as many others do. But to opt for better education at the city center meant that journeys to and from school would be long. As I was young and ill, I’d never been to places more than 20 minute walk away from home, and it took over half an hour by bus to get to the city center. After a few days of pondering, I finally decided to expand my social boundary. That was the very first time I decided to ‘reach out’ to achieve something since the


outbreak of the disease, and that choice would provide huge impetus for further development if it resulted in success, I had thought. The 2nd anniversary thus marked a step towards changes. I had a wonderful three years at high school. I met many good friends there. I led a completely normal life of an ordinary student, except for not taking part in physical education classes. My health condition was getting noticeably better. By then I went to school by bus usually standing all the way, went up to the top of the hill, on which the school stood, and climbed upstairs to the 5th floor where my classroom was – only being slightly out of breath two out of three times. Things too normal to be given a second thought were everyday challenges to me, and I truly enjoyed feelings of euphoria I had when I finally achieved what had been thought next to impossible – things like going over five floors without a stoppage. Like all Korean students, I studied with doing nothing else for the last year in high school. Fortunately, sitting and studying required no muscle training and that was one of the things I was good at. And around the 5th anniversary – the initial deadline – I finally got admitted to one of the top universities in Korea. College life was a lot different from what I had expected. There was no person forcing me upon anything. Everything and everyday was up to me. At first, that was too much freedom for me. After a couple of years of trial and error, however, I could manage a decent college life with several best friends and brilliant classes. I also could hardly find out what troubles me in terms of health condition, though my school was situated in the middle of the mountain – not a hill! After 5 semesters at college, I decided to study abroad as an exchange student. That was a realizing of my long held dream. But the same concern that had stopped me from making up my mind again worried me – “Will I survive?” Living in a different country was a great challenge I’d never tackled before. That also meant that possibilities of communication were low in times of urgency. I didn’t think much this time, however, knowing I would only find more possible difficulties if I did. I just applied for a twosemester-long exchange program to Europe, and finally got accepted a couple of months later. I was going to the Czech Republic in three months – time to jump over my predetermined limits again. I boarded on a plane to Prague in September, 2011. I had a mixed feeling of expectations and worries, confidence and nervousness. But the very moment of


finally getting on the plane truly tore me apart, because I was leaving all my family, girlfriend, and best friends back home, never to see them for a year. To make things worse, the first few weeks in Prague was disastrously lonely. I was an Asian boy with different cultural backgrounds, and I was not used to communicating in English all the time. All the surrounding circumstances were unfamiliar. I felt as if I were stuck in a long dark tunnel. The days fraught with mistakes and regrets were giving me a similar impression as I used to get back in adolescent years – when it was hard to make friends and I was usually alone. I firmly believed the reason I had been bewildering was not because I was from Asia nor I was ill, but because there were misunderstandings primarily due to my lack of English skills. So I put all my efforts to improve them. Not only did I try to speak as much as possible during class discussions and everyday talks with friends, I also listened to British radio programs during free time. Soon after, my works paid off and things started to get better time after time. I started to understand what other students were saying, and soon I could join the conversations without many difficulties. Me and other students from all over the world formed a close tie ‘beyond the borders’ and became good friends. Thus the fantastic second half of the semester followed. I regarded the first semester as a huge success, because I ‘survived’ with little physical troubles. And I made lots of international friends, from whom I learned first-hand about different cultures, languages, and people. I did fancy those experiences. Further, I also made several trips to the neighboring countries such as Hungary and Germany. Those trips with new friends marked highlights of the semester. During the winter vacation, I decided to take a backpacking trip alone to the Southern-European countries for almost a month. I covered dozens of cities in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. Also I observed Christmas and the New Year there. I was half the globe away from my hometown, alone! Never had I expected this thing to possibly happen for long, but that was exactly what I was doing. The great feeling and satisfaction filled me fully, and that made my 8th anniversary the most special one ever. I spent one more semester and it was a lot bigger enjoyment as I had been through that once before. I knew how to break the ice, deal with extra time, and party with friends. I came back in May after finishing the second semester to meet my


family and girlfriends again, and be reunited with ‘domestic’ friends of mine. And so far, I have come back to an ordinary life but more broad-minded and with a lot more confidence. Now I’m expecting another anniversary, the 9th, to come. It has been almost 10 years since I had an operation, and I’m still dependent on the pills– though the number was cut gradually from 10 to 3 a day. But would I call it a fail? Absolutely not – I have never given up, and neither will in the future. On the path I’ve gone through, I have made several personal achievements albeit some of them intangible. Further, like the previous ones, I’m sure the upcoming anniversaries will give me chances to look back at my former foot traces, and thus refresh me in many ways. That’s why I think those anniversaries marks important milestones in my personal history.


Third Place

A Link By Mok Ji Sun Sungshin Women’s University


A Link ‘My grandfather was a farmer. He was a typical stereotype of old people. Sometimes he was quite obstinate, and stubborn. He wouldn’t try to change his lifestyle, even though his children, including his grandchildren, were not fond of his way at all. Almost ignoring the modernization, he insisted on living in the countryside. Also, he had patriotic ardor as an old soldier of Korea. For example, he had strong anger against Japan, which colonized Korea and merged it into Japan. Once he scolded me because I was learning Japanese language. Yet, in his attitude, there was something more than mere hatred. When I was scolded by him, I couldn’t understand it. Frankly speaking, I just despised that narrow-minded, old man, who seemed to be perverse because of the hatred. Yet, one day, I could figure out what was in his deep heart. It was not a hatred, but love. It was intense love for the country. I could see and find it on one sunny day in August. It was a national holiday called Korea’s Independence Day, the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan. I visited my grandfather to spend my holiday with the lonely, old man. Enjoying the country scenery in the car, my family approached to a small house which my grandfather lived in. On our way there, I noticed a skinny, old man who was struggling to do something. He was trying to raise a national flag, and hang it on the top of the roof, which was too high for him to hoist the flag. However, he managed to do it, and he looked up the hoisted flag after he finished his entire tasks. Standing still in front of the small, old house with crumbling plaster, his face glowed and beamed at the flag. He was my grandfather. For years since he passed away, I have not forgotten his glowing face on that anniversary. Whenever I think of him, I come up with his radiant face on the Independence Day, rather than the perplexed, grim face of the day when he scolded me. With the experience of an anniversary, I am sure that my grandfather did it because of love. It was love for the country and for me as well. Because he loved his country and me so much, he might have been afraid of losing them. He might have thought that I would lose my identity as a Korean by learning Japanese, and it would lead to the loss of my own country. Since that day, anniversaries have meant something special for me. I could encounter my grandfather’s hidden face, maybe owing to the anniversary. Besides,


anniversaries give me a chance to discover the preciousness of things that were used to me. In the Independence Day, we realize how the freedom, which we have taken for granted, is important. Also we can recollect how our forefathers sacrificed for it. Commemorating the valuable efforts, we become to look at ourselves humbly, feeling grateful for them. Adam Schiff said, 'Each year on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr,'s birth, America has the opportunity to reflect on our nation's progress towards the realization of his dream.' Though Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is not a national anniversary in Korea, nor in Ireland, all the nations will have the same opinion with Adam Schiff when it comes to their anniversaries about human rights and freedom. In that way, an anniversary reminds me of the past. It is a small piece of a great event which occurred to give people something wonderful. That ‘something’ can be religion, as Saint Patrick gave it to Irish.

It can be freedom, as many citizens of

Korea and Ireland sacrificed for it. That is a life, what I get from those memorable events. In the end, anniversary, the small piece of the past, becomes a part of history which makes my present life exist. In other words, an anniversary is a link. It connects the dead with the alive. Also, it connects the past with the present. Finally it connects a country with another country. How an anniversary links me with the people resting in peace? Whenever it comes to the Independence Day of Korea, I come up with my grandfather. It makes a strong bond between him and me, even though he cannot listen to me at all. I recollect his happy face when he looked at the national flag, and think how he loved the country, and how he fought for it. My respect and love toward my grandfather extend to all Koreans who fought for the country. In Memorial Day, I sometimes visit the place where they are buried. Thinking how they sacrificed themselves, I resolve to live a worthy life, to make my life worth their death. How strange, but thankful it is that the life can encounter the death with a single clip called an anniversary! In addition to it, the anniversaries link the past with the present. When we have an anniversary, our normal lives, the present, stop altogether. It brings up the past into the present. In other words, we summon the past. Suddenly, we get to take a look at the values and the ideals of the past. Meditating it, now we look at the present which has changed so much from once what it used to be. Also we can check ourselves if we are preserving the values which anniversaries are aiming for. An anniversary is like a


sword grinded by ancestors; it would stab our heart if we are losing the purposes of anniversaries Most of all, an anniversary is a link between a country and another one. It is a bridge linking an island to another island. Maybe Ireland and Korea are included in these islands which are connected to each other. It’s possible because the anniversary is storage of the past and the present, and the place where the alive can encounter the dead. Because each anniversary has its own story, it helps us understand each other’s culture, lives, and the deep pain inside. I could link myself to the history of Ireland, after I got to know an anniversary of Ireland, Easter. After I learned what Easter meant in Ireland, I resolved to learn more about Ireland. I started from ‘No Second Troy’ by Yeats, to a thick book about the history of Ireland. In the end, the color emerald became something meaningful. I could not help coming up with my own country’s history. How the citizens were suppressed and tormented, and the unity was divided into pieces! How many innocent people’s lives were damaged for hundreds of years! It was very similar with the experiences which most Koreans had gone through in the past. The anniversary, the past, and the people who sacrificed themselves of Ireland reminded me of Korean’s Independence Day, the past of Korea, and the people of Korea. It reminded me of my grandfather, who once suffered under the thick cloud of history. Still, there are a lot of things I should learn to know Ireland more. Nevertheless I am sure that someday it will be possible for me to understand the people of Ireland without any limit. It’s because we share similar history, emotion, and the pain. We can share anniversaries to commemorate those history and pain. Through that way, Ireland and Korea share a link binding each other in a unity. An anniversary means more than a day. With an anniversary, we get an opportunity; opportunity to remember the preciousness of the present state, opportunity to recall the ancestors’ suffering and every effort. It leads to the opportunity to look at ourselves, to confirm if we are doing right or protecting the ideals that ancestors had died for. So the anniversary can serve as a link, which connects the past with the present, and the dead with the alive. Above all, an anniversary becomes a space where a country and another country can share their histories, and their pain. The more we get to know each other’s anniversaries, and the history related to it, the closer we became to each other.


Now I wonder what would happen if I told my grandfather the story of Ireland. I am sure that he would be pretty much surprised. He wouldn’t believe that far away in the west, there is a country who suffered similar pain with us, somehow more severe pain than Korea’s. He would understand the feeling of Irish. Maybe he would teach me more about the agonies that he had in the past, and I would understand more about Ireland, due to him. Though all I imagined is not possible, I can still link myself to him. Every Independence Day, I can recall his bright face filled with affection towards the country. Whenever I read the books about Easter Rise, I can find my grandfather among the Irish people who didn’t hesitate to sacrifice their lives, for the love towards their own country.


Fourth Place

The Homeland: Anniversaries of Past, Present, and Future By Lee Hye In Seoul National University of Education


The Homeland: Anniversaries of Past, Present, Future In Korean Seon Buddhist cosmology, ultimately, there is no distinction between past, present and future. There is just the eternal moment. The words “past”, “present” and “future” are convenient designators to help us arrange and conceptualize our lives. Events conventionally defined as having taken place in “the past”, are often commemorated and celebrated on specific days, however, these events or at least the causal series they occurred in, are continuing to interact with contemporary life throughout what we call “history” or the linearly conceptualized time-line of humankind, manifesting in different forms and expressions. In this sense, one might say that anniversaries do not merely exist in the present relative to but separate from the past or on calendars, but the anniversaries are a continuation of the “past” event itself. Land as a political entity shares similarities with the notion of anniversaries in that they are conceptually continuous in their presence, sometimes being a cause, other times being an effect of our deeds.

The land, albeit silent, is the omnipresent

foundation for human life, hence embedded with all the potential to influence everything on it and what happens on it. Especially, due to the “Past”, Ireland and Korea are examples of where land is constantly commemorated and how it is affecting those societies perennially. For instance, the pervasive and acute sense of topophilia found in the people from both Ireland and Korea has led to definable trends in the art and literature of both countries, and also there is a socio-ecological schema in them caused by the longing for homeland ever since their colonial past. Thus, it is a perennial ‘anniversarization’ of the notion of Homeland and how it is manifested throughout time that my thoughts were drawn to. Longing for homeland has been a frequent theme by hundreds of poets and writers over centuries in Ireland and over decades in Korea. Poets and writers attempt to translate the past into the culture of the future with stories that trace anniversaries over the original event. The movie “The Field”, a remake of the original play, demonstrates this well. In portraying The Bull McCabe, who is a prime example of Irish people’s identity coming from commitment to the land, Jim Sheridan and John


B. Keane commemorate the land together with their audiences and readers throughout time. After all, to The Bull McCabe, the land was his child, a living thing, just like the continuous unfolding of events which are being commemorated there. Korea has her own rich body of literature dealing with dispossession and the struggle to hold onto the soil spanning different eras and forms of literature. The tradition is still carried on by those who do not forget to commemorate “the past” and the events of their homeland. A good example of this is “Toji” …which translates, very aptly as “The Land”. During the tale, three generations of the Choi family are forced into exile in their own country after losing their land to Mr. Cho who benefitted from his proJapanese leanings. The story ends as Seohee, the Choi family’s daughter, buys back their land and house in their hometown after so much suffering and upheaval is endured. The land and its history are commemorated with the news of the Japanese surrender to the Allies when she moves back to her hometown by reclaiming her family’s land, a symbolic act which resonates with Korean readers. Art and literature are indeed the closest to the heart of a society and they assist in the commemoration and the establishment of anniversary-worthy events in the popular mind of a people. How has the constant veneration and commemoration of the Land affected those who are living on it then? How has the act of commemoration and anniversarization affected those who are doing the commemorating and the anniversarizing?

How is

it being manifested in the current societies in both countries? In effect, how does the constant reinvention of the “past” affect our present? To begin with Ireland, a series of historical references regarding the land issue such as the Land Act, the National Land League and the Wyndham & Balfour Land Acts etc. can be mentioned, however, what should be observed here is how, due to the very act of anniversarization, not necessarily of the same events, they have continued to cast their shadows on the post-independence contemporary culture. As for the socio-ecological aspect of Ireland, in terms of the manifestation of the consciousness for homeland as a latent anniversary in that the consciousness for homeland is silently yet continuously present in the society, the ink of past events


still runs seeping into the present. In the light of such, it is not completely absurd to say that the Irish people’s strong motivation to own their own bricks and mortar, due to past dispossession which has contributed to people’s greed for land-ownership, is accountable to some degree for the current recession in Ireland. The sad irony is that Irish people’s very longing to possess their own home and land led to Ireland as a nation, losing economic-sovereignty and has put the country at risk of becoming “a colony once again”, leaving Irish people again in danger of being dispossessed of their homes, figuratively and literally. In this respect, the Irish people are still fighting for what their ancestors fought for, for the land and home, just in different time and form as Peter Nyberg ’s comments in his report and the Taoiseach’s comments in Davos, (political views aside), agreed in some respects on this matter. (Of course this does not mean that all Irish individuals are held accountable for it). In light of recent events, The Bull McCabe’s tragic downfall serves as a stark warning about the dangers of obsessive topophilia in a post-colonial culture. In “Toji”, Seohee’s miserable exodus in returning and reclaiming her family holding, affords her little consolation and comfort once she has re-established herself there alone without her loved ones. Brendan Behan said, “Other people have a nationality. The Irish and Jewish people have a psychosis.” Had he been more familiar with Korea, he might have included the Korean people in his psychoanalysis. The Korean version of the national-psychosis for the homeland is still very tangible as is the shadow of the past which prolonged it. There were Korean equivalents of The Land Question, but it is contemporary Korea, where the ink has not dried yet either, which will be considered now. Every Seollal and Chuseok holidays, every radio and TV news reports more than half of the population crisscrossing the peninsula to visit hometowns, parents and Seonsan, stuck in the inevitable traffic congestion for up to 8 or 9 hours. The reason for this is that half of the whole country is residing in Seoul or in its satellite cities. As a result of the hyper-centralization which started from the 1950s after the Korean War, the population flood in Seoul gave birth to a real-estate law called “Jeonsae”,


supposedly “for the benefit” of those who could not afford to buy a house but had an unfulfilled wish to have a little house. Seemingly ideal, Jeonsae became a catalyst for the reproduction of wealth for those who could afford to invest on a soaring property market which was being bolstered by American-aid, the unprecedentedly fast economic growth and the resulting demand for housing. While the richcould multiply their fortune in the sky-rocketing property market with their tenant’s deposit added to their own money, tenants lost their opportunity to join the investment. This caused the cycle of constant moving which is a pervasive feature of life in Korea to this day and has resulted in a class of nomadic Seoulites without a real “home” who travel every second year (Korean rental-leases are signed for two years) in search of a new “home” and travel to the home of their ancestors’ graves and aged parents a few times each year. The idea of what a “home” is, locally or nationally, is an ideal very far from being reached. While Ireland has “repossessed” to a large extent and reclaimed lands for herself, Korea has never got out of the dispossession of the homeland. The ink is still running and her children are running with it, scattered to the winds like Bull McCabe blowing the dandelion. I was raised in 4 different provinces in Korea, yet when I’m asked where my hometown is, none of them springs to my mind. What I remember as home is where my grandparents lived and our Seonsan is, Uiryeong, in the journey to which my family spent hours in a car travelling from wherever we were residing at a given time. It was an eye-opener when my father first told me that our Seonsan is actually located in Anak, across the heavily fortified DMZ which separates northern Korea from southern Korea and also has divided many families. Even now, there are many who have not arrived home yet, despite our relentless efforts to reach the homeland, by trying to own our own home and regaining sovereignty, hoping to see the homeland united one day. History stays the same irrespective of the current trend of political correctness, some lamenting or sentimental narratives. The observations above are not for raising


antagonisms towards our past colonizers, casting blame on any party or taking refuge in self-justifying victimhood. They are to show how, what we separate ourselves from in the “past” is more than a past, but a prevailing aspect of the present and it continually shapes our shared memory, a memory with which we respond to the present and look to the future. We are living in and on anniversaries in every single moment if we are mindful of it. What our various local and national anniversaries stand for and what those who fought and died in the Easter Rising in 1916 in Ireland or the March 1st Independence Movement of 1919 in Korea fought for, is the very thing many are still living in. Our countries afflicted with Behan’s psychosis as they are, will be able to move forward by ‘anniversarizing’ and cherishing the most mundane. In Korean philosophy, every new breath is an anniversary. Commemorating and doing honor to the everyday moment and what anniversaries ultimately are for, which is to define our present and give us a sense of place here and now (not for self-justification and identity through suffering) is what will remind us of the value of fellowship and cooperation rather than enmity, of prosperity and commerce rather than boycotts and war so that one day all of us might finally live with a true feeling of being at home. Being at home means truly being here, living fully in the present moment and not missing the opportunities it offers as oppose to being away from home, dreaming our past and remembering our future After all, arriving home after a long tiring journey is the greatest anniversary of all.


Bibliography Books Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland , Vintage books, London Pak Kyung-Ni, Toji, Maronie books, 2012 Robert Fitzroy Foster, The Irish Story , Oxford University Press, 2002 Rosa González, The Unappeasable Hunger for Land in John B. Kean’s The Field, Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 5 , 1992, pp. 83-90 Seán Ó Nualláin, Ireland : A Colony Once Again , Cambridge Scholars Publishing , 2012

Webpages http://thesaurus.com/ http://blog.naver.com/primecollege?Redirect=Log&logNo=30151960122 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topophilia

http://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?cid=1616&docId=523306&mobile&categoryId=1 616 http://thinkexist.com/quotation/other_people_have_a_nationalitythe_irish_and_the/262511.html http://kostat.go.kr/portal/english/index.action http://blog.naver.com/precious21c?Redirect=Log&logNo=140159180149

http://www.urisociety.kr/ http://cuttlynx.tistory.com/entry/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sSm0KmX8EY&feature=relmfu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toji_%28novel%29 http://terms.naver.com/entry.nhn?cid=1600&docId=572430&mobile&categoryId=1 600 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Kyung-ni http://www.finance.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=6798 http://seanonuallain.blogspot.kr/2010/04/ireland-colony-once-again.html http://www.irishexaminer.com/business/property-crash-driving-rent-inflation206549.html http://www.munster-express.ie/letters-to-the-editor/a-colony-once-again/ http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/if-fianna-fail-ruined-this-country-nobody-admitsthat-it-also-built-it-br-by-victoria-white-211841.html http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/kfmhqlauidql/rss2/


http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2011/0423/business/learning-the-lessons-ofbursting-bubbles-152351.html http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/1121/1224307907085.html http://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/another-blow-to-property-market2949469.html http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/1121/1224307907085.html


Fifth Place

Beautiful Anniversaries of My Life Shin You Kyoung Kyunghee University


Beautiful Anniversaries of My Life Anniversaries are magical. They are symbols of love, the most recognizable moments that remind dearest persons every year. From celebration to memorial, anniversaries vary, but individuals have their own, special anniversaries of their lives. Different anniversaries of people are equivalent in terms of connecting individuals to others with love and care. For me, I categorize anniversaries in three types which I celebrate, families celebrate, and my society celebrates. They are all different in shapes, however, they are all heartwarming days of my life. When I studied abroad in Vancouver, Canada, I met Candace. She was my best friend and English teacher at the same time. On February 27th, 2008, she was waiting for me at the cafeteria with a home-made cake with crooked creamy letters written “Happy Birthday, Rachel!� on the surface. I was confused, of course, because I told her that my birthday already passed in September. She explained that she made our special birthday, which is right in the middle of September 1st and August 22nd. Then she gave me a Photo book, which was full of pictures we had taken for several months. It was shocking, touching, and moving. Since then, we celebrate our birthday in the middle every year. Our anniversary had become special annual event. It is so special that I would never forget. Our birthday in the middle is a symbol of overcoming differences and a symbol of heartwarming memories. Our birthday is a symbol of overcoming three differences that connected us, which confirmed that there is nothing can possibly hinder friendship. Candace and I are different in three ways: different country, different race, and different culture. Candace is Canadian and Caucasian living in Vancouver, Canada. I am Korean and Asian living in Korea. Before I met Candace, I thought that there are unavoidable gap between individuals from other countries. We had almost nothing in common, which allowed us only narrow range of subject while chatting. Now my opinion completely changed that there is no barrier between friends, regardless of how huge and noticeable the differences are. Through our birthday, we have become much closer, feeling the bond created between us. Anniversary, the special day between us, is magical link that helped us overcome differences. In addition, our birthday in the middle is a symbol of heartwarming memories I had in Vancouver. I stayed only one year, but during that short period,


Candace and I shared so many delightful moments. English learning was difficult, even when Candace was there, and I missed my parents a lot. As Candace realized how much I was stressed, then she thought of an event called “our birthday in the middle”. We spent weekends in my house taking photos or watching movies or shopping at Guildford Mall. The photos she had taken became beautiful parts of the Photo book she gave me as a present, and it is still in my house, displayed on a drawer. I sometimes pick it up and read over thoroughly, dive into the wave of nostalgia. If there was no friend that I can share my great memories in Vancouver, I would never thought of Canada as a fine, beautiful country. Because Candace was there, I remember my high school years very happily and could overcome all the stresses from school work and home stay. And Candace once told me what she thinks of Korea that she would never thought Koreans as only “smart Asians” if I was not her best friend. I had to move to Toronto when I finished only a year in Vancouver, and we promised sadly, to meet someday. And on January, 2012, Candace came to Korea and spent wonderful two weeks. Second category of anniversaries in my life is family anniversaries. Most precious day of my family is February 9th, which is the day of my mother was born and wedding anniversary of my parents at the same time. Every year on this day, my family goes to luxurious, high-quality restaurant to celebrate. My mother receives a gift from my father after dinner. Most of the times he gives her jewelry such as a diamond ring, sapphire ear rings or a gold necklace with her initials carved. My mother usually gives him presents that are very practical and useful such as nutritional supplements or under wears. I realize how she loves him through what she prepares as a gift because I can see that she knows everything about him. From what he needs to what he wants, my mother never misses his appetite. Most touching part is the letters exchanged between them. I do not read those for their privacy, but I can assert that the letters are lovely medium that protect their love since they were dating in their 20’s. Close friend of my mom’s has romantic and special way of celebrating their wedding anniversaries: visiting their honeymoon destination every 10th anniversary. She and her husband visit Hawaii that day, only them, not with their children, and they enjoy the week or more in the same resort they stayed 20 years ago. Just like they used to do long time ago, they spend some days near Waikiki beach and then


come back to Korea. It is a great way of refreshing relationship. More than 20 or 30 years of marriage may loosen a relationship compared to the days in early marriage. They overcome this problem by reminding themselves of romantic memories they had in their early marriage, and this has made their wedding anniversary very special. This upcoming 80th birthday of my Grandfather is a very happy occasion for my family in several ways. Firstly, all families including aunts and cousins gather up to celebrate this huge anniversary. This is an unusual time that my family and four aunts’ families get together in a same place at once.

I have not seen my little

cousins more than six months and thus look forward to it. Secondly, the pivotal reason of this anniversary becoming a happy occasion is that my Grandfather becomes 80 years old healthily. When I was young, I lived with my paternal grandparents. They raised me when both my parents were gone for work. I loved spending time with my grandparents and I still love it. Their health, both my paternal and maternal grandparents’, is a great concern for me. Fortunately they are all healthier than average of elders in their ages. One elder’s birthday means a lot in Korea. That is because the society has Confucius principles inside and because it is a perfect day to meet missed family members face to face. My society as a whole has some anniversaries that are equally crucial and vital to our lives. One of the most beloved national anniversaries is Hangeul-nal, or Hangul Proclamation Day. Most Koreans consider King Sejong, the inventor of Korean letters, most respectful figure in Korean history. We all appreciate him of inventing Korean letters, which make our lives much easier. It truly turns people very patriotic on Hangul Proclamation Day. In 1991, Hangul Proclamation Day was excluded from national anniversary; however, it has come back to life, even upgraded to national holiday this year due to the society’s enthusiasm and appreciation for bringing the anniversary back. Like this, one and only anniversary celebrating invention of a letter in the world has great significance in my society. National Liberation Day is another beloved anniversary in Korea. Because it is the reason we prosper now and the history we must remember and never forget to avoid. National Liberation Day is the day of liberation, independence, and autonomy for my society. My ancestors endured brutal tortures and insults from Japanese for more than 30 years. They died and murdered under cruel guns and swords. My


society remembers this to thank those people who died for us, who wanted to pass this country down to my generation with full autonomy. National Liberation Day symbolizes Korean’s strength that bears anything. Lastly, one of my society’s beloved national anniversaries is National Foundation Day. It is the symbol of my race’s root. Dangun, legendary founding father of early Korea, is considered to be where we are from. Dangun mythology of a bear and a tiger attempting to become humans sound unreasonable, but it is not just a myth to us but a symbol of our race and our pride. National Foundation Day unifies us to one family. Little children learn the history and where Korea has started from studying this mythology. My society learns and reviews the founding principle Humanitarianism this day, and reminds itself of one family. There are many types of magnificent anniversaries in my life. Full of pleasant memories erase darkness and respect to our ancestors make us mature. Shared birthday with Canadian friend is invaluable and family gathering up and my parent’s wedding anniversaries fill me with joy every year. On crucial national anniversaries I feel proud of myself for being born in this splendid country and growing up in the beautiful society. Anniversaries truly are magical.

2012 Irish Korean Essay Competition - Anniversaries  

The Embassy of Ireland, South Korea, and The Irish Association of Korea proudly announced the winners of the second Irish-Korean Essay Compe...

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