2011 Sejong Writing Competition
Essay Category Senior Division Reading Material

CRANES by Hwang Sunwon - translated by David McCann

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About David R. McCann

David R. McCann is a member of the Sejong Writing Competition Planning Committee. He is the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and director of the Korea Institute at Harvard University. Read his profile at Korea Institute, Harvard University website




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Senior Division (grades 9-12)
Hwang Sun-won (1915-2000), one of Korea’s great 20th century writers of fiction, published "Cranes" in 1953, just as the Korean War ceasefire was coming into effect. The story has been seen and even criticized for being too optimistic - even naïve - about the possibilities for future reconciliation between the two Koreas.

Topic: In a carefully developed essay, point out those parts of the story that do seem to suggest the possibility or hope of future reconciliation between the two main characters and, by extension, the two Koreas. But noting that now, more than a half century later, hostile actions continue to occur while still there is no peace treaty, show how Hwang’s story might be read as a more complicated rendering of the situation on the Korean peninsula than naïvely optimistic.

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