English Essay Contest is an annual event held by The Dongguk Post. It is intended to boost an interest in English writing and globalization of students. In 2014, it was held on November 5th and 19 students participated in the contest. Students had to choose either ‘Every obstacle is an opportunity’ or ‘War cannot be justified’ as a topic. All students composed their own essays with high standards. Followings are the first, second, and third prize winners of English Essay Contest.
<1st Prize> Choi Bo-kyung
In the previous year, whenever I went through hard times, I had the habit of repeatedly saying that life is not fair since everyone except myself seemed so happy while I struggled to fight whatever obstacles I had. From my heaven-like life in Canada, I moved to Korea about two years ago due to financial issues. Although my sister was already enrolled in a university in Canada, I was given no option but to go to a Korean university since my parents could no longer afford for the continuing education. Trying to play a ‘good daughter’ role, I came to Korea by myself, but for about a year, I cried every night telling myself that I am the most unfortunate person on Earth and that money was always in my way, whether I am just hanging out with friends or trying to learn new things. However, I came to realize how negative I was, cursing myself. It took me more than a year to realize what a grateful life I am living and how much I have grown and matured as a person, greatly due to my so-called ‘biggest obstacle: The Money.’
When I just arrived in Korea, I knew no one. I was so hopeless since I did not have anyone to emotionally rely on or get advice from. I wanted to make new friends, but I had absolutely no money so I just stayed home crying all day long like a character from a tragic soap opera. I have never worked before, but I had no choice but to work in order to support my family. Luckily, I easily got a job at a very unique English academy. I was on task to teach English to adults. I was not exactly “teaching” them, but it was more like a free conversation class. Through this job, I met so many people, some whom became one of my close friends. People I met at the job connected me with new people, new jobs and new experience in general. If it were not for my obstacle, I would never even have imagined getting a job and I would not even be with the people whom I consider special in my life.
I used to be so sad that I had to leave all my friends in Canada, but now I realize that at some point, everyone has to move on. In addition to meeting great people, I am also really grateful for all the experience I had during the process of overcoming my obstacle. I was not born with diamond rings and my parents do not have a private jet to bring me home immediately, but out of ten, I believe ten people are just life me. My family may be going through poverty, but that does not mean it is the end of my life. I did not think like this before, but I gave myself a few months to think about what I am going to do with my life and to decide what is important for my life. People may not see this as an experience or an opportunity, but I believe so because I know how everyone is so busy even to think about their next day. In today’s world, it is difficult to even spare oneself an hour to make decisions for the future. It was my first time to grant myself with enough time to think about not just my future, but also who I want to be as a character. Through this experience, my eyes opened to things I could not see before and I became more careful and mature about what I say or who I meet.
In addition to having an opportunity to meet different people and giving myself time, I also believe that I was given a new opportunity to continue on my education in Korea. I always dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but I was not really exposed to any sort of legal subjects in Canada since there is no law related subjects until you go to a law school. It really allowed me to think about whether law was my interest as I always have thought. Even before other people actually begin their studies in law, I am already exposed and put in a better environment than others.
Thus, although it was difficult to overcome the negative thoughts due to financially problem, I am glad that it hit me as an opportunity to learn. Any obstacles require effort to be overcome, but once it is fought off, I believe it makes one a more strong and special individual who just had many experience than others. Therefore, I believe in the phrase “every obstacle is an opportunity.”
<2nd Prize> Lee So-hee
Nowadays, we live in the world with ongoing war whether we acknowledge it or not. Since a lot of wars are not covered by the media, people are ignorant of them and they treat wars as academic concepts. This led people to think that wars for greater cause are honorable. However, I believe that the wars cannot be justified under any circumstances whatsoever.
Firstly, the wars make people see fellow citizens as a means to achieve the goal. War is not an individual problem. It is a national issue. To be in a war is decided by people with power regarding the profits they can get from the war. The soldiers, who were normal people like farmers and teachers, are used to win a game of life and death. People who started war put much significance in a war by saying that this is for the greater cause. They stimulate people to take place in a war by evoking their patriotism. They treat the citizens as a means for their goal. However, humans should not be treated as a means. They should be respected for their rights. War forces people to sacrifice individual lives just like Japanese soldiers in World War 2. They were even forced to commit suicidal bombing for their ‘greater cause.’
Not only the devaluation of human, but also the terrible violence in a war makes war to be never justified. There is no war without violence. People have to kill the enemy to survive. This can lead to a wrong justification for killing others. Of course, they had no choice but to kill to survive. However, no human has a right to kill other human being. Also, the amount of violence in a war is excessive. People who fight are not all veterans. There are normal people in a battle field witnessing excessive amount of cruelty. This will stress them out and eventually make them have trauma. For example, in a Korean novel called ‘The Idiot,’ portraits two brothers who are affected by the war and have their own traumas. The older one was directly affected by the war. The younger one did not participate in a war, but was significantly affected by the war indirectly. He lives in an endless hopelessness. This indicates the consequences of the war not only affect people who were really in the battle field, but also people in general. Therefore, this gives another reason for wars never to be justified.
Lastly, the war is not an ultimate solution for national or international conflict. The war never brings peaceful solution. To solve a conflict, everyone knows that they should solve it by conversation. In the national level, the nations use diplomacy as a mean to communicate with other nations. The conflict is solved when the opponents reach the understandable agreement. This kind of solution will not cause further same old problems. However, if people try to solve the conflict by war, it leads to another conflict. It will never solve the root of disagreement. The war will just force the ‘loser’ to follow their decision which leads to bigger conflict. For instance, the U.S. tried to solve the conflict between the U.S. and Iraq after all terrors by war. This, however, led to much more conflicts between them and it even led to the racial conflicts in the U.S. This shows us that the war is a failed way of communication. The war does not bring the ultimate ending of the conflict. If it does not guarantee the total peace and agreement, why should we sacrifice our lives for it?
In the human history, there were thousands of battles and wars. Since the history is written by the ‘winners,’ the wars are described as something honorable.
However, the violence brings other violence. The war does not bring bliss to our lives even if we win. We have to lose so much of our time and lives. The war is not worth our sacrifice. Not only does it destroy our lives, but also degrades the human value, brings much cruelty and trauma in our lives and does not bring solid peace. Therefore, I strongly believe that the war cannot be justified in any other way.
<3rd Prize> Kwon Nam-yee
People tend to complain about their difficulties and problems as our life is full of events. To overcome the unsatisfying situation that make them complain is not as difficult as it seems to be. There is a well-known saying “Impossible is noting” and this is the solution. When problems arise, people tend to ignore or give up before even trying anything. Yet positive-thinking can simply give them the chance to use that problem as an opportunity. Despite the positive attitude, when things still do not work out, people should not miss the chance to learn from the mistake. Moreover people must remember when an obstacle strikes their goals, there is always another way to get to their goals. Therefore, a person who can positively think, learn from mistake and never give up can use every obstacle as an opportunity.
Positive-thinking can be stronger than people might expect. There is a world event called “Special Olympic” which I volunteered last year. It is for mentally challenged people and participating in the special Olympic gave me a chance to believe the power of positive-thinking. I got to meet many athletes from different countries and I could find the reason why they can be taking part in the Olympic. Every single person had sparkling eyes and full of hopes. I hardly heard of athletes complain nor give up but maintain positive attitude regardless of the result. Before I met them, I was the one who always complain about the given situations. “I cannot” always came before “I can.” However, those athletes participated in the special Olympic always told me that they can do better in the next match. When this tough world gives those mentally challenged people the hard time, they could still say “I can” by positive-thinking.
There are countless obstacles in our lives and a wise way to handle the obstacle is to take it as a chance to learn. A genius inventor T.A. Edison could end up with remarkable inventions as he learned from his mistake. When positive mind does not really help to overcome the obstacle, one must not give up but learn from the mistake. People remember their mistakes well not to repeat. Mistake should not be taken as a shameful moment but an opportunity. Coaches of the athletes participated in the special Olympic reminded their athletes to learn from mistake as mistakes give them the valuable experience of learning new things. When overcoming the obstacles, one could make mistake and things do not turn out as expected. However, it will provide a better solution. Therefore, learning from mistake helps to overcome obstacles and turn into opportunities.
People should not give up when obstacles distract their way but try again in another way. There is always a solution to a problem whether it is small or large. One must not give up but try again as obstacles can be used as opportunities to make better result. When one way does not work out, there is always another way around.
Therefore when several tries do not work out, one must remember there will be a shining consequence when obstacles seem huge and make someone to feel as “doomsday” at the moment, time will pass and the solution will eventually come.
In the future, that person can even be grateful as obstacles helped in making better results. Therefore, by making people think positively, learn from mistake and try again. Every obstacle works as an opportunity to prove that “Impossible is nothing.”
<Comments on Essay>
The three essays selected from the nineteen entries all have very good qualities and are well equipped with components expected in good essays: presenting thesis statements at beginning, starting with topic sentences in every paragraph, strong and detailed supporting materials, well-organized structures, various suggestions and ideas for selected topics, and most of all, highly creative and original. Students were asked to write one of the two topics: 1) For the statement, “Every obstacle is an opportunity,” compose an essay that agrees or disagrees with the statement 2) Some people believe that war can never be justified, while other people believe that war can be justified under certain circumstances. Compose an essay that agrees or disagrees with either of these two opposing views on war.
The first prize was awarded to Choi Bo-kyung, a student from the department of Law. Choi chose the first topic and tells us how her personal obstacle turned into new opportunities and how she has matured in that process. The overall structure of her essay is excellent, sentences are arranged appropriately, and words are carefully chosen. She puts her main claim in the first paragraph appropriately and elaborates it in the succeeding paragraphs with relevant personal experiences. Her story in the first paragraph is so vividly described to catch anyone’s eye, although a more succinct description would make her essay more balanced and interesting. Her essay proves that stories from the heart never fail to be touching and encouraging.
The second and the third prizes were awarded to Lee So-hee and Kwon Nam-yee, students of North Korea Studies and Life Science, respectively. Lee selected the second topic and argues against the claim that war can be justified under certain circumstances. She supports her thesis very convincingly and clearly with various arguments. Although her arguments need to be strengthened with more specific examples, they are well presented and thus sound persuasive. Kwon chose the first topic and suggests three important points needed to overcome obstacles. Her introductory paragraph is very clear and successfully gives the outline of her essay. Her points are supported by her personal experiences and a well-known story about Edison. Strengthening her last point with real examples would make the essay more convincing.
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