“This year, the two Koreas showed that they are trying a lot to reconcile with each other. If they take serious steps toward denuclearization, I believe that the inter-Korean relationship can be solved in a peaceful way.”
Fernanda Gomez, who learned Korean at the King Sejong Institute (KSI) in Sao Leopold, Brazil, attended the ‘KSI’s Korean Speech Contest 2018’ on Oct. 5, five days before the 90th anniversary of Hangeul Day. She gave a speech on this year’s topic, ‘The Two Koreas in the Eyes of a Non-Korean.’ By introducing the recent inter-Korean summits in 2018, and sharing the hopes for peace on the Korean Peninsula, she won the Second Prize at the contest.
The First Prize winner, Prakaymook Patcharoen from Thailand also emphasized that, “It is important to acknowledge the differences in order to make harmony. I wish to take a train trip from southern Korean Peninsula to North Korea and Russia, in the near future.”
In the first round held at King Sejong Institutes around the world, contestants were given specific topics for their presentations. The topics were ‘King Sejong and Hangeul’, ‘Reasons for Growing Interests in Korean Culture’ and ‘The Two Koreas in the Eyes of a Non-Korean.’ Then the top three contestants were selected for the second round, which was in the form of an interview.
This year, KSI invited the top scorers of the preliminary rounds in 172 KSI offices in 56 countries, to attend a training course until Oct. 10. Among the contestants, the top twelve participated in the final round to share their thoughts and stories in Korean.
The final contestants, wearing traditional costumes, cheered each other on as they nervously waited for their turn on the stage. Other students and members of the audience applauded them and gave them warm words of support in Korean.
The First Prize winner, Molchan Yana from Belarus, emphasized the Greatness of Hangeul, and said, “Everything great in the world is simple. So is Hangeul. Anyone can easily learn Hangeul.” She added, “Hangeul has the power to change history.”
Klaudia Kim from Poland, who received the Second Prize, wore Hanbok, the Korean traditional dress, and acted out a script she wrote herself. The script, which is titled, “A Dream of 1000 Years,” narrates a story that starts in the Goryeo-era to an imaginary unified Korea-era in 2100s. The fictional story of 1000 years in Korea received a big applause from the audience.
The Grand Prize was bestowed on Maiti Sourabhi from India. She compared different superstitions in Korea and India. With a calm voice and an exact pronunciation, she said, “There is a Korean custom of not having Miyeokguk, the seaweed soup, before an exam. Because the seaweed is slippery, it is believed that one can fail an exam by slipping over. Similarly, Indians don’t have eggs before an exam, because the round shape of an egg is associated with scoring 0 (zero) points.
After winning the prize, Sourabhi said, “I didn’t expect to win the Grand Prize. I feel like I’m dreaming. In the future, I hope to write a book on different superstitions and religious beliefs in Korea and India, so that I can create a bridge connecting the two countries.”
At the ceremony, a folk art troupe, ‘MF Sori’, sang the Korean folk song, Jindo Arirang. Then the K-pop group, Red Velvet, the Honorary Ambassadors of the King Sejong Institute Foundation, performed on the stage. The audience cheerfully sang along and danced to the performances.
Kang Hyounhwa, president of the King Sejong Institute Foundation said, “We hold this annual Korean speech contest, in order to motivate students to fulfill their dreams and to deepen an understanding of Korean culture.”
The KSI Korean Speech Contest, which started in 2014 at 22 KSI offices in 14 European countries, is growing, every year. At this year’s contest, 2,635 people participated in the preliminary round, the highest number in the contest’s history.