To foreigners, hangeul event will be test for the write stuffKoreans claim that hangeul, their writing system, is the most scientific and original in the world. That may be so, but for foreign nationals, the Korean language is not necessarily the easiest to learn.
For Gerome De Wit, 22, however, it was not a mission impossible. "The hardest part of learning Korean is the grammar," he says, "but if you have enough word power, grammar is not that important in communication." He is one of the contestants in the Korean Language Writing Contest for foreign nationals in Korea to be held Tuesday to celebrate the 556th observation of Hangul Day (every Oct. 9).
Mr. De Wit was first drawn to Korea because of its history, especially the Korean War. Majoring in Korean Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, he came to Seoul in March to study at the Institute of Language Research and Education at Yonsei University, and already nearly sounds like a native speaker.
The contest, arranged by the institute, is open to foreign nationals over 16 years of age who have lived in Korea for no longer than 8 years. Foreign-born Koreans over 16, who have spent more than 12 years abroad and have resided in the country less than 5 years are also qualified to take part in the contest. This year's contest, the 11th, takes place at Deoksu Palace in central Seoul from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., alongside a statue of King Sejong, the inventor of hangeul. Judges consist of four well-known novelists and poets.
Thirteen contestants will be awarded prize money －－ 700,000 won ($580) for first place －－ along with a certificate of merit. Last year's winners came from many countries, including Mongolia and Russia, with first prize going to a Korean-Japanese.
Participants can choose from two categories, poetry or essay, and the subjects are given on the day of the contest. Last year's topics were "flowers" for poetry and "gifts" for essayists.
Participants are allowed to bring a dictionary, but writing paper and pens will be provided.
Along with the contest, a traditional music performance will take place.
Application forms are available at the institute as well as on the Web site, www.yonsei.ac.kr, and should be submitted by Monday to the institute.
by Chun Su-jin