This essay, written by Jiwoon Kristine Choi, is the first-prize-winning essay in the Research Center for Korean Community's Essay Contest on Korea and Korean Culture. Choi, a sophomore at Amherst College, is a 1.5-generation Korean, and has lived most of her life in South Korea. Her essay, titled "How to Embrace a Country—and find yourself in the process," discusses her multiple struggles and identity crises as a 1.5-generation Korean, and how her view of Korea has developed over the years. Starting with her increasing guilt for not knowing enough about her background, she analyzes her turbulent relationship with Korea from two perspectives: (1) the times that she felt patriotic, and (2) the times that she became a critical observer. In the end, she realizes that Korea's jeong, its achievements and challenges (both good and bad), are all reasons to celebrate and embrace being a proud Korean citizen. Below is a short excerpt from her essay:
"Perhaps one defining characteristic of Korea is the concept of jeong. Many people have different definitions for what jeong means—I wouldn’t be able to describe it in words. My high school English teacher described jeong as Chocopie (I’m still not entirely sure what he meant by this), that he could feel jeong in this national favorite snack, which was often given in the form of donations, a friendly gesture, or a consolation treat for the Korean army undergoing training. In his book, Daniel Tudor describes jeong as an “invisible hug” that bonds the Korean people together. I would say that this is a pretty adequate description, considering the fact that it is like an unseen bond that keeps Koreans looking out for each other, whether or not they have personally interacted on an individual level. There are various accounts of foreign businessmen feeling “cheated” out of a deal because of the strong jeong shared by Koreans."