Congratulation to April Zhang '25 for competing in the national junior essay competition for the Sejong Cultural Society and earning first place for her essay The Enlightenments and Morals of The Curse of Three-Year Hil.
The Sejong Cultural Society strives to advance awareness and understanding of Korea's cultural heritage among people in the United States by reaching out to the younger generations through contemporary creative and fine arts. It is their hope that through the organization, the rich culture behind Korea's colorful history will be accessible to people of any ethnicity and nationality while being a unique part of the larger, more familiar Western culture, and that such harmonizing of the two cultures will create a better understanding between them.
Not only does a folktale entertain audiences and convey messages, but it also reflects the current circumstances of society and associates us with many of our own problems. “The Curse of Three-Year Hill” demonstrates the effects of having a fixed mindset and the importance of prevailing over challenges and fear. In the tale, an ordinary farmer named Yoon often climbs over the three-year hill to exchange grains for other food. He accidentally falls on the mountain during one of his journeys. The anxious and desperate feeling of having only three years remaining to live deteriorates his health conditions. However, farmer Yoon notices his life could get extended every time he rolls down the hill with the help of a young boy. He hereafter learns to look at the bright side of life and lives much happier and more prolonged than expected.
At first glance, the folktale has a moral of always looking at the positive side of life. In the story, Farmer Yoon only imagines his life becoming miserable without considering the bright side of the problem, that a different viewpoint can perhaps change his situation completely. Optimism offers people reasons to be hopeful about the prospects. Those who look on the optimistic side will discover happiness and a better result, whereas thinking rather pessimistically results in a sequence of negative occurrences. Nowadays, COVID-19 has become a frequently discussed topic since it changed the entire society’s way of living. The optimists would use quarantined time productively by exercising, healthy dieting, and developing more interests. On the other hand, pessimists would panic, complain, and become indolent. COVID-19, as well as farmer Yoon’s story, indicate that when things bother us, choosing the right attitude to face them and focusing on what goes right is of most significance.
Farmer Yoon falls on the hill while he was lost in his thoughts. This is preaching the necessity for one to notice his surroundings and to never let his guard down. We must pay attention even when crossing the street or even to minor details because the tiniest negligence can make a significant difference in our lives. Furthermore, the folktale reflects on how fearing to undergo prospective matters affects oneself. Fear is an unpleasant feeling caused by the unknown. When farmer Yoon realizes that he fell on the hill, he has altogether despaired. He perceives but refuses to accept his death, making him concerned, frightened, and languished. Fear has a significant impact on our lives, and we can’t avoid experiencing it. Everyone has their own fears; they could be of minor importance, like the fear of insects or severe to the point of developing a phobia. I, for instance, fear and get anxious when getting late for school, failing exams, and losing friends. We must be immune to what we fear by confronting and overcoming them or choosing a differing approach.
Life is full of uncertainties and difficulties; problems are viewed differently. There are undoubtedly various solutions to them, and identifying the ideal one is of paramount importance. Dying after three years is too horrifying to contemplate for Farmer Yoon. He was restricted by superstitions and had an astonishing lack of discernment. The hill symbolizes the challenges in life, and he refused to overcome the difficulty he is facing. If I were Yoon, I would rather have my time spent purposefully with my family than living in constant fear and eventually passing away. As a student, I often have trouble completing math problems; I tend to brainstorm several options and filter them until I find something practicable. Therefore, we should view an argument with different perspectives rather than with a limited mindset.
“The Curse of Three-Year Hill” is almost impeccable because of its engaging content and meaningful morals. However, I would make changes in the last part of the story, when the young boy appears and advises farmer Yoon to broaden his outlook on life. From my perspective, the boy’s existence is somewhat unnecessary, and he certainly shouldn’t have told Yoon to fall one more time. Farmer Yoon should figure out the general principle by himself since it is oftentimes more important to learn through experience. Instead of the boy reminding Yoon, the story could be similar to this: when it is near farmer Yoon’s last day, he insists on revisiting the place that led to his current situation. Being weak and haggard, the old farmer accidentally falls again; he complains and goes back home in a gloomy mood. Miraculously, he notices that he is alive and unscathed the next day, making him question the reliability of the rumors of the cursed hill. In such wise, Yoon perceives the truth that his life is expanding every time he falls, and he begins rolling down the mountain every day to extend his life. The principle transmitted to you by others is credible and workable, but life is more about coming to recognize and learn the lessons yourself. I believe changing the story this way would make it more influential, and there would be additional lessons to learn from the tale. Besides, I do not disagree with the folktale’s messages because the story itself is uncontroversial, and the implications are precise.
Consequently, the stubborn farmer Yoon encounters the ups and downs of life and learns to ponder distinctively and cheerfully. “The Curse of Three-Year Hill” teaches us the value of creativity and flexibility when thinking in demanding circumstances. Meanwhile, it serves as a wake-up call for the incognizant to handle their fears properly, and as Michael Jordan said, “Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.” When there are obstacles, we could use the folktale as a didactic tool to apply our own judgment and face complications with a buoyant attitude.