Winning essay gave me 'the best holiday I have ever had'

29th September 2000 at 01:00
Winners of The TES Korea Essay contest will join an international youth visit to some of the favourite tourist sites in Korea, with flights, accommodation free and some spending money thrown in. If the winner is under sixth form age, they can be accompanied by a parent or guardian who also travels free.

Last year's victor, Emma Stevens of Woodbridge School, Suffolk, says the trip she won was "absolutely the best holiday I have ever had". Emma, now 17, wrote an essay explaining why she thought North and South Korea could one day be reunited but warning that such a move could have a devastating effect on the South's economy.

She and her father Keith spent a week being shown by a guide around historic temples at the ancient capital of the Shilla Kingdom at Kyongju; a folk village recreating traditional houses and crafts; the country's main television station as it was gearing up for 24-hours of election coverage; the headquarters of electronics giant Samsun and the bustling all night markets.

They also spent a couple of days on Cheju island off the south coast, touring botanical gardens, south-east Asia's largest temple, and a volcanic crater. "I liked everything," Emma says, "It was such an adventure and so fascinating."

Adding a week uder their own steam to the week hosted by the Korean government they also spent three days in Soraksan national park on the border in the north-east, site of Korea's most beautiful mountain and a favourite hiking location of Korean schoolchildren, and several days exploring the history of the demilitarised zone that keeps 1.6 million troops from North and South Korea apart.

They went down some of the tunnels that North Korea had burrowed under the border in the seventies in preparation for an invasion, and visited the negotiating rooms at Panmunjon where South Korean soldiers in the UN force come face to face with North Korean guards at what President Clinton described as the "scariest place on earth" because of the Cold War tension.

"The thing I remember most was going to the border," says Emma, "because it is so unique to Korea."

Her dad was equally impressed, especially with the friendly welcome from people they met everywhere they went. "We were extremely well look after," he says. "We saw masses of interesting sites and thoroughly enjoyed it."

You can read Emma Stevens's essay and find more information on Korea at our website: For this year's competition details, see advertisement opposite (page 8)

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