Announcing the Winners of Incheon Airport’s 20th Anniversary Essay Contest

Incheon Airport recently held a special 20th anniversary essay contest with the theme of memories and time spent at Incheon Airport. The contest saw as many as 842 essay submissions!

There were a total of 11 winners who shared their honest experiences at Incheon Airport. In this post, we’ll introduce a few works by the grand prize winner as well as runner ups and honorable mentions with excerpts.

[Grand Prize] An Unforgettable Day at Incheon Airport

The first essay to be introduced is the grand prize winner “An Unforgettable Day at Incheon Airport.”

“...and I was astonished. I checked my passport more than a hundred times, but why now do I find out that it’s expired? Gosh! It was my mistake. I checked my passport from the day I planned the trip. I thought the expiration date was December 2017, but it was actually December 2016. I looked at it again and again, but that number 6 didn’t change.”
- Excerpt from “An Unforgettable Day at Incheon Airport”

The writer planned to go on a trip to Taiwan with his friend a month before serving the military four years ago. He was planning to transfer to a university in Taiwan so he had an appointment for an interview with a person from the university. However, he came to realize that his passport passed the expiration date while he was packing before the trip. Although generally a meticulous person, he made an exceptional mistake by forgetting to properly check his passport and faced a crisis that jeopardized his trip with his friend and the scheduled appointment for the college interview. In the end, he was able to redeem his mistake thanks to the help of Incheon Airport and his father.

[Runner Up] There Is Something Special in the Nest

The second essay is the runner-up “There Is Something Special in the Nest.”

“After I got home from the graduation ceremony—my father unable to come—I took a look at Incheon Airport Corporation’s hiring notice. Incheon Airport had been part of my family’s history and has always had a special place in my life. My heart started to race as I thought I could learn about and understand the mechanisms of the airport as an employee of Incheon Airport. [...] The experience was the turning point for me. Up until now, I had thought only my father dedicated his youth to working at the airport. However, there were about 100,000 columns in the airport—columns that support the massive and lusty nest so that it can achieve a global reputation. There were people who were responsible for the upkeep of the airport to prevent marble tiles from getting in the way of travelers’ paths and broken finishing materials from hurting any passengers.”
- Excerpt from “There Is Something Special in the Nest”

The author’s father was a civil engineer who participated in the construction of Incheon Airport. The author witnessed his father’s efforts since childhood and Incheon Airport took strong roots in the history of his family. This relationship and experience with Incheon Airport influenced the author to decide on a career path. This essay shows what kind of influence Incheon Airport has and allows readers to reflect on its significance.

[Runner Up] Incheon Airport with Memories and Longing

The third essay is also a runner up titled “Incheon Airport with Memories and Longing.”

“‘This spring, let's all go on a trip overseas. Clear your schedule!’ The unexpected suggestion of mom bewildered my entire family. Mom wasn’t a type of person who is familiar with trips. She hardly went on a domestic trip, not to mention an overseas one. Living in the countryside, she rarely left the village except on special occasions. When we suggested that we go on a family trip, she had always refused, saying, ‘I don't understand why people spend money to invite trouble.’ When I had asked her to go on a trip to a foreign country—just the two of us—she just said, ‘Save your money for a house!’”
- Excerpt from “Incheon Airport with Memories and Longing”

The author’s mother, who has never been on any domestic or overseas trip, suddenly suggests going on a family trip. The family decides on visiting the not-very-far Taiwan, out of consideration for her declining health, and departs with delight. The author feels happy seeing her mother mesmerized by Incheon Airport, as it is her first international trip after all. The first family trip ends in success and the family members expect to go on another trip next year. As time passes, they discover a photo inside of the mother’s diary and burst into tears.

[Honorable Mention] Old Excitement

The fourth essay is an honorable mention titled “Old Excitement.”

“November 2020. From earlier this year, everything came to a halt like stagnant water. Like the expression of each other behind the face mask that sometimes feels suffocating, my heart seemed to build callus. I checked my cellphone and it was already 11 PM. When I got off at the parking lot, the smell of night hovered at the tip of my nose. While I crossed the road and went into the airport, I could only hear the noise of airplanes taking off and landing. There was no one lined up in front of the airport bus ticket booth, no excited tourists getting out of the airport. I felt the transience of my shadow behind my footsteps.”
- Excerpt from “Old Excitement”

On the way to Incheon Airport, the author is wrought with feelings of solitude in the chilly breeze. Incheon Airport was where the author came to meet his sibling who came to Korea while studying abroad. The airport, once crowded with tourists with excited expressions and people waiting for their beloveds, is now filled with silence. This essay arouses longing as it contrasts the silence of Incheon Airport after COVID-19 against the excitement of the past.

[Honorable Mention] Mission Impossible: Protect the Passport!

The fifth essay is also an honorable mention titled “Mission Impossible: Protect the Passport!”

“Time passed and I had no time for embarrassment. In the end, I decided to concentrate on my olfactory sense. The booths from which the smell of food came and there was a person who was wearing a white cloth with black cross bag... Oh, I found it! I ran to the target subject with sparkling eyes and the object was handed over to me like a baton in a relay race. Nice catch. I delivered short gratitude and hurried my way back. When I saw my watch, I had only about 1 minute.”
- Excerpt from “Mission Impossible: Protect the Passport!”

The author’s family goes on an overseas trip in celebration of the mother’s birthday. While the author was leisurely looking around the recently opened Terminal 2 with his parents, his sister who was going to arrive later because of work called him and said that she arrived at the airport. She shouted, “But, I left my passport!” To make matters worse, she said she left her passport at their parents’ house in Busan, which shocked everyone. Fortunately, a passenger of KTX from Busan to Incheon Airport handed over the passport. However, it’s not over yet. The second hurdle is that the author had to arrive at Terminal 2 on time.

[Honorable Mention] Cheer Up, Jeong!

The last essay is also an honorable mentioned titled “Cheer Up, Jeong!”

“I said in a loud voice, ‘It takes four hours to Incheon if we leave now. We can't come back so let's check our passports. Get your passports out in your hand so I can see it.’ Everybody said they had one but I had to check with my eyes. ‘Passports can run away because they have legs. Let me check with my own eyes. C’mon, just let me see them.’ Everybody searched through their bags, slightly annoyed. At that moment, my father-in-law went into the house. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘You said you want to check my passport. I’m going out to get it!’ Dear me! My father-in-law still kept his passport under the persimmon tree. He kept it as treasure along with the house deed and land documents.
- Excerpt from “Cheer Up, Jeong!”

The beginning of the episode was the promise of the author to his wife’s family that he, who often goes on a business trip, will plan for an overseas family trip. The father-in-law asked him to include 12 individuals, including uncles and aunts, in the family trip. Now, a twists-and-turns episode unfolds for the son-in-law Jeong who had to lead his elders going abroad for the first time in their life. Until now, they talk about the trip with laughter when they get together on holidays.

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