The 1st Multicultural Youth Awards, launched by the Korea Times and supported by the ministries of education and gender equality, were presented during a ceremony in Seoul with an aim to promote cultural diversity and support talented children from multi-ethnic families, the paper said.
The award recipients included "Little Psy" Hwang Min-woo, whose popularity soared after appearing in South Korean pop sensation Psy's "Gangnam Style" music video, and Nigerian Vanessa Ossy.
The eight-year-old Hwang, who was born to a Korean father and Vietnamese mother, has been busy appearing on shows and commercials not only in Korea but also in the U.S., the Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Britain.
Ossy, who was born in Korea to a migrant Nigerian business couple, also attracted attention during the ceremony. The third-grade elementary student has excelled at school and even won an English-speaking contest, despite having serious burn injuries caused by a fire that destroyed her home in Itaewon, Seoul, last year.
In a congratulatory message, the ruling Saenuri Party's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye pledged to "support multicultural families and raise awareness that people with diverse backgrounds are part of our society."
"I will make the country united and bring people together despite their differences," she said.
In a recorded speech, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik also congratulated the winners, saying that "for a country where people are the most important resources, youngsters from diverse cultures are vital assets."
"Your cultural diversity will prove to be a vital element and become a moving force in Korean society."
The event was attended by some 100 dignitaries, including Uzbek Ambassador Vitali Den, the dean of the diplomatic corps in Seoul and British Ambassador Scott Wightman, who was one of the eight judges.
Award recipients also received 1 million won (US$900) in scholarship funds.
"These young people have shown their will to achieve despite adverse circumstances, and we will continue to provide funding for their education," said Park Moo-jong, the president and publisher of The Korea Times.