[KS] Korean lost in translation

J.Scott Burgeson jsburgeson at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 17 02:29:18 EDT 2004

--- Lee JooBai <jblee6952 at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Recently, we had a posting decrying the scarcity and
> quality
> of translations of Korean literature and history in
> Western
> languages.  And the panic button appears to have
> been set
> when Korea was honored to be the guest host for the
> Berlin
> Book Fair.
> I wonder what criteria would be used to select the
> materials
> for the honor roll?  

Well, you probably already know this but the Korea
Literature Translation Institute is handling and
coordinating for the very task you mention above, so
you could ask them directly about their criteria. I
think they have a plan to have 100 books translated:


   I and another friend from Portugal have had some
dealings with them and I can say they're pretty stuffy
as far as what qualifies as "literature" in their
opinion. They're a gov't funded body so at the risk of
making a purely speculative assertion, I think their
primary objective will be to provide a "respectable"
image of Korean literature to the world, in order to
promote the country as a whole. Nothing wrong with
that, but in the process, my own impression in dealing
with them is that they are not going to put much
energy into pushing radical or subversive or
controversial works, like Jang Jung-il's "Tell Me a
Lie," for example... Of course, many of the great
works of world literature were originally quite
subversive and radical, from "Don Quixote" to
"Ulysses" to "The Satanic Verses," which is exactly
why they were so innovative and consequently became
recognized classics. In a word, they were "new" at the
time which is why they are appreciated for their
orginality within the overarching tradition of the
literary canon. I wonder if the KLTI really gets this
fundamental fact... If that weird pervert Yi Sang came
knocking on their doors today, would they warmly
embrace him, or make him wait another 40 years to be
granted their "official approval," which is basically
what happened the first time around...?

   --Scott Bug

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