[KS] lost in progress

Brother Anthony ansonjae at ccs.sogang.ac.kr
Tue Oct 26 20:46:43 EDT 2004

I think that there may be some misunderstandings. The list of the 100 books to be translated 'for
Frankfurt' was selected by an ad hoc committee composed of Korean scholars and writers and made public in
March 2004. It was available through the KLTI web site http://www.ltikorea.net at that time and presumably
still is there somewhere. The works selected are almost all books about various aspects of Korean history
and culture, with only a small number of literary titles included on a really very unclear basis, I agree.
The translations of the 100 books are to be made into either English (some 40 titles, if I recall rightly)
or other languages, the other 60 works were marked for translation into German, French, Spanish... Little
thought was given to the fact that a book about Korea written in Korean might not be well-suited for a
non-Korean readership. The project did not originate with the KLTI but was entrusted to them for
administration. They are now mailing everyone in sight asking for help in finding publishers for these
translations, that will soon be complete, fully aware as they are how impossible the task is.

The KLTI as such is a small group of hard-working employees in an office. They have much improved their
standard application process for translation grants in recent years, it is now possible to apply throughout
the year, there are 4 deadlines for applications. The screening is made by bilingual evaluators (I have
never been involved, I might add, I think they prefer to commission younger experts) and so far as I know
their main concern is the quality (precision of translation and quality of English style) of the sample
pages submitted with the application. So far as I know, neither these evaluators nor the employees of KLTI
place much weight on 'literary interest, reputation of writer', etc because they are required to sponsor as
many translations as possible. I suppose they might try to encourage the translation of 'reputed' writers
(of any age) if a direct enquiry were made but otherwise I see no sign of censorship. The person who won
this years KLTI New Translators' Award got it for a story by Kim Yong-Ha, who is hardly a crusty old gent.

Almost the last place to search for English (or other) translations of Korean literature is Kyobo (or any
other) bookstore in Seoul. All translations supported by KLTI must be published abroad and the only foreign
books imported into Korea are those destined to sell in their hundreds to Korean students. The full list of
translated titles published (not only those supported by them, I think) is available somewhere inside the
KLTI's web site. The best place to buy them is through the Seoul Selection online bookstore
http://www.seoulselection.com/shopping_book.html or through the competing Nunchi.com site
http://www.nunchi.com and of course those living in Seoul can always go to view the selection of imported
translations available at the Seoul Selection shop opposite the entrance to Kyongbok-gung.

Brother Anthony
Sogang University, Seoul

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