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MBC’s excuse maddens translator

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June 26,2008
A translator who worked on a controversial Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation program about mad cow disease in April lashed out at the company’s claim that mistakes in the show were errors in translation.

Jeong Ji-min, who said she did translation work on the April 29 episode, reacted furiously yesterday when MBC’s investigative report program “PD Diary” blamed translators for the errors.

Jeong claimed she had warned the producers of the program about possible translation errors, but she said her comments had been ignored.

PD Diary spent 20 minutes of its program on Tuesday night defending itself against allegations that its producers intentionally distorted interviews and documents to exaggerate the risk of mad cow disease in the April 29 program.

“So, MBC is now blaming translators?” Jeong wrote yesterday afternoon in one of her postings.

“While I was checking the translation, I told the producers repeatedly and strongly that linking a downer cow and mad cow disease is a distortion. Those controversial parts [were not my translation] but later selected by the producers.”

Jeong said the problems are not translation issues but reflect deliberate editorial intent.

“The producers should have excused themselves by saying they wanted to emphasize the risk of mad cow disease. Why are they blaming the translation?”

However, the production team behind the show stuck to its translation line of defense. “We regret that we left room for misunderstanding because we didn’t provide word-by-word translation,” the program makers said.

The government, though, is not convinced. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office launched an investigation earlier this week into accusations put forward by the Agriculture Ministry that MBC had aired a false report on mad cow disease.

The ministry claimed PD Diary had exaggerated the risk of mad cow disease from U.S. beef, defaming the minister and beef deal negotiators.

Meanwhile, PD Diary’s Internet message board was bombarded with thousands of postings yesterday, including a series of messages from Jeong, following the program Tuesday. Many accused MBC of irresponsible behavior as the program had sparked angry protests against the decision by Lee Myung-bak’s administration to resume beef imports.

The program’s April 29 episode included an interview with the mother of Aretha Vinson from Virginia.

The report’s subtitles showed her mother as saying that “human mad cow disease” had caused the American patient’s death.

The term the mother had actually used was CJD or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, not vCJD.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is commonly known as the human form of mad cow disease.

PD Diary said Tuesday that “we thought Vinson’s mother, who had no professional medical knowledge, was confused about the two terms,”

explaining why it went ahead and broadcast the translation.

On its Internet page on June 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center had resolved the issue.

It had “ruled out the possibility of vCJD as the cause of death of a young Virginia woman who died earlier this year,” it said.

Although this suspected case received international media attention, NPDPSC said it concluded the cause of death was not due to vCJD, it continued.

PD Diary also claimed Tuesday that the host of the show made a simple slip of tongue when he called a downer cow “a cow suspected of being infected with mad cow disease.”

Its earlier translation of “dairy cow” as “mad cow disease-infected cow” was not a poor translation, but a translation with interpretation, the program argued.

“[Conservative media] are not looking into the substance, and they are just picking on our translation to criticize us,” PD Diary said Tuesday.

“We regret we could not produce a perfect program ... But we cannot agree with the criticism that the entire report was distortion and instigation.”


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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