[THE FOUNTAIN] Translation: A Literary Window

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[THE FOUNTAIN] Translation: A Literary Window

In order to recover territories once under Koguryo rule, Kungye, a 10th-century leader of the Later Koguryo, established a central government office called "Sadae." It was the first government organ in charge of foreign language education. Kungye was already aware of the necessity of accurate interpretation and translation to enlarge a nation's influence with foreign countries. During the late period of the Koryo Dynasty in the late 13th century, the government also launched an organization to enhance the quality of translation and interpretation of foreign languages, which was then lacking.

In the Choson era, that organization was further developed and named "Sayeokwon," and instructors with rich experience and knowledge taught Chinese, Mongolian, and Japanese. Students who passed the difficult examinations with good records were given lifetime appointments as officials of the Sayeokwon for their lifetime. They also were eligible for promotion to government positions in other fields.

The government plans to reform and broaden the functions and duties of the Korea Translation Foundation. President Kim Dae-jung said, "Among Korean literary works, there are many pieces qualified enough to be candidates for the Nobel literature prize. It would be good for the government to enhance the performance of the Korea Translation Foundation to support Korean literature." Many expected that Korea's first Nobel prize winner would come from the literary world because the quality of Korean literary works has been regarded highly. Several organizations have translated Korean literary works into foreign languages since the 1980s.

The government plan to reorganize and extend the Korea Translation Foundation is an acknowledgement of how difficult it is to translate literary works appropriately and to introduce them to other countries. A Sogang University professor and Catholic monk from England, Brother Anthony , came to Korea in 1980 and under the name An Son-jae was later naturalized a Korean citizen. He has translated much Korean literature, and once said in frustration while translating poems by Suh Jhung-joo that it is almost impossible to translate the charm and color of traditional Korean words perfectly into other languages.

It is difficult to give the readers of translations the same feeling the work has in the original language no matter how technically accurate a translation is. It is even more difficult to translate the spice of literary works - the emotional and artistic qualities, including rhythm and the beauty of form - into foreign languages perfectly. I hope talented people will be able to translate the hidden sentiment of Koreans behind the lines of literary works so the heart of Korea can be revealed abroad.

by Lee Kyeung-chul

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