A Long Way to Nobel Prize in Literature

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), December 7, 2000 | Go to article overview

A Long Way to Nobel Prize in Literature


Last November, President Kim Dae-jung satisfied the long-desired wish of many Koreans by becoming the first Korean to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Koreans were elated in the hope that this prize would be the first in many to follow.

Among other categories, the Nobel Prize in Literature seems to be the closest, hovering just out of our reach. Until now, several Korean writers were nominated for the prize; Choi In-hoon was one of them.

However, Park Won, 64, a professor of the Department of English Language Education at Inha University in Inchon, who is also the Dean of the College of Education, thinks that the time is still not ripe yet.

``Although the possibility of receiving a Nobel Prize for Literature seems to be growing stronger, especially since we received the Nobel Peace Prize, we still have a long way to go before we can hold the prize in our grasp,'' he said. ``First of all, we have to translate our literature into Western languages, so the judges and the readers from the Western culture can read it.''

Schools that specialize in cultivating translation professionals are now mushrooming in Korea. There are interpretation and translation courses at universities such as Ewha Womans University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Kyung Hee University. Also, the Korean Association of Translation Studies was founded by professors and translators last year, with the purpose of establishing translation studies.

Prof. Park continued by saying, ``There are also private institutes that teach translation. But they mostly teach skills needed in business or the tourism industry. Translation for literature has to be a level higher than that.

``There are two kinds of translations: inbound translating, which is translating a foreign language into Korean, and outbound translating, which is translating Korean into a foreign language. These two have to go together as one.''

``Though there have been some mistranslations and mistakes, for the most part, we have done inbound translating reasonably well for quite some time,'' said Park. ``However, there has been a lack in outbound translating till now.''

Prof. Park added that Korea was too far behind compared to other countries when it came to translating our literature into other languages. He presumed that one of the reasons why universities are newly forming translation courses is to solve this dilemma. But the professor accentuated that this was not a problem that could be solved overnight.

``Translating Korean into Western languages is especially hard because the fundamental structure is so different from ours,'' he said. ``You must receive intensive training to develop the necessary skills. Most Korean novels translated up until now were done by foreign people who knew the Korean language well. …

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