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Korean Publishing Scandal
Proxy translators being cheated
Hyejin Kim (mine1004)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-20 00:24 (KST)   
An article from OhmyNews (Korean) on Oct. 11, "Was the Real Translator Someone Else?" (Jinjja beonyeokja ttaro idda?), has ignited a moral debate in Korean society.

The worldwide bestseller "Don't Eat the Marshmallow Yet!" was translated into Korean, according to the book's cover, by a famous DJ and news announcer, who happens to be young and attractive. The book sold a million copies in nine months in Korean bookstores and was the number one bestseller for 38 weeks. After the book's publication, the supposed translator, Jung Ji-young, mentioned in an interview that her husband had encouraged her to read the English version, and then she decided to introduce the book to Korean readers. Even though it was her first book translation, she told the tabloid Sports Chosun that she had been able to translate as many as 100 pages in a single night. When the book came out Ms. Jung held book signings and talked about the book at major bookstores. As a successful media personality, she impressed the public with her ability in an entirely different field. That impression, plus her already established name, helped make the book a bestseller.

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But a reporter from OhmyNews interviewed the real translator of the book. The scuttlebutt in the trade was that Ms. Jung hadn셳 done the translation and that there was an actual translator, whom the reporter tracked down and interviewed, along with the publisher and a representative of Ms. Jung. The article he wrote exposed a custom of translation by proxy.

The publisher first denied the report, attributing it to jealous competitors, and claimed they plan to invite the author to Korea, have Ms. Jung interview him and ask her to translate his next book. Later, however, the publisher confessed that a second contract had been signed with Ms. Jung and a professional translator. She had been asked to translate the book, but the publisher feared her inexperience would affect the quality of the translation, and, without informing her, signed a second contract with the professional. Once Ms. Jung finished her translation, according to this version, the professional translator edited it.

Ms. Jung strongly denied knowledge of the other contract and insisted the translation was her own, claiming after the publisher's interview that she had received a rough translation of the book and used it as a guide when writing her own translation. These contradictory statements encouraged the real translator to break the silence. That person claimed to have done the whole translation and that the publisher had promised the next book for translation would appear under his/her name but that this one would be published under the name of a high-profile person. Other professional translators also pointed out that translating 100 pages in one evening would be nearly impossible.

The scandal has brought to light deeper problems in the publishing world. As Kookmin Ilbo (쏞hurch-owned, a Seoul, Korea, English language weekly Newsreview/worldpress.org-ed.) reported on Oct. 13, not a few book translations supposedly the work of renowned scholars or celebrities are actually done by anonymous freelancers. Translators in Korea, who are paid very little, have almost no clout with publishers and thus often do not have the power to negotiate when asked to work anonymously. As in this case, publishers prefer 쐓tar marketing, publishing translations under the pseudonyms of media personalities who can boost sales, even if that means having an anonymous professional write the translation.

Readers have demanded the truth behind the translation of "Don't Eat the Marshmallow Yet!" On her radio program, Ms. Jung gave a brief and ambiguous apology but didn't explain further. Some popular internet portals have deleted bulletin boards on which netizens had posted reactions to the scandal, but this has been seen as part of a cover-up, only fueling the uproar.

Internet portals have provided a crucial means for Koreans to respond to controversy and to news in general. In several instances pressure from websites has led politicians and others to admit to wrongdoing. Some Internet users have demanded Ms. Jung's confession or resignation. The apparent involvement by major Korean websites in her cause has included some extreme responses.

A lawyer who opened an internet cafe about the 쏮arshmallow issue on Oct. 14 intends to sue the publisher and Ms. Jung for misleading consumers. Two hundred people have already expressed a desire to join him, and any reader with a receipt for the book is qualified to join the lawsuit.

The Korean Publishers Society also announced that the book will be taken off the bestseller list this week, according to the Yonhap News Agency on Oct. 18.
©2006 OhmyNews

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