Research conducted within this SEED project comprises altogether five sub-projects
1) Aspects of the never-ending translation wars in South Korea
Translation has always occupied a major role in Korea’s often-painful process of modernization. In this context, frequent “translation wars” stand out, especially when the zealous debates on mistranslations are not only battled out within the narrow confines of professional circles but also captivate the general public, as occasionally happens.
The fact that public discourse about the quality and reliability of translations is much more common in Korea than anywhere in the West constitutes a phenomenon that appears very telling about Korean society and mindsets in many ways. The cultural anthropological significance of this specific issue in Korean public discourse was, however, never considered a matter deserving academic attention in and of itself.
Public denunciation of translation mistakes is sometimes not only aimed at the immediate culprits but also at very basic mental attitudes, the implicit suggestion or explicit insinuation being that Korean audiences lack self-assurance and tend to meekly accept dubious passages because they are conditioned to suspect themselves of being simply too stupid to understand.
The ongoing research project consists in the first place of a typology and description of examples taken from ongoing translation wars in Korea, starting with those either encyclopedic or idiosyncratic books that always present vast collections of detected mistakes; this is complemented by an analysis of the reactions these books triggered — as most of them received a lot of media coverage — and the various, often multifaceted debates that ensued. Translation wars conducted in newspapers and online fora shall also be covered. The exploration shall extend further to some meta-discourses that search for possible reasons for the very existence of these discourses (i.e., the ongoing translation wars). For example, one regularly recurring motif of the talk on mistranslations is the supposed disgrace and disadvantage occasioned when Koreans are left with imperfect renderings of insights easily gleaned by others in the rest of the world who read, if not the originals, at least perfectly faithful translations.