Professor (Gapjil) Abuse: A Korean University Epidemic

'교수 갑질'에 멍드는 대학원생…개밥 주기, 통장 압수, 성폭력에 '논문 강탈'까지
Professor (Gapjil) Abuse of Graduate Students Continues: bank account confiscation, sexual violence, and research theft

대학원생이 호소하는‘교수 갑질’. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

대학원생이 호소하는‘교수 갑질’. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

이공계 전공인 대학원생 A씨의 지도교수는 지난해 연구실에 있는 모든 석사·박사과정 연구생의 은행 통장과 카드를 ‘압수’했다. 연구과제에 참여하는 이들에게 지급되는 인건비를 '공동 관리'하자는 명목이었다. 교수는 "새로운 연구 수주를 위한 리베이트, 비품 구입에 쓰고 남은 돈을 나눠주겠다"고 했다.

A South Korean University Professor (Professor A) at a Graduate School of Science and Engineering, "confiscated" the bank accounts and debit cards of all master and doctorate researchers in the lab last year. Under the pretense of "collective management (공동 관리)", the University Professor “confiscated” funds meant for researchers and graduate students, and instead claimed to spend the money on “new research contracts and supplies.” Professor A stated that “any left over money would be shared with the researchers and graduate students.”

규정상 석사는 한달 160만원, 박사는 250만원을 받아야 하나 이들이 실제로 쥔 돈은 각각 60만원, 80만원에 그치고 있다. A씨는 "요즘도 교수는 학생의 카드로 본인의 식사비, 주유비까지 결제하고 있다. 억울함을 어디에 호소해야 할 지 모르겠다"고 털어놨다.

Regulations require master candidates and doctorate candidates to receive 1.6 million won a month ($1351.55 USD) and 2.5 million won a month ($2111.79 USD), but they actually only received 600,000 won ($506.83 USD) and 800,000 won ($675.77 USD) after their funds were confiscated by Professor A. One of the students said, “Professor A even pays his own meals and gas bills with students’ cards. I don't know where to appeal the injustice," he confessed.

대학원생 인권단체 ‘대학원생 119’에 수집된 피해 사례 중 일부다. 조국 법무부 장관 자녀의 논문 저자 끼워넣기, 인턴 증명서·표창장 허위 발급 의혹 등을 계기로 대학교수의 전횡에 대한 경각심이 높아진 가운데, '교수 갑질'의 일차적인 피해자인 대학원생의 인권침해를 개선해야 한다는 목소리가 커지고 있다.

The graduate students' human rights group, "Graduate Student 119" (119 means 911 for our English readers) is currently compiling a case about the alleged abuses. In the wake of the falsification of a medical academic research paper authored by the children of Justice Minister Cho Kuk and other issuances of false internship certificates and citations, there are growing calls for increased human rights protection of graduate students, who are the primary victims of Professor A’s abuse.

대학원생 119에 따르면 올 초부터 6개월 간 교수 갑질 탓에 피해를 입었다는 대학원생의 제보·신고가 총 159건에 이르렀다. 피해 양상은 폭력·괴롭힘(45.9%), 노동 착취(37.7%), 연구저작권 강탈(11.3%), 금품요구(5%) 등으로 다양하다. 대학원생 119의 신정욱 간사는 “대학원생 상당수가 갑질을 당하고도 보복이 두려워 피해 사실을 알리지 못한다는 걸 고려하면 실제 인권침해는 훨씬 많을 것”이라고 밝혔다.


According to the ‘Graduate Student 119 Group,’ graduate students reported 159 incidents of abuse by professors over a 6 month period. The damages ranged from violence and harassment (45.9%), labor exploitation (37.7%), robbery of research copyright (11.3%), and demand for money (5%). Secretary of ‘Graduate Student 119 Group,’ Shin Jung-wook said, “Many graduate students simply don’t report ‘gapjil’ abuses out of fear of retribution from Professors; retribution would mean even more severe abuse of the students.”

대학원생이 당한 폭력·괴롭힘의 유형. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

대학원생이 당한 폭력·괴롭힘의 유형. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

‘교수 갑질’은 대개 교수의 사적 업무를 대신하거나 학생 사생활에 개입하는 행위에 출발한다. 대통령 직속 청년위원회가 2014년 발간한 ‘대학원생 연구환경실태 보고서’엔 교수의 이삿짐 나르기, 자녀의 과제 대필에 동원됐다는 대학원생의 호소가 이어졌다. 종교 활동을 금지하거나 특정 신앙을 강요하는 일도 빈번하다.

"Professor Abuse (gapjil)" usually starts with the student doing the professor’s work or with significant intervention into the student’s personal life. The Graduate Student Research Environment Report, published in 2014, by the President's Youth Committee, produced an appeal by graduate students that depicted how a professor forced them ‘to move household goods’ and ‘do the homework of the Professor’s children.” Also, prohibition of religious activities and imposition of certain beliefs, by professors, was also found to be frequent.


갑질은 폭력·괴롭힘으로 이어진다. 지난해 교육부 감사 결과에 따르면 전북대 B교수는 연구년을 맞아 해외에 머무는 동안 조교에게 애완견의 밥을 챙겨주라고 지시했다. 귀국 후엔 학생들이 마련한 회식에서 해당 조교에게 유리잔을 던지고 폭언을 했다.

‘Gapjil’ abuse resulted in violence and harassment. According to the Education Ministry's audit last year, Professor B of Chonbuk National University ordered his assistant to, ‘take care of his pet dog’ while he was abroad for the year. After returning home, he threw full drinking glasses at his assistant and verbally abused her at a drinking outing prepared by the students.


제자를 대상으로 한 성폭력도 끊이지 않는다. 지난 3월 대학원 신입생 회식에서 C씨의 지도교수는 C씨의 어깨를 감싸며 "이렇게 하면 '미투(#MeToo)'냐"고 물었다. 머리카락을 만지다가 C씨가 피하려 하자 “너도 페미니스트냐”며 놀리듯 말했다. C씨는 “당황스럽고 화도 났지만, 학계 권위자인 교수에게 밉보이면 졸업, 취업 모두 어려워질 것 같은데 어떻게 해야 할지 모르겠다”고 고민했다.

Also, sexual violence against students continues. At a graduate school orientation last March, student C's thesis adviser (professor) grabbed student C's shoulder and asked, "Is this #MeToo?" The professor touching student C’s hair, joked, “Are you a feminist too?“ Student C tried to avoid the professor but said she was “embarrassed and angry, however she didn’t know what to do; graduation and employment would be very difficult if she spoke back to the professor.” Stating, “I just didn’t know what to do.”

대학원생이 당한 노동 착취의 유형. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

대학원생이 당한 노동 착취의 유형. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

앞서 A씨처럼 인건비로 받은 연구비를 공동 관리한다며 일부만 지급하는 ‘페이백(Pay-back)’도 횡행한다. 장시간 노동도 문제다. 강태경 전국대학원생노조 수석부지부장은 “근로자와 학생의 중간 신분인 대학원생은 교수 지시로 휴가, 주말 없이 일하는 일이 잦다"고 말했다. 대학원생노조의 설문 결과 대학원생 셋 중 한 명(31.0%)은 연구실에 머무는 시간이 ‘주 50시간 이상’이라고 답했다.

Similar to Professor A’s ‘collective management' of student funds, the practice of ‘pay-back (페이백),’ paying small portions of research funds to students, is also rampant. Long labor hours are also a problem. Kang Tae-kyung, a Senior Vice-President of the Korean Federation of Graduate School Student Union states, “Graduate students who are both workers and students, are often sought out and order to work over work holidays and weekends by professors.” According to a survey by the graduate student union, one in three graduate students (31.0 percent) said they spent more than 50 hours a week in the lab.


학문 후속세대인 대학원생을 멍들게 하는 ‘갑질’ 중 하나는 연구 성과물을 빼앗는 행위다. 연구에 기여가 없는 사람을 저자로 끼워 넣으면서 실제 연구를 맡았던 대학원생은 저자 순위가 밀리거나 아예 이름이 빠진다.

One of the ‘gapjil (abuses)’ that hurts graduate students is the act of stealing research by professors. Professors, often insert authors with zero contribution to the research; graduate students who actually did the research are either pushed back in the author's rank or omitted all together.

지난 3월 교육부는 2016년 성균관대 D교수가 대학원생들에게 고등학생 딸의 논문을 대신 쓰게 한 사실을 적발했다. 교육부에 따르면 D교수는 두세 차례 실험을 참관했을 뿐인 딸을 논문의 단독 저자로 이름을 올리고, 실험하고 논문을 작성한 대학원생들의 이름은 빠졌다.

In March, the Education Ministry found that in 2016 Professor D of Sungkyunkwan University forced graduate students to write papers for Professor D’s high school daughter. According to the Education Ministry, Professor D named his daughter, who only observed the experiments two or three times, as the sole author of the paper. Professor D also omitted the names of graduate students who conducted the experiments and wrote the paper.

이공계 대학원생에게 물었더니. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

이공계 대학원생에게 물었더니. 그래픽=차준홍 기자 cha.junhong@joongang.co.kr

상식에 벗어난 갑질을 당하고도 상당수가 침묵하는 건 교수의 '절대반지' 탓이다. 지도교수는 논문 심사, 졸업에 절대적인 영향을 미칠 뿐 아니라, 한번 결정되면 바꾸는 게 사실상 불가능하다. 신정욱 활동가는 "상당수 대학이 지도교수 변경을 하지 않는 것을 원칙으로 하고 있고, 규정상 변경 가능한 곳도 지도교수 면담, 학과 운영위원회 심의, 대학원장의 동의 등 복잡한 절차를 거쳐야 한다"고 밝혔다.

The professor's ‘absolute ring’ is the reason why many remain silent even after suffering unreasonable abuse (gapjil) at the hands of a professor. Not only does the professor have absolute authority over the successful completion of a student’s dissertation and graduation, but their decision is final and impossible to change. Activist, Shin Jung-wook said, “Almost all universities prohibit the changing of a ‘thesis advisor’. Even at universities where changing your ‘thesis advisor’ is allowed there is an extensive process; such as meeting with the thesis advisor, deliberation by the committee on the management of the department, and consent from the dean of the graduate school."

교수는 ‘돈줄’도 쥐고 있다. 연구책임자로서 정부·기업의 연구과제를 수주하고 재정을 관리한다. 서울 소재 사립대 대학원에 있는 E씨는 “생사가 교수에겐 맡겨져 있는 셈이라 교수 장모의 장례식장에 동원돼 음식을 나르고 옷차림까지 간섭 당해도 싫은 기색을 낼 수 없다”고 말했다. 그는 “조교를 그만둘 때 ‘연구실에서 있었던 일을 발설하지 않겠다’는 서약서까지 쓰게 하니 하소연하기도 두렵다”고 덧붙였다.

The professor also holds the "money." As the research manager, they manage contracts and finances of research with government and businesses. Student E states, “Since our financial ‘life-and-death’ (livelihood) is held by the professors, students cannot show any reluctance even when we are asked to attend the funeral of the professor's mother-in-law; serve food and wear advised attire.” E added, “They were also afraid to complain because the professor even made them write a pledge that I would not reveal what happened in the lab when I quit my assistant position.”

지난 8월 김실비아 씨가 서울대 A교수에 대한 징계위 최종 판단을 앞둔 서울대 행정관 앞에서 파면을 촉구하는 1인 시위를 하고 있다. A교수는 2017년 대학원생 지도 제자인 김씨를 성추행한 혐의로 신고돼 인권센터에서 중징계 권고를 받고 징계위원회에 회부됐다. 서울대는 A교수를 해임키로 했다. [연합뉴스]

지난 8월 김실비아 씨가 서울대 A교수에 대한 징계위 최종 판단을 앞둔 서울대 행정관 앞에서 파면을 촉구하는 1인 시위를 하고 있다. A교수는 2017년 대학원생 지도 제자인 김씨를 성추행한 혐의로 신고돼 인권센터에서 중징계 권고를 받고 징계위원회에 회부됐다. 서울대는 A교수를 해임키로 했다. [연합뉴스]

피해자를 구제해야 할 인권센터가 유명무실한 것도 문제다. 국가인권위원회에 따르면 현재 전국 대학 47곳에 ‘인권센터’ ‘양성평등센터’ 등의 인권 전담기구가 설치됐다. 하지만 대학원생들은 제보 유출 등을 우려해 이들의 도움을 받길 꺼린다.

Another problem is the lack of a well-known human rights center to rescue victims. According to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 47 universities across the country have currently set up organizations dedicated to Human Rights such as ‘Human Rights Centers’ and ‘Gender Equality Centers.’ However, graduate students are reluctant to seek help out of fear of ‘leaks’ to the professors that would lead to more abuse.


실제로 대학 인권센터는 종종 '수박 겉핥기', '2차 피해' 논란에 휩싸이곤 한다. 2015년 부산대 대학원에 재학하던 F씨는 논문 심사위원이던 교수로부터 성폭력을 당했다. 지난해 미투 운동을 계기로 용기를 낸 그는 대학 인권센터에 신고했으나, 조사위원회가 열리기 전 가해 교수로부터 연락을 받게 됐다. F씨는 언론 인터뷰에서 “피해자를 보호해야 할 인권센터가 제 역할을 못 하고 있다”고 비판했다.

In fact, the university's human rights center is often embroiled in controversy over "water licking" and "secondary damage." In 2015, Student F, who attended graduate school at Pusan National University, was sexually assaulted by a professor serving on her dissertation committee. Emboldened by the “Me too” campaign last year, Student F reported to the university's Human Rights Center, but was contacted by the professor before the investigation committee was held. In a media interview, Student F criticized the Human Rights Center, which is supposed to protect the victims, for failing to do its part.

대학원생 119의 신정욱 간사는 “'절대반지'를 낀 교수를 제어할 시스템이 없는 게 문제”라며 “논문 심사 권한을 분산시키고 학생에게 지도교수 선택권을 주고, 교수 대신 학교가 인건비를 지급해야 한다”고 주장했다. 강태경 대학원생노조 부지부장은 “고려대, 중앙대의 인권센터처럼 총학생회의 참여를 보장해 공정한 조사와 실질적인 피해자 구제가 이뤄질 수 있게 하자”고 제안했다.

Secretary of Graduate Student Group 119, Shin Jung-wook said, "The problem is that we don't have a system to control professors wearing "absolute rings". We should decentralize the authority of dissertation committees and give students the right to choose their thesis advisor. The university on the individual professors should administrate funds to the students." Vice-president of the Graduate Student Union, Kang Tae-kyung, suggested, “like the Human Rights Centers at Korea University and Chung-Ang University, the government should guarantee the student council's participation so that a fair investigation and substantial relief of victims can be carried out.”

천인성 기자, 박지영 인턴기자(고려대 한국사)
guchi@joongang.co.kr

[출처: 중앙일보] '교수 갑질'에 멍드는 대학원생…개밥 주기, 통장 압수, 성폭력에 '논문 강탈'까지

Book Interview: Return of the Middle Kingdom

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Thank you for joining me today Dr. Lammbrau.”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Thank you for having me.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “So you have a new book coming out?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “That’s right.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Any reasons for writing this novel, “The Return of the Middle Kingdom”?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Publish or perish? Well right now, as you know, South Korea is in the midst of great turmoil and uncertainty. Some experts might point out that this is their traditional place in East Asia power politics; the shrimp (middle power country) caught between the whales (China and United States). But I think it is exceptionally more so right now. Right now, South Korea is stuck: their number one trade partner is China and their long-term security/economic partner, the United States. The novel addresses this changing dynamic.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “That is why you went with the title, “Return of the Middle Kingdom?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Correct. The impeachment of President Park lays out, in plain sight, the growing economic and political influence of Communist China in South Korea.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “How so? Are you arguing the Chinese government maneuvered to have President Park removed?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Yes and no. The novel details out how economic levers applied by Communist China in the form of Chinese tourists, Chinese exchanges students, economic punishment of South Korean firms (Lotte and Samsung), coupled with a stagnating South Korean economy created the conditions to remove her through democratic means.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Why would China want Park removed? She even went to President Xi’s parade, did she not?

Dr. Lammbrau: “She tried. She did really try to placate Communist China, but the issue of “THAAD” was a bridge too far.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “THAAD?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Right. The installation of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) on the Korean peninsula greatly upset Communist China. So they amped up the economic and political pressure: they caught off these very important streams of income to the South Korean economy. They want a symbolic victory, a wedge in the US-ROK alliance - and hopefully an end to it.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “This is similar to the pressure Communist China is currently putting on the NBA, South Park, and any media outlets that dare to not toe the party line?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Correct. I am not surprised at all by the audaciousness of Communist China’s demands. It is in their nature to demand obedience and supplication. I was more shocked by the response from US institutions: “kow-towing” to Communist China for the entire world to see, is just unacceptable.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Follow the money?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Right. This is all about dollars. During this current slow in the global economy, South Korean businesses are ill positioned to disobey Communist China. So in the novel, I hint that the South Korean business/political establishment conspires to impeach President Park.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Interesting. Just so I have this straight: “The impeachment of President Park was orchestrated by South Korean political and economic establishment under pressure from China?””

Dr. Lammbrau: “Well it’s not too far fetched if you look at the evidence. Let’s not spoil everything for the readers. But yes, that is just one of the narratives driving the story.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “You mentioned a demand for obedience and Kow-towing?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Yes and this is really the heart of the novel; the stark difference in cultural values between the United States and China. Authority over reason, order over innovation (disruption), and the collective over the individual.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Could you explain a bit more what you mean? I know in the novel, Return of the Middle Kingdom, you reference cultural reasons for Korean Airlines’ atrocious flight record.”

Dr. Lammbrau: “That’s right. That is just one, well-known, documented example.”

Dr. Lammbrau: “This is exactly what I ran into living and working in Korea and what I really wanted to address with the book. When Americans see Communist China demand obedience of our US institutions: economic and political, it is because authority is more important than reason in Confucian culture. They (Communist China) see themselves as an authority (Ruling Middle Kingdom), above the US, and authority is never wrong. The plane crash example just highlights how serious this principle is adhered to. The crew, knowing full well they are about to die, would rather not be ‘“disruptive individuals” to the group by pointing out the elder (authority) pilot’s error, and instead would rather die. It is both admirable and terrifying.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Authority trumps reason, even if reason will save you and the crew, and perhaps society?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Terrifying, isn’t it? Even in the tragic sinking of the Sewol Ferry we see this principle. During the sinking the crew told the children to “stay on the ship and they would be rescued” - and the children stayed. Even as the water flooded into the ship, they stayed. The only children that survived, ignored the order of the crew.” Look, and I can’t emphasize this enough, China doesn’t want dialogue or compromise, culturally they don’t believe in it. They believe in hierarchy and order. Order - is knowing your place in the hierarchy and being obedient. China sees itself as the “Returned Middle Kingdom”, at the top of the hierarchy and they will continue to demand obedience from all tributary states (which is the rest of the world).”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Well none of this is very optimistic. Is there any way for the United States and China to get off of this collision course?“

Dr. Lammbrau: “I am not sure. I do know that the internet makes things much more difficult.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “How so?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Well the internet allows for the sharing of information and ideas. In the past, social, political, and economic ideas were usually well contained to the border of their respective country. But now international boundaries are non-existent on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. Of course China and other totalitarian states heavily surveil and suppress freedom of expression within their borders, and on their net. But the NBA blow up is something new. Now they are demanding that we adhere to their political and cultural traditions on our net and platforms; their political and cultural traditions did not produce the information age. It’s madness. Communist China crossed a very serious line and the NBA’s response was equally as awful. They (Communist China) are currently executing a full on ‘soft power’ attack of our industries and institutions: academia, media, big business, politics, the entertainment industry…”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Then collision between the United States and China is inevitable?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “A physical war is not inevitable. I believe there is still time and space to prevent any hot war between the United States and China. But one could argue that Communist China was at war (economic war) this entire time; we are only now just waking up.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Well thank you for your time. I should remind our audience that the novel, “Return of the Middle Kingdom,” will be published in January of 2020. Correct?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “That’s correct.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Will there be a third novel?”

Dr. Lammbrau: “Actually, I had originally planned for a three part novel series. But now it looks like there will at least be a fourth book. This book focuses on Communist China’s influence in South Korea. In the third and fourth book I will likely explore Communist China’s influence on global institutions, including the United States. So yes, a third book is almost done and a fourth will likely follow.”

Mr. Yun Dong-ju (윤동주): “Very exciting. Thank you Dr. Lammbrau. We look forward to speaking with you in the future.”
.



The Weight of Translation: A Seoul Betrayal

With the possibility of another US-North Korea summit (in Seoul) in sight, the role of translation, accurate and precise translation, is a subject not often touched on in the deluge of media content circulating the web. Everyday we consume media content assuming that everyone is reading and analyzing from the same script. However this is terrifyingly not the reality. The reality is that for both Korean and English audiences the content they consume is often dramatically different; tailored and shaped by historical and cultural narratives. Some quick examples just to get the ball rolling. Below you will find the homepage for the Korean and English versions of JoongAng-Ilbo’s daily newspaper; one of three major daily newspapers in South Korea.

Media Content and Translation

English Homepage of Korea JoongAng Daily, October 11, 2019 (http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com)

English Homepage of Korea JoongAng Daily, October 11, 2019 (http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com)

Korean Homepage of Korea JoongAng Daily, October 11, 2019 (https://joongang.joins.com/)

Korean Homepage of Korea JoongAng Daily, October 11, 2019 (https://joongang.joins.com/)

At first glance any observer can see that the layout, pictures, and languages are different. Even without the ability to read in both English and Korean, the common observer can likely assume that the content being presented is completely different. On the left, the headlines read: “Three-day strike disrupts some rail trips,” “Pyongyang lashes out, State Dept. Issues caution,” and “Denials of report linking prosecutor general to sex scandal.” On the right the Korean version of JoongAng-Ilbo presents an article entitled, “‘에티오피아 기적’ 불린 남자, 100번째 노벨화상” about the Prime Minister of Ethiopian Prime Minister receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. It is quite obvious the editors are focused on two different audiences: an English speaking audience and a Korean speaking audience.

I always naively assumed that when a newspaper published multi-lingual versions of its content, those multi-lingual versions were derived from one source site. But this is clearly not the case. I am not singling out JoongAng-Ilbo. I am quite sure a quick visit to either Chosun-Ilbo, Donga-Ilbo, or North Korea’s Central News Agency would reveal similar results. Perhaps this is just standard practice in the translation world? So I looked for other examples in popular media content. I didn’t have to look too far.

Movies and Translation

From Left to Right Film Posters in Korean and English: 국제시장 (International Market), Ode to My Father

From Left to Right Film Posters in Korean and English: 국제시장 (International Market), Ode to My Father

Film Titles from Top to Bottom: The Spy Gone North, 공작 (Engineering Work or Maneuvering)

Film Titles from Top to Bottom: The Spy Gone North, 공작 (Engineering Work or Maneuvering)

In the two movie posters above we have clear examples of Korean movies and their titles, in both English and Korean. The movie titles were translated from their Korean source title into English; the editors were quite flexible in their interpretation of the titles from Korean to English. In the first poster “국제시장 (International Market)” is liberally translated to “Ode to My Father.” An accurate, one-to-one translation, would have simply yielded “International Market” as the translation. Moving on to the second title “공작 (Engineering Work or Maneuvering)," the editors chose to go with “The Spy Gone North,” instead of a possible one-to-one, accurate translation of “Engineering Work or Maneuvering.”

From Top to Bottom: The Fortress, 남한산성 (South Mountain Fortress)

From Top to Bottom: The Fortress, 남한산성 (South Mountain Fortress)

From Top to Bottom: The Great Battle, 안시성 (Ansi Fortress)

From Top to Bottom: The Great Battle, 안시성 (Ansi Fortress)

Continuing on, in the two examples above we find the same phenomenon. In both Korean movie titles, the Korean title is not accurately translated into English; rather it is transformed into a more eye-catching or sensational title. The very unappealing “South Mountain Fortress” turns into “The Fortress” and “Ansi Fortress” into “The Great Battle.” This author is not the first one to recognize this phenomenon. A quick google search will discover a reddit thread on the topic.

However, not all Korean film titles enjoy such liberal translations/interpretations of their titles into English. Interested in the data, we took a short look at all South Korean film titles for the year of 2018 and found about 50% of the titles were accurate translations of the original Korean version, and 50% were liberal ‘loose’ interpretations. Perhaps we can find more insights if we look into movie titles translated from English into Korean.

English title: First Man, Korean Title: “퍼스트맨”

English title: First Man, Korean Title: “퍼스트맨”

English title: Mission Impossible: Fallout, Korean Title: “미션 임파서블: 폴아웃”

English title: Mission Impossible: Fallout, Korean Title: “미션 임파서블: 폴아웃”

Remarkably, some of the major, recent English film titles were not even translated, but were merely transliterated into Korean. “First Man,” “Mission Impossible Fallout,” “Black Panther,” and “Civil War” were all transliterated directly into Korean, instead of an accurate one-to-one translation into Korean. What in the world is going on?

English title: Black Panther, Korean Title: “븍랙팬서”

English title: Black Panther, Korean Title: “븍랙팬서”

English title: Civil War: Captain America, Korean Title: “시빌 워: 캡틴 아메리카”

English title: Civil War: Captain America, Korean Title: “시빌 워: 캡틴 아메리카”

I am not the only one who has noticed this trend in “loose” interpretation. Jonah Hicap for the Metro reported, “Korean moviegoers complain of mistranslation of Avengers dialogue,” reporting that Korean audiences were so upset about mistranslations that they filed a petition calling for the firing of translator Ji-hoon Park, who wrote the Korean subtitles for “Avengers: Infinity War” and past films like “Suicide Squad,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

But it doesn’t end there. So I tested another google search, “Korean translation errors.” The results were as follows: In 2011 Reuters among other news outlets reported on translation errors related to the Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the United States.

“It is the third time this year Seoul has been left embarrassed by mistakes in the Korean text… the FTA between South Korea and the European Union has twice been put on hold due to errors.”

Another article focused along similar lines highlighted the same issue with a Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and South Korea.

“Apparently South Korea’s Trade Ministry admitted to no less than 207 different translation errors in the Korean version of an FTA bill between the EU and South Korea. Worse still, this was the country’s second attempt at drafting the bill in both English and Korean – and the second time it was forcibly withdrawn.”

Another search result pointed to the notorious ‘lost in translation’ moment between President George W. Bush and President Moo-hyun Roh reported on September 9, 2007 by the Guardian.

President George W. Bush offered North Korea a peace deal yesterday that would end the world's oldest and bloodiest cold war conflict on condition that Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Bush's move towards engagement rather than confrontation was the subject of an awkward dialogue with Mr. Roh played out in front of the TV cameras.

Mr Roh leaned across and urged the president to be more explicit about the security arrangement.

"I might be wrong. I think I did not hear President Bush mention a declaration to end the Korean war just now," Mr. Roh said through an interpreter. "Did you say that, President Bush?" Mr. Bush replied it was "up to Kim Jong-il".

The South Korean leader remained unconvinced: "If you could be a little clearer," he said.

"I can't make it any more clear, Mr. President," Mr. Bush said. "We're looking forward to the day when we can end the Korean war. That will happen when Kim Jong-il verifiably gets rid of his weapons programmes and his weapons."

A translator from the recent June 12th US-NK Summit returned to South Korea to appear on a daily talk show and she pulled no punches in her assessment of the President of the United States; “Korean Reporter Reveals Why Donald Trump is Hard to Translate, ‘Sounds Like an Elementary Kid’” reported the following.

A former SBS reporter who is now working as an interpreter recently revealed that the hardest person she has ever translated was President Donald Trump.

Ahn Hyun-mo, 34, made a guest appearance on KBS’ “Happy Together 3” on July 5 and was joined by Park Kyung Lim, Jessi, and Kim Ji Hye, according to AllKpop.

She states, “If the interpreter translates that directly then he will sound like an elementary kid. So I try to vary the words, like ‘fabulous’, ‘good’, ‘fantastic’ (for each time he says ‘great’).”

So what is going here? Is it matter of the interpreter/translator merely playing to the audience or decision-maker? Where is the line between entertainment, news, and national security? With the lines being blurred every day it’s a terrifying thought that the very “loose” translation practices found in the entertainment world might bleed over into matters of national security.

A Seoul Betrayal

Any summit between the United States and North Korea has historical ramifications. With another possible US-NK Summit on the horizon I worry that the importance of translation is being overlooked. Numerous articles have already discussed the significant difference in meaning of the term “denuclearization” between the United States and North Korea. In this article we will focus on the lack of a substantive discussion regarding the implications and meaning of “Korean Unification.”

The popular understanding of “Korean Unification (Korean: 통일, 統一),” according to most of the western world refers to the potential reunification of North Korea and South Korea into a single Korean sovereign state. The image below, of the light blue, united Korean peninsula is the popular, common understanding of Korean Unification. Like most things, the devil is in the details and when we dig deeper regarding the meaning and implications of unification in KOREAN, we are in for a disturbing surprise. Even in the example above, “통일 (Unification)” is loosely translated to “Korean Unification.” But what does “Korean Unfication” actually mean if it doesn’t mean the united blue peninsula we see below?

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 12.42.33 PM.png

The answer to our question lies in accurate, one-to-one translations of Korean to English. After years of experience working in the Korean-English translation and interpretation community I have witnessed a disturbing industry practice; simplified translations of complex terms. When I ask why we simplify Korean when we translate to English, the usually response is, “Korean is just too complex for English speakers to understand.” The screen-capture below demonstrates, in Google Translate, the practice of loose or simplified translation. This practice of simplification notably translates various kingdoms throughout Korea’s history as just - “Korea”. More importantly, it demonstrates how distinctly different concepts and meanings in Korean, are being translated to one simplistic meaning in English. Perhaps the Korean language is just too difficult and complex for English speakers to understand?

Google Translate

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 2.47.13 PM.png

In the image above “한국통일,” “조국통일,” “고려통일,” are all simply translated as “Korean Unification” or “Reunification”. But “한국 - 대한민국 (Republic of Korea),” “조국 (Ancestral Land),” “고려 (Goryeo),” represent completely different territorial implications for “Korean Unification”. This article from JoongAng Ilbo discusses the ‘real’ territory of the “고려” Kingdom, without “distortion from the Japanese colonizers.”

North Korea, since August 14th, 1960, has pushed its plan for “Korean Unification” entitled, “고려연방제 통일방안.” In the plan Kim Il Sung’s North Korea advocated for a federation system: one nation, two systems. In June of 1963 Kim Il Sung expanded his ambitions for “Korean Unification”, introducing a plan entitled, “조국통일 5대방침.” Now we have the use of both “고려 (Goryeo)” and “조국 (Ancestral Land).

At the 6th Party Congress, in October of 1980, the term “민주 (democracy)” was added to the title of the initial unification proposal, “고려연방공화국 (Goryeo Federation Republic),” making it “고려민주연방공화국 (Goryeo Democratic Federation Repubilc).” Under this new title, the proposal’s aim was a unified nation in the form of a one-ethnic people, one-state, two-system, and two-governments.

The meaning of “조국통일 (Ancestral Land Unification/Fatherland Unification)” is actually quite ambiguous but you don’t have to search long online to gather an understanding of its implications. The map below is an excellent start.

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Korean historians now argue that the current understanding of “Korean” territory is limited to the “peninsula” merely as a result of treaties imposed by Imperial Japan during the colonial period. The maps above represent historically occupied territory by “Korean speaking peoples,” prior to 1910. The connection between language and territory is now the main driver of a modern-day policy push for reclamation of all territories were Korean speaking peoples reside: think modern-day China and Russia.

South Korean proposal’s for “Korean Unification” leverage this very concept. In 1989, President Roh, of South Korea, introduced the government’s new plan for unification, entitled, “한민족공동체통일방안 (Han Nation Community Unification Plan).“ Most recently, Mr. Hee-sang Moon, Chairman of the National Assembly spoke about the current government’s plan for unification (한민족공동체통일방안).

Mr. Hee-sang Moon, Chairman of the National Assembly spoke about the current government’s plan for unification “한민족공동체통일방안” (Han Peoples Community Unification Plan).

Mr. Hee-sang Moon, Chairman of the National Assembly spoke about the current government’s plan for unification “한민족공동체통일방안” (Han Peoples Community Unification Plan).

Before President Trump signs off on any deal in Seoul, he and his administration should be careful they are not signing an agreement legitimizing Korean territorial claims to large swaths of land in Russia, China, and anywhere Korean speaking peoples reside. I am sure the U.S. government’s Korean language professionals (translators and interpreters) would certainly point out the territorial meaning and implications of any proposal.

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U.S. policymakers should keep in the mind the lessons of history, and not appease totalitarian ethnic-nationalist movements - rooted in racial supremacy - using terrorism in their pursuit of territorial expansion and “unification of the ancestral homeland.“

Nationalism left unchecked and appeased most certainly leads to war. Korean ethnic-nationalists will stop at nothing in their drive to resurrect the kingdoms of the past, glories of the past, and wars of the past.

Americans, in our grand impatience, in our love to get things done, fail to realize the colossal error in appeasement to the ethnic-nationalist terrorist state, North Korea. Like Chamberlain’s betrayal at Munich, President Trump’s possible Seoul Betrayal would only lead to more instability in the region, not less. Ethnic-nationalist terrorist states should never be appeased: never, never, never.