The 14th LTI Korea Translation Award: A Latecomer Translator

  • onJanuary 4, 2017
  • Vol.34 Winter 2016
  • byKim Soon Hee

First of all, I would like to say how grateful I am for the unexpected joy of receiving an email, on an afternoon where both the country and I were having a gloomy day, from the President of LTI Korea congratulating me on winning a translation award. The chance to translate a Korean literary work was an especially cherished one for me, as I have loved books all my life. But upon reflection, it is not just Kim Soon Hee, translator, who is being given this award, but also the author Lee Seung-U who entrusted me with his work, as well as my wonderful colleagues and dedicated students. Special thanks to Professor Choi Mi-Kyung, my trusted friend and colleague at Ewha Womans University’s Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation, who first introduced me to LTI Korea. I was able to commute from Ilsan to Samseongdong with a light heart because of the students there who work so hard to closely read and translate Korean literature, and I am also aware of and grateful for the tireless effort of the staff at LTI Korea. I was also very pleased for the chance to meet so many different authors and come into contact with their creative worldviews.


While I may be the teacher in the classroom, it is perhaps more accurate to say that I am also a learner alongside the students. As Professor Jean-Noël Juttet said two years ago at a forum presentation, a literary translator is not a “professional” but rather a constant student of philosophy, history, and literature, someone who is tasked with working within a strict literary sensibility of making the target-language reader feel what the departure-language reader is feeling. Our learning, therefore, is never complete. Translating Lee Seung-U, whose works feature many intertextual elements, made me go back to reading books by Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Rilke, and Gide. It makes my heart skip a beat when I think of Lee Seung-U’s work delivering, through translation, a universal literary message to Japanese readers.


Translating Korean literature into Japanese is also a process of understanding a literature that is of my native land but not in my native tongue, which in turns reflects a process of exploring my own national identity. All of these joys from publishing and teaching translated Korean literature were possible thanks to LTI Korea’s extraordinary support.