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Rutgers professor receives grant for translating Korean texts

The Literature Translation Institute awards grants to translators of Korean literary works. – Photo by Wikimedia

Brandon Park, part-time lecturer in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, has received the Literature Translation Institute (LTI) of Korea’s translation grant for Fall 2019, a first for faculty in Rutgers’ Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.

The grant is awarded every yearly quarter for translations of Korean literary, humanities and social sciences works, according to the LTI Korea website. Recipients receive approximately $5,000 in Korean won. Park was one of six people to receive the grant.

He said he chose to translate 10 poems from Moon Tae-jun’s “Flatfish” into English because Moon’s sparse language and Buddhist imagery matched his artistic sensibilities. Moon previously had only a few poems translated into English, according to the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures news.

“I applied for this grant as a way to evaluate my translation ability,” Park said. “After receiving positive feedback and advice from a few translators, including (Assistant) Professor (of Korean Studies) Jae Won Edward Chung, I felt more confident about putting my work out there.”

Chung won the LTI Korea Translation Award for Aspiring Translators in 2008, a separate award for translators. He was not a Rutgers faculty member at the time, according to the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures Administrator Patricia Badillo-Salas.

Park said he did not receive exposure to the Korean language growing up, despite his Korean ethnicity. He learned Korean through his undergraduate and graduate studies at Rutgers in the past five years. 

Young-mee Cho, associate professor of Korean Language and Culture in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, said Park gained interest in translation through a Korean translation course.

“We have developed five Korean-specific translation courses for the past five years, and now we are able to launch the Korean-English Translation/Interpreting Certificate Program,” Cho said. “We are extremely happy to see the fruit of our new curriculum development effort with his translation award.”

Park said translation is important for local literature to reach a wider audience and grant exposure to the culture of the original language. He said the South Korean film, “Parasite,” a recent winner of four Oscars at the 92nd Academy Awards, is a timely example.

“In many ways, the success of ‘Parasite’ is a testament to the power of translation,” Park said.

Park currently teaches Korean cinema at Rutgers and said his current goal is to publish a full translation of “Flatfish,” but his future projects are not necessarily related to receiving this grant.

“My current mindset is to encourage my students to pursue translation as both a hobby and viable career path,” Park said. “By receiving this grant, I hope to encourage other young prospective translators to really get into translation as well.”

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