There has been a massive influx of English and American literature into South Korea, and imagine that Korean would not have any access to translated works of them. Those who lack of English ability may wonder how then they can enjoy literature written in English. In reality, however, the Korean public do not have to worry about the idea; there are a lot more supply of English translator than actually demanded. So, the questions is how an English translator in Korea can be more competitive and gain more opportunities to translate literary works written in English. Here are three features that most of successful English translators have in common in Korea.
The first characteristic is supposed to be language proficiency in both English and Korean. With the number of aspiring literary translators in Korea on the rise, there has been a widespread misunderstanding among them: they do not need to improve their Korean ability just because Korean is their mother tongue. Almost all of them seem to recognize the importance of English as a foreign language, but they tend to take their Korean proficiency for granted, thus making no effort to improve their Korean skills. Many professional literary translators have put a great emphasis on the importance of mother tongue, pointing out that the most ideal direction of literary translation is from a foreign language to a native language. In other words, Koreans translating English or American literature should be focus on how the works can be expressed best naturally in Korean.
Secondly, background information is so much important as is language itself. The very first step of literary translation is to fully understand an English text. If a Korean cannot fully understand the original text, it means that he is not yet ready to translate the work. For example, in order to translate 1984 by George Orwell, a translator should be well aware of the social and historical situation at the time when it was written, especially involved with the advent of socialism or communism. Unless the translator do have good knowledge of the specific information, it is almost impossible for him to convey the important message reflected by the author to Korean readers. In this respect, it is one of high priorities for literary translators to make sure he completely understand the background information regarding literature written in English.
In the end, getting more than a Master's degree in either English and American literature or English translation itself is the other indispensable condition for would-be translators in Korea. It is essential not just because during the process of higher education, Koreans improve their translation skills connected with two features mentioned above; but because it is also the way to prove their literary translation capacities. There is no license for translators in Korea, nor is there any tests to certify them. But there a plenty of graduate schools well known for the relevant majors; for example, graduate schools of interpretation and translation at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Ewha Womans University are extraordinarily specialized in translation education. To go on to one of the two graduate school is the fastest and most effective way to prove how much a Korean is qualified for an English translator.
If a Korean hopes to be a well-known translator of English or American literature, he is supposed to be extraordinarily fluent in both languages, have a wide range of background information, and attain a master's or doctor's degree in related English majors. An language is the core of a country's culture through which the beauty of its whole culture is well represented. And literature of a country is the most tangible symbol of its language. In this sense, Koreans may find it difficult to appreciate the English and American culture without enjoying literature of two countries. Therefore, we cannot stress the importance of literary translator's role too much as the bridge between Korean, English and American culture.