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Korean Literature Translation Workshop in Italy

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    05/18/2017 to 05/19/2017
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From May 18 to 19, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea, President: Kim Seong-Kon, professor Emeritus at Seoul National University) ran a Korean literature translation workshop at Italy’s Sapienza University of Rome. This was the third year in a row that the LTI held a workshop at the university.


The workshop involved translating poet Jeong Ho-seung’s anthology Oelounikka salam-ida (You are human because you feel loneliness). Forty-two students participated in the translation practicum in 11 teams, translating 40 poems starting in March under the guidance of Professor Antonetta Bruno. For the first month of the practicum, students did practical translation in classroom settings to build up experience in translating Korean literature. For the second month, they wrote reports that analyzed the works, discussed problems and questions about the translations, then finally presented them at the workshop. Jeong was moved by the in-depth analyses students offered and gave detailed feedback on each presentation.


Other than the presentations and the translation practicum with the writer, the workshop also involved a wide range of events that included lectures from authors, poetry readings, and displays of poetry calligraphy.


The first day of the workshop began with report presentations from four student teams. Though nervous, the students gave their presentations in Korean to show their passion about conveying the fruits of their efforts to Jeong. The presentations covered 13 poems. One of the teams in particular gave their analysis of a poem titled ‘Snail’, saying that “the snail is an image that gives us a peek at the key to life—to move slowly, without anxiety. We must learn this lesson from the snail. We must take just the right time we need as we live our lives, think carefully on what we should do, and press on to the end with both curiosity and strength”, to the acclaim of Jeong and others in attendance.


The presentations were followed by readings by both Jeong and the students. Each student team chose one poem to recite with the poet, for a total of 11 poems read out at the event. (The recited poems were Seoglyeon (Stone Lotus), Banjiui uimi (The Meaning of the Ring), Jongsoli (A Bell Tolls), Dalpaeng-i (Snail), Suseonhwa-ege (To the Daffodils), Cheotma-eum (First Feelings), Gaemi (Ant), Ligidasonamu (Pinus Rigida), Golaeleul wihayeo (For the Whale), Dangsin (You), and Cheolgil-e nuwo (Lying on the Train Tracks))


The first day of the workshop ended with a poetry calligraphy event. Each student chose a poem from the anthology and wrote out the poem on rice paper with a brush and ink. Though flustered by the unfamiliar writing tools, students poured their hearts into their works and put them on display.



Jeong Ho-seung started off the second day of the workshop with a lecture. He discussed the background behind the poems in Oelounikka salam-ida (You are human because you feel loneliness) and the message he wanted to convey through the work. He also encouraged the audience, saying, ‘to be lonely is human. To be compelled to love in spite of the loneliness it causes is human. This is why we must hold absolute love in our hearts and live on with an acceptance of loneliness’.


The lecture was followed by a translation practicum with the poet, where students could directly ask him questions that came up in translation. The students were keen all throughout the session, where they asked Jeong various questions about subjects such as the meanings behind the words and symbolism, and his use of punctuation.


 In the afternoon, seven student teams gave their report presentations, with Jeong giving them his feedback. In spite of the length of time it took, no one showed any sign of fatigue as they participated passionately to the end. Jeong finished off the event, commenting ‘I have faith that great translators will emerge from this group. I ask that students work to introduce great literature to both Korea and Italy’. The two-day workshop concluded with the handing out of certificates of completion and an autograph session with Jeong.


The two-day workshop was an excellent opportunity to confirm the passion local students held for Korean literature. Students were especially driven because this was a chance for them to engage in practical work amidst the largely theoretical system of a university, and their enthusiasm was reflected in the presentations that moved even the poet himself. Events like this workshop are expected to become great opportunities to nurture excellent translators, who will become the driving force behind the qualitative and quantitative growth of published Korean literature in translation in Italian-speaking regions.


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