The Newsletter 88 Spring 2021

Cultural encounters through translation in Northeast Asia

Ilhong Ko

Translation is not merely a form of intercultural communication, it is a cultural encounter between two different worlds. The process of translation opens up an arena in which conceptual boundaries are expanded, meanings are contested, and power conflicts emerge. In this issue of News from Northeast Asia we examine how the act of translation can also shed light on the nature of the relationship between the countries in which the original and translated texts were produced.

The way in which translation can lead to bilateral exchange is illustrated by Kyusik Jeong of Wonkwang University in ‘Asian workers’ solidarity and cultural exchange’. Translation can also act to provide a common ground for engagement, as Nihei Michiaki, Professor Emeritus of Tohoku University, reminds us in ‘The translation and cultural exchange of the Japanese classic Genjimonogatari’. Translation may also be accompanied by active attempts to reconfigure power relations and bring about change to the status quo; this is demonstrated by Kyushu University’s Tanaka Mika in ‘Aspects of Japanese publication translations in Sinmunkwan’s magazines’. However, translation may also contribute, perhaps unintentionally, to the reproduction of long-standing prejudices, as can be seen in the case of the Japanese translation of the works of a Korean dissident presented by Kyung Hee University’s Moon-seok Jang in ‘Across the Korea Strait and the Yellow Sea. Kim Ji Ha in the 1970s’.

Ilhong Ko, HK Research Professor, Seoul National University Asia Center, Regional Editor of News from Northeast Asia