Science, Reborn from the Hands of a Translator, Hanum Lee
Science, Reborn from the Hands of a Translator, Hanum Lee
  • Lim Yang Yunjeong
  • 승인 2009.11.07 04:21
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Hanum Lee (LEE) said he started translation accidentally.  It began with the request of a friend who works in a publishing company, but now his job is a translator and author.  He translates science books often, so contributing to the popularization of science through translation of those books is the salt of life.  Aren’t you curious about someone who isn’t concerned to income? The Sookmyung Times (SMT) came out carefully to meet Hanum Lee who makes science come into full bloom newly.

SMT In fact, a translators’ position is lower than an authors’ position.  However translators don’t translate
good foreign books into Korean, Koreans are hard to read those books.  What is the worth you feel as a translator?
LEE In society’s treatment, translators come down.  Someone who is famous as an author and a translator said I couldn’t be wellreceived if I were a translator not going on the platform as an author.  Of course, there are various causes, but I think the main reason is that translation is tied to the author’s writing.  Although translation is called the second creation, an initiative spirit isn’t showed to the full.  That is a just the difference of the work’s characteristics, but the recognition that translation is inferior to creation begins from that.  However, translation is fruitful in its own way.  Personally, it is good that I can come in contact with a new book at first.  Maybe the most valuable thing is that I make many readers can read the original text that was too hard to read originally.

SMT Which seems most important between translation and writing? And what is the difference of achievement between original book publication and translation book publication?
LEE I attach importance to translation because translation is delayed now, but I think work of translation will be reduced and I will invest in creation.  Achievement from creaton is better than a translation’s achievement, because I spend a lot of time finding data and externalizing when I write book a directly.  Translation is almost accomplished mechanically because it is long continued.  Naturally, when I started translation at first, I felt delight at translation book publication just like in the case of writing a book.  My Korean and English ability is not good,
so I made a lot of effort. It is true that the sense of accomplishment is different according to my efforts. 

SMT Reading science books in English is so stressful.  What is the toughest thing when you translate?
And why do you continue translation?

LEE Science develops fast day by day.  So, new technical scientific terms come out almost every day, but corresponding Korean terms do not appear as fast.  Accordingly, I am long in finding suitable Korean terms.  Translation terms are a little different for every translator.  Also, there is the difficulty of continual study because the books which contained new products of study were published continually. In the science field, if I don’t study I often don’t understand the word, and unreasonable translation will be published, but learning the new things is a good work.

SMT You are an author and a translator.  How do you think about writing and jobs related to writing?
LEE In the past, writing was a field of experts, but it is different now.  People are able to write their story easily through blogs.  Writing is what develops as much as someone writes, so the Internet landscape is a lot of help to improve writing ability.  In the time before the Internet, so many people felt that writing is such hard work, but I don’t know that writing easily is always a good thing.  Because, there is a possibility that an excellent composition which made from deep thought can be reduced.  However, the writing is the means which expresses me, so you have no face too difficult.  The words for jobs related to writing are different with the past because fusion between
mediums is very active.  People teach and learn writing considering various mediums like games and movies from
the very beginning.  In our generation, we saw each field separately, so jobs related to writing were limited.  I think
the writing field is going forward, but not in the same direction.  It can be said that the present jobs possibilities
have opened so much.

SMT Please give some advice to Sookmyungians who dream of becoming translators in the future.

LEE Translators’ abilities are multifarious, just like other fields.  Someone is skilled in translation but the other side, another is not so good in translation.  The most important thing becoming a good translator is ability which refines the Korean language.  When we think about the time spent on English study, the Korean can read the original text in
English if somebody makes more effort, but translating the original English text into Korean isn’t easy.  This is the main reason that the number of translators are few in Korea.  There are many publishing companies which were troubled giving translation to fluent English speakers without rhyme or reason.  Finally, I want to give important
advice to Sookmyungians who want to become translators, economical income of the people who have a job in this field is not high, but they will be able to work freely.  If you are the person who seeks high income, you had better to find a job of a different field.


Scientific Translation Specialist and Scientific Special Author

Graduated from Department of Biological Sciences in Seoul National University
Won a prize a literary contest in spring (1996) of the Kyunghyang Shinmun with a novel, Purpose of Dissection
Published about 97 Korean versions such as The Revenge of GAIA, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin and Why Do Men Have Nipples?
Published writings such as Homo Expertus, The Computer Wants to Be a God and DNA, Fascinated with Double Dance

The Hankook Ilbo’s Korean Publication Culture Prize Translation Award in 2007 with The God Delusion

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