Category: Translation/번역

Interview with Jung Yumi (Elle Korea 2018)

I’ve liked a lot of projects that Jung Yumi has been in, but the one I can’t forget is Que Sera Sera, her first TV drama. It’s possibly one of the most horrifying and hard-to-stomach (i.e. amazing) melodramas I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen it 2.5 times myself and the opening song still always gives me goosebumps.

That said, I think it was her role as Joo Yeol-mae in I Need Romance 2012 that really made me a fan. I was surprised at the frankness with which that show addressed love and female sexuality and relationships that didn’t conform to societal norms; plus, I have a soft spot for shows with female leads who have close circle of girl friends. Writing aside, I adored Jung Yumi’s punchy line delivery and the spark she gave her character. [Shameless plug: I’m currently captioning I Need Romance 2012 in Korean on Viki if you’re looking for a fun drama to study with.]

Last month, Jung Yumi wrapped up filming Live, her small screen comeback after four years. She was interviewed in this month’s Elle Korea on her past projects and her acting style in an article titled ‘정유미의 호흡’ (translated below).

Now, I’ve translated the article’s title (maybe too literally) as ‘Jung Yumi’s Breathing.’ 호흡 is an interesting word. It literally means breathing or respiration, but in the context of the article, it’s more referring to Jung Yumi’s laissez-faire way of doing things. She goes with the flow, marches to the beat of her own drum, so to speak.

Disclaimer: All copyright belongs to the original source. I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.

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Interview with Gong Yoo (Elle Korea 2018)

Gong Yoo is one of those actors who consistently takes me by surprise and I’m not really sure why. He’s good and he picks pretty solid projects. I’ve seen (ahem!) five of his dramas and three of his films over the years and every single time I’ve found something beautiful and moving in his performance.

I’ll admit that I still have an embarrassing soft spot for Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy, but Coffee Prince is the one that will continue to stand the test of time. I still recommend it to Korean drama neophytes when they ask me for recs.

Speaking of time, good grief, how can it already be TEN YEARS since Coffee Prince aired?! Elle Korea published a brief interview with Gong Yoo where he reflects on one of the most beloved Korean dramas of the past decade and as well as his most recent success with Goblin.

(Disclaimer: All copyright belongs to the original source. I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.)

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One Million Roses

My heart feels sliced in half today.

I have been removed from the idol scene for a few years now, but there was a time in college and graduate school when SHINee’s music meant a lot to me. I bonded with two of my closest friends over their music; no matter how far-removed we were as fans then, it truly feels like we’ve lost something precious today.

As someone with clinical depression, just a scant few months older than Jonghyun, and as someone who has felt a similar kind of hopelessness and despair, I am truly sick with grief at how society keeps failing individuals with mental illnesses.

Take this moment to reach out to your loved ones and check in on them. The ones who smile the fiercest on the outside are often the ones who are crumbling on the inside.

I leave you with a song that Jonghyun covered on Immortal Song 2 back in 2011. To this day, it is one of my favorite performances by him.

Originally a Latvian song and popularized by Russian singer Alla Pugacheva, the Korean version 백만송의 장미 was first sung by Shim Soo-bong in 1997. Korean lyrics and English translation by me below.

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That poem in ‘Because This Is My First Life’

There are a lot of reasons I loved Because This Is My First Life. Like, a lot.

One of them is Jiho’s penchant for making literary allusions and using extended metaphors to express her complicated thoughts and feelings. This was a nice bit of character development, I thought; even though Jiho doesn’t work as a writer for a good chunk of the show, that side of her still comes through to the viewer.

There are two main works which Jiho alludes to in the show. One of them is the poem <방문객> (“The Visitor”) by Korean poet 정현종. The poem appears in his 2009 anthology <섬> (Island).

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방문객

사람이 온다는 건
실은 어마어마한 일이다.
그는
그의 과거와 현재와
그리고
그의 미래와 함께 오기 때문이다.
한 사람의 일생이 오기 때문이다.
부서지기 쉬운
그래서 부서지기도 했을
마음이 오는 것이다―그 갈피를
아마 바람은 더듬어볼 수 있을
마음,
내 마음이 그런 바람을 흉내낸다면
필경 환대가 될 것이다.

The Visitor

The coming of a person
is, in fact, a tremendous feat.
Because he
comes with his past and present
and
with his future.
Because a person’s whole life comes with him.
Since it is so easily broken
the heart that comes along
would have been broken ― a heart
whose layers the wind will likely be able to trace,
if my heart could mimic that wind
it can become a hospitable place.

[I’m appending a million caveats onto this translation because I feel that translating poetry is sacrilegious unless you truly, truly understand the nuances of the language and the cultural/historical context of the poet — neither of which I can claim to be any kind of expert on… and yet here I am. I did read a few analyses of this poem; while my translation is a little graceless, I think it gets across the main point of poet. Take it with a grain of salt, use with caution, etc. etc.]

For what I know of the poet (Romanized as Chong Hyon-jong), his works reflect the challenges of connecting with oneself and others during this age of materialism, but mostly end on an uplifting note.

The titular poem, for example, poignantly captures this sentiment with just two lines:

사람들 사이에 섬이 있다.
그 섬에 가고 싶다.

Island

There are islands between people.
I want visit that island.

Because This Is My First Life isn’t only about marriage and love in the modern age (though it does do an amazing job at addressing that). Like these poems, I think the show as a whole tries to capture the profundity of human interaction. Knowing oneself isn’t easy. Knowing others is almost impossible. But despite this, the fact that humans are able to come together and communicate and coexist is a truly tremendous feat. Everyone comes with their own ‘baggage’ — their own past, their own present, their own future. It’s not something to downplay or ignore. To accept them as a person is to accept all of their weight; that, perhaps, is the best comfort that one human being can offer another.

Interview with Lee Min-ki and Jung So-min (Marie Claire 2017)

So 이번 생은 처음이라 / Because This Is My First Life wraps up this week. This interview came out in October, right before the show started airing so it’s kinda old news at this point, but I needed something to occupy me between episodes and it’s been ages since I’ve translated celebrity news anyway, so here it is.

Man, this drama. I came for the contract marriage trope (and also Lee Min-ki because I literally can’t remember seeing him in anything other than Dalja’s Spring) and stayed for the earnestness, the poignancy, the tender heartache present in all the characters.

Growing up, I thought a lot about love and marriage and how they relate to each other, given that my family feels one way about it and the society I grew up in feels the almost exact opposite. And now with those two worlds currently colliding in my life, this drama couldn’t have made a more timely arrival.

이번 생은 처음이라 will soon be the only Korean drama I’ve managed to finish in 2017. I may be speaking too soon, but I think it’ll be sticking with me for a long, long time after as well.

(Disclaimer: All copyright belongs to the original source. I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.)

First-Life

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Translating Korean relative clauses

Ahhh, Korean prose. It’s so amazingly different from its English counterpart.

I’ve spoiled myself when it comes to translation because, before now, I’ve only translated what I enjoy translating or what I think naturally translates well into English – avoiding passages with dreaded idiomatic expressions or puns.

For the past couple months, though, I’ve kinda sorta taken up casually translating a Korean e-book into English, and over the course of thousands of words, the translation challenges are becoming more and more persistent and unavoidable.

Case in point: relative clauses.

In English, a relative clause is a phrase that modifies a noun and is usually preceded by a relative pronoun (i.e. who, whom, which, that, or whose). Note, Korean doesn’t have explicit relative pronouns; at the end of verb, adjective, or noun preceding the noun you want to modify, you just add -는 (for present-tense verbs/adjectives), -(으)ㄴ (past-tense verbs), -았/었/였던 (past-tense adjectives),-(으)ㄹ (future-tense verbs/adj), or -인 (nouns).

Now, obviously I can’t generalize writing style, but given the range and number of things I’ve read over the years, I’m comfortable saying that standard Korean writing uses a lot of relative clauses. And, man, are they hard to translate.

First off, in Korean, relative clauses can modify personal pronouns (i.e. I, they, we, us) which quickly gets strange and awkward to translate in English:

별에서 그대
lit. You who came from the stars.

Not… wrong, necessarily. But there’s a reason why the official English translation of this drama title is My Love From the Stars instead.

Relative clauses in Korean can also get long, like beyond what actually sounds decent in English. Now combine that with point 1 and you might see things like:

요즘따라 내꺼인 듯 내꺼 아닌 내꺼 같은
lit. You who seem like you’re mine these days, who aren’t mine, who are like mine.

(Okay, so these are song lyrics, so not totally representative of normal prose. LOL.)

I struggle with sentences that use a lot of descriptive clauses because it makes English-translated Korean sentences sound homogeneous. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a stylistic thing that bothers me a lot. So much tone, mood, and pacing comes from varying sentence length and structure. It gives prose an overall movement and cadence.

Side note – I love writing, it’s my day job, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what ‘good’ is writing to me and developing my craft.  I tend to hate using adverbs and overwrought descriptions in my own prose, so when I encounter relative clauses in Korean, I think I exercise a little too much creative freedom in translating them.

낡긴 하였으나 깨끗한 도포를 입고 갓을 쓴 곱상한 선비가 두 손으로 보자기를 함겹게 들고 서책이 빼곡한 책방 안으로 들어서며 주인을 찾았다.
lit. The handsome scholar who wore an old, although clean dopo and hat, clutched with difficulty a cloth-wrapped bundle in both hands, and, stepping into the bookstore crowded with books, looked for its owner.

Yeah, nope. If this was the first sentence of an English novel, I would not be shy about using a red pen all over it. I’d break that sentence up into at least two, if not three sentences.

An interesting and unintended consequence of translating Korean is that my own writing (especially in fiction) has also changed subtly. I find myself using a lot more relative clauses and adverbs than I used to. Make it stopppp.

(Photo by João Silas via Unsplash)

Interview with Park Yoochun (Marie Claire 2015)

Given that I know zilch about what’s happening in Korean entertainment these days, it came as a mild surprise to learn that Park Yoochun (of K-drama & K-pop fame) is off to serve his mandatory two-year military service.  Very soon in fact.  Like, today.  Or yesterday.

I chanced upon this short interview while scanning Korean celeb magazines for quality reading content and – well, normally I’m rather indifferent to Yoochun but sentimentality got the better of me.  I’d just resumed reading 셩균관 유생들의 나날 for the umpteenth time, which got me thinking about Sungkyunkwan Scandal, (still one of my favorite dramas to date, by the way), which made me think about JYJ and DBSK and OT5 4ever, etc. etc.

I found this interview pretty funny actually because the interviewer/writer can’t start a single question without talking about how PYC is going to be gone for TWO YEARS – it’s like s/he is so desperate for Yoochun to talk about how crushed he’s going to be to give up the spotlight, but Chunnie’s having none of that.  Full translated interview under the cut!  And the usual:

(Disclaimer:  All copyright belongs to the original source.  I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.  In fact, I’ve taken a few liberties with my translation this time by prioritizing meaning and written fluency over more literally representing the original text.)

Yoochun

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Interview with Lee Jin-wook and Jo Yoon-hee (Marie Claire)

I consider 나인: 아홉 번의 시간 여행 (Nine: Nine Time Travels) to be the Korean drama to end all Korean dramas for me.  In a good way.  It’s not my all-time favorite drama, but it hit me in a way that no K-drama since has been able to.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve managed to finish a single Korean drama since watching Nine – as if I’ve been cursed by the magical Himalayan incense myself!  About a year ago, there was news that Nine would be remade for an American audience which made me simultaneously roll my eyes and perk up my ears.  If it ever came into fruition, I love the story line and the questions it raises enough to consider watching it.  Cautiously.

Anyway, this is an old piece came that out in the April 2013 edition of Marie Claire Korea, right when Nine had started to air that I translated on a whim last night.  If you’re looking for something mind-bending, thrilling, heartbreaking, and suspenseful all at once, I highly recommend Nine – just sit tight through the first couple (rather slow) episodes!

(Disclaimer:  As with all my other translations, all copyright belongs to the original source.  I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.  In fact, I’ve taken a few liberties with my translation this time by prioritizing meaning and written fluency over more literally representing the original text.)

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악동뮤지션 (AKMU) – 안녕

Let me tell you a story about myself.  When I was growing up, I moved a lot.  By the time I graduated high school, I had lived in five different states and changed schools just as many times.  When I got older, the moves got much harder.  At one point, I remember making the mental decision to just not make friends – what was the point if I was just going to move away after a couple years?

I moved to North Carolina in the middle of seventh grade and, day after day, I remember vividly eating lunch alone at one end of a lunch table in the corner of the cafeteria.  There was a group of girls who sat a little bit further down from me that I recognized from some of my classes.  I would glance at occasionally because they seemed friendly but I didn’t approach them or say anything for weeks.  And then one day, a girl from that group approached me and said, “Do you want to sit with us?”  And I did.  I’m still friends with her to this day and even though we don’t talk very often, that bit of kindness has stayed in my heart for the past twelve years and will continue to do so for many, many more.  The friends I made that day I will always cherish.

The lyrics of this song transported me back to those days of desperate loneliness right after I had moved to a new place.  Never again do I want to experience the feeling of seeing groups of friends all around me but not knowing how to talk to them, literally feeling the words get stuck in my throat as I approached them.  I think I’ve cried several times listening to this song but afterwards I always feel thankful for the people who have reached out to me over the years and received me with warmth.  I hope I’ve helped someone in the same way.

Lyrics translated by me:

안녕 나는 너를 아는데
너는 나를 모르지
그 동안 말도 하지 않고 매일
저 만치서 어울리고 있는
너희를 바라보고

다가갈까 말까
말 걸어볼까 말까
이런 인사가 나을까
이런 날 반겨줄까
오늘도
생각만 하다가 기회는 떠나가

혼자라는 게
얼마나 외로운지 아니
날 피하는 게
보일 때 얼마나 서운한지 아니

날 멀리 두지 말아줘
날 여기에 이대로 두어줘
그저 너희가 있는 자리에
함께 있는 것만으로
내겐 안심이 될 테니

날 혼자 두지 말아줘
날 너희와 함께 있게 해줘
그저 너희가 있는 자리에
함께 있는 것만으로
내겐 안심이 될 테니

Don’t hate me
나나나나나 나나나나나나 나나나
Don’t hate me
나나나나나 나나나나나나 나나나

늘 내게만 똑같은 태도
내게만 드리워진 shadow
잃어버린 궤도에 홀로
파도 속에 남겨진 배도
less than me
항상 나만 혼자 남으니까
기대도 안해 내 이름 불러줄까
like 먼지 덮인 하모니카
목 잠겨 쉰소리만 나온다

아무도 몰래 어두운 곳에서
속앓이를 하고
꼴에 자존심은 있어서
혼자라 고백은 못하고
아침마다 달갑지 않은 쓴 공기와
햇살을 가려버린 마음 안개가
Can you understand it?
Not at all

안녕 나는 너를 아는데
너는 나를 모르지
(나나나나나 나나나나)

안녕 나는 너를 아는데
너는 나를 모르지

날 멀리 두지 말아줘
날 여기에 이대로 두어줘
그저 너희가 있는 자리에
함께 있는 것만으로
내겐 안심이 될 테니

날 혼자 두진 말아줘
날 너희와 함께 있게 해줘
그저 너희가 있는 자리에
함께 있는 것만으로
내겐 안심이 될 테니

Don’t hate me
나나나나나 나나나나나나 나나나
Don’t hate me
나나나나나 나나나나나나 나나나
Don’t hate me

Hello, I know you but
You don’t know me, do you
All this time, we’ve never even spoken
Everyday, I just watch all of you,
Mingling with each other, in the distance

‘Should I go over there or not?’
‘Should I trying speaking to them or not?’
‘Would it be better if I greeted them like this?’
‘Would they welcome me if I were like this?’
Once again
As I think about it, the chance slips by

Do you know how lonely it is
To be all by yourself?
Do you know how much it hurts
To see you avoid me?

Don’t leave me so far behind
Please just leave me here like this
Because just being in the same place as you,
Just being here with all of you
Puts me at ease

Don’t leave me by myself
Please let me be here with you
Because just being in the same place as you,
Just being here with all of you
Puts me at ease

Don’t hate me
Nanananana nananananana nanana
Don’t hate me
Nanananana nananananana nanana

Always the exact same attitude towards me
A shadow that falls upon me alone
Like a boat that’s strayed off its course
And is left by itself in the sea
Less than me
You always leave me by myself so
I don’t expect that you’ll call ever my name
Like a harmonica covered in dust
My voice dies away, only the sound of my breathing can be heard

In a dark place, without anyone knowing
my heart aches
Because I’m too proud
I can’t confess that I’m lonely
Every morning the unwelcome, bitter atmosphere
And the fog in my heart that blocks out the sun
Can you understand it?
Not at all

Hello, I know you but
You don’t know me, do you
(Nanananana nananana)

Hello, I know you but
You don’t know me, do you

Don’t leave me so far behind
Please just leave me here like this
Because just being in the same place as you,
Just being here with all of you
Puts me at ease

Don’t leave me by myself
Please let me be here with you
Because just being in the same place as you,
Just being here with all of you
Puts me at ease

Don’t hate me
Nanananana nananananana nanana
Don’t hate me
Nanananana nananananana nanana
Don’t hate me

Interview with Jo Jung-seok (Singles)

Any fans of The King 2 Hearts’ heart-melting, swooniest of swoony, squeal-worthy Eun Shi-kyung out there?  I’ve been keeping an eye on actor Jo Jung-seok since I first saw him What’s Up, where he plays a nerdy kid with a great voice but terrible stage fright; all I can say at this point is GIMME MOAR.

Jo’s actually a well-known name in musical theater, but this year he found his way into the the realm of TV and film and I can only hope he has plans to stay.  I came across his interview in Singles magazine last month and wanted to have another go at translating longer articles, so here goes.  (Disclaimer:  All copyright belongs to the original writer.  I’m not profiting by this translation and I can’t guarantee its accuracy.)

Look! At! That! Face!

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