SEOUL, Feb.15 (Korea Bizwire) – With an increasing number of foreigners standing on trial in Korea, the need for better court translation is growing.
According to the Supreme Court, there were 3,243 foreign individuals indicted in 2012, increasing to 3,789 in 2014.
If civil cases such as overdue wages and family litigation such as divorce are included, the number of trials including foreigners has been increasing over the years.
Arthur Patterson, the American facing charges in the ‘Itaewon murder’ case, continuously expressed that he would like to speak out his thoughts himself, although he had a translator for his case.
The prosecution also had a translator on their side to prevent any hindrance in figuring out the truth that could be caused by small errors in translation.
Currently, there are 1,736 translators registered with the court, and they speak 29 languages. There are 329 Chinese translators, 224 Japanese translators, and 133 Vietnamese translators. There are also translators fluent in Hindi, Myanmarese, Bangladeshi and Kazakh.
Each court asks public organizations and research centers to recommend translators, or publishes a notice requesting translators online. Translators are registered after being tested on their foreign language skills and legal knowledge through their resume and certifications. An interview follows, and their police record is checked.
As the need for translators is growing, there is concern that the quality of translation should be improved.
Joo Mi-hye (57, female), who was a translator in the ‘Itaewon murder’ trial, commented that the Seoul District Court only offers two hours of education to its translators every year. “The education focuses on rules when it comes to translations, and it is not based on each language,” she said. She added that sometimes the court hardly contacts the newly recruited, raising complaints among translators. “There is no guarantee that one translator can work on a certain number of cases, making it difficult to concentrate on translating at court.”
The current pay for translators working on cases involving foreigners is 70,000 won for the first 30 minutes, and 50,000 won for every additional 30 minutes.
Some point out that the payment doesn’t reflect the difficulty level of each case, resulting in translators trying to avoid challenging cases in the public spotlight.
Others say that the translators’ ability is not equal, and to solve the problem, a certificate authentication system should be introduced.
In the U.S., judicial translation is acknowledged as a right, and laws to institutionalize judicial translations were set in the 1970s and 1980s. Each state adopted a judicial translation examination to recruit translators, and requires them to follow professional codes of ethics.
It has also been suggested that each trial should have two translators, so that they could check if the other makes any translation errors.
By Francine Jung (email@example.com)