Theoretical Basis of Translating the Chosŏnwangjosillok

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S/N Korean Humanities Vol.2 No.1 pp.123-149 ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)

Song Hyŏn Wŏn
DPRK Academy of Social Sciences

Received December 31 2015; Revised version received January 31 2016; Accepted February 15 2016


The Chosŏnwangjosillok (Annals of Chosŏn Dynasty; Sillok) not only contains the history of our ancestors, but also covers a broad spectrum of different fields, ranging from diplomatic relations with neighboring countries and economic issues such as taxation and land, to natural sciences such as astronomy and meteorology. The value of the Sillok as a historical record is already well recognized even outside of Korea. Unfortunately, the Sillok was written in hanmun, thus translation is inevitable. This thesis is indeed about the translation process of the Sillok, explaining, using concrete examples, various principles and careful considerations that need to be adhered to during translation.
The first principle in translating the Sillok is keeping to the original as much as possible. However, there are some problems inherent within the Sillok. There are many parts that only experts of that field can understand, such as science or music. Furthermore, the fact that, due to conflict between different political factions, revised annals exist also has to be taken into consideration. The next principle is that the Sillok must be translated using pure Korean and standard Korean language rules. Rather than mechanically transliterating the texts by simply adding Korean postpositional particles to hancha and hanmun-style expressions, the translator must be able to maintain characteristics of the original text, at the same time allowing people of the modern era to read and understand it. But one must also remain vigilant to make sure that the translation does not excessively modernize the text, thereby diluting the meaning of historical sentences. Translation is a process of rendering a text in a language different from the original. In order to be able to translate accurately, the translator has to have sufficient understanding of the original language. The major difference between Korean hanmun and Chinese hanmun is that the former contains idu. Although hanmun originally came from China, it changed according to Korean circumstances,leading to the development of Korean-style hanmun. It adapted to Korean culture but could also easily combine with Chinese hanmun. In regard to the use of idu, hancha words that are unique to Korean hanmun are particularly important. These characteristics are all reflected in the Sillok. Therefore, how to properly translate Korean-style hanmun sentences is very important in the translation process. This thesis explains these characteristics using concrete examples like names of places and people.
Various methodologies are required in translating a national heritage such as the Chosŏnwangjosillok to befit the modern era while maintaining its uniqueness. The most important thing is not to damage the original. The paper looks into various considerations that must be made in order to render a good translation, in order to contribute to future attempts to translate the Sillok.

Key Words : Chosŏnwangjosillok, translation, heritage, Idu, Korean language

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