Translation Errors In Free Trade Agreement

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In February, the European Union approved a new free trade agreement with South Korea.  However, the pact sparked a controversy in South Korea after Korean lawyer Song Ki-ho uncovered numerous translation errors and discrepancies between the English language version of the agreement and the Korean one.

According to the Korea Times, some of the translation errors were quite significant. For example, the English version of a section on licensing for architects says that architects licensed in Europe can become licensed in Korea by passing a simplified exam only. The Korean version says that architects must have 5 years of experience and an exam, as per existing Korean law. According to Mr. Song, if left uncorrected this could have led to European architects being able to get Korean architect’s licenses more quickly and easily than Korean architects.

Mr. Song told the Korea Times:

“I cannot understand why they cause these controversies through disparities in the two versions. The disparities themselves must be corrected to weed out any misunderstanding.”

The South Korean government fixed the first batch of errors Song found, only to have him identify still more errors in the “corrected” translation.  Hopefully, the third time is the charm, as the agreement is supposed to go into effect in on July 1st.

In response to the controversy, Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon has declared that new proofreading procedures will put in place for the upcoming free trade agreement with the United States.

Mr. Kim told the Korea Joong Ang Daily:

“What is wrong is wrong and errors must be corrected, and we are in that process. I have some measures in mind that include making a proper team that does the job within the ministry instead of running temporary task force teams, asking for the help of professionals outside the ministry even if it means more costs for us, and having a grace period and revealing the first version of the translation as an unofficial version before everything is thoroughly checked.”