Huge Number of Translation Errors Found in Korea-EU FTA
Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon bowed his head and apologized on Monday following the discovery of 207 fresh translation errors in the Korean version of the Korea-EU FTA after a second review. The free trade agreement had been plagued by translation errors since February. An initial version contained so many errors that top officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had to apologize to the public.
The ministry initially played down the issue but a massive outcry forced the withdrawal of the bill from the National Assembly.
The ministry then mobilized all of its staff to make a second review of the translation from March 10 to 30, even seeking help from other government agencies, law firms, and other experts. That led to the discovery of 128 errors where words had been completely mistranslated and 16 typos as well.
As a result, the ministry withdrew the revised translation which had already come before the Cabinet and will submit yet another fresh draft. A compilation list of concessions for EU goods and services covered by the FTA contained so many errors that the ministry decided to issue a new list instead of counting translation errors.
A lack of time seems to have been the biggest reason for the shoddy work. The Korea-EU FTA was agreed in July 2009 and the Korean translation was unveiled in November. "Staff involved in the negotiations made a lot of mistakes as they had to come up with some 1,300 pages of Korean text in just four months, while holding other negotiations at the same time," Kim said.
Foreign ministry staffers from four different FTA-related departments split the work to complete the translation as early as possible, but less than 10 people were apparently involved. Deputy Minister for FTA Choi Suk-young said, "We had to push ourselves because of incessant criticism that a delay in publishing the Korean version of the agreement could prompt suspicions that the government had something to hide."