Campus & Community

Translation of Korean literature supported:

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Korea Institute and ICF combine to support publication of works

The Korea Institute has reached an agreement with the International Communication Foundation (ICF) of Seoul to establish an endowment fund to support the translation and publication of Korean literary works, and studies on Korean literature. The fund, in the amount of $1.5 million, will be named in honor of Sunshik Min, a graduate of the Harvard Business School, member of the Asia Center Advisory Board, and president of the Sisayongosa Publishing Company in Korea. Income from the endowment will be used to support the translation and publication of translated and original works of Korean literature as well as works on Korean literary themes.

Carter J. Eckert, the director of the Korea Institute, called the establishment of the endowment a “major milestone in the promotion of Korean literature in the English-speaking world.

“This joint effort by the ICF and the Korea Institute,” Eckert continued, “is a signal that the translation and study of Korean literature outside Korea is entering a new and exciting professional stage and that Harvard is leading the way. We are deeply grateful to the ICF for this magnificent gift.”

David McCann, the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature, observed on the occasion of the fund’s establishment that it will enable Harvard to make substantial changes in the Korean literature field, most directly by supporting translations and publications, but also by enhancing the general awareness of Korean literature through other related activities. “The Min Endowment gives great visibility to the literature program at Harvard,” McCann noted. “It is a real challenge to all of us to do our best to promote the appreciation of literary works from Korea.” He added that in Korea, the Sisayongosa Company has historically been in the forefront in publishing and other programs related to the English language, including English language education. The company recently became publisher of the Korean edition of the National Geographic magazine. “I am hoping to make use of their unique expertise in the field as we move ahead with the new program at Harvard.”

One of the recent accomplishments related to the Korean literature program at Harvard has been the Harvard Review’s acceptance for publication of a short story, “The Blind Calf,” by the Korean writer Shin Kyongsuk. “This is a real first, the publication of a story from Korea by a literary journal in the United States,” according to McCann. The translation by Youngnan Yu was supported by the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation as part of a project that McCann and Young JunLee, a Ph.D. candidate in Korean literature and former senior editor at Minumsa Publishers in Seoul, put together to promote the circulation of Korean literary works in the realm where, as McCann observes, “literature really lives today.”

He went on to note that graduate students in the “Modern Korean Poetry” seminar at Harvard are required to select and translate modern poetry, and then submit the translations to literary journals. “Only one hit, so far,” according to McCann, “but more than worth the effort.

“When the poet J.D. McClatchy was out looking for materials for ‘The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry,’ he went to the Quarterly Review of Literature, where he found a group of poems that I had translated by the poet Sô Chôngju. That’s what I mean by ‘the realm where literature lives.’ That will happen again, if we can get the poems out there.”