This talk was a bit different - it was about the translating of an Italian classic, Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia, into Korean. Professor Sangjin Park gave an enlightening overview of the history of Alighieri's work in East Asia. He showed how the Divina Commedia was first translated into Japanese, and subsequently came to Korea in Japanese since Korea was a colony. Yet it was not really received in Korea until later when another author, Sin Ch'ae-ho (also Romanized as Shin Chae-ho) wrote Dream Sky. Sin is known not only by most South Koreans, but also North Koreans as well as being one of the most important contemporary historians for Korea. Born in 1880, his books are still read in schools today.
Professor Park remarked how Alighieri's language was easier to work with, since translators struggle less to preserve more of the meaning than when translating other works, such as those by William Shakespeare. He remarked how it was not Alighieri's work itself, but poets like TS Eliot who assured Alighieri's work a place in the modern literary canon. If Alighieri wanted his work to be famous, he would have written it in Latin, but instead he wrote it in the Italian vernacular. He helped distinguish an Italian language from Latin, and helped to establish an Italian identity. It is reasonable to argue that Alighieri's work played a key role in Italian nationalism.
The writing of Dream Sky by Sin Ch'ae-ho was sort of the same. It was written not in Chinese or Japanese, but in Korean. It was part of a nationalizing process that gave Korea a separate identity. If Sin Ch'ae-ho wanted his translation to be famous, he would have written it in Chinese. But he chose to write it in Korean, and in doing so, made way for the beginnings of modern Korean literature. Yet Sin Ch'ae-ho adapted Alighieri's Divina Commedia for a Korean audience. Professor Park has provided studies of Sin Ch'ae-ho's work and a full translation of the Divina Commedia to build upon the foundations of Korean literature laid by Sin Ch'ae-ho.
Sangjin Park is a professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Busan National University of Foreign Studies in Korea. He is the author of Semiotics and Theory of Openness (Pusan: 2002, in English) and Reading Dante’s Comedy: Universality of Classic and Sensibility of the Other (Seoul: 2011, in Korean) and recently translated Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia (2007) and Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (2012) in Korean. The event was hosted by the Center for East Asian Studies as the final lecture in the James Joo-Jin Kim Program in Korean Studies Colloquium Series. For more information about the Center for East Asian Studies and upcoming events, see their calendar.
F. Miller SAS '13