In Spring 2012, I was contacted by a South Korean newspaper reporter from The Chosun Ilbo about translating a book. As a freelance interpreter and translator from 2005-2014, I had done lots of one-off translations of thesis abstracts, short stories, ad copy, etc. but this was the first time I had the chance to translate a book.
The book's 1st edition title in Korean was "천국의 국경을 넘다" which became Crossing Heaven's Border in English. It was written by Hark Joon Lee, head of the Crossmedia Team at The Chosun Ilbo and also the director of a documentary about North Korean defectors. This book takes a closer look at events covered in the documentary and also follows up on the lives of North Korean refugees living in South Korea today.
I hear that the editing process in Korea and Japan is quite brief compared to that in the US and the UK; the Japanese edition of Crossing took less than 6 months to translate, edit and publish. For the US edition of Crossing..., however, contract negotiations, translation, editing and publishing took about 3 years. This is due to the fact that in Asia, editors basically just rubber-stamp the author's work, while in the US/UK, editors often revamp the entire book and go through the draft multiple times with a fine-toothed comb.
The editor for Crossing... was George Krompacky, Publications Manager of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. He did a great job of pointing out inconsistencies and errors in my translation drafts and his knowledge of Traditional Chinese was invaluable in deciphering the meaning of Sino-Korean words which I had mis-translated in places.
The author, Hark Joon Lee, was also very gracious in answering my questions about the original Korean text and answered my emails late at night and even on weekends. It seems like reporters check their email 24/7!
I enjoyed working on this book translation, and if I have the opportunity to do so, I hope to do more Korean to English book translations in the future.