Beyond Words - Language Blog

Improper Korean Translation Causes National Embarrassment

A spokesman for the president of South Korea made a public apology Monday for a misltranslated document about the safety of American beef imports.

After an unfounded mad cow disease scare in Korea, U.S. FDA cattle feed rules were translated to Korean and published, but it soon became apparent that the translation left out details from the English source text. As a result, the translated document communicated a much more stringent U.S. feed policy than actually exists.

A critic from one of Korea’s opposition political parties said, “What is more dreadful than mad cow disease is the Lee Myung-bak administration’s incompetence.”

Other critics have gone so far as to call for impeachment of the Korean president. In the official apology, the spokesman for President Myung-bak said, “We regret that we have caused unnecessary misunderstanding and concern…”

It is unclear whether the FDA feed rules were mistranslated on purpose in an effort to deceive the people of Korea, or whether it was an honest mistake. In either case, you can be sure that the Korean government will be checking and double-checking all of their translations in the future!

Read the full story here.