After Infinity War (2018) was released amid huge expectations, sloppy translations that rather hindered the understanding of the movie disappointed numerous movie fans. SNS and mass media were fraught with excessive criticism toward the translator and demanding a better translation of the script. Moreover, the steady increase in foreign media consumption adds to the importance of accurate translation more than ever. With the rise in the worth of a translator, the unshaven reality becomes all the more evident.
People show full respect to the translators who deliver cinematic works from foreign countries into one’s mother tongue. They call those well-delivered subtitles Chowoelbunyeok . However, the translators who make this possible are rare in number when it comes to the film industry. According to the Korea Institute of Industrial Translation (KIIT)—one of the qualified translation companies—out of the approximate 1,000 translation enterprises, only about 15 companies have business registration certificates. Translators from the unauthorized workplace are easily exposed to the uninsured danger. For further development of the translation industry, a better working environment is essential for translators.
The tough reality of freelance jobs kicks in. Many translators working in Korea do not belong to a certain company, but work as freelancers. Only a small number of people work in companies and the work is not equally distributed. The average income from one movie is 30,000 won per 10 minutes. However, the distributor only gives profitable movies to a selected few. This also implies that the others receive a fewer amount of money and work. This is why many translators get part-time jobs just to meet the basic needs of their lives.
Moreover, the standardized test for a translator slacks the public’s confidence. The Translation Competence Test (TCT) is the one and only certificate test for translators in Korea, yet it has no practical significance. TCT focuses more on the academic realm than the cultural trends, which makes it difficult for movie translators to improve their talent. Attaining the certificate does not confine the number of applicants. Unlike the teacher certificate which, is the only route in getting a teaching job, anyone, regardless of qualification, could become a translator. The nominal qualification test is one of the factors that leads to the decline in the quality of translated pieces.
It is undeniable that translation possesses much more subjectivity than the other realms of work. Even so, a standardized evaluation is possible to be made. The most pertinent quality needed in movie translation would be the keenness about the upcoming cultural trends in one’s culture. Applying this quality could start with the regular renewal of the certificate test. Renewing the test by including challenges of translating a foreign drama or a movie not yet released could be an option. Moreover, citizen volunteers can take part in the evaluation which could both help increase the quality and actively accommodate the consumers’ opinions.
Harsh political and structural environments are raising the entry barriers of being a qualified translator, which lessens the quality of those translations conducted from unofficial companies. The low quality translation from the majority then contributes to the deterioration of the market and the market interprets this as a need to reduce the authorized enterprises. Those enterprises are monopolized by the few, and the vicious cycle forms yet again. Such a cycle needs to be demolished with some proper amendment in the work environment. One awaits the day when the worth of the job and the work environment equalizes, seeing the happy faces of both translators and consumers.