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Friday, December 03, 2004



It is excellent you expose this stuff, in our limited blogosphere way, because Asians have gotten away too long with hiding behind their language.


"공격하려고 했다고, translates into decided to attack."

Of course it would do us good to expose those who attempt to expose as well. "공격하려고 했다고" is not so much a decision to attack as it is a plan, an intention, or preperation to make such an attack.

There are probably better translations of what he said and what he intended to say but it does not show concrete resolve to action like has been implied with the English provided by your mystery mailer.

"공격하기로 했다" or "공격하기로 결정했다" or something would be a better translation of "decided to attack."

me- Kevin Shepard

I translated it as 'decided to attack' and Joel challenged that a better translation might be that there was intention. I'm not seeing the difference here. Just as your friend commented, this happens regularly in order to 'fire up crowds' and I believe that anyone who feels the need to translate thier own speech at a symposium put on by a group that has come to Korea - in the words of the LiNK President- "to offer translation and interpretation services to Korean NGOs" may have some ulterier motives. Joel is right that there are several possible translations, ranging from 'intent' to 'plan' to 'preparation', but having a plan and planning to do something are very different. Lastly, since the speaker was Korean, we aren't looking for more fitting definition of "decided to attack" but rather of "공격하려고 했다"


"I translated it as 'decided to attack' and Joel challenged that a better translation might be that there was intention."

I cited that as one possible translation in showing that there isn't just one. Intention is derived from the word intend, which is how 하려고 하다 is most often translated. 공격하려고 했다 » Intended to attack.

v. tr.
1. To have in mind; plan
2. 1. To design for a specific purpose. 2. To have in mind for a particular use.
3. To signify or mean.
v. intr.
To have a design or purpose in mind.



v. tr.

1. 1. To settle conclusively all contention or uncertainty about 2. To make up one's mind about
2. To influence or determine the outcome of
3. To cause to make or reach a decision.

v. intr.

1. To pronounce a judgment; announce a verdict.
2. To make up one's mind.

So while intend means "to have in mind" decide means to "make up one's mind."

There are several reasons he may have translated his own questions. Perhaps he is arrogant or perhaps he doesn’t trust the abilities of the translators at the conference or perhaps he really did want to twist the wording of his question. All are viable possibilities. But not trusting the translators wouldn’t surprise me, especially after hearing Andy say they were unable to keep up with or properly translate many of the questions and portions of the speeches.

I mean people make mistakes. I make them on my blog all the time. But assuming that someone’s translation mistake, especially when it is as semantically close in meaning as what we are discussing here, is as a result of an intentional calculated mistranslation to spread “dishonest propaganda rhetoric” says as much about the person who assumed as it does the actual speaker. Because while having a plan and 하려고 하다 are not the same thing, I would dare say they are closer than 하려고 하다 and decide.

me- Kevin Shepard

Fair enough- I still feel that all of Joel's options show a tendency toward taking action, while to have a plan, especially in a case where the gov has plans for many possible situations, does not.
Joel does make a valid point that the man may have had other motives. In retrospect, this is the man who spent the first 40 minutes of the symposium introducing himself. He is apparently the Al Gore of Korea, being personally responsible for bringing Seoul the subway (at least, line 2 was his idea), the Olympics, inter-Korean economic cooperation.... maybe this arrogance was not only why he translated his own speech, but why I was so quick to dislike him for it. Regardless of his intent, I think that this is a good lesson on why people like me need to keep studying and why people like Joel need to get back over here and translate these symposiums for us!

There were quite a few bilingual people at the symposium, and forums like that are held several times a week here in Seoul. If you are interested, check out the calendar at (if you can make that a hyperlink I'll owe you a beer).

(YANGBAN NOTE:  I'll hyperlink for beer.)

Maybe we can form a LiNK here in Seoul and translate some of the material- study and save the world at the same time....Anyone out there interested?

His basis for the entire splay was that, in English, Clinton had a plan for attacking NK nuclear facilities. His Korean interpretation, 공격하려고 했다고, translates into decided to attack.
I read the above statement several times and still don't get what the issue is.

That the Clinton Administration came (very) close to an attack, which in some contexts could be said "was going to attack," which thereby would mean that he had a plan to attack, therefore also signifying that he planned to attack, is something that does not even seem to be in dispute and furthermore there's little difference between those phrases in colloquial speech. I think the suggestion that "공격하려고 했다고 translates into decided to attack," especially as a more accurate translation than anything else I've seen here is nonsense. Of course given the subject I think that "mystery guy's" version is passable, just definately not any "better," not in any way.

If the speaker was telling people about something that they'd never heard before then he would have been obliged to have been very precise and avoid misunderstanding with what he said. But he (1) was talking about something people either agree or perhaps agree to disagree about and (2) wasn't writing a paper for Foreign Affairs and (3) was just using a regular Korean speech pattern.

I agree with Joel when he says "공격하기로 했다 or 공격하기로 결정했다 or something would be a better translation of 'decided to attack'," but that would be for English > Korean translation, and who wants to sound like a talking book translated E to K? Natural Korean in such contexts is much more likely going to say it like it was said.

It's certainly true that sometimes Koreans say things differently in English and Korean, and sometimes for a certain desired effect. (It's also true that there are a lot of foreign 20/30somethigns running around who claim Koreans say racist/nationalist/hypocritical things that they actually don't, often for a lack of language skills and cultural understanding or perhaps similarly unpure motive.) You saw a lot of examples during the Olympics. Posters saying something like "the olympics will bring great glory to the Korean people" in Korean and "world peace" in English. Granted, the posters didn't have footnotes saying "these phrases are translations of each other," and there's no law saying you have to say the same things to the same people.

BTW, I often "interpret" things I say without saying them exactly the same way, but never with the intention of tricking anyone. Often when you get ready to say something the second time you've thought about it better and improve on what you've just said. If you're interpreting for someone else, you try to follow his words as you interpret, whereas if you're the one repeating yourself you hear the subject in your head as the point to be made, not as a collection of words.

I'll take "mystery guy's" word for it about the guy being or acting like a jerk, but he seems innocent enough as far as that one statement is concerned.

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