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Interpreting for Asylum Seekers: Issues and Perspectives

  • The Journal of Translation Studies
  • Abbr : JTS
  • 2022, 23(2), pp.9-28
  • DOI : 10.15749/jts.2022.23.2.001
  • Publisher : The Korean Association for Translation Studies
  • Research Area : Humanities > Interpretation and Translation Studies
  • Received : May 1, 2022
  • Accepted : June 18, 2022
  • Published : June 30, 2022

LEE Hyang 1

1한국외국어대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The sudden arrival of 500 Yemeni refugees in South Korea in 2018 sparked several debates over the country’s response to the influx, including the quality of interpreting conducted during the asylum process. The incompetence and implicit bias of interpreters involved in the asylum interview process, in particular, were criticized by local press and civic groups. This paper focuses on the complexity of interpreting for asylum seekers, where low-paid non-professionals are often hired to translate highly sensitive discourse, a topic largely underexplored in Translation and Interpreting Studies in Korea. Local research on interpreting for asylum seekers has mostly been done within the framework of community interpreting. While valuable research has been conducted concerning legal interpreting, medical interpreting, the training and accreditation of community interpreters, and the integration of migrants in a multicultural society, few studies examine the specificities of interpreting for asylum seekers, which is often performed in a complicated, high-stress environment. This paper thus identifies important considerations in studying interpreting for asylum seekers: interpreting needed outside of legal settings, the realities of interpreting from exotic languages, the vicarious trauma of interpreters exposed to highly distressing experiences of applicants, and the power imbalance between participants in asylum interviews. Only with such a holistic approach, as opposed to concentrating on the ineptitudes of the individual interpreter, can we begin to understand and address the challenges of this urgent societal and academic issue.

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