Translation in Practice: A Comedy of Errors

The file with the original text of this presentation is lost. The main point of interest was the story of the translation of a poem written by Midang So Jong-ju for inscription on 2 large stones, one to be erected in Hawaii and one in Los Angeles, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of Korean immigation to the United States. The organizing committee wanted an English translation to be placed beside the stones, for those unable to read Korean. The poet told the sponsors (Hangook Ilbo and Korean Air) that I should translate it, which I did. I do not have the Korean original, but here is my rather conservative English version:

Lovely Morning Land loud with magpies
How could we ever forget
Our native land's bright sunshine?

As rays of that pure sunshine
We have crossed the Pacific Ocean
And come here to America

Now by those sunbeams' love
We will help every living thing grow
Even the blades of grass on the ground

Making the world so bright
That evil can never again set foot
In even one dark corner

For our children's eternal future
We will plant and foster our native spirit
Until all the whole world is bright

However, it seems that an influential Korean, a journalist residing for many years in the US, seeing this, protested that the English did not reproduce the line order of the Korean, and that that 'would confuse our children.'  So he substituted his own
version, superior because more 'faithful' :

Beautiful morning land of chirping magpies
Clear sunlight of our homeland
Could we ever forget even for a moment?

On those bright sun rays
Across the Pacific Ocean we came
And reached far here to America

By those sunbeams' love
As with one blade of grass on earth
We strive for all life to grow

In even one dark corner
Evil can never set foot again
Lighting the world and making it pure

For our children's eternal future
Planting and nurturing the spirit of my homeland
Until the day the whole world is bright

This offers a valuable lesson in translation theory, although I am not certain what it is. The inauguration ceremony in LA was attended by a delegation from Korea, including Professor Kim Jong-Gil, who had had wind of this substitution and therefore came equipped with a copy of my version. The entire delegation knew in advance what to expect, and I believe they had much delight in protesting loudly at such a dreadful travesty. I have no idea what happened afterward, although the representatives of the sponsoring bodies certainly insisted at the time that my version should take the place of the improvement.