The Hankyoreh | 7 March 2011
More errors discovered as KOREU FTA nears ratification
Politically sensitive errors in the Korean translation raised questions of deliberate distortion
By Jung Eun-joo
With government revisions and renewed Cabinet deliberations under way following the discovery of a translation error related to place of origin assessment standards, additional serious translation errors have been discovered in the South Korea-European Union Free Trade Agreement (KOREU FTA) ratification motion submitted to the National Assembly. As the latest discovery involves content arbitrarily added to the Korean-language version of the agreement text that is not present in the English-language version, some observers allege that the Lee Myung-bak administration deliberately distorted the content in order to smooth over opposing domestic public opinion. With this discovery, setbacks appear inevitable in the administration and ruling Grand National Party’s (GNP) plan to pass the agreement through the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee Wednesday and introduce it at the plenary session.
“The criteria given for foreign architects able to sit for the South Korean qualification exam are completely different in the Korean and English texts of the agreement,” said attorney Song Gi-ho, the first to raise the issue of translation errors in the KOREU-FTA text.
“The condition of ‘five years of practical training,’ a mandatory item according to South Korea’s Certified Architects Act, is specified in the Korean version but nowhere to be found in the English version, no matter how hard you look.”
The Korean version of the section on construction and design services in “Annex 7-A-4,” which stipulates South Korea’s access requirements for the service market, states that a foreign architect seeking South Korean certification may do so “when an individual with five years of practical training who has obtained foreign architect certification passes a simple examination.”
Five or more years of practical experience is also a condition for taking the certified architect examination according to Article 14 of South Korea’s Certified Architects Act.
However, the English-language version makes no reference to the “five years of practical experience” condition. As the United Kingdom demands only two years of practical experience when granting architect certification, application of the English-language version of the FTA text would result in reverse discrimination in which a foreign architect would actually be able to obtain South Korean certification more easily than a South Korean one.
Also found in the English-language version was a service market “ratchet clause,” the existence of which the Lee administration has denied. In an FTA, a ratchet clause means a provision that prevents one country from placing new regulations on the counterpart country.
“The Korean version of a provision on credit assessment service openness uses the expression ‘may agree,’ as though the South Korean government has discretion or an option, while the English version uses the expression ‘may not,’ meaning that internal contract law prohibits its from forbidding something,” Song said.
Clear typographical errors were also discovered. In “Annex 2-A” on market access for goods, which stipulates a schedule for European customs duty elimination, the Korean-language version uses the expression “with a sugar content up to 13 percent by weight” in classifying frozen fruits and nuts, while the English-language version says “with a sugar content exceeding 13 percent by weight.” The “up to” in the Korean-language version is a complete reversal of the “exceeding” in the English-language version.
“Because an overseas pact goes into force as law immediately when it passes National Assembly ratification procedures, following ratification procedures without correcting the gross disagreements found in the Korean and English versions of the KOREU FTA text could lead to serious conflict and confusion in enforcement of the law,” Song said.