Send to

LTI Korea announces winners of 2023 Korea Translation Award

Dec. 6, 2023 - 18:25 By Hwang Dong-hee
From left: Jean-Claude de Crescenzo, Kim Hye-gyeong, Oh Young-a and Lia Iovenitti attend a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. (LTI Korea)

The Literature Translation Institute of Korea announced the winners of the 2023 Korea Translation Award on Wednesday, with four translators clinching the grand prizes this year.

This year’s grand prizes were awarded to Kim Hye-gyeong and Jean-Claude de Crescenzo for their French translation of Lee Seung-u’s “Cantant”; Oh Young-a for her Japanese translation of Cho Hae-jin’s “Simple Sincerity”; and Lia Iovenitti for her Italian translation of Kim Hye-jin’s “Concerning My Daughter.”

"Receiving an award for the excellent work of the writer Lee Seung-u is a great honor. I've been studying Lee for a long time, but I must say that the writer's writing style is not easy,” said Crescenzo during a press conference held in Seoul on Wednesday.

Kim is a professor of Korean studies at Aix-Marseille University in France and her husband, Crescenzo, is also a Korean scholar. Since 2008, they have been introducing Korean literature to France.

“The reality is that literature is declining everywhere, including France," Kim said. "Even in such a situation, our hope has been to teach Korean studies and introduce Korean literature to French readers.”

From left: covers of the French translation of Lee Seung-u’s “Voyage a Cantant," Japanese translation of Cho Hae-jin’s “Simple Sincerity” and Italian translation of Kim Hye-jin’s “Concerning My Daughter" (LTI Korea)

Translator Oh, a third-generation Korean-Japanese, is a lecturer in translation and interpretation at Ewha Womans University Graduate School.

"I grew up under my grandparents, who moved to Japan in the early 1920s. Although I wanted to study abroad in the US, my father advised me to learn Korean first. In 2007, I came to Korea. It's an honor for me to receive an award in Korea, a century after my grandparents left the country."

Iovenitti teaches at the Italian Department of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, translating various contemporary Korean literary works into Italian.

"Experiences I had when I first came to Korea 25 years ago -- working as a translator and interpreter at the Italian Embassy in Korea -- seem to have helped me in my role as a translator, forming a ‘circle’ of understanding," said Iovenitti.

"There's a growing trend of Korean literature being published in Italian, so we are short of translators in this field. In such times, the role of translation institutes becomes crucial," she added.

Paris-based publisher Editions Imago received lifetime achievement award. Founded in 1977, the publishing house has been releasing the translated Korean literature series titled “Scenes Coreennes” since 2004, introducing the country's traditional folk tales, legends, plays and pansori scripts in French.

From left: Jean-Claude de Crescenzo, Kim Hye-gyeong, Oh Young-a and Lia Iovenitti attend a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. (LTI Korea)

The annual Korean Literature Award was established in 1993 to recognize translators who have contributed to facilitating communication between Korea and the international literary scene.

LTI Korea divides translated works into three groups -- Group 1 for English, French, Spanish and German; Group 2 for Russian, Arabic, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese; and Group 3 for others -- according to the impact of the translated work’s language and the acceptance of Korean literature. Grand prizes are given to one work from each group and the language eligible for the prize is predetermined.

For this year, translations into French from Group 1, Japanese from Group 2 and Azerbaijani, Italian, Croatian from Group 3 were selected for grand prizes, receiving 20 million won ($15,234) in prize money.

The annual prize also recognized nine aspiring translators with the Rookie Award, and five translators in film and webtoon categories, respectively.