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March 2013

Korean Translation Tip: Korean, English, Tildes and Dashes

Translation is a fascinating topic, isn’t it? I particularly find it interesting to consider those points at which languages don’t exactly connect perfectly and the adjustments we have to make for them.

This lesson is going to be quick.

In English, we use a dash to connect numbers that cover an interval:

Ex: 5-7 or 1970-2012

But Korean uses a tilde:

Ex: 5~7 or 1970~2012

Best Practices Tip: Be ready for this conversion. Translators handling English to Korean should add tildes to numbered intervals; those translating Korean into English should change the tildes to dashes.


Answers to Questions about Korean Company Hierarchy

The following snippet is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

From the extra reading in Chapter 1 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"I was recently contacted by an international executive recruiter who is working to fill an executive position in the Korean subsidiary of a multinational company. Here are some answers to his questions about how Korean companies work.

"1. What is the most common job title(s) for someone reporting to the CEO/ Country MD?

"2. To what extent does this vary between companies? Do you know the most typical title for someone at this level at [Company]?

"3. Does the title depend also on age, or is it just dependent on where the person sits within the organisation and who they report to?

"4. To what extent are Koreans usually willing to move for a role with the same job title?"

Get the answers to these questions in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Yet Another Translation Error in the Korean Version of Windows 7

I already pointed out a translation error in the Korean version of Windows 7 a few months ago.

Here's one more... and it's a disgrace!

I mean, how long has Windows 7 been on the market? Are you telling me that for over three years, nobody has told Microsoft that the following message showing up during a Windows Update is grammatically incorrect? Have none of their employees working at Microsoft Korea office noticed?

What are these people doing? (Apparently they weren't checking -- for more than a year, no less! -- whether their Windows installation was working correctly either!) While Microsoft updates everything else on my computer at the most inconvenient times, are they not able to add a translation correction to the updates? 

P1000298 P1000296

I can't reproduce the Korean error in English, but here's a rough translation of what's there:

Step 4 of total 4
Configuring service pack 
32% finished
Don't turn off your computer.
 
Windows users in Korea will figure it out, but it's not written correctly. I'm not sure exactly what it's supposed to say here in English, but the following Korean would be pretty close to my best guess at what should be on the first two lines: "Configuring the 4th of a total of 4 service pack updates" 

 

서비스 팩 업데이트의
전체 4개 중 4번째 구성 중
 
---
 

Information for Entrepreneurs and Investors about Changes to the Korean D-8 Visa Rules

The D-8 visa has been a good visa for non-Korean investors and entrepreneurs wishing to live and work in Korea over the long-term. 

Basically, since opening a corporation in Korea had previously required W50 million in paid-in capital, non-Koreans setting up such a corporation in Korea who made the investment to set up a corporation had also been able to apply for and receive a visa to live and work in Korea over the long-term. There was a little paperwork involved, but by following the rules, the initial investment burden wasn't excessive. Furthermore, after jumping through the hoops to set things up, as long as the business remained in legal compliance, the visa continued to be renewed, even if the initial investment ended up getting spent on things like living expenses and/or the business did not actually make much money.

Unfortunately, this approach attracted "investments" from non-Koreans (primarily from other Asian countries, I'm told) who would bring in money to set up the corporation in order to get the visa to live in Korea, but without intention of actually running a profitable company. Furthermore, the W50 million bar was so low that not a lot of economic activity was generated by vibrant businesses set up with such small amounts of capital. Not just that, in 2010, the minimum capital amount in Korea for setting up a corporation (both Koreans and non-Koreans) was reduced to just W1 million, making it necessary to separate the visa and capital requirements.

The government increased the FDI required for D-8 visa eligibility to W100 million a few years ago in order to sift out investors that the government perceived were not providing adequate economic value to the nation. Along with that, by meeting the W100 million FDI threshold for the D-8 visa, a businessperson was not required to invest in a corporation; sole-proprietorships and partnerships were permitted, too.

However, things are still changing. At the end of 2012, new rules went into effect requiring all D-8 visa holders to convert their sole-proprietorships into corporations, and any new D-8 visa applications would require the corporate form of business. Perhaps an added benefit of this approach (from the government's view) was that it would be easier to monitor the viability of a business run along corporate lines, than a sole proprietorship or partnership where business and personal fund mixing makes it difficult to analyze objectively. 

Now the government is raising the minimum initial investment amount to W300 million in order to qualify for the D-8 visa, a considerably higher amount than before. As far as I know, this hasn't been announced formally, but based on my discussions with the foreigner ombudsman's office at KOTRA, it's not a rumor. I understand that the new FDI requirements will go into effect in mid-2013. Furthermore, just bringing in the W300 million won't be enough; to maintain visa eligibility, the business will be expected to achieve certain minimum business results, such as in terms of sales.

For sure, the Korean economy is one where small companies struggle and large conglomerates run the show. Some are considering that these new rules reflect a lack of interest by the government in supporting foreign small businesses. However, it seems likely to me that the government is more concerned about closing loopholes that some foreigners have been using to live in Korea under visas that don't reflect the purpose of those visas. The government's decisions are probably helped by a belief that many of these small foreign businesses are not much of a contributor to the Korean economy.


Korean Translation Tip: Pitfalls of Handling Acronyms in Korean Translations

Today’s tip is about acronyms, which can cause trouble in translations from English to Korean.

Here’s a recent example.
 
I was editing an academic paper in English which had been written by a Korean and it was about intellectual property rights.
 
In academic papers like this, “intellectual property rights” is commonly abbreviated to “IPR”. (ex: "Researchers have investigated the relationship between the strengthening of IPR and technological innovation.")
 
So, is IPR plural or singular?
 
(Hmm.. I bet you've never really asked this question before...)
 
Anyway... It’s singular as an acronym. But when written out or spoken as “intellectual property rights”, it’s plural.
 
This caused the writer of the above paper all kinds of problems and he kept writing “IPR” as “IPRs”. (ex.: ...effects of minor forms of IPRs on economic growth...")
 
This issue occurs frequently in English > Korean translation projects too since Koreans are often blind to the issue.
 
When acronyms are rightly pluralized in English (such as CPUs), translators into Korean often forget to take the “s” off in the Korean translation. This is true even if Korean would not normally indicate the plural form (as explained in a previous tip).
 
If I notice this typo-level error in a job handled by my team, I generally remove the “s”.
 
Best Practices Tip - When you get an English > Korean job back from a translator, if it’s got English acronyms in it, you might want to browse through and check for this issue. It’ll only take a moment, because the acronyms will stand out from the rest of the Korean text, and you can quickly remove any extra letters.

 


Q&A with American Businessperson about Gift-Giving in Korea

Having published my executive report "The Top Ten Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", I get a steady flow of questions asking me for advice in specific gift-giving situations. Here's a question I received recently:

"I am an American businessman meeting with a Korean company Chungbuk and want to bring appropriate gifts for the meeting. We are meeting to finalize the terms of a contract... hopefully. We have met before in the US. I was thinking about giving Godiva chocolate in a brown box with eight truffles. I was also thinking to have a brown ribbon around each box with customized gold printing on it with a personalized message of success. Is this a good idea? If it is, what should the message on the ribbon say? Can I use our company names together or would that be too presumptuous? If not, what would you suggest?

And my answer:

The gift of chocolates is a fine idea; I would encourage you to give those. But given alone, they may be more suitable for a future visit after business gets rolling. 
The reason is that this visit is a very special one, since it (hopefully) represents the beginning of business. The most effective gift would be something that remains as a reminder, not something that gets eaten or drunk. What we'd recommend is a gift that compels your Korean counterparts to remember you on a regular basis. A nicely framed photo of you and your team standing out in front of your US office, with a message written over the photo itself or onto a metal plate on the frame would be good. The message might say something like "[Your company] - Korea Visit 2013" on the first line and "We Wish You The Best of Business Success!" on the second line. (You don't necessary want to include both company names here since that could look presumptuous.)
If you're like me and work a bit more virtually so that you don't have a big office with 25 employees, then the alternative could be a framed photo of something that would be worthy of hanging on the wall and that could be associated with you. As you're out of Chicago, I like the idea of a nicely framed photo of the Chicago skyline, along with the metal plated message in the frame. This is the kind of thing that would definitely be hung on the wall, observed and remembered, which is exactly what you want.
You mentioned the ribbons; the concept in Korea may be a bit different than you're thinking though. If your negotiations were completed and you were just coming over for the signing ceremony, then flowers with ribbons might be a part of the ceremony. These are also used for the opening of a new office or retail establishment. Here are a few examples - 

However, these types of flowers are generally given by others; not the actual parties to the transaction. Anyway, since you're not done with the negotiations, it could look a bit odd to start acting like it's a done deal.
On the other hand, if you were to wrap the gift (it should be wrapped) in extra nice ribbons on which you include an extra gold-lettered message, that would also be a nice touch. Perhaps this could have a slightly more assuming message, something like "We look forward to a long, successful business relationship with XX Company!"
And BTW, there's nothing wrong with bringing a few chocolates too; I just wouldn't make that the main gift at this point. In the future though, you won't need to upstage consumable gifts with something permanent like I've described above.