Reality-Based Answers to Questions about Getting a Job in Korea
Eight (More) Tips for Handling Your Korean Translation Projects

Korean Translation Tip: Cardinal Rules of Korean-Language Layout

If you want to do Korean-language layout in-house, then there are two cardinal rules to follow (and I’m going to underline and bold them because they’re so important):
  • When laying out the body text, either left- AND right-justify the text OR make sure you end each line of text between words, not in the middle of words.
  • In titles or short phrases and bullet points, don’t left- or right-justify; just make sure you end each line of text between words, not in the middle of words.
(Mostly) like Japanese and Chinese, each Korean character is a syllable. But unlike Japanese and Chinese, Korean is made up of words which are separated by spaces.
If you are left/right-justifying the text, then it’s OK to end a line between characters of a word and you don't have to put a dash at the end of the line to show that a word's been separated. But if you’re going to leave the right side ragged, then you’ve got to separate at the spaces between words. It looks uber-tacky otherwise!
5-15-2013 4-40-31 AM

This is really pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how often these rules are ignored. There are other tricks to doing a top-notch job on Korean-language layout too, but these are the most important.
Korean Translation Tip - Make sure your layout person already knows this stuff or at least reads and refers to this information!
And by the way, my personal preference is to right/left justify the text in Korean and not worry about line breaks; it just looks better to me than a ragged right edge... and it's easier! Either approach is fine, though.
Oh, and one more thing... Sometimes when I send these instructions to a client, they reply that it's too hard for them to figure out where to split the words since they don't read Korean and want us to go through and mark each one individually in a PDF or scan. Unfortunately, even if you don't consider the waste of billable time since the software can be set to do it right automatically, it's also impossible for us to do this. That's because if a line break is adjusted on one line, then it affects all the following lines in that paragraph too, making it unrealistic from a static document to predict where every break should be. However, even if a layout person doesn't read Korean, they can still see where the spaces are between words and if right-justifying the text is not the approach being taken, then going through line-by-line to verify the spacing is something that must be done during the layout work itself.