South Korean courts are failing in their duty to provide open access to all individuals. This failure stems from the lack of adequate translation services for foreigners.

As Korea becomes more multinational and multilingual this need grows. Between 2005 and 2009 international marriages averaged between 10 and 14 percent of all marriages and since 2009 over 40 percent of marriages in the southern countryside have been international marriages. Inevitably some of these marriages will end in acrimonious divorce. The Korean government also works tirelessly to attract foreign investment and has established multiple free enterprise zones to further this goal. Yet not all of these businesses will succeed and some will fail ignominiously, dissolving into bitter disputes among the investors. These factors will result in an ever greater number of foreigners with limited or no knowledge of the Korean language petitioning the Korean courts for redress of their grievances.

How Korean courts react to these cases will impact Korea’s future ability to transition to a truly international power. America, Australia and many European countries long ago adopted systems guaranteed to provide competent certified translators to individuals who are not fluent in the language the court uses. This openness provides foreigners with the assurance to move to and invest in those countries. Coincidentally those same countries have led the world in science, technology and industry, arguably because so many talented foreigners choose to live there.

In 2008 the Korean Supreme Court began discussing the need for a competent translation certification service; however, as of 2011 nothing concrete has been done to address the inconsistent abilities among court translators. Currently the law continues to allow anyone, Korean or foreign, who is approved by the judge to act as an interpreter.  Read more.

See: The Korea Herald