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TLDR; This Korean poem translation into English is offered for anyone that may need it, and also in hopes that i may learn something from feedback from my peers at this site.

THE LONG EXPLANATION: I have worked on a translation for this poem by the poet Han Ha-un. There are many ways to interpret the gamut of feeling that 어쩌구니없는 produces. I specifically wanted to highlight two facets of this word, and fortunately the poem lent itself to doing so. Before Han calls God inhumane in the second to final line...i feel Mr. Han being trapped. But on the final line, i chose "ridiculous" given that even though it is inescapable, if God is inhumane to punish sin where it was not to be punished, then it is more ridiculous even if also inescapable.

Note: i have found people here a little critical. I would like to learn more about how others might translate this, and the reasons behind why - but this is not math...there are perhaps infinite solutions. So please be nice - or there will be 벌 for you, too :)

I do hope this translation is useful to others, and so in that vein, please share any constructive thoughts that you may have to offer.

THE POEM:

"罰" - 한 하 운 / "The Punishment" - Han Ha-un

"죄명은 문둥이...../ 이건 참 어처구니없는 벌이올시다.

“For the sin of leprosy… / the punishment is inescapable.

아무 법문의 어느 조항에도 없는/ 내 죄를 변호할 길이 없다.

No provision of legality / defends me from this sin.

옛날부터/ 사람이 지은 죄는/ 사람으로 하여금 벌을 받게 했다.

Eternally / humanity sins / punishment for sin comes upon humanity.

그러나 나를/ 아무도 없는 이 하늘 밖에 내세워놓고

But my sin / comes from a sky with no humanity.

죄명은 문둥이...../ 이건 참 어처구니없는 벌이올시다."

For the sin of leprosy… / the punishment is ridiculous."


Thank you.

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+50

I commend you for translating such a relatively obscure work, but it seems some passages are translated too liberally. For example, 어처구니없다 vs "inescapable", and "그러나 나를 / 아무도 없는 이 하늘 밖에 내세워놓고" vs "But my sin / comes from a sky with no humanity". In these, the translation doesn't seem to convey the same idea as the original.

Although some deviation is unavoidable because of the different ways certain ideas are expressed in the target language, I think we should try to be as close to the original as possible when translating.

Here is my own version, which I think is a closer translation.

죄명은 문둥이.....
이건 참 어처구니없는 벌이올시다.

아무 법문의 어느 조항에도 없는
내 죄를 변호할 길이 없다.

옛날부터
사람이 지은 죄는
사람으로 하여금 벌을 받게 했다.

그러나 나를
아무도 없는 이 하늘 밖에 내세워놓고

죄명은 문둥이.....
이건 참 어처구니없는 벌이올시다.

Punishment

The charge is leprosy ...
I must say it is a preposterous punishment.

There is no way to defend my crime
which is not in any clause of any statute.

The old tradition is
to do justice to a crime
by punishing the person who committed it.

But they drove me out
to this no man's land outside of the outer limits.

The charge is leprosy ...
I must say it is a preposterous punishment.

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  • very nicely done! i do like the use of preposterous there! my purpose in using the debatable inescapable was to balance offset and enhance ridiculous at the end. i did this to amp up the power of the word rather than simply repeat it. Aug 14 at 14:07
  • Thanks, and yes, I think I know what you mean. You wanted to have a greater impact on the second occurrence of the phrase, I suppose. Definitely a viable idea, I think, even though I didn't give it much thought and just followed the original phrasing mechanically.
    – user591415
    Aug 15 at 4:44
  • yes, and also "complete" the translation by expanding it. thank you for posting Aug 15 at 13:22
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Here's my interpretation of the poem:

For the crime of being a leper,
this harsh punishment is undeserved.

Since my crime is written on no code, on no article,
There is no way to defend my crime.

From time immemorial,
for a crime committed,
the criminal had been punished.

However, they put me here,
at the edge of the sky where no one lives,

For the crime of being a leper.
This harsh punishment is undeserved.

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