Vernacular visions in North and South Korea: interlingual translations of Unyŏng chŏn (The Tale of Unyŏng) and ideologies of national literature

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This article focuses on two translations of The Tale of Unyŏng (Unyŏng chŏn 雲英傳, early seventeenth century) into vernacular Korean in South Korea (1960) and North Korea (1966). Looking beyond the classical paradigm of interlingual and intralingual translation as “translation proper” and “rewording,” respectively, the article argues that translations of classical Korean fiction from Literary Sinitic into vernacular Korean represented a form of transitional intralingual translation as each nation navigated away from active membership in the Sinographic Cosmopolis and attempted to establish a new national literature and literary
medium. Whereas the South Korean translation is tethered closely to the Literary Sinitic original in terms of lexicon, orthography, and representation of classical
allusions and perpetuates three tiers of literacy, the North Korean translation hews much more closely to spoken vernacular and traditional kungmun manuscript versions of classical fiction and embodies the overriding North Korean policy of sinograph abolition and han’gŭl promotion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-237
Number of pages27
JournalSungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • translation
  • North Korean literature
  • The Tale of Unyŏng
  • vernacular
  • language ideology

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