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[Editorial] Ministry’s audacity

Translating legal documents from one language to another is anything but easy, and all the more so, given that less than clear-cut wording found in the original is often a source of legal dispute. It may be human to err in such a case.

But a mismatch between figures in the original and the corresponding ones in a translated version is not a matter concerning translation. Such an error results from carelessness and, as such, those responsible must be held accountable.

On Feb. 23, both kinds of error were found in the Korean version of the Korea-EU free trade agreement that was awaiting ratification by the National Assembly. But the action the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has since taken is truly disappointing.

The ministry initially demanded that the trade agreement be ratified first and that the errors be corrected later, adding that it agreed on the corrections with the European Union. It said they were errors made at the working level.

The ministry’s audacity was flabbergasting. It goes without saying that the errors must be rectified before the treaty is ratified.

The ministry wanted to have the trade agreement approved during the current parliamentary session, apparently in order to have ample time in completing the necessary domestic procedure before it takes effect in July as scheduled. But its desire is dashed as the National Assembly is moving to start the process of ratification in the April session under a bipartisan agreement.

Belatedly, the minister of trade said he was ultimately responsible for the errors and promised a cover-to-cover review of the translated version. The ministry says it will subject itself to an outside audit if necessary.

More important, the ministry will have to ensure that, before any treaty is submitted for ratification, all errors that may exist will be corrected.
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