Knowing North Korea
North Korea has been the focus of the world’s attention in light of the impending historic summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong un. If successful in making the secretive Korean regime give up its illegal nuclear arsenal, this will doubtless be the crowning glory of President Trump’s presidential tenure.
None of his distinguished predecessors over the last seven decades have even come close to achieving this kind of a breakthrough. So the credit is definitely due to Trump for having achieved something like this using his typically unconventional strategy. Nobody would think of it, but some of the credit surely goes to the many faceless and unknown Korean interpreters, Korean translators and Korean to English and English to Korean translators for keeping the lines of communication between the two sides open.
Without their help and guidance, it would surely have been impossible to pull off something like a U.S.-North Korean rapprochement. That being stated, there is very little knowledge or information that the world has about North Korea, given that it has been an extremely insular and cut off land on account of its leadership’s fears and insecurities about the designs of the Western world.
The accounts that have come out in Western media have largely comprised an unflattering portrayal of an impoverished land with widespread starvation and next to no individual freedom for its citizens. While this may largely be true, there was always more to North Korea than press reports would have you believe. Personal accounts of private visitors from time to time managed to pierce the veil of secrecy and provide one with tantalizing glimpses of what life was really like in North Korea.
Not all people from the Western world who visited North Korea formed an instant bad impression of the place, as one might expect. Apparently the capital Pyongyang is not such an unpleasant place at all. On the contrary, it is quite green with two rivers flowing through it, though the place is overrun by monuments commemorating a million things and a plethora of typically socialist style housing blocks. What any visitor will most likely tell you about North Korea is the fact that beyond the ideological divide are regular people like anywhere else, with pretty much the same fears, aspirations, and ambitions.
If North Korea were to agree to denuclearize and give peace a chance, the economic difficulties faced by the nation currently would be over in no time. With crippling economic sanctions out of the way and the U.S. and South Korea likely to render assistance, what is there to stop North Korea from becoming another Asian economic super performer?
The evidence of this is found in North Korea’s growing middle class who frequent shops, restaurants, and other avenues of entertainment like people south of the border. They even have a couple of pizza restaurants! However, these small signs of progress won’t amount to much, unless things get resolved between North Korea and the rest of the world, and the debilitating economic sanctions are lifted.
The implications of peace coming to the Korean peninsula are in all likelihood going to be humongous from an economic point of view. Northeast Asia, the region in which North Korea falls, also contains Japan, Mongolia, the Russian Far East and China’s Northeastern provinces. The potential for economic cooperation among these nations is enormous and could power growth comparable to Southeast Asia in the region.
However, the road ahead is long and fraught with dangers and with many of the above nations having territorial disputes with their neighbors, it is far from certain that the area will ever live up to its economic potential. This is another thing about North Korea- the fact that so many nations have a bearing upon the course that its destiny takes.
The US is involved because it has to protect its allies Japan and South Korea against any North Korean nuclear threat. The Chinese are in a sense joined at the hip with the fellow socialist regime in North Korea. The Russians too keep an eye out on what is happening in their immediate neighbourhood.
Much therefore rides upon the outcome of the expected U.S. –North Korean summit. Who could have predicted two years back that somebody like Donald Trump, with no political experience, and a young and seemingly crazy Kim Jong Un, who supposedly blew up dissidents with anti-aircraft guns, would resolve the Korean impasse? But they did always say that politics was the art of the possible!
If at all North Korea were to become a normal country and encourage free trade the way China did in the past, guess who would be at the forefront of making this economic makeover possible? The good old Korean interpreters and Korean translators of course! They are already doing a great job enabling U.S. –South Korean trade to grow and all they now need to do is carry on the good work north of the South Korean border.
As a matter of fact, with preparations for the Trump-Kim summit in full swing, all the major translation agencies must be busy organizing things like Korean simultaneous interpreting and readying conference interpreting equipment. By all accounts the summit is going to be held in a hotel in Singapore’s Sentosa Island on June 12th.
While the world awaits with bated breath the outcome of the much hyped and anticipated summit, the two men in question-Trump and Kim are doubtless working very hard putting the finishing touches to their respective strategies. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall in the room that these two mercurial leaders will confabulate in come June 12th?
The world will have to wait for the official statements to be released about the outcome of the summit; the ones who will have all the first-hand information about it will be none other than Korean interpreters, Korean translators, and Korean to English and English to Korean translators.
One will likely get to know North Korea a lot better after the summit, provided that things go according to plan. Once that happens, the translation service companies will have their task cut out in terms of the large amounts of work they will have to handle!