December 01, 2023

North Korean dialect as a Soviet Russian translation

Bizarre-sounding declarations from state media often have origins in Moscow

Many of my English-language colleagues and friends complain that it is surprisingly difficult to translate North Korean language texts into English. The result, they say, often sounds highly artificial and rather comical.

The present author does not face such problems when he has to translate North Korean texts into his native Russian. There are some exceptions, to be sure, but most North Korean idioms are expressed perfectly well in the Russian language, or rather, the official and semi-official language of Soviet publications (which remains quite familiar to a majority of Russians). There is little doubt that Koreans took pretty much all of these expressions straight from Russia. In many cases, Soviet Koreans who often felt more comfortable with Russian than with Korean translated these expressions.