The South Korean advertising company Cheil, the non-profit education organization DreamTouchForAll and Community Chest of Korea have launched a North Korean-to-South Korean translation application.
The application, called Univoca: South Korean-North Korean Translator, contains about 3,600 South Korean terms chosen from three different South Korean high school textbooks.
“A hundred or more people took part in the launching of this application,” Jae-young Choi, chief of Cheil’s Good Company Solution Center, told NK News.
“Our company crews, NGOs and other individuals dedicated their efforts and time to this platform. Our first plan is to add more terms used in science and sociology school textbooks alongside newspapers and broadcasting.”
The app, which is currently available only on Google but which Cheil said will be on Apple next month, uses a mobile device’s camera to scan Korean text from both books and screens.
If the word is not among the list of 3,600, the app includes a feature to send new words to the developers for addition.
“There are many terms that North Koreans are not used to in South Korea … I participated by cross-checking the North Korean terms and South Korean ones to make sure it has the correct data,” a North Korean student who helped with the app’s development told NK News on the condition of anonymity.
Even though South and North Koreans speak the same language and use the same writing system (hangeul), more than 60 years of separation have altered how the language is spoken and used.
South Korean, for example, uses numerous loanwords from other languages. North Koreans, however, tend to avoid borrowing words and place a greater emphasis on inventing new Korean terms.
The English word “ice cream,” for example, is pronounced aiseu keurim in South Korea. In North Korea, though, the word “ice cream” is translated as eoleum-bosungi, as eoleum means “ice” and bosungi means “paste.”
But loanword use is just one reason why the two Korean languages have become differentiated over time.
Different stances on communism, capitalism, the U.S. and Russia and even the history of Korea before the Korean War have led to a total conversion of many cultural and linguistic features.
The effort of publishing a dictionary that translates one Korean to the other goes back to 1989, when South Korean pastor Moon Ik-hwan visited Pyongyang and requested the joint publication of a Unified Korean Dictionary.
No progress was made until 2005, when the 6.15 Joint Declarations of the Korean language scholars from both South and North started the publication of Gyeoremal Grand Dictionary.
The finished dictionary was to contain a total of 300,000 terms that both North and South Koreans could refer to, but the project stalled in 2010 as relations between the two Koreas soured.
Even though there have been minor meetings between the two to continue the initiative, the publication date for the project has been postponed to 2019, according to the Gyeoremal Grand Dictionary’s official website.
There is no direct link between the Gyeoremal Grand Dictionary and the Univoca application. However, in the long run this application’s manufacturers seem certain that it will contribute to decreasing the gap between South Koreans and North Koreans.
“Soon with the users’ participations, hopefully we would be able to increase number of words that can be translated,” Choi said.
Picture: NK News
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