Ideology in Translation-Mediated Framing of Direct Quotations in the News:

A Case Study of Trump’s Remarks at the Press Conference on the North Korea Summit

By Yonsuk Song (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Korea)


A direct quotation is commonly expected to be an exact replication of a statement by its source, but studies have shown otherwise. When it is translated from another language, there is even greater room for manipulation or distortion of the original message. This paper explores how news organizations apply translation-mediated framing to direct quotations in order to suit their ideological positions. It focuses on identifying and exploring strategies employed by two sets of ideologically opposed newspapers in South Korea. Through an analysis of translated direct quotations taken from US President Donald Trump’s remarks at a press conference following a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the study identified three types of ideological strategies: framing through topic selection, lexical framing, and narrative framing. It also found that they were used in congruity with the institutional ideology of the newspapers, which resulted in subtle departures in meaning and connotation from the original message.

Keywords: direct quotation, translation-mediated framing, ideology, news translation, Korea, news discourse

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1. Introduction

It is widely recognized that framing is a common journalistic practice. Numerous studies have demonstrated that journalists routinely make certain aspects of a perceived reality more salient in such a way that influences how it is interpreted by the recipients of the news (Entman 1993; Gamson and Modigliani 1987; Scheufele 1999). Direct quotation is not excepted: as Davier and Conway (2019: 17) point out, journalists use quotes as a means to ‘execute their preliminary idea of what the emerging story should and could look like.’ When the words being quoted originate in a foreign language, the process entails a further dimension: the direct quotation is no longer ‘direct’ and instead becomes translation-mediated newswriting with increased room for manipulation and distortion by translating journalists, who are subject to an institutional ideology (Koskinen 2000; Pan 2014; Song 2017).

Framing in news translation has been widely studied (Liu 2017/2019; Luo 2015; Qin and Zhang 2018; Valdeón 2014; van Doorslaer 2010; Wu 2017), but framing of translated direct quotations has received less attention despite its potential for political consequences (Baker 2006/2007; Haapanen and Perrin 2019; Schäffner and Bassnett 2010; Zanettin 2016). The aim of this study is to examine how translated direct quotations can be framed in accordance with the ideology of news organizations in a South Korean context. The South Korean press have often been criticized for distorted translation of international news: BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker went so far as to ask publicly on Twitter in 2018 that her articles be translated fairly. In fact, in a 2019 Reuters Institute’s international survey, South Korea ranked among the lowest in terms of trust in news, recording 22 per cent. The problem grows more complex when issues related to North Korea are reported, a highly sensitive and ideologically charged topic that has long been a source of conflict and division within South Korea. This study focuses on how institutional ideology combined with translation-mediated framing of direct quotations can modify and even distort an original message regarding North Korea. It applies a case study on remarks by US President Trump at a press conference following the first-ever US-North Korea summit in 2018 as translated by two major conservative newspapers (Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo) and two major progressive newspapers (Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Shinmun) in South Korea. Each pair holds a distinct stance towards North Korea: the conservative outlets tend to see it as an enemy and threat to national security, whereas the progressive newspapers tend to see it as a ‘brother’ that needs South Korea’s acceptance and assistance (Choi 2018; Han and Jang 2012; Medeiros et al. 2008). Conservative news outlets tend to focus on criticizing the North Korean regime, calling for sanctions against them and a stronger alliance with the US. In contrast, progressive outlets are more inclined to highlight the suffering of the North Korean people, stressing the need to seek resolution through international cooperation and inter-Korean dialogue rather than depending on the US for the nation’s security (Kwon 2017; Lee and Son 2011; Ha and Lee 2012). As there has been little examination of this particular subject, this study will be exploratory, paying special attention to translation-mediated framing as an ideological strategy. It sets out by reviewing the characteristics of direct quotation and framing in news translation, and then examines how translated quotations and the strategic use of reporting verbs can impart subtly different messages depending on the ideological position of a news institution. This will be followed by a discussion of the implications for translation studies.

2. Translation of Direct Quotation and Framing

2.1 Direct Quotation and News Translation

Direct quotations are used primarily for three purposes: (1) to offer ‘a particularly incontrovertible fact’; (2) to distance the reporter from something said by the source; and (3) to add ‘the flavor of the newsmaker’s own words’ (Bell 1991: 207-208). Regardless of which purpose is served, readers expect something that appears within quotation marks to be a verbatim quote from the source. In fact, research has shown that they regard a direct quote to be closer to the truth than a paraphrased one and are more likely to trust and adopt the quoted position (Gibson and Zillmann 1998, van Dijk 1988). For this reason, journalists often apply quotation as a strategy to convince readers of the veracity of their viewpoint (Caldas-Coulthard 1994; Chen 2009; Vuorinen 1999). But even if the quote is a word-for-word replication of something said by the source, it is difficult for it to retain the same meaning since it is a product of recontextualization. When a stretch of discourse is extracted from a press conference and embedded into a political news report, it is recontextualized to suit the needs and expectations of its target audience (Haapanen and Perrin 2017; Kang 2007). Its interpretations may also be diverse since it is ‘inevitably framed by the reporting clause that the reporter chooses to employ’ (Richardson 2007: 102). For example, there is no small difference between ‘say’ and ‘point out’ as a reporting clause, given that the latter lends the quotation ‘an aura of fact’ (Cappon 1999: 60-61), allowing its application to suit predetermined purposes.

When a quotation is in a foreign language that average readers cannot understand or easily access, there is greater room for journalists to intervene in ways that promote their institutional agendas; the newswriting process involving translation itself can be an ideological one (Bielsa 2007; Haapanen and Perrin 2017; Kang 2012; Vuorinen 1999). Despite the potential risks of undue appropriation of a quotation (Davier 2014), the journalists involved do not recognize their work as translation, nor do they receive appropriate training (Bielsa and Bassnett 2009). They perceive translation to be an invisible component of news production and try to ‘free’ themselves from it on the assumption that translation implies a dependence on the original (Davier 2014: 63). In other words, news translation and by extension the translation of direct quotations, is governed by a ‘domestication norm’ in Venuti’s terms (2008); since the translated news is to be consumed by a target audience likely to choose newspapers that fit their own political inclinations (Newton and Brynin 2001), it is tailored to meet the needs and expectations of this audience. In that sense, news translation can also be seen as a process of localization (Orengo 2005; Pym 2004). However, given the role and nature of ideology at news organizations (Shoemaker and Reese 1996), the domestication norm may potentially be subject to abuse, posing ethical implications (Bielsa 2016). In a similar vein, Scammell (2018) challenges the domesticating norm by proposing a foreignized approach specifically to the translation of direct quotations as an ethical alternative.

2.2 Framing and Ideology in News Translation

It has been well established that events and facts in news discourse can be constructed to be viewed within a particular frame: some aspects can be made more salient and others less prominent (Gamson 1989; Goffman 1974; Entman 1993). The power of framing lies in its ability to influence people’s interpretation and understanding of a wide array of social and political issues by reconstructing perceptions (Gamson and Modgliani 1987/1989; Han and Federico 2018; Iyengar 1991; Kuypers 2006). Due to its cognitive aspects, framing is often discussed alongside the closely related notions of gatekeeping and agenda-setting. The media can control the flow of information through gatekeeping, channeling the public’s attention to certain topics (Fujii 1988; Shoemaker 1991; Shoemaker and Reese 1996). In other words, selection or exclusion of certain topics or issues can create a framing effect on the macro level. Once certain topics are selected and translated, the fact that they have been selected and translated can in itself lead readers to believe that they are important: it can frame an issue as an important agenda item. Both frame building and agenda building are macroscopic mechanisms, but framing can also operate on the micro, textual level (Scheufele and Tewksbury 2007), often leading to shifts in content and meaning in the original. This may explain why so many terms have been proposed with little consensus regarding which would be the most appropriate for describing the tendency of news translators to make changes to and deviate from an original. From transediting (Stetting 1989) to localization (Pym 2004) and transframing (Liu 2017/2019), different terms have been applied to refer to this same phenomenon, but as long as framing is indispensable in news production, such deviations will be inescapable in news translation.

In any discussion of framing, the key concept is selection because the decision of which elements of a given source text to select for inclusion in or exclusion from a translation is made at the institutional level and mainly based on the ideology of the news organization (Kang 2007; Koskinen 2008; Mossop 1988/1990). As numerous studies have demonstrated, institutional ideology can lead to varying degrees of changes to the translations in terms of the tone and meaning of the original text (Chen 2009; Kang 2007; Kuo and Nakamura 2005; Qin and Zhang 2018; Song 2017). In this regard, framing and ideology are closely linked and intertwined, and highly relevant and indispensable in news translation research.

3. Methods

Since the aim of this study is to explore how newspapers utilize translation strategies to create news texts in line with their ideological positions, news reports from two major conservative online newspapers widely recognized to be anti-North Korean (Chosun Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo) and two major progressive online newspapers broadly considered to be more accommodating to North Korea (Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Shinmun) from South Korea were collected through, the country’s largest news search engine. As the press conference after the unprecedented US-North Korean summit drew keen attention with the most extensive media coverage, the study focused on what was said during the press conference and how the newspapers quoted Trump. ‘Trump,’ ‘press conference,’ and ‘North Korea’ were applied as search terms and the search period was set for the week from 12 June 2018, the day of the press conference, to 19 June 2018. It was found that news reports directly quoting Trump’s statements at the press conference were no longer produced after 14 June, which appears natural given the nature of news reporting: the news was already three days old by this time and had declined in its news value. Among the initial search results of 148 news reports, those with headlines explicitly carrying direct quotations were selected since the headline, as a summary of the text (van Dijk 1998), signals that the report focuses on Trump’s precise statements and thereby draws attention from readers who wish to know what he actually said. The data was collected manually by reading through all news articles searched, which confirmed that news reports without direct quotations in their headlines were not focused on Trump’s remarks, with no direct quotations in the body of the news story. Through this process, a total of 42 news reports -- 30 from the conservative papers and 12 from the progressive papers -- were collected for qualitative analysis.

The source text (ST) comprises a full transcript of the pertinent press conference and a full transcript of Trump’s remarks at the signing of the joint statement in Singapore on 12 June 2018. The transcripts were downloaded from the White House website and and checked against a video-recording of the conference. Unnecessary signs or words, such as ‘Q:’ (indicating a reporter’s question), ‘Reporter’s Questions:’ and ‘The President:’, were deleted, which left an ST of 12,052 words. The Q&A sets in the ST were manually categorized by topic in order to facilitate analysis. Editorials addressing Trump’s press conference were also collected from each newspaper’s website as a reference source informing about each one’s ideological stance towards the topics discussed in the press conference.

Due to the exploratory nature of this study, the analysis focused on identifying the ideological strategies employed in translating direct quotations. Indirect quotations were not included in the analysis. Each quotation was identified and compared against the ST, with any differences between them marked and coded in an Excel spreadsheet. Given the key role of headlines in news discourse (van Dijk 1988; Zhang 2013), headlines were analyzed separately from the leads and bodies of the texts. The differences between the STs and TTs were then analyzed to identify the ideological strategies used in the translations.

4. Findings and Discussion

The analysis identified a total of 393 translated direct quotations, 291 from the conservative papers and 102 from the progressive papers. For the sake of the discussion, I have categorized the ideological strategies identified in the analysis into three types of translation-mediated framing: (1) framing through topic selection, (2) lexical framing, and (3) narrative framing. Framing through topic selection refers to the strategy in which a newspaper selects certain topics to be translated for headlines, creating an agenda-setting effect. Lexical framing includes the use of lexical items expressing attitude, modality, and presupposition, which reveal underlying ideology. Narrative framing includes the reordering, restructuring, and omission of the ST elements in the translations, as well as the addition of non-ST elements, resulting in subtle differences in logical relations or connotations in the translated direct quotations. Framing through topic selection operates on the macro level, setting the tone for the interpretation of the news event, while lexical and narrative framing is applied on the micro level to distort and manipulate the messages imparted by the translated quotations. Of 393 translated direct quotations, 70 (17.8 per cent) were found to include lexical framing and narrative framing, although the line between them may be blurred in some instances. The proportion (17.8 per cent) in itself may seem small, but given the readers’ belief in the authenticity of the quotes and the sensitive nature of the subject, the potential effects and consequences of a small number of distortions can be difficult to fathom.

4.1 Framing through Topic Selection

During a press conference that lasted for over an hour, Trump was asked a total of 51 questions, which can be categorized into six topics (Table 1). Both the conservative newspapers (Chosun and Dong-A) and the progressive papers (Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang) covered most of the topics, but they differed in the selection of them for their headlines. As Table 1 and Figure 1 show, while the conservative papers gave equal weight in their coverage to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as they did to security assurances for North Korea, the progressive papers placed relatively greater importance on security assurances for the North. This reflects the stance towards North Korea of each paper’s readership: the conservatives regard the North as an enemy, making denuclearization a top priority, while the progressives tend to see the North as a ‘brother’ and be more accommodating to it. Such differences also led them to diverge on the issue of human rights in North Korea, a major concern brought up repeatedly during the press conference. While the conservative papers overlooked the human rights issue altogether, the progressive papers ignored sideline issues that the conservative newspapers covered, instead noting human rights. This pattern of topic selection suggests that the papers from both camps used topical framing to attempt to guide their readership on how to assess the significance of the topics involved, which in turn may set the tone for the readers’ interpretation of the translated direct quotations.

Topics covered in the press conference

Number of headlines



denuclearization (CVID[1] and sanctions)



security assurances for North Korea

(suspension of South Korea-US joint military exercises, withdrawal of US troops from South Korea, peace treaty)



human rights in North Korea



plans for follow-up meetings



Trump’s evaluation of Kim Jong Un



(trade issues with Canada, relationships with G7 leaders, and a promotional video Trump shared with Kim)






Table 1: List of Topics and Number of Headlines per Each Topic


Fig. 1: Topics Covered in the Headlines (%)

4.2 Lexical Framing

The analysis found subtle differences between the conservative and progressive newspapers in their lexical choices for the translation of direct speech and/or reporting clauses, reflecting their ideological stances towards North Korea, as the following examples illustrate:

Example 1

ST: ‘We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should.  But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very provocative.’

Conservative: 트럼프 ‘한미훈련 중단할 것… 돈 너무 많이 든다’ 발언 파장 (동아일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: Trump says, ‘[We] will stop the S. Korea-US military exercise… It costs too much money,’ sparking controversy. (Dong-A, 13 June 2018)

Progressive: 트럼프 ‘워게임 돈 많이 들고 도발적… 한-미 연합훈련 중단’ (한겨레, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: Trump says, ‘War games cost a lot of money and are provocative… [We] will stop the S. Korea-US joint exercise.’ (Hankyoreh, 12 June 2018))

Example 2

ST: ‘South Korea contributes, but not 100 percent.’

Conservative: ‘한국도 부담하지만 일부분이다’ (동아일보, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: ‘South Korea also contributes, but only part of [the expenses]’ (Dong-A, 12 June 2018)

Progressive:  ø

In Example 1, the lexical choices in the headlines reveal each side’s stance on the suspension of the annual joint South Korea-US military exercises. In the conservative version, the addition of ‘controversy’ guides readers on how to interpret Trump’s statement, whereas in the progressive headline, the quotation itself is conveyed in a neutral manner without employing any framing device. However, the inclusion of the word ‘provocative’ in the progressive headline, which is absent from the conservative version and includes negative connotations, could be considered to induce a framing effect and eliminate the need to add additional framing devices. In Example 2, the connotation of the direct quotation is that there is in fact no problem with the annual South Korea-US joint military exercises, a sensitive issue that divides the country, on the grounds that South Korea pays only a part of the expenses; there is a presupposition that the exercises should be maintained. The progressive rendition did not mention the question of expenses and only focused on the fact that Trump wants to halt the exercises.

Example 3

ST2: ‘South Korea, which obviously is right next door, and Japan, which essentially is next door, they’re going to be helping them [North Korea]. And I think they’re going to be doing a very generous job and a terrific job. So they will be helping them.’

Conservative: 트럼프 대통령은 ‘북한 바로 옆에 있는 한국과 일본이 도와줄 거고 마땅히 도와야 한다’고 못박았다. (동아일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: President Trump nailed it down by saying, ‘South Korea and Japan, which are right next door to North Korea, will and should help.’ (Dong-A, 13 June 2018)

Progressive:  ø

In Example 3, the addition of ‘should,’ a modality marker of obligation absent in the ST, reveals the conservative stance toward this issue. In addition, ‘nailed it down’ in the reporting clause implies that the matter leaves no room for discussion, which is more of a reflection of the paper’s view than a description of Trump’s attitude at the time. In contrast, the progressive papers ignored this issue altogether in their reporting, as in Example 1.

Example 4

ST1: ‘Because there was no time. I’m here one day. We are together for many hours intensively, but the process is now going to take place.’

ST2: ‘And it wasn’t a big point today because, really, this had been taken care of, more than any other thing. Because it was all about this. This has been taken care of before we got here.’

Conservative: 트럼프 ‘CVID 넣기엔 시간이 부족했다… 회담 핵심 아니었다’ 횡설수설 (조선일보, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: Trump rambles incoherently, ‘Not enough time to put in CVID… was not the focus of the summit’ (Chosun, 12 June 2018)

Progressive: ‘CVID’ 박고 싶었던 트럼프 ‘시간이 없었다’ (경향신문, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: Trump who wanted to have CVID nailed down: ‘There was no time’ (Kyunghyang, 12 June 2018)

Example 4 compares the headlines addressing the same issue. By using such evaluative words as ‘ramble’ and ‘incoherently,’ the conservative paper presents Trump as incompetent and untrustworthy, criticizing him for the failure to include CVID in the joint statement. In contrast, the progressive paper specifically mentions Trump’s hope of ensuring that CVID be included and ascribes this omission to time constraints, thereby implicitly mitigating any blame on Trump or his negotiating partner Kim.

Example 5

ST: ‘Well, at a certain time, I will. I said that will be a day that I look very much forward to, at the appropriate time.’

Conservative: 트럼프 대통령은 또 이날 기자회견에서 ‘적절한 시기에 평양을 방문 있다’고도 했다. (조선일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: President Trump also said at the press conference, ‘I can visit Pyongyang at an appropriate time’. (Chosun, 13 June 2018)

Progressive: 트럼프 대통령은 기자회견에서 ‘조만간 평양에 갈 것이다. 굉장히 기대하고 있다’고 말했다. (경향신문, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: President Trump stated at the press conference, ‘I will go to Pyongyang soon. I look very much forward to it’. (Kyunghyang, 12 June 2018)

In Example 5, the conservatives’ skepticism is revealed in the modality choice of ‘can’ over ‘will’ and in the omission of ‘look very much forward to,’ while the progressives’ stance is disclosed in the replacement of ‘at a certain time’ and ‘at the appropriate time’ with ‘soon.’

4.3 Narrative Framing

During the press conference, a number of overlapping or similar questions were asked, which required the papers to organize the overall topics to suit their headline needs. When a headline carries more than a single topic, readers attempt to make sense of it by creating logical connections between the topics presented. The process of creating connections can be impacted by the selection (or omission) of topics and selective appropriation, as in the following examples:

Example 6

ST1: ‘But I know for a — I just feel very strongly — my instinct, my ability, or talent — they want to make a deal. And making a deal is a great thing for the world.’

ST2: ‘And we did discuss it [human rights] today pretty strongly.’

Conservative: ø

Progressive: ‘김정은의 진정성 곧바로 알아차려’ 북한 인권 문제도 강하게 논의했다 (경향신문, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: ‘I immediately noticed Kim Jong Un’s sincerity’; [they] discussed the North Korean human rights issue strongly. (Kyunghyang, 12 June 2018)

From Example 6, readers could assume that Trump said Kim was ‘sincere,’ but he never used this word at the conference. Instead, he related his conviction that North Korea wanted to make a deal, as in ST1. There is a considerable difference between ‘want,’ which relates to desire, and ‘sincerity,’ which is a moral quality. In fact, the word was used only once by a reporter in her follow-up question (ST3):

ST3: Q (Reporter). ‘What was it about that first interaction with Chairman Kim this morning that made you decide not to walk away after you said that you would know within the first minute if he was sincere or not?’

A (Trump). ‘Yeah. I’ve said that about relationships. I’ve said that about people. You know in the first second. Now, I was generous. I said five seconds. But you know in the first second, in some cases. Sometimes that doesn’t work out. But sometimes it does. From the beginning, we got along. But there’s been a lot of groundwork. This wasn’t like we went and we started talking about — as you know, right?’

As ST3 shows, Trump did not specifically state that he believed Kim was sincere; he was speaking about relationships in general. The only evaluative comment he offered about Kim was that they ‘got along’ from the beginning. The appropriation of ‘sincere’ from the reporter’s remarks as if it were a direct quote from Trump creates in readers the impression that Kim was indeed sincere and that Trump was a sharp and perceptive person, not someone who ‘rambles incoherently,’ as expressed in Example 4. Also, the juxtaposition with the mention that the human rights issue was strongly discussed may lead readers to unconsciously draw connections between Kim’s sincerity and the discussion of human rights, which, in fact, were topics brought up separately during the press conference. This narrative framing through selective appropriation (Baker 2006) shows how information can be manipulatively presented in a way that promotes a certain ideological agenda.

Example 7

ST1: Q (reporter): ‘Kim Jong Un, as you know, has killed family members, has starved his own people, is responsible for the death of Otto Warmbier. Why are you so comfortable calling him “very talented”?

A (Trump): ‘Well, he is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough — I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it — he ran it. Very few people, at that age — you can take one out of ten thousand, probably, couldn’t [sic] do it.’

ST2: Q (Reporter): ‘Mr. President, what surprised you the most about Kim Jong Un?’

A (Trump): ‘A great personality and very smart. Good combination.’

Conservative: NBC 기자 ‘웜비어 등 사람 죽인 김정은이 재능 있다고?’, 트럼프 ‘어려운 환경서 자라 훌륭한 인격에 매우 똑똑’ (조선일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: NBC reporter: ‘Kim Jong Un, who killed Warmbier and other people, is talented?’, Trump: ‘[He] has great character and is very smart because he grew up in a difficult environment’ (Chosun, 13 June 2018)

Progressive: 트럼프 ‘북 인권도 논의’ ‘김정은 정말 재능 있다’ 칭찬 쏟아내 (한겨레, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: Trump said, ‘Human rights were also discussed’, lavishly praising, ‘Kim Jong Un is really talented’ (Hankyoreh, 12 June 2018)

In Example 7, readers’ potential cognitive dissonance regarding Kim is resolved through ‘causal emplotment’ (Baker 2006). After the summit, Trump told reporters that Kim has a great personality and is very smart, which conflicts with popular conceptions of dictators. For all the diplomatic talk and detente, describing the leader of a long-standing enemy state in terms such as ‘great personality,’ ‘smart,’ and ‘very talented’ is intolerable to resolutely anti-communist conservatives in South Korea. The conservative paper attempts to resolve this by creating a causal relation between Kim’s difficult situation in the past and his purported personal strengths: it frames the headline as if Kim became ‘a very smart’ man with ‘a great personality’ after struggling through difficulty, a universally valued virtue. The conservative paper also mitigates this dissonance by including an NBC reporter’s rhetorical question that implies criticism. This compares with the progressive paper, which quoted Trump, not the reporter, providing only the positive remarks about Kim. Framing using the phrase ‘lavishly praised’ also contrasts with the question included by the conservative paper.

4.4 Comparison with Editorials

As discussed in 4.3, although both sides paid keen attention to the summit, they displayed clear differences in their stance toward the issues discussed at the press conference: the conservative papers were more critical, while the progressive papers were more accepting. Given that qualitative analysis is often criticized for its subjectivity, headlines from editorials released during the same period as the pertinent news reports were also compared in order to triangulate the findings, as in the following examples 8 through 11.

Example 8

Conservative: 어이없고 황당한 · 회담, 이대로 가면 北 핵보유국 된다 (조선일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: Absurd and preposterous US-N. Korea Summit -- if this continues, the North will become a nuclear power (Chosun, 13 June 2018)

Progressive: 과도한 · 정상회담 비판론을 경계한다 (경향신문, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: We are wary of excessive criticism on N. Korea-US Summit (Kyunghyang, 13 June 2018)

Example 9

Conservative: 한반도의 거대한 전환, 큰 걸음 떼고 숙제 남겼다 (동아일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: The Korean Peninsula in a huge transition -- it took a major step but a bigger challenge remains (Dong-A, 13 June 2018)

Progressive: 김정은과 트럼프, 평화의 행진을 시작하다 (경향신문, 2018.6.12)
Back translation: Kim Jong Un and Trump start a march of peace (Kyunghyang, 12 June 2018)

Example 10

Conservative: 트럼프 ‘협상 중 韓美훈련 중단’… 연합방위체계 차질 없나 (동아일보, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: Trump: ‘S. Korea-US military exercise will be suspended during negotiations’ …Will it not undermine the joint defense system? (Dong-A, 13 June 2018)

Progressive: ‘비핵화 진전’ 위한 한-미 연합훈련 중단, 바람직하다 (한겨레, 2018.6.13)
Back translation: Suspension of S. Korea-US joint military exercises for ‘progress in denuclearization’ is desirable (Hankyoreh, 13 June 2018)

Example 11

Conservative: 트럼프의 對北 안전보장이 우리 안보를 흔들어서야 (동아일보, 2018.6.14)
Back translation: We should not allow Trump’s security assurances to N. Korea to undermine our security (Dong-A, 14 June 2018)

Progressive: 군사훈련 중단은 비핵화 촉진 위한 결단이다 (경향신문, 2018.6.14)
Back translation: Suspension of military exercises is a determination to facilitate denuclearization (Kyunghyang, 14 June 2018)

In Example 8, besides the different ordering of ‘US’ and ‘North Korea’ when naming the summit, the conservative paper chose highly evaluative adjectives which express its negative stance towards the summit, while the progressive paper defends against such criticism. The lexical choices in Examples 9 through 11 also demonstrate how the newspapers maintain distinct perspectives on the summit and the issues surrounding denuclearization. A further reflection of the ideological differences between the papers is their reporting on Trump’s expression of gratitude to South Korean President Moon in his opening statement. None of the 30 conservative news reports featured direct quotations from Trump mentioning the progressive South Korean president, while two of the 12 progressive papers reported on it in detail, quoting Trump’s expressions of appreciation and praise for both Moon and Kim.

5. Concluding Remarks

Negotiations with North Korea inevitably involve major players in international politics and diplomacy, making communication across different languages and cultures a critical factor for success. In this regard, translation can be another key, if veiled, player in any dealings regarding the communist country. As the findings of this study demonstrate, however, translation in the media can potentially be reduced to a mere means to reaching a media outlet’s own ends. After all, what journalists believe they do is to produce a news story in which the translated ST simply provides material to support their perspective. However, if what readers expect to be a faithful rendition of statements by a key figure regarding important matters of national interest is in fact a product of subtle manipulation or even deliberate distortion, as many studies have also shown, it poses a potentially serious issue with ethical and political implications. In countries in volatile geopolitical situations like South Korea, where the Cold War has yet to end, it could contribute to dividing the nation, shaping an election, or straining relations with the other nations involved. The distortion may be excused as simply an unintended result of neglect, but even if this were the case, it still merits attention because it indicates how journalists treat translation. Since they are in the business of reporting facts, they should be aware that it is their social responsibility to produce translations as accurate and faithful to the original as possible.

Since the advent of functionalism and descriptive translation studies, equivalence in its traditional sense appears to have become a somewhat old-fashioned concept. However, as this study shows, achieving ST-oriented equivalence may still be a key requirement and priority at least in news translation, particularly in the translation of direct quotations regarding issues with considerable potential political and ethical ramifications. Readers regard direct quotations to be closer to the truth than paraphrased quotes, which implies that faithfulness should take precedence as the expected norm.

As this study examined only direct quotations translated by a handful of newspapers, it has limitations in terms of its applicability. Its findings cannot be generalized to all newspapers in South Korea or to all the issues they may cover. Further studies are necessary to confirm the general tendencies of newspapers in their translation and framing of ideologically divisive issues. It is hoped, however, that this study will bring renewed attention to translation ethics and the social responsibility of translating journalists.


This work was supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.


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[1] Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible Denuclearization

[2] The number of headlines doesn’t match the number of reports surveyed because some headlines address more than one topic.

About the author(s)

Yonsuk Song is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Interpretation and Translation (GSIT) at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) in Korea. She received her Ph.D. from the same university in 2013. Before joining the faculty at HUFS, she worked both as an in-house news interpreter and translator, and as a freelance translator. Her
research interests include institutional translation and translator training.

Email: [please login or register to view author's email address]

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"Ideology in Translation-Mediated Framing of Direct Quotations in the News: A Case Study of Trump’s Remarks at the Press Conference on the North Korea Summit"
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