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Czech Translation of Complete Korean Chronicle Samguk Yusa Published
Czech Translation of Complete Korean Chronicle Samguk Yusa Published

After years of intensive work, Czech translation of important Korean chronicle Samguk Yusa, collection of legends, folktales, and historical accounts relating to the Three Kingdoms, has been published by Lidové noviny publishing house of Prague. Translated from classical Chinese by Miriam Löwensteinová and Marek Zemánek, it is an another milestone for a Czech Korean studies, which has emerged in the 1940s, belong among the most advanced worldwide and has produced a long line of reputed translators, historians and linguists.

Samguk Yusa, the oldest preserved unofficial Korean chronicle and a treasure of Korean literature of the 13th century is one of the most remarkable books that has been ever written in Korea. It contains myths, historical stories, anecdotes of kings and eminent monks, it is a book of Korean folklore, a treasure of the oldest poetry and other important aspect of ancient Korea. Its author, Iryeon, collected the material that could serve nor only to all the people interested in Korean history, but it should be a source for every comparative ethnography, folklore, religion, rituals, Buddhism. Moreover, it was written in an amusant and digestive form even for the postmodern European reader.

Translating such a complex books, full of rich details and information, is not an easy task, therefore there are only a few complete translations into other languages, such as two into English and one in German. Not only that, the Czech edition also needed a deep research and thorough commentary to be added for the contemporary reader. Therefore there is more than 1,000 notes and commentaries as well as chronological tables of Korean kings and Chinese dynasties, tables of measures, official titles and a glossary of Buddhist terms included in the Czech edition.

As the cultural and time difference encountered was enormous, translators „had to effectively transmit a message written by a 13th century Korean Buddhist monk to the 21st century Czechs,“ says translator Marek Zemánek, who for seven years studied Korean Buddhism at Dongguk and Seoul National universities. „The readers naturally lack the basic knowledge which Iryeon, the author of Samguk Yusa, presupposes by the reader. Hence, we had to explain hundreds of terms, concepts and whole historical and philosophical contexts. In order to avoid simplification and using misleading terms, we employed the system of notes and commentaries to solve these problematic issues.“ he adds. The consultations with numerous experts on Korean history, religions, Chinese history etc. both from Korea and the Czech Republic where thus a daily task for him.

Although partial Czech translations were made by both translators on several occasions in the last decade, the final decision to translate and publish the chronicle as a whole was made some five years ago when Marek Zemánek teamed with Miriam Lowensteinová, associate professor and author of several monographs as well as translations from Korean literature, and head of the dept. of Korean Studies at Charles University in Prague. Their painstaking work in Prague and Seoul was supported by the Overseas Leading University Program for Korean Studies of the Academy of Korean Studies and also the Czech edition received a publication grant by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. The cover of the book features a famous portrait of Iryeon by Jung Tak-young, professor emeritus of the Seoul National University, a great opportunity to introduce a piece of contemporary Korean art to Czech readers.

For details or inquiries contact the Czech Embassy in Seoul at 725-6765/6 ext.104 for Ms. Han Eun-Jee or leave her an Email at

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