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Foreign Ministry under fire for FTA translation errors

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade came under fire for mistranslation of the free trade agreement with the European Union which was signed on Oct. 6, 2010.

On Monday the ministry announced that it has agreed with the EU to correct yet more errors found in the Korean version of the agreement, less than two weeks after other mistakes were corrected.

On Feb. 25, the ministry announced that mistakes regarding the proportion of imported raw materials used in wax and toy products allowed for such products to be eligible for tax exemption under the trade pact will be changed, after the errors were singled out by trade law specialist Song Gi-ho.

The changes led to the ministry retracting the bill submitted to the National Assembly and resubmitting the corrected version.

While the ministry is taking steps to address the issues, it appears to be playing down the significance of the errors.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (The Korea Herald)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (The Korea Herald)

In Monday’s press release, the ministry singled out four mistakes that will be corrected.

While the ministry described two of the four items as those that have “no difference in meaning between the English and Korean versions, but have disparity in wording,” the erroneous articles change the meaning or include conditions absent in the English version.

In the Korean version, additional commitments concerning architectural services states that foreign architects licensed under their home country’s law who have five years of experience may acquire a Korean license by passing a simplified examination. Such clause is absent from the English version of the agreement.

The other mistake that the ministry regards as having “no difference in meaning,” regards market access limitations for banking and other financial services.

While the English version states that “once Korea allows the supply of certain of these services, it may not subsequently prohibit or limit the supply of such services,”

The uncorrected Korean version reads “once the supply of certain of these services is allowed, Korea can agree to not prohibiting or limiting the supply of such services.”

Furthermore, the Korean-language version of the pact with the EU is not the first bilateral agreement found to contain mistake, raising calls to set up a committee to review translations of other trade agreements.

About a week after the first changes were made to the Korea-EU pact, the Korean version of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with India was found to contain a phrase meaning “in ways differing to the agreement” in place of in accordance with the agreement.

By Choi He-suk  (
Korea Herald Youtube