Mistranslation causes media hype over Korean writing system
By Lee Tae-hoon
Contrary to the media hype, the Cia Cia tribe, a group of 70,000 on the remote Indonesian island of Bau-bau, has neither received central government approval for the adoption of Hangeul as its writing system, nor has it made such a request, sources told The Korea Times Wednesday.
“The mayor has not requested the government’s approval for the adoption of Hangeul,” Ibnu Wahid, an official from Bau-bau, said.
Hangeul was taught for a total of 37 hours to some 50 fourth graders last year at an elementary school in Bau-bau and now it is being taught to some 190 students in two schools, the sources said.
The tribe gained attention over the past year for allegedly being the first foreign ethnic group to officially adopt Hangeul.
In July this year, a host of media outlets ran stories claiming that Bau-bau Mayor Amirul Tamim said the Indonesian government had finally authorized the adoption of Hangeul as the tribe’s official alphabet to preserve their dying language.
Chun Tai-hyun, a professor of Malay and Indonesian linguistics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, points out that those reports were groundless and based on a mistranslation of Tamim’s comment.
“Mayor Tamim only mentioned that official discussions have begun and he was consulting with the central government over the adoption of Hangeul in a media interview,” he said. “However, the media wrongfully translated his remark as if he had received formal acknowledgement from the government.”
The Indonesian Embassy in Seoul also refuted reports that its central government had officially authorized the adoption by the Cia Cia.
“It would be wrong to assume that Mayor Tamim said the central government has approved the adoption of Hangeul,” Nuradi Noeri, first secretary at the embassy, said, after reviewing the original video footage of the controversial interview.
He noted that all news reports, except The Korea Times’ Jan. 28 article, “Quest to globalize Hangeul raises questions,” have been misleading.
The Cia Cia is one of some 700 Indonesian tribes which use the Roman alphabet, the official writing system of the country, as they only have their spoken language.
Professor Chun, who first proposed the idea of adopting the Korean alphabet to the Bau-bau mayor in 2007, claims that the official adoption of Hangeul by Cia Cia will be unlikely to happen as Indonesia's Basic Law stipulates that all tribal languages should be preserved in Roman characters for national unity.
Lee Ho-young, a linguistics professor at Seoul National University and author of the Cia Cia's Hangeul textbook, also acknowledged that the press exaggerated the “official adoption” of Hangeul by the tribe.
He attributed the media frenzy over the “Indonesian government’s approval of Hangeul” to Korean media outlets’ excessive pursuit for breaking stories and the fondness of the terms, “official” and “first.”
“I have only mentioned that the mayor has been coordinating the matter with the central government of Indonesia, but the media ran stories as if the government had officially approved it,” he said.
Not only the Korean press but also foreign news media showed interest in Korea “officially exporting” its 564-year-old writing system, following the Hunminjeongeum Society’s signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Bau-bau City in Aug. 2008.
The Hunminjeongeum Society is a private think tank founded in 2007 by Lee Ki-nam, a retired real-estate agent. She had tried and failed to export Hangeul to other tribes in China, Mongolia, Nepal and Thailand.
Officials of the Hunminjeongeum Society could not confirm whether Hangeul has become the official writing system of the tribe, but said they assumed that the Indonesian government has approved it based on media reports.
Both Chun and Lee Ho-young said they were expelled from the society over their objections to its management and for raising concerns over its failure to keep a promise to build a Korea Center in Bau-bau.
찌아찌아족 한글채택 공식 승인 못 받아
번역의 오류로 와전돼 보도 된 것이 문제
많은 언론들의 보도와는 달리 인도네시아 정부는 바우바우시에 살고 있는 찌아찌아족의 한글 채택을 공식 승인한 적도 없고 바우바우시 역시 한글 정식 채택을 중앙 정부에 요청한 사실이 없다고 복수의 관계자들이 코리아타임스에 6일 말했다.
아미룰 타밈 바우바우시 시장 비서인 이브누 와이드씨는 “시장은 정부에 한글 공식 채택을 요청한 적이 없다”라고 밝혔다.
한글을 사용한 찌아찌아 수업은 2009년 총 37 시간 초등학교 4학년 학생을 대상으로 한 바우바우시 학교에서 진행되었으며 현재 2개의 초등학교에서 190여명을 대상으로 진행되고 있다.
찌아찌아족은 한글을 공식 문자를 공식으로 도입한 사상 첫 외국 소수민족이라 알려져 지난 1년간 많은 관심을 받아 왔다.
언론들은 올해 7월 아미룰 타밈 시장이 1년간의 노력 끝에 찌아찌아족의 사라져 가는 언어를 한글로 보존하게 하는 방안에 대해 중앙 정부가 승인했다고 보도했다.
하지만 한국외국어대 전태현 교수는 이러한 보도는 번역의 실수 때문이라고 한다.
그는 기자한테 시장이 언론이 "공론화가 시작되었고 중앙정부와 협의로 하고 있다"는 시장의 말을 오역해, 과장 보도했다고 주장한다.
주한 인도네시아 대사관 1등 서기관도 시장이 중앙 정부 승인를 받았다는 말을 언급했다는 인터뷰 원본 영상을 입수, 검토한 결과 전태현 교수의 말처럼 시장이 한글 공식 채택에 대해 논의 중이라고만 언급을 했을 뿐, 공식으로 채택되었다고 말하지 았았다 말했다.
찌아찌아어 한글 교과서 집필에 참여한 이호영 서울대 언어학과 교수 역시 찌아찌아족의 한글 공식사용은 그 동안 언론보도가 다소 과장된 면이 있다고 했다.