For anyone out there who still wants to claim the Cows Gone Wild protests are anti-Lee Myung-bak and not anti-American then please explain to me why were statements from US Ambassador Sandy Vershbow intentionally mistranslated in order to get an anti-American reaction from the Korean public?:
UDP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu said at a party executive meeting today, “For Ambassador Vershbow to say ‘Koreans should learn a little more about science’ is an insult to all Korean citizens… Because the Lee Myung-bak administration took a humiliating posture towards the United States, an arrogant and impudent statement was made.” He then called the ambassador “very rude” for an earlier phone call in which he told Sohn that he was disappointed and that the UDP head’s statement were causing public insecurity. [Robert Koehler - TMH]
Here is what Ambassador Vershbow actually said:
So we hope that Koreans will begin to learn more about the science and about the facts of American beef and that this issue can be addressed constructively. We believe there is a lot of work ahead in getting people to pay more attention to the science and the facts of the matter. [Yonhap]
Obviously very different statements and as Robert points out, Sohn Hak-kyu attended Oxford thus showing he has good English proficiency and is intentionally mistranslating what the Ambassador said in order to promote anti-American sentiment within the Korean public. Make sure to read the rest of Robert’s posting that shows how the Korean media has now taken Sohn’s interpretation of what the Ambassador said in order to fan the flames of anti-Americanism in Korea with not one media outlet bothering to check and see what Ambassador Vershbow actually said. Mistranslating statements is a common tactic in the Korean media thus the fact that a Korean politician is doing it of little concern to them.
What this does show is that the anti-US Korean left behind these protests are using two different narrative to address the two different audiences. With the US and western media beginning to take notice of what is going on in Korea the Korean left are claiming in English that these protests are all about the poor governing by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which is ludicrous since the guy has only been in office barely 100 days. The press reports being released in English to the western media are mostly written by Korean correspondents who have no intention of writing exactly what is going on in Korea. The best article written yet was in the Washington Post and it was because it was not written by a Korean correspondent.
In Korean to their Korean audience the Korean left is continuing to make this not only anti-Lee issue, but an anti-US issue as well which is further demonstrated by this mistranslation. The average Korean thinks the US government is trying to kill them with dangerous meat and now the Korean left behinds these protests are trying to create the perception within the public that the US government is not only trying to feed Koreans dangerous beef, but they are arrogant and think Koreans are stupid as well. This is all a blatant smear campaign which is nothing new in Korea. This is straight out of the Korean media play book.
What this issue does bring out is the US government’s poor abilities to engage the Korean public in Korean. Relying on the Korean media to translate what you say is not the way to engage the Korean public. Imagine how things may have been mitigated a bit if a number of high echelon people working in the US Embassy to include the ambassador could speak Korean and get their message straight to the Korean public?