[New Publication] Translating Islamic Knowledge for the New Soil: Two Korean Translations of the Qur’an in South Korea

By Jinsil Choi and Kyung Hye Kim


This essay explores how Islamic knowledge is negotiated, recontextualised, and produced for the receiving culture, as produced in the two extant, full Korean translations of the Qur’an – Kim Yong-sun’s first translation (1970) and Choi Young-gil’s retranslation (1997). Previous studies of Korean translations of the Qur’an have mainly concentrated on linguistic aspects based on comparative analyses of an Arabic source text and Korean translations. However, the way Islamic knowledge is mediated and recontextualised for the receiving culture, and the extent to which different agents in different sociocultural contexts intervene in the production of knowledge have largely been ignored. Through the systematic comparative analysis of both paratexts and translations, this essay argues the key Islamic concepts and doctrines were drastically changed in Choi’s retranslation in a way to reflect different social and cultural norms and to adapt to readers in the 1990s in Korea. This suggests core concepts and terms in sacred texts can be changed in retranslations, depending on the different translational purposes, social and political contexts, translators’ ideological views, and different agential networks of translation.