Serving for the betterment of the North Korean people’s lives, Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is an international NGO that has not only helped over 800 North Korean refugees and their children to date. LiNK helps North Korean refugees reach safety and freedom through a 3,000 mile rescue route through China and Southeast Asia in order to avoid forced repatriation and eventually resettle in South Korea and the United States. The organization also works tirelessly to change the narrative about North Korea to focus on people rather than politics surrounding the regime. By bringing more attention to the human and social dimensions of North Korea and by promoting new ways of understanding and approaching the issue, LiNK has over 300 student and community chapters around the world, mobilizing a global grassroots movement of support for the North Korean people for over a decade.
One of the means LiNK executed to direct the international community’s attention towards the North Korean people was their 2017 documentary film, The Jangmadang Generation, which follows the true stories of North Korean millennials who have been leaders of positive social and economic changes within North Korea.
North Korean society has undergone a quiet transformation since the 1990s famine that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and irrevocably changed the relationship between ordinary North Koreans and their government. North Korea’s urban youth in particular are at the forefront of these economic and information trends, and The Jangmadang Generation is the first documentary to share their perspectives, experiences, and hopes with an international audience. Through interviews with eight young North Koreans who have escaped to South Korea we hear untold stories of resilience, creativity and quiet rebellion in the most difficult of circumstances, including tales of teenage smuggling, covert entrepreneurialism and guerrilla marketing, and the ways by which illegal foreign media have opened the eyes of a new generation of North Koreans to alternative realities and the outside world.
Having been a former summer intern at LiNK HQ myself, I have a very special spot in my heart for Liberty in North Korea. It was the first environment to give me an affirmation about the positive workplace atmosphere I aspired: to discover that a group of people can come together for a common goal larger than life was incredibly empowering and encouraging in the best sense. After my internship, I went back to grad school at MIIS and began our own chapter of LiNK, hosting various events and fundraisers to raise awareness of the issue.
Now enter Globe. Our Translation and Localization Management Practicum began at the start of first semester of my graduating year, and the premise of it all was to establish our group as a formal language service provider that works with real clients, non-profit and for-profit. Globe — our official title of the company — has become the product of our year-long effort with all of our colleagues and networks and clients, and will continue as an ongoing practicum project for future generations of the TLM program. Searching for a client during our initial setup, my eyes were directed towards collaborating with LiNK, as suggested by one of my colleagues and co-founder of the LiNK chapter at MIIS, to translate The Jangmadang Generation into the languages offered at our school.
Initially, however, I was unable to generate a strong interest from my supervisor at Globe, as the following conditions presented supposedly less of a challenge from the localization perspective:
- The documentary contains both English and Korean, but quite frankly, majority of the storytelling was in Korean. Because LiNK had already produced English subtitles for the film, which at the time was set to be released through The Washington Post (now published), the organization already had their own localization process somewhat set in stone (leaves an impression that there is little room to offer our own localization consultation).
- For that matter, transcription of the 50-minute film had already been completed, dismissing our engineering service that we could provide.
- The only step remaining was translation, essentially making this project more of a translation management project rather than a localization project.
The same colleague whom I bounced project ideas with made the framework for a formal proposal and guideline to the client (LiNK), as she herself was a long-time acquaintance with the client as well. I added further specifics to the style guide, glossary, and others as we discussed details with the client. Following the initial contact with the client, my colleague exited the project, and I took on the major role of Project Manager as my Globe team members, against all odds, were thoroughly engaged in the project mission and purpose to spread the North Korean people’s story to a wider audience. Thankfully, our supervisor came around to the project as well and provided support for our initiative. Thus began my personal journey as the Project Manager for this gigantic project that resulted in reaching audiences worldwide, including France, Germany, and Spain.
Final Statistics and Profile
- Project Title: The Jangmadang Generation
- Type: Documentary film / Subtitling
- Running time: Feature length / 51 minutes
- Word count: 6232 words
- 8 Languages for translation: de-DE (German), es-ES (Peninsular Spanish), fr-FR (French), ja-JP (Japanese), pt-BR (Brazilian Portuguese), ru-RU (Russian), zh-CN (Simplified Chinese), zh-TW (Traditional Chinese)
- 2 Languages for consultation: cs-CS (Czech), uk-UK (Ukrainian)
- Number of people involved, including client, manager, translators, and reviewers: 54 stakeholders
- Number of emails sent: 544 emails
- Total word count translated by Globe: 49,856 words
- Time spent on translation & review: ~225 hours
- Time spent on engineering & management: ~430 hours
I will say first and foremost that my management throughout this project was not perfect. I made many mistakes and experienced countless regretful moments, but I can say with enough confidence that it was the mistakes that ultimately taught me some of the most valuable lessons in the run.
For starters, I received immense assistance from the Globe’s Partner Management team, which recruited as many as 27 translators and reviewers to participate in the project. Because we were working with a non-profit client, we did not have a monetary budget, but that did not necessarily mean that we did not have any budget. We were essentially given the budget of time and word count, as illustrated in the screenshot below. Some of these translators took on the role of a QA lead for at least one of more languages throughout the project, acting as some of my closest confidantes with the exception of our client representatives, whom I definitely collaborated with more so than merely provided services for.
Prior to kick-off, I created a Google Drive folder on which our client and I could continue handing off important files. Although I initially intended for all translators to deliver their translation work to this particular folder, that defeated the entire purpose of not only this project but also everything I had learned in translation and localization management courses.
So I used Memsource, Globe’s official Translation Management System of use, to hand off translation and review tasks to partners, whereas the Google Drive folder was still intact as a delivery platform for the client. Each language folder in the Google Drive contained four folders: A-Source, B-Working, C-Deliveries, and D-Client Review. The screenshot below delineates the types of files that were delivered to the client during the final delivery stage; and later, I will explain the details of each individual deliverables.
Above is a screenshot from Memsource (there are nine languages instead of eight because I accidentally added Korean to the group). As you can imagine, the scale of this project was so massive that I feel as though I should have created a separate email account solely for this purpose. Below, you can get a glimpse of the communication I had respectively with the clients and linguists. Albeit they are quite the daunting snapshots, without such thorough communication that entailed clarifications, suggestions, revisions, and updates, this project would not have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I phrase it in such a manner as there were a number of challenges that we faced and needed to resolve along the way.
Let’s take a breather here. Up next, Part 2 will discuss the challenges and pitfalls that occurred during the project, as well as solutions and final results.