The awarding of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize to Deborah Smith’s English translation of The Vegetarian brought global recognition to emergent Korean literature, but domestically it has sparked outrage among numerous Korean scholars who believe the literal inaccuracies in Smith’s translation have brought about a “national disgrace.” Situating this overheated reaction in the larger context of the colonial history of Korean nationalism, this article points out the irony that the “noble cause” of anti-imperialist resistance has historically led to the silencing of women’s voices in the context of preserving and transmitting an idea of quintessential Korean culture to an international audience. Such nationalist tendencies demand the “feminization” of the translator—requesting her to be barely visible while performing a self-effacing humility in deference to the putatively “original” culture. In contrast to this tendency, reading Han’s original and Smith’s translation together makes visible the damages that both colonization and nationalism have inflicted on the representation of female experiences. In the end, what truly scandalizes nationalist critics is not the failure of the translator to accurately convey Korean experiences, but the success of the translation in conveying an area of Korean experience they tend to neglect: that of female subjectivity.

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