A Street Named Freedom

my daneo jjang


I’m working my way through the bestselling book, 언어의 온도, aka The Temperature of Language, and not everything is as it first seems. Take this excerpt:

“몇 해 전, 봄을 알리는 비가 지나간 스산한 저녁이었다. 출판도시에서 일을 보고 차를 몰아 자유로에 진입했다.”

자유. Ja-yu. It means freedom, it means liberty; it’s a word with a relaxed approach to things. In translating this line, I calmly attributed this word to the author’s description of her driving style, but I was still confused by the usage of ~로 and ~에 at the end of 자유.

When my S.O. checked my work and left a corrective comment, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Apparently 자유로 (自由路) is a famous road in Korea, one that runs from Seoul to Paju, which is a city ripe with publishing companies and considered the publishing capital of Korea, just south of the demilitarized zone. It’s known for being a place where ghosts are spotted, and it’s quite literally called Freedom Road. It never occurred to me that it was the name of a street, even though I’m familiar with 로 denoting a road rather than being used as a grammatical marker.

“A few years ago, the passing rains spoke of spring, and it was a bleak evening. I had work at the Publishing City, and I entered through Freedom Road, driving my car.”

There’s even a Liberty Street near where I live, and it’s a common enough name for a road; isn’t it interesting that my mind couldn’t make that seemingly obvious conclusion? This is why I love translation; this is why I’ve served as a translator for Humans of Seoul for two years now. There is always some new nuance to be uncovered, like buried treasure hidden in the silt of everyday conversation.


지금 재생 중


4 thoughts on “A Street Named Freedom

  1. I just discovered your blog. It’s interesting! and I really find the little pieces of your story that you allow to come through to be fascinating!

    At first reading, I could understand 로=路, but didn’t know about the famous road in 파주. So the trick for me in cases like this is whether the author is just talking about a road called freedom, or if s/he is trying to make a metaphor (and in this case, whether the metaphor is common or something new and unique).

    I would have done the same sentence a little differently, though you are clearly free to do things how you would like. Especially on your own blog! I just thought some of the inter-relations between the parts of the sentences got a little lost (probably was intentional on your part, though. I just wanted to trry as an exercise for myself ^^)

    “It was a few years ago, on one dreary evening when the rains that signal [the arrival] of spring had passed. I had some things to take care of in the Publishing City, so I turned my car onto Freedom Road.”

    Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the comment! I like your tip for thinking metaphorically to help decode a more difficult phrase. I’ll definitely try that in my future translation endeavors. And what a great translation — it flows much more smoothly and beautifully than mine. Have you ever considered becoming/are you a professional translator? Thank you for sharing ^^


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