Monday, February 07, 2011

This is an 알림 for overseas foreigner residing in KOREA, Republic of, for chewing of the fat with respect to tepid, turpid and turgid lexical locution

Lately I've begun noticing Korean legalese more and more for its vexing mix of awkward English, high-minded legal terms in a vain grasp for authority, and general sense of being ridiculous bullshit that no one without at least moderate Asperger syndrome could understand, never mind take seriously.

First, let's produce some comical examples of how these things typically read. The absolute classic example, is this piece of satire from a supposed Korean written driving test, quite possibly the funniest thing anyone has ever written about Korea.

3. Which ,if any, or if not any, either none or all of the following vehicles mustn't you not fail to refuse to yield the first right of way to regardless of whether or not the subsequent vehicle previous to the aforementioned vehicle has or has not failed to?

I'm personally a big fan of the phrases "overseas foreigner residing in the Republic of Korea", which I've modified for the still-more-awkward KOREA, Republic of. What's comical is that this mouthful is probably just an awful translation of the far-neater 재한외국인.

Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't a case of simple Engrish. Often the English contains no obvious or significant errors, it's just impenetrably useless. This is one I made up myself

Foreigner residing in the Republic of Korea for more than 91 but less than 366 days shall be required, as required by the relevant officials in the Ministry of Immigration of the Republic of Korea, to present the official identification documents issued by the Republic of Korea to foreigner residing in the Republic of Korea in accordance with visa and immigration regulations pertinent to the situation with respect to which this sentence has been constructed.

Note: official identification of the Republic of Korea to signify and indicate acknowledgement of foreigner registration of foreign national sojourn within the Republic of Korea will only be issued after a successful completion of a health check at a hospital accredited, approved and designated by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Korea.

Naturally, when someone reads that, their eyes gloss over and they have to find someone with a more resilient brain to read through this. Upon reading this, you would find that the government wants you to present ID when asked and that the ID will be issued after a health check.

I received a letter today from the ministry of immigration, which prompted this entry. In the normal world, a letter can be addressed to someone by name, but the ministry took the liberty to affix my ID number as well as a picture of myself, presumably in case I've forgotten what I look like.

The letter begins:

"This notice is issued to the report subject who is allowed to change or add an employer without current advance permission but with report. It provides general information on the procedure to change or add an employer for the person mentioned above. Therefore this notice is not legally binding."

Thousands of people received this letter, all addressed to "the report subject". Was a more obtuse term not available to the meathead pouring through the thickest thesaurus at hand? The letter is heavy on technical terms, or terms relating authority, such as 'notice', 'report subject', 'current advance permission' and 'legally binding'.

It goes on to state:

1. The aforesaid must report to jurisdictional immigration office concerning change or addition of employer within 15 days from the effective date of the new work condition. (Report may be done by proxy. There could be penalty for violation)

I'm not sure, but I was addressed as both "report subject" and "the aforesaid" in one letter, a peculiar breach of manners and grammar at the same time.

This style of writing always has an amateurish quality to them that makes it hard to take it seriously. It's not as though they're written by someone with an elementary grasp of English, which would result in a comical but cheery letter. Rather, it clearly shows evidence of someone who sat down and tried to sound as serious as possible, but came out sounding slightly unhinged instead.

The tone of authority first establishes that someone's in charge, namely the state. That's why the letter comes with your ID number and photo. Then, apparently to go toe-to-toe with the legalese of other countries, there's an attempt to sound weighy and serious. However, if you look at the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, you'll see that it can be confusing and vague, but tries to sound polite and friendly through it all.

Skilled workers are people who are selected as permanent residents based on their ability to become economically established in Canada.

Federal skilled worker applications are assessed for eligibility according to the criteria set out below.

To render this into Korean legalese, look no further than the Korean equivalent, the website that seriously bills itself as "e-Government for foreigner". I'm not sure what this means, but this is apparently part of the process by which I got my visa here in Korea:

The process to apply for a certificate of recognition of visa issuance

  • The Applicant: the person himself/herself or the inviting party
    - When a faculty staff is applying as a representative, a letter of attorney, a working certificate and a copy of ID are submitted.
  • Where to apply: local immigration office or branch office
  • Required Documents: refer to the required documents listed below
  • Application for the visa can be made at the embassy or the consulate of the Republic of Korea after the applicants get a certificate of recognition of visa issuance or certification No. of visa issuance
  • The process to apply for a certificate of visa issuance → Click Here

    Anonymous said...

    I just got the same thing in the mail and after looking at it for a second, I folded it up and stored it away with my other visa documents just in case it proves useful in the future. I considered taking it to my Korean co-workers for some sort of translation, but felt too foolish, since it was technically in English.

    Tuttle said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Tuttle said...

    Hey Adeel,
    Yeah, I got this same form letter. It's nice when they try to clarify things for us, though sadly it usually ends up being more confusing.

    However, I can't resist a little devilry of my own. In a post in which you are making fun of ungrammatical, prose, you provide the following: "This style of writing always has an amateurish quality to them that makes it hard to take it seriously."

    Of course, we all make grammatical errors in our writing (blogs, being essentially first drafts, especially) but perhaps we should be extra careful in this circumstance. Right?

    Adeel said...

    Absolutely. You got me there. I've been making more mistakes in my writing this year. I should probably start to read what I write.