Erica Chung wins Harvill Secker Young Translator’s Prize

Erica Chung wins Harvill Secker Young Translator’s Prize

Harvill Secker has named Erica Chung the winner of its eighth £1,000 Annual Harvill Secker Young Translator’s Prize, recognising the achievements of translators aged 18-34 at the start of their careers.

Chung, 33, from Brooklyn, NY, was announced the winner on Monday evening, International Translation Day (2nd October), at the British Library.

Her winning translation of a short story by acclaimed author Han Yujoo from Korean "stood out for its fluency and assuredness in treating the story as a work of literature", according to judges, comprising Deborah Smith, translator of Han Kang’s International Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Vegetarian, Jonathan Morley, coordinator of the Emerging Translator Mentorships programme at Writers’ Centre Norwich, and Harvill Secker editor Ellie Steel.

"It’s exciting to see such strength in a language that’s still relatively untranslated, and there was a real variety of approaches to translating Han Yujoo’s richly detailed story," a statement from the judges read. "Erica’s translation stood out for its fluency and assuredness in treating the story as a work of literature."

Chung's winning translation will be published online by Granta, and she will receive £1,000 and a selection of Harvill Secker books, as well as a six-month long Writers’ Centre Norwich Emerging Translator Mentorship, presented in association with the Literary Translation Institute of Korea, with translator Smith.

Chung emphasised on accepting the prize the importance of literary translation as "a critical bridge for the cultivation of empathy". She first became interested in the translation of Korean literature while studying English Literature at Cornell University, working under the guidance of Michael Shin to translate parts of Yi Chong-jun’s Seopyonje. Since then, she has worked as a public health professional, educator, and freelance editor in a variety of contexts and countries, including South Korea, the US, and India. 

"I am honoured and grateful to be awarded the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize," said Chung. "In an era when difference seems to catalyse more division than understanding, literary translation remains a critical bridge for the cultivation of empathy, as well as a bulwark of the rich cultural diversity that is our global inheritance. In light of this, I feel incredibly privileged to be able to contribute, in my own small way, to the growing repository of translated literature in the world, especially through the year-long mentorship with Deborah Smith made possible by the prize. I’d like to reiterate my sincere thanks to Harvill Secker, to Deborah Smith, and to all of this year’s judges once more for this wonderful opportunity."

The runner-up was a co-translation by Narei Choi and Sunhee Jeong.