Daily NK relies on bilingual volunteers located throughout the globe to bring its news into the English language. Some of our volunteers have agreed to share their thoughts about volunteering with the organization and how they became interested in North Korean affairs.
Interested in volunteering at Daily NK? We are currently seeking proficient Korean to English translators. Check out our Idealist page here.
Gabriela Bernal volunteers to help translate Daily NK articles from Korean to English and also contributes to the organization’s weekly newsletter, Daily NK Weekly Briefing. She tells Daily NK she first got interested in North Korea after visiting Cambodia:
“[I got interested in North Korea after visiting a] North Korean restaurant in Cambodia and having some conversations with North Korean girls who worked there. That experience introduced me to a different side of North Korea I had never seen before; the side involving real people. The tragedy of the separation of Korea really made an impact on me that day, and I’ve been studying the country ever since.”
Later, she found out about Daily NK and she recalls she thought volunteering for the organization would be an “opportunity to be able to learn more about day-to-day happenings in North Korea, other than the usual limited news we get. I wanted to learn more about the more local issues going on in the country and how ordinary North Koreans live, which very, very few other news outlets cover.”
Although Gabriela finds the translation work at Daily NK “sometimes challenging” she enjoys the opportunity to “constantly expand my Korean language knowledge as well as learning more about developments in North Korean society. She also knows that, over time, this knowledge will help her gain a very competitive level of expertise among Korea scholars. She told Daily NK that “I have learned more about North Korea in the past six months through translating for Daily NK than I had in the previous two years. The knowledge you can gain through translation work is truly astounding.”
She told Daily NK that one the most rewarding things she has gotten from translating Daily NK articles is learning about “real life in North Korea through real, ordinary North Korean citizens.” Gabriela pointed out that most of the news reported about North Korea is usually about the country’s leader, the nuclear weapons program, and other political subjects. “This is how Daily NK is different,” she said. “Sure, Daily NK also reports on these important issues but they go much deeper than that and try and give readers a much broader picture of what life inside the country is actually like. From topics like what is being sold at markets, what North Koreans think about the latest South Korean drama, the latest domestically-made electronic products, and more, Daily NK covers North Korea in the broadest sense and better than any other news outlet out there.”
Gabriela tells Daily NK she thinks that it’s important to “keep an open mind and remember that North Korea is much more than just nukes or Kim Jong Un. There are real people living there, with real stories, just like you and me.” She suggests that readers of Daily NK should “really reflect on every story you read, since the North Korean citizen who gave us that information is risking a lot just to get this news to you.”
Jason Bartlett contributes his time and energy to help translate Daily NK’s Korean language content into English for a wider audience. He was first exposed to North Korea during a semester abroad in Seoul when he was grouped together with a North Korean defector student for a team project. In his telling: “I entered South Korea with an academic background in international relations and returned to the United States with a dedication to contribute to the field of North Korean studies.”
After returning to the United States, Jason made the decision to pursue a career in North Korean human rights advocacy and policy analysis through a five-year plan including several internships, Korean language immersion programs, and a master’s degree in Asian Studies from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
After graduating from the Korean Language Institute (KLI) at Yonsei University and receiving his master’s degree, he came across Daily NK’s volunteer translator opportunity and decided to volunteer. “As the majority of North Korean analysts abroad do not speak or read Korean fluently, I feel it is essential to address the dearth of relevant and current North Korean-related information in English,” Jason told Daily NK.
Jason believes that Daily NK offers unique insight into North Korea by obtaining information from sources inside the country and that these pieces of information make for interesting and exciting translation assignments. “I highly recommend volunteering at Daily NK for those who wish to contribute to the international narrative on North Korea. This volunteer position allows you to challenge your translation skills and raises your understanding of North Korean politics, society, culture, and even language because the North Korean dialect varies from the South,” he said.
Jason said that he would have trouble finding another Seoul-based online newspaper focusing on North Korea that offers the same kind of information in both Korean and English. “Since Daily NK reports on a wide variety of North Korean issues ranging from institutionalized human rights violations and COVID-19 containment policies to cyber and ballistic warfare development efforts, I hope that readers will take advantage of this unique access to the world inside North Korea,” he said.
Seongjin Park, a 2022 Candidate at Choong Ang University’s Advanced Interpretation Programme, got interested in North Korea when he worked for the South Korean air force several years ago. During his service, he worked with an intelligence team from the US Air Force and attended daily briefings about what was happening in North Korea. He was intrigued by what he learned during the briefings:
“Some of the open-source intel came from Daily NK as it provided accurate, unique stories about what North Korean people were doing and going through. These narratives were interesting to me because information from military sources tended to be focused on the political, or military sides of the country whereas Daily NK stories were more about the ‘real people’ living in the country, told by people living there.”
Seongjin now helps Daily NK translate its articles into English for an international audience. He said that his involvement in North Korean affairs as a translator for Daily NK is buoyed by the feeling he is making a difference “however small that might be.” He notes that “Military aircraft or satellites may take pictures of the country, but they don’t tell you how the people live there. I think that is what Daily NK excels at and that is what makes it unique.”
Seongjin suggests that others who are thinking about volunteering for Daily NK should keep in mind that “volunteering works both ways: it not only helps others but also yourselves, too. Particularly when your job as a volunteer is related to your career. And you may find volunteering rewarding. If you are interested in volunteering, don’t hesitate and just do it.”
Interested in becoming a volunteer translator for Daily NK? Please visit our Idealist page here for more details.