When I lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I came across opportunities to help Koreans who couldn’t get the medical services they needed due to the language barrier. The experience resonated with me deeply for a long time, which led me to pursue formal training in healthcare interpreting. To expand my expertise, I also pursued the Court Interpreter Program at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and became accredited by Nova Scotia Department of Justice (DOJ).
In 2012, I decided to relocate to a new city, Toronto. I started all over again in an unfamiliar city where I didn’t know a single person. I still remember those cold winter days when I literally walked door to door to drop off my resume in order to find work. Luckily, I ended up teaching Korean college students and provided bilingual training, while interpreting part-time in the community.
During the high influx of North Korean refugees in 2013, I was offered to work as an in-house interpreter at the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre. Looking back now, that was the best interpreting practice ever. I interpreted all day for hours without stopping that I often felt like throwing up and my head was splitting. My involvement with North Koreans continued from the shelter to a hearing room all the way to international news. (North Koreans were at risk of deportation by the Canadian government and they pleaded for a chance to stay in Canada on Al Jazeera News in 2018.)
In my teaching job, I was required to take my students on a field trip to a criminal courthouse at the end of each semester, and that was where my destiny of court interpreting journey coincidentally began. I happened to learn that there wasn’t a single Korean interpreter who passed the bilingual court interpreting exams (comprised of sight translation and consecutive & simultaneous interpreting) in Ontario at that time. So I submitted my application but waited for over a year since it was an invitation-only exam; unless you are specifically chosen and invited, you don’t even get a shot at it. The journey wasn’t smooth-sailing, but I landed at a great destination where I achieved a full accreditation status with the Ministry of the Attorney General in 2013. I never looked back ever since.
Since then I’ve been providing interpreting and translation services to hundreds of Korean immigrants, lawyers, doctors, courthouses, corporations, language agencies, and media companies for nearly a decade. Here are just a handful of them from 2019: United Way Worldwide (Conference), TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), MuchMusic (K-Pop stars: NCT & Sunmi, a former member of South Korean girl group Wonder Girls), CBC Kim’s Convenience (Language Coach), OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions), Government of British Columbia Office of the Premier, and Shinhan Bank of Canada. If you are curious, you can check out a list of my recent clients.
In 2018, I was given a coveted spot in South Korea’s top interpreting school, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), known for its toughest program and challenging entrance exams. I further honed my language skills, learning from the best the country has to offer. Not only that, I had the privilege of serving as a class rep in the English-Korean department for a year where I cultivated much-lacking leadership skills.
I truly believe that my work is my calling. Sometimes I think to myself that I can’t think of anyone who is more suited for this job than I am, haha. But the work itself is certainly not a happy line of work, as I mostly witness human suffering. The book ‘Koreans in American Courts’ by Junhui Joo starts with the following sentence: ‘A courtroom, it is where you see the lowest point of someone’s life, those in the depths of despair and failure.’ It is true, but the more pain I witness, the deeper my gratitude toward my life gets. I have come to love my work. I love to become the mouthpiece of those who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice due to the language barrier. Every single day, I encounter people in all sorts of life circumstances and see and hear their stories, perhaps things one may not get to experience in their lifetime. I feel privileged to be able to walk into people’s lives in the most intimate ways.
I am a student of life. I feel most rewarded when I evolve through learning, growing, and helping others. In my free time, I enjoy listening to audiobooks, writing, working out, yoga, and cooking with unfamiliar ingredients. My job brings me new experiences, but I want to experience them all—learn everything there is to learn and meet all the interesting people. I want to collect experiences and memories rather than things in my life.
This business I have built over the years is not just about making money; it has pushed me to become a better, more resilient version of myself through overcoming never-ending hardships and challenges. I fail every day and learn from my failures, just as I had to fail numerous times before I learned to build my website on my own. Through a vigorous cycle of trial and failure, I have come this far. I can’t begin to express how happy I am to have an online presence, a place for people to come and visit.
As long as I live and as long as I am capable, I want to continue to add value to the world. I want to become a useful person to others. It would be my honour to serve you.
Thank you for reading my story.