Army wants translators replaced in South Korean court cases
September 1, 2006
UIJEONGBU, South Korea — Second Infantry Division legal officials want new Korean-language translators for two U.S. soldiers on trial in the Uijeongbu District Court.
The soldiers expressed frustration with their court-appointed translators following unrelated trials Wednesday.
While Pfc. Taylan Laurence Bohman and Pfc. Nicholas Acosta, both of the 2nd Infantry Division, appeared in court separately early Wednesday morning, they were represented by the same defense attorney and were provided the same team of two translators.
The soldiers repeatedly asked the translators to clarify questions, and defense attorney Jin Hyo-keun had to translate some of the proceedings for his clients. Also, Judge Jung Jin-ho ordered the junior of the two translators to take over the duties over the senior translator’s objections.
When the soldiers left the courtroom before noon, both complained to their attorney, saying they didn’t understand what was happening in court.
Bohman asked Jin if he could appeal because of the inadequate translation if he were found guilty. He later told Stars and Stripes there are “many things I’d like to say” about the case but declined to elaborate. Acosta refused to comment.
A 2nd ID spokeswoman replied to a Stars and Stripes query by e-mail early Wednesday afternoon.
“The 2ID international law representative has asked the Korean defense attorney in these cases to request a new translator for the next hearings,” the e-mail stated. “If the Korean defense attorney, who is fluent in English, feels the soldiers’ rights have been violated, he can reopen the case at the next scheduled hearings.”
Jin did not return repeated calls to his office Wednesday afternoon.
During Wednesday’s testimony, a Stars and Stripes translator heard the judge ask both soldiers, separately, whether they “admitted” to various aspects of their cases. The court translators, however, asked the soldiers only whether they were “aware” of those aspects. The soldiers answered “yes” to nearly every question.
U.S. Forces Korea personnel did not answer queries on what legal assistance the military provides its troops when they end up in the Korean legal system, whether the military can take any action if legal services are inadequate, and whether USFK has had translator problems in the past.