Publication details [#59521]

Lee, Sang-Bin. 2015. Medical interpreting for business purposes and language access in ordinary hospitals in Korea. Babel 61 (4) : 443–463.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


In Korea, a first-of-its-kind national medical interpreter training program was launched in July 2009. This program was designed to assist with communication between Korean medical professionals and medical tourists who visit Korea for economical and advanced medical services. Medical tourism (MT) is Korea’s strategic industry for economic growth and the government has implemented various policies to support the MT industry, including the medical interpreter training program. Against this backdrop, recent discussion in Korean society about medical interpreting has been framed around non-resident medical tourists and tertiary referral hospitals engaging in MT. Medical interpreting has been generally considered special language services for foreign patients who seek sophisticated medical care in big-name hospitals. The need for better interpreter services has been discussed mainly in the context of MT; however, little attention has been paid to the situation of language access in ‘non-MT’ (i.e., ordinary) hospitals. The purpose of this study is two-fold. First, the study aims to explore unique conditions in Korea under which issues concerning medical interpreting have been addressed. Second, the study diagnoses problems with the medical communication in ordinary hospitals between Korean medical personnel and patients with limited proficiency in Korean.