Baha'i holy writings made widely available to Korean public for first time

February 1, 2012

SEOUL, South Korea — An ambitious project to translate a collection of Baha'u'llah's writings into Korean reaches fruition this month with the book's publication.

The volume, known in English as Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, will be the first Baha'i book in Korean to be widely available from bookshops and online retailers.

"The main reason for publishing Baha'i literature in our language is to reach out to the whole of society with this new message for humanity," said Hee Jin Koo, a member of the task force overseeing the publication.

First published in English in 1935, Gleanings is a well-loved anthology of some of the writings of Baha'u'llah, which were originally penned in Persian and Arabic. The selection includes extracts on such themes as the purpose of life, the unity of religion, and the spiritual requisites of peace and civilization.

Work began on the new translation in 2003 when a small group began meeting to discuss a few paragraphs or pages each week.

2 images
Among the Baha'is overseeing the publication of "Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah" in Korean are, pictured from left to right, Won Pill Jung, So Jeong Park, Young Kyung Kim and Hee Jin Koo.

"A particular challenge was the translation of certain religious terms," said So Jeong Park, who worked on the book. To find a standardized vocabulary, the task force drew on words commonly used in Korea's various religious traditions – including Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. For other terms, an original translation had to be devised.

The first draft was completed in late 2010, followed by a full year of rewriting and revisions.

In addition to the 410 pages of Baha'u'llah's text, the new edition includes a preface that introduces the history and teachings of the Baha'i Faith to a general audience. A lengthy glossary also explains terms found in its sacred writings.

"We hope these features will greatly increase the accessibility of the book," said Dr. Park.

The decision to make Gleanings available in major bookstores, through libraries and universities, and via online retailers, came late last year after the manuscript was finalized. Earlier translations of extracts from Gleanings were previously widely used by individuals and at Baha'i meetings but, until now, no Baha'i literature has been so accessible to the Korean public.

In particular, it is believed that publishing an electronic edition will have a great impact.

"It means everybody can download it onto their own gadget," said Hee Jin Koo, "and they are the ones who will participate in distributing and disseminating it far and wide."