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Korean Interpreter for US Football Team Truly Enjoys His Job - 2002-06-09

While English is the official language at the World Cup football finals in South Korea and Japan, each team has interpreters to help them get around and conduct their daily business at practice, games, their hotels and other functions.

Interpreter Paul Hahn, 25, is from Seoul and is a senior at a local university. He has been doing interpreting and translating English part-time for income.

From age seven to age 11, Mr. Hahn lived and went to school in the U.S. state of New Jersey, where his father worked for the Korean company Samsung, before returning to Seoul.

Once back in South Korea, Paul Hahn said his English got rusty over the next several years because he did not practice speaking it. So when he got to college he decided to join a student group called University Student Interpreters Association. "It is a student body that consisted of students from all around the world, having living experiences abroad," he said. "So with interaction between friends there and we do some English studies, but mostly hanging out with people trying to get a hang, a feel for English again, and just talking in English again certainly helped a lot."

Paul Hahn got a job working for the Australian team at the Confederations Cup football tournament and was encouraged to apply for a job with the World Cup. He submitted his resume near the end of last year, and after some interviews he got the job.

The Korean World Cup organizing committee hired interpreters for the all the teams playing in this country. Three are assigned to each team, with one of them designated at the Media Liaison Officer. That is the job Mr. Hahn got with the U.S. Soccer team.

Hahn stays at the same hotel as the U.S. team and helps the team's media staff with whatever it needs. He also has to prepare notes and information about the U.S. squad. He passes that on to the organizers who run the computer information system that is accessible by journalists and officials at the International Media Centers and at the sub-media centers at the stadiums in South Korea and Japan.

As for his duties at the almost daily U.S. team news conferences, Mr. Hahn told VOA Sports he has had to make adjustments to meet demands. "On the first day I actually did not translate everything," he said. "I just tried to focus on the Korean questions, and just let the [reporters'] English questions go by [without translating them]. But the team media people thought it would be better to facilitate for the Korean local reporters, so I just started interpreting everything in Korean."

Paul Hahn says he gets a lot of questions from the Korean media about the U.S. Soccer team. And since he is Korean, some think that perhaps they can get some inside scoop from him, especially since the Korean team will be playing the U.S. team.

We have our own media policy, and so things that are confidential have to be kept confidential. And some even come up and say, "Hey you know, Team USA is playing the Koreans so you should give up some [inside information]." But it does not work that way," he said. "As anywhere, some are nice and some are not so polite, but you know it is part of the job."

U.S. Soccer team Communications Director Jim Moorhouse says the American delegation has been very pleased with interpreter Paul Hahn. "It is very helpful to have someone who knows the area, and knows the media, and speaks the language to do translations and kind of weed through that," he said. "And we knew that was going to be very necessary when we were drawn into a group with Korea. Whenever you are in the host group, the media attention is going to be that much more extensive, and that is the way it has been. And we have really been gearing up for the USA-Korea game, knowing that the four days prior to that was going to be an A plus in terms of media attention."

And how has Paul Hahn enjoyed being the Media Liaison Officer and interpreter for the U.S. Soccer team? "Oh, fantastic," said Mr. Hahn. "It is amazing. Just participating, getting into the corps. Being with the team and experiencing all this is certainly fantastic. There is no other word for it." And of course, the added benefit is that he gets to see a number of World Cup games up close and in person.