A need for building an ethical and trusting partnership between police officers and interpreters: Findings from South Korea


  • Jieun Lee Ewha Womans University
  • Jiun Huh Ewha Womans University


Police interpreting, police officers, interpreters, ethics, role, training


Interpreting services are essential in policing in a multicultural society. The Korean National Police Agency employs over 3000 interpreters. However, there is no system for quality assurance in police interpreting, and anecdotal evidence indicates problems that may undermine procedural fairness in a globalized society. With the aim of understanding the current practice of police interpreting and ways to improve it for better partnership between police officers and police interpreters, this article examines the perspectives of experienced police officers and interpreters on the issues of professional ethics of interpreters and the challenges they face working with each other, and on the prospects for professional training and certification of police interpreters. A study based on semi-structured interviews with 21 police officers and 19 interpreters reveals ample room for improvement in engaging interpreters in police interviews and calls for enhanced understanding of professional norms and interpreter roles, as well as the complexities involved in conducting interpreter-mediated police interviews. Strong support for certification and professional training of police interpreters indicates that these are considered a pathway toward improvement of service quality.