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Taru Salminen

Taru Ulla-Riikka Salminen
Born October 29, 1977, Elimäki.

Bachelor of Arts (East Asian Studies), University of Helsinki, 2006
Bachelor of Business Administration, Helia University of Applied Sciences, 2006

Translator and restaurateur
Assistant, Finnish Embassy of Finland, Republic of Korea, Seoul, 2007-
Intern, Finnish Embassy of Finland, Republic of Korea, Seoul, 2005–2006

Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by John Calton

Somehow ending up in Korea

Taru Salminen did her school final examinations in spring 1996. The following autumn she began studying in the Asian Studies Department of the University of Helsinki. The range of courses on offer rather took her by surprise.

“I got to know subjects that I didn’t even know existed in the University’s study offering.”

As she set about her academic career, neither the language nor the culture of Korea formed any part of her main programme of studies. But in choosing the country for an exchange destination at the turn of the millennium, the situation changed. Salminen was particularly taken with Korean food culture. After a few years as a student in south Korea, Salminen found herself working as an intern in the Embassy of Finland in Seoul. And she is still employed there, only nowadays as a permanent employee.

Salminen concedes that in the final stages of her studies she did wonder what she might do for a living.

“I decided to use the last few months in which I would enjoy a student grant to get qualified with a business administration degree, although I was terrified of numbers and business world at first. And it gave me a bit more time to study Korean.”

Salminen has never really thought in terms of a tailor-made career trajectory; she wound up an expert on Korean largely by chance, and everything that has happened has been down to her own enthusiasm.

“The most important thing from an employment point of view has been to develop the kind of skill set that others don’t have,” she says, adding: “in fact in my case it came about by accident. I never thought “now if were to study this I’d land a job there” sort of thing. But when I reached a certain threshold of competence, then certain options presented themselves, and building on that expertise I found my niche.”

Salminen’s job description in the embassy has included a bit of everything. At present she is working on cultural matters and assisting in certain cultural projects. She is also looking after the embassy’s housekeeping: Salminen admits to being rather new to looking after the accounts, invoicing and budgetary matters, but has learned on the job and through in-service training.

Salminen is currently on leave of absence from the embassy, but she hasn’t been resting on her laurels. There are several projects on the go:

“I’ve been involved in a start-up company to get established in Korea. And I just got the go-ahead to start translating a Korean bestseller.”

The Finnish translation of Kyung-Sook Shin’s엄마를 부탁해 ( Engl. Look after your Mom) was published in April 2015, and Salminen is currently touring the capital area with the author. Salmine has worked on translation before, actually from Finnish into Korean, and slightly smaller-scale projects such as children’s books and textbooks. These commissions have been at the initiative of the publisher, since Finnish relative success in PISA tests have given the children’s parents an interest in Finnish schoolbooks. Salminen doesn’t consider herself a professional translator, but welcomes the change.

“Besides, there aren’t a whole lot of translations directly from Finnish into Korean, so there have been enough enquiries.”

Taru Salminen is currently on leave from the Finnish embassy in Seoul. She is fully engaged with her studies, catching up with family and promoting her book.​
Taru Salminen is currently on leave from the Finnish embassy in Seoul. She is fully engaged with her studies, catching up with family and promoting her book.​

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