Since the mid-1990s, over 280,000 women, mostly from Asian countries, have settled in South Korea by marrying Korean men, forming so-called ‘multicultural families’. Government-funded multicultural family support centres (MFSCs) play a central role in the implementation of various support programmes for marriage migrant women and multicultural families. MFSC marriage migrant interpreters, who are also marriage migrant women, deliver language services in a wide range of settings. Apart from interpreting and translation work, they perform multiple roles as helpers and mediators, including responding to inquiries from service users and offering basic informal counselling. Based on interviews with marriage migrant interpreters and counselling staff at MFSCs, this paper examines the conflicting perceptions and expectations of marriage migrant interpreters’ role(s) in MFSC counselling settings. Such role confusion creates tension between the role based on the interpreter ethics and the actual enactment in daily practice, and raises further issues of trust and status. This paper argues that the lack of clarity about the occupational identity of marriage migrant interpreters not only jeopardises the professionalisation of community interpreting, but also undermines the empowerment of migrant women, including marriage migrant interpreters.
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- Multicultural family
- language service
- migrant women