Letter from Korea, April 2011


Suwon, South Korea
April 30, 2011

Dear Ireland,

Apologies for my lack of correspondence, I’ve been busy believe it or not. I won’t bore you with the details but I would in fact prefer to inform you of one of the reasons that I haven’t had as much time as usual to sit down and write you a lovely letter, as has been my wont for almost a year.

Recently, myself and Herself have become business people. We are proprietors. Not in the traditional sense, more in a temporary and experimental sense.

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Letter from Korea, March 2011


Suwon, South Korea
27/3/2011

 

Dear Ireland

 

Saint Patrick’s Day came and went. In Seoul there was probably one of the biggest and best Saint Patrick’s festivals in the Irish Association of Korea’s history, or so I was told. Thanks to these efforts there is a chance more people know more about Ireland here in Korea.

For me, Saint Patrick’s Day has always been symbolic. When I first arrived in Korea in 2005 it was the day before Paddy’s Day. I was so happy to be out of Ireland. The day itself had always been a wonderful day to reinforce any stereotypes which might exist about the Irish. Of course outside Ireland most of the people who celebrate the day aren’t Irish so you can expect stereotypes to abound, but in Ireland I was always disappointed by Ireland’s national day. I’m not the only one who could do without the majority of the population reinforcing the global stereotype, but you can’t have everything your way.

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Letter from Korea, February 2011


Suwon, South Korea
20/2/2011

 

Dear Ireland

Recently I’ve been in touch with the Irish Ambassador to Korea, Dr. Eamonn McKee. There is a feeling among some of the Irish people I know here that he is keen to promote Ireland’s brand image in an effort to attract attention to Ireland. Despite Ireland’s fame around the world, and especially in English-speaking countries, Ireland is practically unheard of in Korea. If you mention Ireland to your average Korean in the street there is a chance that they will either confuse it with Iceland or smile and nod, the international gesture of change the question before you embarrass me more.

 

Dr. McKee’s efforts are necessary. Bad news travels fast and with the recent IMF and ECB involvement in Ireland’s economy impressions of Ireland can’t be good. While many in Ireland may say that this is rightly so, there can be few who disagree that a good public image is needed if Ireland is to attract investment – which leads to jobs – from abroad.

 

It’s reassuring from a personal perspective to have someone who I can approach who doesn’t shy from interacting with the minions like myself. He even bought me dinner and listened to my opinion – this doesn’t happen to often in Korea.

 

The lack of public knowledge about Ireland doesn’t help, especially if people are thinking of a country to visit so they can study English. It also doesn’t help stigmas against Irish people, one of which is Ireland’s connection with terrorism, a story that my few words of Korean do a poor job of telling. The long and complicated history doesn’t help matters either even if I’m lucky enough to be asked to explain it in English. If I wanted to explain the difficulty to a Korean person I could ask them to give me a history of North and South Korean relations in 150 words or less – a cruel but effective method which I have yet to try.

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Letter from Korea, January 2011


Jumunjin, South Korea

31/1/2011

Dear Ireland

It is the Monday before Korean New Year, and a month after normal New Year. It’s time for a new year’s resolution. I thought about and talked to some people about New Year’s resolutions, and I came to the consensus that there’s not much point in making it public and committing to a promise that you will probably break – Brian Cowen is a perfect example of this.

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