In Recognition for Contributions to Irish Culture in Korea…


On Thursday night I was invited over to the Embassy of Ireland in Seoul for a special event. It had been a while since I’d been there, having been in on occasion helping promote Irish Association of Korea events, and for other reasons. I brought the family with me this time, and remembered to take a shave and a shower beforehand. The visit was worth the effort.

Myself and five other individuals were to be awarded for our contributions to the promotion of Irish culture in Korea. While I was undoubtedly the shortest tenured recipient of the award, the company I kept held no qualms about my presence at the ceremony.

With ambassador O’Donoghue and IAK chair, Shauna Browne

Among those were Tom Coyner, who chaired the organisation for seven years and has his share of stories from over the years, Byung Guen Chun, a Korean gentleman who was encouraged into participating over ten years ago and is still an enthusiastic member, Sean Conneely, a Irish Columban missionary who has made Korea his home for over forty if not fifty years, and the daughter of Mr Lee (that’s what we’ve always called him, and I can’t find his business card to use his proper name, so sorry…) who is the owner of the Dublin bars in Gangnam and was unable to attend. Bernard Hughes, another long term Irish expat and contributor to the IAK, was unable to attend also.

It was a very simple ceremony. The Irish ambassador to Korea Aingeal O’Donoghue and IAK Chair Shauna Browne handed out the awards, after each of which a few words of praise were lauded and then the obligatory photographs, all washed down with a bottle or two of champagne. It was a nice but short opportunity to catch up with some old friends, some of whom I am likely not to see again for some time.

Award recipients and ambassador O’Donoghue and IAK chair Shauna Browne

I can’t really emphasise how much this award means to me. While there’s the obvious recognition that is attached to the commendation, that it comes from my peers in both the IAK and the embassy is an indication that the work individual contributions we, and by we I mean all those who have gone before me, have done over the year building up the Irish Association of Korea to the organisation it is today has not gone ignored.

The past year has seen a few notable departures in the committee but I think that this change allows for new faces to step up and embrace the challenges I feel are worth the effort. I couldn’t have imagined myself organising as many St. Patrick’s Day festivals as I did when I first came to Korea, and in the end look where I ended up just before I leave the country over nine years later.

My new paperweight 😉

This is a perfect indicator of how important it is to take every opportunity that you stumble upon, embellish it, nurture it if it’s worth it, and then let it grow with you. And while I know I travelled half way around the world to do this, it’s not necessary for everyone. You just need to be able to make the opportunity yourself, but I’m not going to tell you what those opportunities are. That’s the part that’s up to you.

Now I just need to find something to fill my time over the next five years. Maybe they could use me in Dublin…

 

For more information on the Irish Association of Korea and how you can get involved (I recommend it!) visit www.iak.co.kr

You can see more photographs from this small event here 🙂

Saint Patrick’s Day in Seoul, 2014


When you live in Korea long enough expecting public holidays from home to fall on their usual day or date becomes a waste of time. Really. Anyone American will be familiar with Thanksgiving falling on a Saturday, and even the Superbowl the night after. Irish, like myself, are now most familiar with a Saturday Saint Patrick’s Day, and yesterday was no different from other years (except for last year and the year before when Paddy’s Day actually fell on the weekend…which kind of ruins my point), the day of Ireland and it’s ‘ness was transformed from its early weekday schedule to a much more alcoholic friendly Saturday.

And with that Seoul, and by Seoul I mean Guro-gu, and by Guro-gu I really just mean Sindorim, but it’s probably best to be accurate as well as honest and admit that it was a small park at Sindorim Station.

But I digress.

This years festival was as big as any before, and it may have been bigger. The open stage which was brought in last year has allowed for a wider festival space, allowing for crowds to fill the entire squre or plaza and swallow up and who naively attempted to pass through on their way too or from the subway. The removal of the big purple C4U beer tent was a welcome sight personally, although it was still lurking in the background cleaning up from the thirsty festivalers. I’d like to add that for all their generosity providing drinks to the thirsty, none of of this is reciprocated to the organisers who provide such a lively crowd. Sour grapes? Yes, but for a festival which always struggles for a source of finance you’d think a donation would be nice. Perhaps if the festival moved away then maybe they’d appreciate us more.

What about the rest of the festival though? There was a busy information area just above the escalators which seems to grow each year. The Seoul Gaels were en masse providing info, as were face painters, balloons, and new to the scene story tellers. It’s a good setup, as anyone who comes within view can’t miss the fact that something is happening, encouraging leisurely Saturday curiousity as well as providing a beacon those lost at sea in search of the infamous festivities.

 

And what of the festivities? Plenty of Seoulites indeed attened, and plenty of nationalities in the mix too. There has not been an overall majority of westerners at this festival for some years now, and while it’s a relatively even balance it’s always good to see a large number of Koreans of all ages in the crowd. Granted many are probably staring in wonder at the madness, but that’s not really what is important.

This year saw the return of many tried and tasted favourites such as Dara Sheahan, the dancers Tap Pung, Bard (the Korean Irish trad group), and another American military band, although those who I spoke to couldn’t be sure which one they actually were. There was also a band flown over from Shanghai called Boxty Rebellion, which was a big deal, I suppose. They played early though and the crowd really could have been drunker to enjoy them. From the pictures I saw after four o’clock things livened up to a more than typical level of manic.

With Herself and +1 in tow however, I decided that a calm and responsible exit was required. We bowed out not long after half past four, and from there we seemed to be banished to traffic as the rest of Seoul was, as usual, trying to go in the same direction.

Well done to all the organisers and the team of volunteers who worked hard to pull this one off. It was definitely a very professionaly run event that was suitable to everyone, from raving lunatics infested with beer, and young families (yes, I know, it was that good!). A fine feather in the cap of new IAK Chairma…woman Shauna Browne, and long may her good work continue.

For more on the Saint Patrick’s Day festival in Seoul for 2014 visit iak.co.kr or check the facebook page, or on twitter (@irishinkorea or #paddysgotseoul).

 

Note: Author (me!) was chairman of the Irish Association of Korea from 2011-2013 in case you’re wondering why I may be biased.

Top Five 2013


Top Five Things I Did in 2013 

  1. Survived a year of +1 and gloriously celebrated her first birthday in November.
  2. Visited Ireland for two months during the summer, and laid the ground for a future there.
  3. Family (finally) visting us in Korea to celebrate Claire’s 100 Days.
  4. Representing the Irish Community in Korea and laying a wreath at the newly laid Memorial for the Irish Who Fell During the Korean War.

    Taking a moment after laying the wreath for the Irish who fell during the Korean War.

    At the Korean War Memorial in Suwon (image via flickr)

  5. Getting a new camera (a bit commercial and consumerist, but I am so happy to have it)
Top Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2014
  1. More family fun!
  2. Moving back to Ireland
  3. Starting my doctorate (fingers crossed)
  4. The next two months in Thailand

    Those next two months don't look to shabby from this perspective!

    Those next two months don’t look to shabby from this perspective!

  5. More rejection letters… 😉
Top Five Things I Should Seek to Do More in 2014
  1. Get paid to write
  2. Find the right family-work-writing time balance
  3. Get more writing published
  4. Learn to appreciate moments without a camera or story as a goal of the experience.
  5. Be more physically active and socially engaged, and less staring at the internet.

People I’ll miss in 2014

  • T.P., my grandfather, a scurulous rouge but as generous and warm hearted as they come. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today.
  • 할머니, or I should say Herself’s 할머니, who passed away a few weeks ago. Another person who had a big say in my and Herself’s future together.

    With Herself's 할머니 around 2007.

    With Herself’s 할머니 around 2007.

  • More and more friends who move around the world, always looking for work, homes, or just some new challenge (myself and included)

Top Five Tips For Living in 2014

  1. Drink, of course, but don’t drink so much you can’t remember. Life is actually alright when you’re not locked, but do remember to get locked, that is important. Oh, and if you are drinking, drink nice beer/wine/whiskey, the price is worth the difference.

    Worth it.

    Worth it.

  2. Turn off the internet.
  3. Read those books you said you would last year.
  4. Give it up.
  5. Start a hobby, and if you have one already, improve your ability at it.

 

What’s your Top Five from 2013, or for 2014?

Knees Up in Sindorim! Seoul Céilí, August 8


You’ll have to excuse this break from regular broadcasting as I’d like to plug an event I’m involved in organising.

For any of you in Seoul, or indeed South Korea over the next few weeks and you’re in need of a good knees up, the Irish Association of Korea will be having their annual Céilí on Sunday, September 8 in Sindorim.

Seoul Céilí: Irish Music and Dance Festival September 8, 2013.

The location is the same as is used for previous events, including the 2011 and 2012 Céilí, and of course the two previous St Patrick’s Day festivals. The event is free to enter, and everyone is invited to get up and try some of the dances out, which are very easy going with not so difficult steps. If you’re thinking Riverdance, think again. While there will be some displays of the high kicking and fast tempo dancing which the Broadway best-seller have popularised, céilí dancing is a much more laid back and social occasion.

As well as dancing there’ll be live Irish music, and some face painting and balloons. While it has been a very hot and humid summer, the temperature will have drop to a more reasonable heat in September, and we may even been lucky enough to have a light breeze (but no promises).

The Céilí will take place in the D-Cube Plaza, which is at Sindorim Station on the blue (line 1) and green (line 2) subway lines. Just come out exit 1 and you won’t miss us!

Here are few of my own photos from last years event in the same spot (although for some reason none of the actual dancing!)

DSC07073 - Copy DSC07075 - Copy DSC07076 - Copy DSC07077 - Copy DSC07078 - Copy DSC07079 DSC07080 DSC07082

Hope to see you all there!

Saint Patrick’s Day Festival in Seoul, 2012.


I thought I’d share some pictures with you from the festival which took place last Saturday. This was the 12th year Saint Patrick’s Day has been celebrated by the Irish Association of Korea, and the second year in a row that we didn’t have a parade. This didn’t detract from the festivities, and our venue, the D Cube Center in Sindorim, was perfect as the auditorium like design kept everyone tightly packed in together and allowed for a wonderful festive atmosphere that people could sit back and enjoy.

I’m going to throw up a few photos for you here and I hope you can enjoy them. For more photos and details about the Irish Association of Korea, visit our website.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.