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.

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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!)

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Hope to see you all there!

About K-Pop in Europe (an interpretation)


As it may not be common knowledge yet, I was teaching Italian secondary school students in Ireland for a month for pocket money while spending the summer here with Herself and +1. It has been fun.

Of course I explained to them that I did not actually live in Ireland, and that I was a resident of Korea (no not North, South). This got a reaction sometimes, and other times it didn’t. The students I was teaching were nice, with a decent standard of English, but I was lucky to have the higher levels, as there were other teachers who were considerably less fortunate. But anyway.

With one class the students were mostly around 17, they liked music, boys/girls, fashion, and having a good time, like most people their age. They were, for want of a better word, normal. At the end of an early class, some students came to me and asked me if I listened to K-Pop (note: they didn’t ask if I knew it), but they gave me an appropriately skeptical look as they asked me. In their defence I think they were looking for a way to start a conversation.

Well, anyway, it turns out they were familiar with all the hit makers, and they were particularly fond of Shinee (or however the fuck you spell it). I wretched, naturally. “No, you don’t like it?” they asked. I shook my head with pursed lips and explained about the noise pollution and saturation in Korea. They looked like they understood.

“Well”, said one, “I like it. It’s fun. I mean I don’t love it. It’s fun. It’s something to listen to. But, like my favourite band is Muse, so… “. I think she was hoping I wouldn’t judge her too harshly. And we left it at that.

I suppose because I am not left with K-Pop burnt ears that I can approach this subject with a mature outlook. What I got from this exchange was that, yeah we know it’s poppy manufactured crap but it’s got a certain amount of quirkiness to it that makes it different from the usual manufactured pop crap. Which I can recognise from a musical perspective.

What’s also emerged from this thought process was that, you know the way you see those programmes in Korea showing millions and millions of European kids going to a K-Pop showcase in Paris or wherever, the reason why people are excited is because they’re at a concert and concerts are exciting, and people will say anything when a camera is put in their face when they’re excited.

Anyway, maybe I’ll look a little more favourably on the K-Pop in Europe thing as something musically different, and that’s why people listen to it, for a change, and because it’s fun. Which I suppose it is when you aren’t subjected to listening to it all the fucking time.

From this lesson maybe I’ll try to be less of a cynic. Actually that won’t happen. Maybe I’ll be more mature in my cynicism. Perhaps.

St Patrick’s Day in Seoul, 2013


If you haven’t heard already, I’m chairman of the Irish Association of Korea, and every year around this time we organise a small get together. You might have heard of it, we call it Saint Patrick’s Day.

I won’t blether on too much about it as my brain is exhausted at the simplest mention of the event, however give this link a click and you’ll find all the info you need about the event.

St Patricks Day, Seoul 2013

For some photos from last year’s event, please take a look at my good friend Tom Coyner’s shots from the festival. Tom is also knee deep in this wee event that is taking place in Seoul and is celebrating Irish and Korean links.

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Go on, you know you want to!

This Saturday…


If you’re not doing anything this weekend, allow me to suggest this event I covered which is featured in this month’s Groove Magazine:

HBC Fest Just Wants To Rock!

The HBC Fest has seen it all: rock, punk, hip-hop, folk music, poetry, Shakespearean drama, comedy, even a large balding man painted head to toe in green and smashing watermelons over his head.

The festival now regularly attracts musical acts from cities all over Korea. More and more local businesses are vying to join as venues, and organizer Lance Reegan-Diehl has had to turn musical acts away, as he can’t accommodate the large number of willing participants.

Never before has the festival received this much publicity. Not only did this magazine give it a three-page feature last October, but all the other major monthly expat magazines, newspapers and websites also featured the festival. On top of this, the festival’s reputation grew as a place for people to get together and listen to good music, all under the banner of a music festival designed with expats in mind.

Continue reading on Groove Korea’s website »−›