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 🙂

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Hopeful Wishing


I work four hours a day in Korea. It’s great. In the States I’d be working more than twice that to maintain the same income. Even more hours would be needed to realize the same lifestyle I enjoy here (nothing outlandish, I assure you). The Koreans with whom I work are not paid as much as I am for the same work. They work more hours than I do as well. They face similar problems to those of the US middle class, [i] especially with regards to competition for a good job, as exemplified by the fierce academic environment. 

High levels of unemployment are staggering all across the globe. At home in Minnesota, most friends of mine are able to maintain jobs, though some can’t find enough hours to make ends meet. Just a few have incomes that keep up with inflation. With regards to the nation, only the top 5% of Americans have earned enough money to keep up with the rising housing costs since 1975. The income gap widens each year[ii], as ultimately, the government serves those who keep them in office. If this were a fairy tale we would desperately need Robin Hood right about now.

Cary Elwes, won’t you save the day?
Cary Elwes, won’t you save the day?

The only things that are trickling down are diminished benefits and lack of upward mobility. Indeed, “degree inflation” encroaches the college-educated job seeker and effects future prospects for all workers.

That old interview question “where do you see yourself in five years?” is irrelevant. Nobody knows the answer to that except those who had retirement plans that they are now putting on hold, or banking executives who seem to be laughing at us, even at congressional hearings.

Crony capitalism has severe side effects. Jobs are being lost at exponential rates due to increased red tape for employers and a  slew of regulatory measures which are put into place by unelected bureaucrats.[iii] How is this our reality? What are our ever-so-vigilant media conglomerates missing?

ben2Contrary to nearly every statistic offered up by the news, here are some more facts. As of 2007, the bottom 80% of American households held only 7% of liquid financial assets.[iv] It’s a difficult number to surmise, but if unemployment rates are anywhere close to the 7.2% reported by the Bureau of Labor than 1 out of every 5 of Americans wouldn’t be relying on food stamps.

It is numbingly enraging to know we have to watch Wall Street bonuses increase year after year. This is something the media reminds us pretty constantly, so it loses its effect. There is no more shock when we hear about it night after night, for five straight years. After the “wolfs” tore apart the market in which all of us were forced to place our money,[v] they got to pay themselves off with government money- taxes we’re forced to pay but have no say in how its spent. Has anyone paid for their crimes with any time? That’s a dangerous idea according to Eric Holder. He maintains that “if you do bring a criminal charge—it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” [vi]

Well it already has, and the fact that nobody has brought forth criminal charges shows us that the US Department of Justice has no plans to prevent it from happening all over again.

It now takes a staggering 35 weeks, on average, to find a job in America. This does not leave for much room when it comes to bargaining for salary. As well, 40% of those who are employed are through low paying jobs. This is the reality of the new “lost generation.” It’s no wonder that we are having a difficult time. There’s no way to develop or grow (as human beings must do to thrive) when living paycheck to paycheck, and 61% of employed Americans are doing just that.

C’mon Holder. Do your job. Or is this the best you've got?
C’mon Holder. Do your job. Or is this the best you’ve got?

We must help ourselves, since nobody on top is going to look out for us. I maintain that it has always been our responsibility to make decisions and learn from our own mistakes. By raising our children in loving and caring environments and allowing them to grow we can foster a better environment for morally fit leaders in the future.

We’re being held up by the banks, and the getaway car is being driven by our own government. To begin, we require a state and laws that aren’t bought and paid for.  A plutocracy will never allow for fair competition. Considering now, for the first time in history, the banks own more of US residential housing net worth than the rest of Americans combined, it may be a good time to look at alternatives.[vii]

Hopefully, we can lower our material desires as consumers instead of increasing our debt. Eventually a tide will turn, when corporations become victim to their own assaults of government collusion.  At some point company executives will be the only ones who can afford their own products. Only when it comes full circle, will this vicious cycle come to a halt.

We need a new paradigm. Working 40+ hours a week is no longer something we need to do. We must instead focus on helping each other become healthier and happier people. We’ve got the technology to allow us to live more fruitful lives. We just haven’t been utilizing it correctly (see NSA). We may find a balance if we have time to devote to creative and spiritual endeavors. There’s a huge mess to clean up here. A few jobs will be opening up along the way. Where do you see us in five years?

 

This post is guest post. For more on guest posts and how to submit pleasefollow this link

BenHaynes

Ben Haynes has resided in Seoul with his wife, Ren, since 2011, where he is regarded as a local hero. He has the foresight of a community channel televangelist. He leads with the fortitude of Aurelius. His sweat is sweet as freshly squeezed juice. Villagers whisper giddily when he walks by. He enjoys a good book and cold glass of beer.

 


[i] *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_time While Koreans are now being forced to work less by law,  many have, in recent years, worked up to and beyond 60 hours a week.

[ii] 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1%

[iii]The 2013 Federal Register. It contains over 80,000 pages of new rules, regulations, and notices all written and passed by unelected bureaucrats https://www.federalregister.gov/index/2013

[iv] BusinessInsider fdrurl.com/un2

[v] New laws are being passed to force employees to participate in company 401k plans. http://www.moneycrashers.com/new-401k-law-helps-companies-force-employees-into-saving/

[vi] New evidence sheds light. As was earlier suspected, Eric Holder is indeed, a dick http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jan/09/financial-crisis-why-no-executive-prosecutions/?pagination=false

[vii] BusinessInsider http://fdrurl.com/un2

 

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?