All posts by Conor

Sound as a pound that you found on the ground.

Columban Order Celebrates 80 Years

The Columban Missionary Society will be celebrating 80 years of involvement in Korea with a mass in Myeong-dong Cathedral this Tuesday, October 29, at 2pm. All our welcome to attend.

The service will be followed by a photo exhibit of some of their work in Korea in Saint Mary’s Cafe across from the Cathedral, and will be on display until the Thursday after.

The Columbans have had an impressive impact on Korea, and many today still work long hours as part of various charities around the country, and not without their own sacrifices. During the Korean War seven Irish Columban priests were killed when they refused to leave the people and parishes which they had made their homes. There is a small memorial in the Columban house in Seongbuk-dong, as well as the Memorial to the Irish who Fell in the Korean War, erected in the Korean War Memorial, Seoul.

For more information about the Columban Missionary Society please

Information on Myeong-dong Cathedral available here

*Our apologies that his information is reaching you so late, we only got notice the other day

News from the IAK Committee

Over the weekend the IAK held its annual assessment meeting. At this meeting we talked about the past year, which we believe was very successful, and of course the association’s outlook for the next twelve months.

While there was much discussed at this meeting and many formative decisions made, what is of most significance is an update on the make-up of the committee. We don’t usually hold formal elections unless they are entirely necessary or called for. However, as of Saturday the IAK is proud to announce that we have a new Chairperson, Shauna Browne.

Shauna has been tirelessly promoting our cause since she joined up in 2011 and has been a revelation in terms of getting events running. She started off working as our PRO, and made great strides promoting and building a strong Facebook and Meetup following. It didn’t take her long to start getting involved in all other kinds of activities, none more so than dancing and music,

Last year, she accepted the role as vice-chair of the association, a position opened up by the necessity to allow for more flexibility and to create a more streamlined decision making process. It also allowed for Shauna to concentrate on more activities than just promoting our events, and she grew to the task admirably. She was instrumental in our 2013 St Patrick’s Day Festival, and the recent Ceili, where she is always a familiar site leading and encouraging dancers, not to mention playing music on stage. To be honest, if there has been an Irish event run in the past twelve months it is sure to have had Shauna’s stamp on it somewhere.

Former IAK Chairman Conor O’Reilly and newly elected Chairwoman Shauna Browne at the 2013 Saint Patrick’s Day festival in Seoul.

As Chairman over the past year it has been a welcome reassurance to have Shauna with me. As I have a young family, I couldn’t guarantee my attendance at many evening and Seoul events. It was at this time that I started working closest with Shauna (probably mostly through kakao talk!) and I began to understand that here was a person who I could recognise my own can-do attitude.

For myself, I am both happy and sad to be stepping down as Chairman. It was a very productive two years for me in the IAK, where I realised many different goals and was granted some unforgettable experiences.

When I set out in 2011 I aimed to make the community more close, and to make the IAK more visible in the Irish community. While I now realise that because of the nature of the Irish community I can never really achieve that, I can at least start to set the train in the right direction. With small numbers and restricted commitment, it will always be an uphill battle but it is an area I hope to continue working on with the IAK.

Another project I am particularly proud of is the Irish Korean Essay Competition. As a lecturer in a university here I realised the importance of attracting the many enthusiastic learners of English to Ireland. While our competition is young, our prize is still significant. This November will see the third essay competition taking place.

Finally, it was this April where I was really humbled and honoured by my position, as I laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial for the Irish who fell during the Korean war. While so much went on behind the scenes for the establishment of this small monument, it was this simple ceremony on a damp morning at the Yongsan Korean War Memorial that made the long hours of preparation worthwhile for all concerned. The IAK is by no means an official representative of the Irish community here, but I think that I was honoured for being the representative of all the Irish in Korea, from the past, the present, and the future.

That’s enough about me though, as it is time to welcome Shauna into the hot-seat. I am sure that she has her own goals and aspirations as chair of the IAK. I think we shall see renewed energy in our activities and I hope that everyone will continue to support Shauna as much as they have supported me over the past two years.

Thank you again to everyone who has been my friend and offered support to our organisation, and I look forward to a bright and vibrant future for the Irish Association of Korea.

Kindest regards

Conor O’Reilly
ex-Chairman of the IAK

Committee Officer Update

Shauna Browne has been elected as Chairwoman of the IAK for the first time. Shauna comes from Tipperary and lives in Paju. She has been living in Korea for four years and has been with the IAK since 2011. She is active on the Irish music circuit in Korea, as well as maintaining a healthy blog of her adventures here.

Follow Shauna on twitter: @iamshaunabrowne

The IAK would like to congratulate Janet Newenham on her new position of Public Relations Officer with the IAK. Janet, a native of Cork and a resident of Paju in Gyeonggi-do, will be busy working on our publicity here in Korea.


Follow Janet on twitter: @janennewenham

We would like to wish Eamonn Maher, our secretary, all the best in the future as he returns to Ireland in January. Eamonn has been working hard as our secretary and as a enthusiastic committee member, getting his hands dirty on all occasions. Of course, his toughest job was undoubtedly making sure Conor followed up on most of his responsibililites…but that’s another story!

With that in mind, the IAK currently have an opening for a secretary in our committee. The main job of the secretary is to communicate about meetings, and to keep minutes.

The IAK is also keen to encourage new committee members to assist in our many activities throughout the year. If you have any experience working promoting events or managing a small non-profit, or if you absoluntely no recognisable skills but bags of enthusiasm and energy, we’d love to hear from you. The IAK works year round promoting Irish culture in Korea and the more hands we have the better job we can do. For details of how you can get involved please email us:

Korean Society of Ireland Family Day

by Conor O’Reilly, Chairman of Irish Association of Korea

During the summer while home visiting Ireland myself, my wife, and daughter were fortunate enough to attend the Korean Society of Ireland’s summer picnic. The event took place on a Sunday afternoon in Lucan in west Dublin. It was a great family day out, and fun way to get to know the Korean community in Ireland.

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If you are familiar with Korean style picnics you’ll know that they involve plenty of food and of course games. There were some Korean staples on offer, such as samgyubsal (삼겹살), bulgogi (불고기), and of course kimchi (김치) and kimbap (김밮), and plenty of Korean style snacks. What really makes the picnic (소풍) is all the good natured competition.

Popular activities included a tug-of-war, skipping rope, and a massive kids relay which made the London Olympics look like a picnic in Lucan…

In the tug-of-war, there were three battles. The first one was made up of all Korean women. The second saw the Korean men shape up against Irish men. In a best of three the Korean men won the first by a landslide, and I think it was here that the Irish team realised that the Korean team were taking it kind of seriously. With this in mind, the Irish team turned around and won the next to battles. The final competition saw a whole cluster of kids step up to battle it out. There was some serious tenacity on show, but fortunately no tears, as the team standing to my left at the time won their two battles easily.

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In the skipping rope, there was a long piece of rope where two people held either end and swung it around in wide arching loops. People would then join in hoping as the rope passed under them, with more people attempting to join as time went by. There seemed to be a lack of experts on hand this Sunday, but most people gave it a shot in the name of good fun

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To finish off there was a mass relay of all the kids. Two teams were chosen and track made up of adults was made. The race was a epic encounter with one team streaming ahead in the early stages, but as time passed by they began to slip back further and further only to be caught by the opposition. After a few laps of back and forth it was a neck and neck finish for the team who originally let from the start. I think they had orange bibs…

This is just and exmaple of some of the activities on show. There was a bouncy castle, music, and even a raffle (I won two bottles of wine!) All in all, it was a great day and especially to get out and to meet some of those busy promoting Korean culture in Ireland.

Unfortunately no links were available online for the Korean Society of Ireland

Korean War Veterans’ Continued Activities in Ireland.

I received a recent email from Ms Carol Walker, Director of the Somme Association and Somme Heritage Centre, with a full update of the recent activities of the Korean War Veterans who visited Korea in last April. The 60 year anniversary for the signing of the Armistice allowed for the special celebration and get together in Dublin, where veterans from near and far converged.

I’ve copied in Carol’s email here for those interested in keeping up to date with the veteran’s activities:

Dear Conor
I would like you to pass on my thanks to all the members of the Irish Association of Korea for their kind donation to the Irish Veterans.  We had an event on Saturday to mark the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice and we got all those who travelled to Korea in April together in Dublin at the Museum in Colin’s Barracks. All the Veterans were in attendance.  The day started in Belfast at 0930hrs when a wreath was laid at the original Memorial from Korea. We then travelled down to Dublin and met with the other Veterans who had travelled from Dublin, Galway, Wicklow and even Mr Gorman from Kent.  We had lunch at the Museum and then watched all the photos from the trip on a large screen, much to the delight of the Veterans and it all brought back lots of fond memories of our trip to Korea. It was here that I was able to present all the Veterans with a cheque for £200 each thanks to the IAK and pay for the gathering. They asked me on their behalf to pass on their thanks.
As you can imagine there was lots of happy exchanging of memories.  We then went on a tour of the Museum and met up again for a much needed cup of tea at 1700hrs. The group then moved to the Ashling Hotel, were those who had travelled were staying and where we were all meeting again in the evening for dinner.  I had expected the Veterans to take a rest but no we ended up in the pub next door were some Guinness and whiskey was consumed. Dinner in the evening was a success and again lots of great memories were exchanged. This finished about 2200hrs when those sensible among us went home or too bed (this wasn’t actually too many).  I bet you have guest it but in good old fashioned Irish tradition we ended up in the pub next door again, were the crack was great and again the whiskey and Guinness flowed.  This ended at 2am with Aubrey Bunyan, Spencer McWhirter and Mr Michael Kelly being the last men standing.  Mr Kelly who didn’t partake in the drinking made sure everyone got home to bed.  We all met up for breakfast in the morning at 0930hrs and laughed about events.  We sadly said our goodbyes but promised to all meet up again soon.  I drove some of the Veterans home and they never stopped talking for the two and half hours it took.  I thought they would sleep for the journey but I was wrong.  I was exhausted but again the Veterans showed the stamina they had shown us all while on their revisit to Korea.
Many thanks for everything and I hope we may all meet again in the future.
Best regards

We will endeavour to keep you updated on their continued efforts both at home and on any trips they take to Korea.

Memorial for the Irish who Died in the Korean War

Over the past couple of years the IAK have been working on building a memorial for Irish people who died in the Korean War. Together with the support of the Embassy of Ireland in Seoul, The Somme Association, and  The Royal Ulster Rifles Association we have gradually seen this project come to a reality, especially over the past few months.

Overall, 159 people of Irish origin are known to have died during the Korean War, the majority of which fought with the British forces. Not all who perished were soldiers, as seven members of the Columban order and Anglican nun, Sister Mary Clare Witty, also died during the conflict. It’s worth noting the Columban order’s commitment to Korea as they are in disadvantaged communities around the country.

The IAK is very happy to announce that following many long hours and much commitment, the laying of this monument will finally become a reality. On Thursday, April 25 at the Korean War Memorial in Yongsan, a small ceremony will take place.

The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs (MPVA) have invited a dozen Irish veterans as part of their April Revisit Korea programme, during which the memorial will be unveiled. These veterans are mainly from the Royal Ulster Rifles and other British regiments. There is also a veteran from the US 8th Cavalry attending as well. About half of the veterans will be accompanied by family members and there will also be family representatives from 2 soldiers who were killed in action.

This memorial has been generously supported by the Emigrant Support Programme, part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland.

The IAK would also like to give special thanks to all members of the public who generously supported this programme through our own individual fundraising campaign. All in all, the IAK has committed a donation of close to 7.5 million Korean won. Without your support and interest in our activities we could not be able to make this memorial as successful a venture as it is. 

Organise and Host your Own Irish Cultural Event in Seoul!

Do you have any hankering to promote a particular aspect of Irish culture that you believe has been neglected? Now’s your chance to change that! The IAK is in the fortunate position to be able to invite you to organise or host your own small Irish cultural events. 

While we would leave much of the details up to yourself, we would be able to assist by helping with promotion, providing some resources (depending on the event of course), and providing a suitable venue, depending on the time and date of course. 

These events could include:

- An Irish language meeting
- An Irish film night/afternoon
- An Irish literature book club
- An Irish muisc themed open-mic
… or anything really. 

For an idea of the space available, please visit (note this is not a bar, but a cultural space with a variety of facilities which may be suitable)

If you think you have it in you to roll up your sleaves with an IAK event, please email us with your idea, and we’ll see what we can do.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Advice to Irish Citizens in Korea

While there is no cause for immediate concern with regards to ongoing events between South Korea and North Korea, the Embassy of Ireland suggests that all Irish citizens should register their contact details with the embassy.

Details can be found here:

At present the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are advising against all non-essential travel to North Korea:*

Specific contact details for the Irish Embassy in Seoul can be found here:

It would also be an idea to keep your eye on the newspapers, and to be sure the folks at home know where to contact you.

Please be aware that this is advice that we would share regardless of the current situation both countries.

*Note: an earlier draft of this post stated that the DFAT were advising against all essential travel to North Korea. This is not the case, and we apologise for the mistake and any concern caused due to this error.