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Ambassador’s Message, 22 May 2012

‘As you might know, we at the Embassy launched a living history of Irish Korean links on our website.  We compiled what we knew into a narrative and invited anyone and everyone to submit additions.  We have so far managed to push back the date of Ireland’s first engagement with Korea: a distant forebear of mine, Col. Hugh McKee, on the USS Colorado, in Korea as part of a raiding party in 1871.   He led a group, which included four Irish born men, the first to reach Korea as far as we know (very regrettably from an Irish diplomatic point of view!)

They attacked a garrison on Gangwha island, near Seoul, and it seems that Pat Dougherty from Ireland killed General Yeo in the process.  Col. McKee died from wounds sustained in the raid and the Irish born US Marines won Medals of Honour.

Incidentally, a Korean historian told me that some twenty-five years ago a descendent of Col. McKee visited the monument to General Yeo and met the General’s descendents there, so reconciliation was achieved.  We are needless, to say, hoping to find an Irish person who got to Korea before them with more peaceful intentions!

Another fascinating Irish connection has recently surfaced.  The following is something of a detective story, pursued by Frank O’Donoghue, whom some of you may recall was Deputy Head of Mission here up until last year and the new Deputy Head of Mission, Ruth Parkin.  I want to thank Frank for his continued (and dogged!) research on Irish Korean relations, despite finishing his posting here.

The story has thrown up some extraordinary coincidences.  Frank had thought that Charles Morris, and Irish born missionary active in Korea from 1901 until his death in 1927, may have been born Church of Ireland but could not find a registration of his birth in either the Anglican or Methodist churches of Portlaoise, Ireland. Out of the blue, a granddaughter of Morris, Ms Janet Downing, contacted the Embassy because she saw the reference on the Embassy website.  She provided us with her detailed and fascinating contribution.  When Ruth mentioned the story of a Methodist who died in Korea but was born in Laois to her parents (her father is a Methodist minister), her mother immediately suggested Ballyhupahun as a possible location for Charles Morris’s birth without any knowledge of the context.

Our serendipitous team of detectives have given permission for me to publish their exchanges below, for which thanks.

As you will see, the story is a wonderful series of human and historical connections, linking Huguenot settlement in Ireland in the 18th century; the conversion of an Irish Huguenot to Methodism by the founder of Methodism John Wesley during the latter’s last of many trips to Ireland (some twenty-one between 1747 and 1789);  Irish emigration to American; American missionary work in Korea; and Irish American genealogical research in Ireland which yielded yet another amazing coincidence involving an old post card.

We have put obituaries of Charles Morris on the Embassy website which give an indication of the esteem in which he was held in Korea.  It is also clear that his wife was a heroic missionary too, staying in Korea for another thirteen years after his death in 1927.

I hope you enjoy the story.
Best wishes,
Eamonn
Eamonn McKee
Ambassador

Extract from Frank’s email, December 2011 

“In the spring of 2011, along with a fellow country man and Anglican priest, we stumbled upon the above-mentioned Irish born but US reared and educated Methodist missionary in Korea from 1901 to 18 January 1927.”

“The Reverend Charles David Morris is buried in the Yangwhajin or Foreigners’ Graveyard in Seoul, South Korea (Republic of Korea). On the steel stake beside his gravestone there is biography in which it is stated that Charles David Morris graduated from Drew Theological Seminary in 1900 and ministered as far north as Pyongyang and places between there and Seoul such as Incheon.

It was also stated that he was of French Huguenot origin. My own surmise is that Charles David Morris was Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopal) when in Ireland as a community of Huguenot descendants worshiped in French in Portarlington, County Laois ( then Queens County) until about 1869 but that his family joined the Methodist Church after they settled in the USA.”

Extract from Frances Bristol, General Commission on Archives and History,
The United Methodist Church,
 New Jersey, USA, January 2012

“Dear Mr. O’Donoghue,

Thank you for your request.  There is quite a bit of information available at this location on Rev. Morris, but, unfortunately, no mention of the names of his parents.  Attached to this message please find extracts from the Mission Biographical Reference file on Rev. Morris.  Also included is an extract from the Alumni Record of Drew Theological Seminary related to Rev. Morris.”

Extract from Frank’s email to myself and Ruth, May 2012

“Ambassador, Ruth,

This is some research provided me by the United Methodist Church concerning one Charles David Morris. I have found from the attached that he was born in 1869 in a place called Ballyhupahun, Queen’s County (now County Laois). The current spelling is Ballyhuppahaun, Roseanallis, County Laois close to Portlaoise.  I went to school in Ballyfin nearby (1968-1971) and some of the locals said to me at that time that ‘Roseanallis’ was so called by a local Quaker landowner who had three daughters Rose Ann and Alice!

What is unclear is if Charles David Morris was born into the Church of Ireland given his Huguenot background but most of that community were closer to Portarlington where services were conducted in French within Church of Ireland until, curiously, the year of his birth.

There is (was) a Methodist Church in Portlaoise (then called Maryborough) but in the days of the horse and cart the Morris birthplace would have been quite a distance to travel each Sunday.

It is possible the Morris family worshipped closer to home perhaps in Mountmellick or Mountrath where there would have been long established Anglican/ Church of Ireland and Society of Friends (Quaker) communities/congregations.”

Extract from Janet Downing to Ruth, granddaughter of Charles Morris, 3 May 2012

“I was absolutely thrilled to find my grandfather, Charles David Morris, listed on your Embassy of Ireland website.  One little correction, I would like to make is that his parents did not emigrate to the US.  ‘Since both of his parents were deceased, he emigrated in 1888 at age 19 to the United States…’

He was an amazing man and I wish that I had known him, but it is wonderful to see him remembered on your website.”

Reply from Ruth, 4 May 2012

“We are in the process of developing a project on Irish links with Korea and would be interested in any further information you may be willing to share. Frank was unable to find a record of his birth but thought that perhaps he had been raised Anglican before converting to Methodism on or before travelling to the US. We really have little other than in that short paragraph so anything you know will be extra. Obviously it seems he married and had children – in Korea?”

Email Response from Ms Downing, 4 May 2012

“I am just thrilled to hear from you! I have quite a bit about Charles Morris because my mother and her sister were both born in Yeng Byen.  My mother went back to Ireland with her parents in 1925 and so learned quite a bit and although very young, remembered it because he died in 1927.”

“I will go through my documents, but off the top of my head – the Maurices were Huguenots who built Water Castle near Abbeyleix.   I only have them back to a James Maurice and Muriel Tarlton from the 1700’s, who are buried at the Old Church on the De Vesci Estate.  Their son John Maurice is said to have been converted by John Wesley in the old church at Maryborough in 1789.  His son, John Maurice married Hannah Knight and got a farm at Ballyhupahaun.  His son James stayed on the farm and anglicized the name to Morris and was Charles’ father.  Charles always said that if he had sons, if would have changed the name back to Maurice “to remind us of our noble ancestors who left the land of their birth rather than give up their faith.”  Charles was born in Ballyhupahaun. There is also a small Methodist Church in Ballyhupahaun which was built in 1848, but has an old stone inside which says AD 1795 – it appears that there had been a Methodist Church in that area since very soon after John Wesley was in Ireland.”

“I am very much into genealogy and have been trying to find out as much about my Irish ancestors since I did not know this special man.”

“My grandmother Louise Ogilvy grew up in Topeka, Kansas in the US and when she was 18, missionaries came through looking for a teacher for the school age children of the missionaries in Pyongyang.  Although so young, they could not find anyone and so she went to Korea in 1901 and there met Charles David Morris.  She married him in 1903 in Kobe, Japan.  They were in Yeng Byen 1905 – 1912, then Pyongyang until 1916, when they went to Wonju until he died.  He itinerated all over and started many churches and schools.”

“I went to Ireland with my mother in 1988 – one hundred years after Charles had left.  We found the farm in Ballyhupahaun and met the man who bought it after Charles’ brother, Robert, died in 1950.  I said I was the granddaughter of Charles Morris and he said “Robert had a brother who went across the seas to preach.”  Just amazing after 100 years!  Then I went to a house near to the Methodist Church and met Olive Graham.  When I said I was the granddaughter of Charles Morris, she turned pale and said to a granddaughter, “bring that card we were looking at last night.”  It was a postcard from Charles to her mother in 1900 when he was on his way to Korea.  She knew her mother was a cousin, but I have still not quite made that connection, although Olive did not think it was important.  She had cared for Charles’ brother, Robert, until he died.  She was just so kind to me and had me all over the county and Dublin meeting “cousins.”  What a magical time it was.”

“My grandparents gave their lives to their work in Korea and loved the Korean people, but with so much of their time in “North Korea” one wonders about their contribution.  But it appears that they were truly loved when they were there.  My grandmother stayed on in Seoul until 1940, when she was forced to leave [with all the other missionaries], and she died a year later.  (I knew neither of my grandparents – they were both gone before I was born.)  Actually, my mother went back to Korea in 1934 after she graduated from college, having difficulty finding a job.  The superintendent of the Oriental Consolidated Mining Company had loved her father and offered her a job teaching.

My father had been going to Colorado School of Mines and got pneumonia.  He saw an ad in the papers for supervisors needed in the gold mines of Korea and thought that sounded much more exciting than going back to school.  So both my parents and grandparents fell in love and married in Korea.  So although I have never been there – it is certainly a big part of my heritage!” ‘

Embassy Message, 14 May 2012

“As you may have read in the Irish media the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Mr. Eamon Gilmore, T.D. has announced the Government’s decision to establish the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.  The Award will provide recognition by the Irish State for persons living abroad, primarily Irish citizens, those entitled to Irish citizenship and those of Irish descent, who have made a sustained and distinguished service to Ireland and/or Irish communities abroad.

This is the first year of the award and it is expected that it will be awarded annually to no more than 10 people. We would like to invite members of the Irish Community in Korea to nominate anyone living here who they feel should be put forward for the award. We will then collate the submissions for consideration by a High Level panel in Ireland.

Nominations can be submitted to the Embassy until next Friday 25 May.

Please find the notice about the award on our website at the following link:

http://www.embassyofireland.or.kr/home/index.aspx?id=81828

Inaugural Irish-Korean Essay Competition Winners Announced!

The Irish Association of Korea, and the Embassy of Ireland, South Korea, in association with the Emerald Cultural Institute, Dublin, are very proud to announce the winners of the inaugural Irish-Korean Essay Competition for university students in Korea. The competition raised awareness about connections between both Ireland and Korea. The lucky winner receives a month long opportunity to study at a leading Irish language institute. Second prize will receive a sum of money, while the remaining Runners up will also receive cultural prizes.

Details of the Competition

The competition was administered by the Irish Association of Korea, a non-profit organization which actively seeks to promote Ireland and all that falls under the banner of ‘Irishness’ within Korea, and supported by the Embassy of Ireland in Seoul. The competition was designed to highlight Ireland as a leading location for study abroad, and as a unique and fascinating cultural destination.

Conor O’Reilly, the chairman of The Irish Association of Korea and a lecturer in Kyunghee University, explained that the closest and strongest bonds which exist between Korea and Ireland are between the people and their own personal experiences. “There are stronger connections between Irish and Korean people than you may think” he explained. ” More and more Korean people are connecting with Ireland on a personal level, and it is because of these individual connections that Korean people and Irish people are developing a stronger affinity together”, Mr. O’Reilly explains.

“The topic for the Essay competition was quite vague – deliberately – to allow essayists to show their creativity as well as their language and research ability. “

The first prize winner ‘How Korean Women may learn from Irish Women’ is a thought provoking piece on social change in two very different but traditionally socially conservative societies. I am proud that the competition provided a space for such topics to be discussed” said judges for the competition.

It is through this inaugural Irish-Korean Essay Competition in Korea that the The Irish Association of Korea and the Embassy of Ireland in South Korea sought to strengthen these personal ties by offering Korean university students the special opportunity to experience Ireland first-hand, and to develop their own relationships with Ireland.

Winning Essays

  1. How Korean Women May Learn from Irish Women
    Paek Jung Won
  2. Exclusion and Revival of the Indigenous Language of Ireland and Korea
    Choi Min Jeong
  3. ‘The Wake’: A Window for Viewing Ireland and Korea
    Nam Ji Hyun
  4. Freedom, Creativity and Harmony that Korea Should Learn: Irish Street Arts and Culture
    Yun Chae Young

Ambassador’s Message, February 16, 2012

As spring approaches, Irish thoughts begin to turn to the annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

Many of you have been enthusiastic participants in previous celebrations and we hope that those who have not or have just arrived will come along this year. The events have been organised by the Irish Association of Korea over the past decade and I salute all their tremendous volunteer efforts to bring a flavour of Ireland and our culture to the streets of Seoul.

This year the IAK is hoping to continue the tradition with a city centre event on Saturday 17 March. However, the major challenge remains funding. It needs resources (for the hire of equipment) and staffing necessary for a public event that last year attracted some 10,000 visitors, expats and Koreans alike.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in becoming a sponsor, I would greatly encourage you to contact the IAK. Further information and contact details are available at their website http://www.iak.co.kr and email – irishassociationkorea@gmail.com.

Best wishes,

Eamonn

Ambassador’s Message, 19 January, 2012

Message from the Irish embassy

Ambassador’s Message 19 January 2012
While in contrast to last year, we have not had much snow, I want to draw your attention to two events that cannot do without it.

The first is the International Ski Festival.  It has been one of the highlights of the year for expatriate families living in Korea for thirty years and indeed the Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

It has been my honour to be selected as this year’s Chairman.  Indeed previous Irish Ambassador’s have served in this role, including Ambassador Moran for the five years he was posted to Seoul.

He had the distinct advantage of being able to ski!  That said and even though skiing is not a great tradition in Ireland for obvious reasons, if you have skied or are interested in giving it a go, the International Ski Festival is not a bad place to start.  For more information on the event, please visit http://www.yongpyong.co.kr/eng/index.asp

The second concerns the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games and the need for support and volunteers.

It will be held in Pyeongchang in early February next year.  Some of you may have noticed a recent advertising campaign to raise awareness of it. We have heard from Special Olympics Ireland that they expect there to be 14 Irish athletes attending the games, competing in Alpine Skiing and Floorball (Floor Hockey).

One of the unique elements of the Special Olympics is the Host Town Programme where athletes from the different countries stay in a town before the Games begin to learn something of the culture and environment of the host country. Some of you may remember the great success of this programme in Ireland when as a result nearly every corner of the country felt involved.

The organisers of the games are building up to the hosting of the event and are very aware of the challenges of hosting teams from so many different parts of the world. It is not yet certain where the Irish team will be hosted but it is likely to be in the greater Seoul area.

As the Games approach the organisers are looking for both assistance in holding the Games and volunteers to take part in the Host Town Programme. Support could include providing athletes with services, turning up to cheer them on or volunteering to spend the days before the games with the team (26-29 January) acting as local liaison between the Irish team and Korean hosts. Korean language skills would be an added bonus but not essential.  The organisers want to make sure that there is plenty of support for the teams as they compete.

As more details become available on how to sign up to be a volunteer or to offer assistance we will let you know.

In the meantime you might wish to have a look at the Games’ website: http://www.2013sopoc.org/hb/en/sub06

Best wishes and Happy New (Lunar) Year,
Eamonn

Eamonn McKee
Ambassador”

Ambassador’s Message, December 20, 2011

Message from the Irish embassy

“I am writing to you today following the unexpected news of Kim Jong-il’s death over the weekend. His death raises many questions which only time will answer.  As of now, the general expectation, which we at the Embassy share, is that there will be no immediate change in the policies of the DPRK.  There is no immediate necessity to take any further precautions.  We continue to recommend that all Irish people living here should register with the Embassy and strongly recommend that anyone planning to travel to North Korea register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy.

That said, I would draw your attention to the information on responding to emergencies issued by the Embassy last year and which are copied below and suggest that you might refresh your knowledge of the information posted on the Embassy’s website – www.embassyofireland.or.kr.

I wish you a very pleasant and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

Best wishes,

Eamonn McKee / Ambassador

Responding to Emergencies

  • The first step for Irish citizens is to ensure that your passport is up-to-date.  The second step is register with the Embassy.  Registration is simple. Click onwww.embassyofireland.or.kr and then click ‘Registering with the Embassy.’ Having information on how to send messages to you and/or to contact you is absolutely vital in the event of a sudden-onset emergency.  Based on the latest annual statistics available from the Korea Immigration Service we know that there are more than eight hundred Irish who live in the Republic of Korea and about two thirds of that figure appear on the Embassy’s Citizens’ Register.  I would urge you to encourage anyone who has not registered with the Embassy to please do so.  There may be concerns about confidentiality but I assure you that this information is not shared and is used solely by the Embassy.
  • What advice is given in an Emergency very much depends on the kind of emergency and what the authorities are doing or planning in response i.e. whether it is natural or man-made, where it is imminent or underway, whether it requires a large movement of population and so on. There is an ‘Emergency’ side bar on the Embassy’s website for general guidance.  For example in areas prone to emergencies or where there may be a need to move quickly in uncertain circumstances, it is often recommended to have a ‘grab bag’ readied containing vital documents and essential supplies (suggested items for inclusion are listed).
  • Aside obviously from monitoring ongoing situations, the Embassy stays in close touch with the EU delegation here, other missions and with the Korean authorities.  The Embassy should be your first port of call if you are seeking advice.  In an emergency if contact with the Embassy is not possible, the Department of Foreign Affairs operates a Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin which provides advice, support and assistance to Irish citizens in emergency situations and to family members in Ireland who are concerned about the welfare of an Irish citizen abroad. The Unit operates during normal Irish office hours (Monday-Friday). You can make contact with the Unit by telephoning +353 1 408 2000. Outside normal office hours, an Emergency Duty Officer is available at all other times (including weekends), 365 days a year (the contact number is the same).  The Embassy also provides a 24 hours service (010 3247 6455).  Please be advised that the Emergency Duty Officer should only be contacted in the event of a genuine emergency. If your query is not urgent, please wait until the next working day to contact the Embassy or making contact with the Consular Assistance Unit.
  • In the event of an emergency, the Department of Foreign Affairs can mobilize its Crisis Centre. It has done this on a number of occasions for example in response to 9/11and the 2006 crisis in the Lebanon. During an emergency, the Crisis Centre liaises with relevant missions abroad and national authorities, is manned 24 hours and issues free-phone numbers to members of the public in Ireland to trace relatives. The Department can also send members of staff to the site of the emergency to assist.  The Travel Advice Section of the Department’s website contains further useful information (www.dfa.ie).

I hope this information is useful and reassuring.  Please feel free to forward any comments and please also encourage anyone you know who has not registered with the Embassy to do so.

Eamonn McKee / Ambassador”