Tag Archives: South Korea

Irish British Welcome Reception, Korean War Veterans

Ambassador’s Message – Remarks at Welcoming Reception, Veterans from Ireland

24 April 2013

You might be interested in my remarks yesterday at the reception which I co-hosted with the British Ambassador, Scott Wightman, to welcome British veterans of the Korean War, including the contingent from the island of Ireland.  I might add that men of Irish heritage who served in English Regiments were also there.

This afternoon we are holding the first commemoration at the Battle of Happy Valley, followed tomorrow morning by the dedication of our memorial to all those of Irish birth and heritage who died during the Korean War.

Best wishes,

Eamonn

Veterans of Ireland Revisit – Welcoming Reception

Remarks by HE Dr Eamonn McKee

Residence of the British Ambassador, 23 April 2013

Thank you Scott for all your assistance and cooperation and that of the Embassy. Thanks too to Brigadier Jacques Lemay [Defence Attaché] for your positive approach and openness.  I warmly welcome the participation of the veterans from Ireland.  For them, it is the first journey back to Korea since the War. For us at the Embassy, it is the first time that we have supported and participated in the revisit of veterans of Irish birth and heritage.

They say life is a journey.  As soldiers and veterans, you have journeyed far more and experienced more than most. You were present at one of the world’s great conflicts here in Korea more than sixty years ago, the only war waged under the flag of the United Nations.

Because of that war, and your contribution, the rule of international law was upheld.  The freedom of South Korea was protected.  Today, 50 million South Koreans enjoy prosperity and freedom. The evidence of this is all around you today and in such stark contrast to the Korea you first encountered.

The life of a nation is also a journey, marked along the way by significant events that shape that narrative for the future.  I was lucky enough to part of one of those events, the negotiation and signing of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast in 1998.  We are still working through all of the many hard-fought but immensely positive developments that have sprung from that historic accord.

The essence of the GFA was the need to respect and accept all of the identities and traditions that share the island of Ireland. This has led us to embrace not only those distinctive traditions of nationalism and unionism, but the variations within those traditions. This includes the tradition of Irish service in the British Army, Navy and Air Force.

It also includes the tradition of raising and garrisoning regiments in Ireland.  The names are not only redolent of Irish history but the history of Europe and the history of  the British Empire; the Irish Hussars, the Irish Guards, the Connaught Rangers, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Royal Ulster Rifles and today the Royal Irish Regiment, to name only some.

The National Volunteers were raised at the behest of the Irish nationalist leader John Redmond.  In fighting for little Belgium during WWI, they saw themselves fighting for Irish independence. The Irish Volunteers were raised and stayed at home with the same objective in mind. Such is the complex and fluid narrative of our history.

In Korea, the recognition of this tradition is also the recovery of the contribution of the Royal Ulster Rifles and the King’s Own 8th Royal Irish Hussars to the 29th Brigade’s defence of Seoul under the UN flag in January and April 1951.

The erection of the Irish memorial at Seoul War Memorial and of the information plaque at the Battle of Happy Valley is part of that process of recovery, acknowledgement and commemoration. I am delighted to welcome the veterans of Ireland and their supporters here for this week.

I wish to thank warmly the cooperation of the Somme Association, the Royal Irish Association, the Royal Irish Regiment, the Irish Association of Korea and all our sponsors for their vital contribution to this week’s very special events.

Thank you.

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August 6, 2013 · 11:55 am

Special Winter Olympics, Korea

Sometimes the word ‘inspiring’ is over-used or misapplied but there is no more apt description of the participants and their supporters at this very special event.

Ambassador’s Message – Irish Team at the Special Olympics World Winter Games Pyongchang, South Korea

1 February 2013

 It was my pleasure and honour to attend the Host Town dinner at Seoul Women’s University for the Irish Special Olympics Team on Monday evening.  If you follow us on twitter (@IrishEmbKorea) you would have seen a photo or two.  Seoul Women’s University hosted Ireland, Jamaica and the Isle of Man, an alphabetical grouping that coincidentally grouped three teams about the same size in number and all from islands.  The University had a buddy system so that every member of the three teams was accompanied by one student who was fluent in English.  Activities included excursions, games and explorations of Korean food and culture. 

You could tell from the atmosphere at the dinner and the video diary of the orientation that all the participants had had a great time.  As our guests at the dinner the Embassy invited Father O’Neill from Gwanju who has spent 54 years in Korea doing wonderful work for those with special needs and Sister Ger Ryan who has been engaged in the same kind of amazing work in Mokpo for almost as long.  We also invited Conor O’Reilly, President of the Irish Association of Korea, and Thomas Gaughan, head of the Seoul Gaels, both of whom are leading their organisations with great energy and commitment.  The evening was a wonderful start for our athletes.  I want to thank President Rhee Kwang-ja for the generous hospitality of her University and all the ‘buddies’ who introduced our team to the Korea and generally settled them in with such kindness.

Tuesday morning the teams were bussed to Pyongchang for the opening ceremony and the start of the games.  I headed to the airport to pick up the Special Olympics delegation of CEO Matt English, Frances Kavanagh, Pat Kickham and famed sports photographer Ray McManus.  We arrived, thanks to the amazing infrastructure linking Seoul to Gangwon near the east coast, in good time to register and attend the opening ceremony.  Some 111 teams proudly carried their flags in the parade. 

President Lee officially opened the games, following welcoming speeches by the Special Olympic global messengers, Burmese democracy advocate An San Suu Kyi, world champion skater Kim Yu-na, and Special Olympics Chairman and CEO, Timothy Shriver.  As usual, our Korean hosts outdid themselves with not only with the preparations but also with the programme of videos and live entertainment that made up the Ceremony’s programme.

Wednesday morning the games proper started with the Irish floor ball team winning their games to be placed in division two and later that day beating their hosts South Korea 11-1 (also see @IrishEmbKorea).  Participating for the first time in this demonstration sport, the team went on to take Bronze: they are certainly capable of much more at future games, having been pipped at the post by one point against Austria for a place in the final. 

You can’t help yourself taking pride in such performances but its important to recall that the goal is participation.  The motto of the Games is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”  Overcoming all the challenges they face, the participants take joy in the hours of participation and the moments of victory, whether that victory is a medal or the achievement of completion.  It is a lesson to us all to appreciate what we have and the simple pleasures of each day.

The team, coaches, Special Olympic officials and family members are delighted that local Irish supporters are making the effort to come and support them; Deputy Head of Mission Ruth Parkin and family with lead a bus load there for the Alpine skiing this Saturday.  For regular news and updates on the Irish Team’s activities at the Special Winter Olympics go to  www.specialolympics.ie/WHATWEDO/EVENTSANDGAMES/2013WORLDWINTERGAMES.aspx .

Matt English, his team and all their army of volunteer supporters in Ireland do amazing work for those with special needs (for more information go www.specialolympics.ie/GETINVOLVED.aspx ).    Eircom has been a stalwart sponsor and, like all sponsors, it is determined to continue its support.  I know this is really appreciated by Matt and his team, particularly in these tough economic times.

So best of luck to the participants in the competitions ahead: I am sure they, their family members, supporters and Special Olympics Ireland will leave with wonderful memories.

Have a great weekend,

Best wishes,

Eamonn

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Irish Korean North South Lesson Sharing

In Korea, a much discussed example of unification was and remains the “Berlin” model.  As one scenario and a contingency, it has generated a lot of discussion, comparison and analysis amongst Korean academics, officials and commentators. The Irish model, alternatively, is based on the premise of two jurisdictions continuing to exist until there is agreement otherwise, recognizing each other’s legitimacy and aspirations, and agreeing to formal intergovernmental North South structures working on a programme of cooperation.  The message below summarizes the visit of the delegation from the North South Ministerial Council.  Subsequently, the German Ambassador, HE Rolf Mafael, and I made a joint presentation of both models to the Asia Society of Korea.

Ambassador’s Message – North South Lesson Sharing

23 October 2012

As you may have seen in some media coverage, the Embassy hosted a North-South lesson-sharing visit by a delegation from Ireland last week.  This project began in discussions between the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and the Minister of Unification Yu Woo-ik this time last year.

How to characterise the visit?  I would say stimulating, informative, revealing and affirmative.  Perhaps the most important description is ‘affirmative’ in that the visit affirmed the value of sharing lessons and exchanging views with our Korean counterparts.

This was partly because of commonalities such as our shared colonial history, partition, the generation of conflict and aspirations for unity.  But importantly it was affirmative too for what was not held in common; for example the absence of internationally binding agreements embracing all issues and relationships or of inter-governmental mechanisms for managing escalating tensions and unexpected events or actions.  While the equations of identity are different, exploring our differences helped illuminate the nature of national identity and the nature of aspirations about the future.  The news of the Scottish referendum on independence in 2014 was a useful entry point into these discussions.

The focus of the visit was on the North South Ministerial Council, the work of its Secretariat and the purpose and activities of two of the six specialised North-South bodies established by the Good Friday Agreement.

The delegation comprised Mary Bunting, Northern Ireland Joint Secretary of the North-South Ministerial Council, my colleague Margaret Stanley, Southern Deputy Joint Secretary, Pat Colgan of the Special EU Peace Programmes Body and Thomas Hunter McGowan (CEO) and Aidan Gough (Director for Strategy) of Inter-Trade Ireland.

Our counterparts were senior officials from the Ministry of Unification and members of the Korean Institute for National Unification.  In addition to presentations on their areas of work by the delegation, I gave an introductory presentation on the peace process focusing on intergovernmental cooperation since the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and the historic settlement of 1998.  At the end of their visit, the delegation briefed a group of interested Ambassadors on their views and impressions of the exercise.

In the question and answer sessions, several themes and topics emerged.  These included approaches to unity and cross-border cooperation; the nature of national identity, territory and consent; negotiations, trust and the role of the US; security; dealing with the past; sustainability of peace building; power-sharing; and mechanisms for intergovernmental cooperation.

Two particular issues of interest garnered much attention.  One was the sheer patience required and the time spans involved – the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985; the Hume-Adams dialogue 1988; the IRA ceasefire 1994; the Good Friday Agreement 1998; decommissioning of paramilitary weapons and the establishment of a stable power-sharing 2007; the first meeting two weeks ago of the North-South inter-parliamentary forum.  The other was the delicate and complex nature of North-South relations that are the heart of the historic settlement of 1998.  For the officials involved in the NSMC Secretariat and the North-South bodies, this is a daily reality given that what are in themselves mundane matters become highly political in the nationalist-unionist force-field.

The delegation visited the DMZ, including observing the crossing into Kaesong, the 3rd tunnel, the Joint Security Area and the observation platform.  I think it is fair to say that they found it both impressive and sad that such mighty infrastructure divided one people.

While all conflicts are different in origin and character, peace-building solutions share many common features; a commitment not to use violence or the threat of violence to influence negotiations; a resilient inter-governmental process that can withstand and manage unexpected events; comprehensive talks under independent chairmanship; agreed outcomes established through binding treaties; supporting input from regional partners and the international community; effective and monitored implementation.

I would like to thank the members of the delegation for their presentations and the candour of their engagement.  Indeed, the joint nature of our delegation itself illustrated how far we have travelled in our own journey to peace and reconciliation.  I would also like to acknowledge the wonderful hospitality of our hosts at the Ministry of Unification and the serious engagement of our interlocutors throughout the visit.  I am very hopeful that this lesson-sharing exchange is just the first of many.

Best wishes,

Eamonn

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