What good is your embassy? Ireland
We now live in an age of networking, but nothing beats face-time. An embassy is face-time between two countries. You learn about your host in a way that is otherwise impossible by living here. And you impart knowledge about Ireland with similar intensity.
The embassy acts as radar, looking for opportunities to deepen relations. For example, Deputy Prime Minister Eamonn Gilmore recently met Minister for Unification Yu woo-ik. They explored sharing lessons on cross-border cooperation. Korean unification will happen either like the German model — very quickly — or it can be managed over time, possibly generations, like in the Irish case, where two consenting sovereign entities agreed to very structured cooperation on matters of mutual interest.
The visit of our deputy prime minister, or Tánaiste to him, his proper Irish title, was an example of another function of the Embassy. Visits at government level are absolutely vital to refreshing bilateral relations and stimulating initiatives.
We are also here to serve the Irish community abroad. In Korea, we have some 900 Irish, most of them teaching English, and of course regular visitors and tourists. That means helping out individuals who need advice, support or consular assistance. It also means supporting the Irish community like the Seoul Gaels hosting the Asian Gaelic Games and the Irish Chamber of Commerce’s organisation of the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum last October.
The Embassy must look to the broad picture of our relations with Korea. I noticed for example that Ireland’s engagement with Korea goes back to the 1890s when one of emperor’s closest advisers was an Irishman, McLeavey Brown. We had over 160 Irish die fighting during the Korean War. Irish missionaries like the Columban Fathers and Sisters have been here since the 1930s and 1950s, respectively. However, no history book exists on this and so we have agreed with the Royal Irish Academy to research and publish one. You can check out a summary of this history on the Embassy’s website (www.embassyofireland.kr.or).
Also, anyone interested in getting messages from me on our activities at the Embassy can register with us via our website.
Finally of course, writing articles like this is a function of an Embassy; by asking the question you give us a platform to engage in what we call public diplomacy. Thanks for the opportunity.