Wouldn’t you know it? I forget to wear me Irish green today! I told meself, "Wear your green, Seamus!" but lo I forgot. That’s OK…St. Paddy’s Day isn’t really a big deal in Korea. I manage to avoid being pinched for not wearing green. In an office atmosphere heavy on protocol (at times politically correct), that’s relatively easy to do. Expatriates love to celebrate Ireland’s national holiday with green beer or a pint o’ Guinness imported by local faux Irish pubs. When asked about St. Patrick’s Day, Koreans told me that they knew about the holiday but don’t observe it. (Obviously–the Irish don’t really celebrate Buddha’s Day either, so fair is fair). Ireland and Korea have some similarities, not the least of which being that both have been historically dominated by island neighbors to the east, England and Japan. Both experienced recent economic dynamism; Ireland as the "Irish Tiger" and Korea as an "Asian Tiger." South Korea also looks a wee bit like Ireland on a map. Both have large Christian populations, and both nations have a unique, passionate spirit that is not easy to characterize. Both are political divided into north and south portions and have suffered violence over the years as a result of this political divide.
So much has changed over the past couple of years. Two years ago I was an MBA student en route to Ireland for an MBA study tour. I was a student tour leader leading a motley group of 21 on a school visit to London, Munich, and Dublin. I was not in Dublin on St. Paddy’s Day, unfortunately, but I fondly remember my visit to the Emerald Isle. We visited the Intel Corporation facility and the U.S. Embassy, an odd-looking circular building located in the suburbs. I remember thinking how nice it would be to work there. Maybe I will in the future. We also made a pilgrimage to the historic Guinness Brewery and toasted with free pints of Guinness on the 7th floor observation tour overlooking the brewery and city. Ireland is a wonderful place to visit, a hidden gem. Visiting Ireland is worth the trip. Don’t stay in Dublin, though–get out and see the beautiful Irish countryside. Rent a car and have fun driving on the left hand side of the road. I highly recommend visiting Newgrange, an ancient Celtic site older than the pyramids in Egypt, and Glendadough, an old monastery, if you have time to make a couple of daytrips. 2003 was the year when I finished my MBA, when my son was born, and when my dream of joining the Service moved one step closer to reality. It seems so long ago, yet when I think about how fast time passes now it does not seem so long ago.
Today I had the honor of meeting Andre Kim, Korea’s premier fashion designer. Andre Kim’s unique design style is a fusion of western and Asian styles. I was happy to meet such a famous and well-regarded person. Today is also our one-month anniversary living in Korea. One month ago tonight we arrived at Incheon and embarked for our new home in Seoul. It’s hard to believe how fast time has passed here. We’re only here for two years. Our Korea tour will be over before we know it!