NATIONAL

Ireland-Korea ties buoyed by free trade, democracy, culture: Irish minister

By Joel Lee
  • Published : Mar 19, 2018 - 17:09
  • Updated : Mar 19, 2018 - 17:09
Eoghan Murphy, Irish minister for housing, planning and local government, visited Korea last week to promote Ireland as an attractive investment destination and important trade partner, coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“My government is committed to building a stronger and more vibrant relationship with the Asian region and Korea is a key partner for us,” he said at a reception in Seoul on March 13, in front of some 200 guests.

“Our trade in both directions is growing rapidly with the total annual trade not far from reaching 2 billion euros ($2.45 billion). More and more of our young people are getting to experience each other’s country through the expanded Working Holiday Program. Our leading universities are accelerating their cooperation and more and more Koreans are coming to Ireland to learn English.”

Eoghan Murphy (left), Irish minister for housing, planning and local government, clinks glasses with Julian Clare, Irish ambassador to South Korea, at a reception in Seoul on March 13. (Irish Embassy)

Murphy’s visit is the third ministerial visit from Ireland to Korea over the last six months. Murphy met with Korean vice minister of land, infrastructure and transport, Son Byeong-suk, Vice Mayor of Seoul Yoon Joon-byeong, members of the Irish-Korean Business Network and Korean corporate executives of major firms.

Every year around St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, Ireland’s prime minister and government ministers travel around the world to meet with Irish diaspora and strengthen ties with key countries. Before Murphy’s arrival, there were two ministerial trade missions representing agriculture and education to Korea late last year.

Murphy also laid a wreath at the Irish monument at the War Memorial of Korea, commemorating Ireland’s contribution to and sacrifices in the 1950-1953 Korean War.

“Having researched the security challenges of the Korean Peninsula for my post-graduate thesis and worked in the area of disarmament at the United Nations, I had long been interested in visiting the Demilitarized Zone and was very glad to have to opportunity to do so,” he said.

“We are both outward looking nations committed to the United Nations and an open global trading system. Now more than ever, countries like Korea and Ireland, who are committed to the UN system, human rights, free and open trading, and nuclear non-proliferation, need to work together.”

Pointing out that Ireland remains a committed member of the European Union, the politician said his country has benefitted enormously from the membership.

“I believe that our future prosperity and well-being lies within the EU. At the same time we are committed to maintaining our links with the UK, our closest neighbor, including in the framework of its new future relations with the EU.”

Clare, who started his posting in Seoul late last year following Aingeal O’Donoghue, said, “St. Patrick’s Day is an occasion when we like to think that everyone has a connection to Ireland, wherever they may be, and whether that connection is by birth, family, friendship or simply affection.”

The fact that a senior government minister came to Korea underlines the importance Ireland attaches to its relationship with Korea, the envoy said.

“We see the relationship between Ireland and Korea growing in strength, from trade and investment to education and tourism, and in our young people living and working in each other’s countries.”

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)