Irish Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, in Seoul from March 17-20 as part of the country’s outreach to strengthen ties with Korea, was impressed by the energy of the capital.
“I was struck by the way the ancient culture has been harmonized with the people’s ambitions and vision here,” she said in an interview with The Korea Herald in Myeong-dong, Seoul, on March 19.
Irish Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald in Myeong-dong, Seoul, on March 19. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
“I have the utmost respect for South Koreans and I think there are a lot of similarities between us as countries in terms of the division and colonization,” she said. “We both suffered. And the way Koreans were so resilient after the Korean War ended, was what enabled the country to rise from the ashes, to transform their country into something that’s just so vibrant.”
Her trip to Korea came as the country’s prime minister and government ministers travel around the world to meet with the Irish diaspora and strengthen ties with key countries around St. Patrick’s Day, which was celebrated on March 17. For this year, she visited Japan and Korea. Last year, she was in Norway and Russia.
During her stay here, she also had a chance to meet some of the 700 Irish people living here.
“The Irish-Korean trade has doubled since 2013, approximately about $2.5 billion, and we would like to see that increase in the future,” Madigan said, adding that it would be good to have more Korean companies enter Ireland.
As for education and cultural aspects of the ties, the minister pointed out that 600 young Koreans come to Ireland on the Working Holiday program each year. She hoped more Koreans to come to the country’s universities, as they have graduate programs that permit degree students to study and work for two years.
With regards to the recent discussions on Brexit, the minister said Ireland respects the democratic mandate of the people of the United Kingdom, and that Ireland has moved to maintain a strong and resilient economy.
Noting that Ireland will be the only member state of the European Union in the British Isles after Brexit, she said, “I think there will be more opportunities for Ireland.”
Before her appointment as culture minister in November 2017, Madigan served as a local councilor of Fine Gael and also was as a member of the Dáil Éireann -- lower house of parliament -- in 2016.
As the 19th senior female solicitor in the cabinet, she also spoke of the importance of breaking the “glass ceiling.”
Understanding that women holding such positions in society are visible to young girls, she also visits a lot of girls’ schools so that they can see a female minister, she said.
“It is not that we are any better, but that we are different. We have different insights and perspectives,” she said.
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com