중앙데일리

Seoul gets green and jiggy for St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 19,2008
Korean motorcycle riders at the St. Paddy’s parade near Cheonggye Stream Saturday. By Moon Gwang-lip
Those walking the streets of Seoul Monday were unlikely to see green-clad masses celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. But Saturday was another story.
As many as 10,000 people ― Koreans as well as Irish and other expats ― many wearing verdant hues, came to the eighth annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival at Cheonggye Stream, which was restored in 2005.
Before Saturday, the St. Patrick’s Day festival for foreigners had been held at venues elsewhere in Seoul.
As they jigged hand-in-hand with expats to Irish music, many Koreans appeared to relate well with the Celtic spirit. Some say that Koreans, with their family values, history of oppression and fondness for drink are “the Irish of Asia.”
“We [Irish and Koreans] are both very passionate people. We are both very enthusiastic,” said Keith Morrison, chairman of the Irish Association of Korea, the event organizer. “That common passion is going to be our strongest bond.”
Morrison, 29, said the festival’s highlight, the annual parade, brought together different cultures.
“Hopefully at the end of the day, Koreans will know a little bit more about Ireland and foreign cultures,” Morrison said.
Last year’s celebration in Daehangno, central Seoul, drew about 6,000 people, Morrison said. The crowd was about the same this year, and IAK members and volunteers served free Irish food and drink all day Saturday. Sponsors included Guinness, maker of Ireland’s signature beer, and the Seoul Global Center.
Around 20 groups, including the 2nd Infantry Division Band of the U.S. Army, marched in the parade, which began and ended at the entrance to the stream, close to Gwanghwamun.
Kim Dae-ho, 34, student body president of Korea University’s Global MBA program, joined the parade with 20 other classmates.
“We came here at the invitation of an Irish classmate,” Kim said at the halfway point of the parade. “This is so exciting. I hope this St. Patrick’s Day event becomes bigger so that we can parade longer next year.”
A performance by Bard, an Irish music band comprised of young Koreans, was part of the post-parade program. As they played Irish songs on the banjo, fiddle, guitar and accordion, many people in the audience ― Koreans and expats alike ― slung their arms over each other’s shoulders and swayed to the tunes.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Seoul has evolved over the years, Morrison said.
It may one day grow to international renown, like celebrations in Ireland and America, he said. “I think the fact we have it in such a great central location, the jewel of the city, means it can grow to be one of the big international festivals,” he predicted.


By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [joe@joongang.co.kr]



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