Last weekend was my Korean weekend. On Saturday I attended the AGM of The Korean Society of Ireland and on Sunday the monthly liturgy of the Korean Catholic Community.
While the number of Chinese in Ireland is said to be anything from 50,000 to 150,000, the number of Koreans is relatively small. According to the Census, they number less than 600 and that includes North as well as South Koreans.
The Korean Society has 129 members and the Catholic Community has about 60 so that would account for one third of the number. However, the real number is probably greater and hundreds of Korean students come here to study English in the summer.
The Korean Society organises festivals, like the Lunar New Year’s, and offer services to Korean residents in Ireland. They also invite the homeless in Dublin to their Christmas celebration.
The Catholic community has fewer activities because most of the members live outside Dublin city. A number are married to Irishmen and live as far away as Limerick.
In comparison to the Chinese, the Koreans are financially much better off. Many work for international firms.
There are now half-a-million non-Irish, from two hundred different countries, living in Ireland. Among them the Chinese are probably the largest group. Forget the number in the census, many of them are not registered and live ‘out of sight’.
While it’s great to see the Koreans organising themselves in the open and getting involved in Irish society, spare a thought for the Chinese. From their homeland they brought a culture of avoiding authorities and making a living with little thought of how hard they will have to work for it. For most, their future is not in Ireland but maybe we could do more for them while they are here.