If you type the word “Ireland” in Google, you’re likely to a find a flurry of leprechauns, red heads, and four leaf clovers. If instead you type “Korea” then you’ll stumble across images of K-Pop idols, Samsung phones, and fermented cabbage. So why on earth would anyone include the words Irish and Korean in the same sentence? These seemingly distinct and distant countries have more in common than you think. From their turbulent countries, to the love of booze, and all the way to their delectable pancakes, Ireland and South Korea are alike in more ways than one.
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1. Invaded by Imperial Island Neighbors
Like the outsider in high school, both countries were tormented, or more technically speaking, attacked by their neighboring, bully-like island countries. Ireland was actually an English colony in the 17th century after Elizabeth I ordered an invasion which lasted for more than 300 years. Like its nerd best friend, South Korea would also be the victim of similar invasions for 70 years. Japan was eventually defeated in World War II and South Korea regained its independence..
Despite centuries of aggression, both of these small countries have stood up to the bullies and fiercely retained their national identity.
2. People of Faith – In God They Trust
When it comes to faith, you'll find both Ireland and South Korea looking up to a higher power. Was it because of their aforementioned bullied past? Maybe, but it can mostly be explained by the fact that they both have historic origins of priestly settlements.
Numbers don't lie: a whopping 90% of the Irish today identify as either Catholic or Protestant. Meanwhile, South Korea provides the world's second largest number of Christian missionaries and features one of the largest percentages of Christians in East Asia. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of Koreans in the United States say they are Christian. Sounds like Christ's ministry reached farther than many may not have previously realized. Koreans and Irish also played a significant role in spreading the Christian faith In the 5th century A.D., Irish monks left the isle and carried monasticism throughout England. A century later, Buddhism was deemed the state religion by the kingdom of Baekje,what is now western South Korea, and eventually spread over to Japan. Both countries were made of people of faith who not only practiced but also sought out to spread the word they believed.
3. Divided Nations – Can't We All Just Get Along?
While religious, Korea and Ireland have still found themselves divided with tension within their own nations throughout time. In the 1920s, the Irish Civil War split Ireland with the northern portion choosing to remain British. This led to violent clashes four decades later in the '60s, known as "The Troubles." The fighting occurred along both sectarian and nationalistic lines. Again, just like Ireland, Korea found itself divided following the end of World War II, with the North becoming a communist state, and the South allying with the United States. Unlike Ireland, they remain bitterly divided even today as the United States continues to support the South while China supports the North. North Korea has infamously become increasingly isolated, with resolution becoming more and more beyond reach.
4. Alcoholics – Irish Boilermaker meets Apollo 13
Next time you're in a bar, think twice before challenging a person of South Korean or Irish descent to a drinking contest – they've got a history of loving their alcohol. While many people know the Irish can drink, little do they know that according to a report the WHO released on the annual average consumption of alcohol by country, Koreans consumed 14.80 liters, ranking 13th in the world and No. 1 in Asia. That must be a lot of hangovers.
And when the Irish and Korean drink, they drink hard, often chasing a concoction known as a boilermaker. An Irish Boilermaker involves lighting a 100 proof shot of Vodka on fire and dropping into a Guinness beer. Koreans similarly play a drinking game called Apollo 13. Named after the unsuccessful space mission by the United States in 1970, participants must down several glasses of alcohol stacked on top of one another, in the shape of a space shuttle. 1st glass beer, 2nd glass soju boilermaker, and 3rd shot soju, all in 13 seconds or less. I’m not sure who is in more danger: the actual Apollo 13 crew or the people who’ve dared several rounds of this game.
5. Brawlers – Let's Get Ready To Rumble!
It's no surprise that people who can hold their liquor can also hold their own in a brawl. In 2007, Korea reported 297,000 assaults, with a population of close to 50 million people. At the same time, Ireland had 17,000 assaults reported in the nation of 4.5 million. With statistics like that, the UFC should capitalize on this cash cow and set up cameras in bars throughout Ireland and South Korea. Jokes aside, Korea hails as the birthplace of Tae Kwon Do, a world-renowned martial art and now an official Olympic sport. Meanwhile, the Irish are known for their rich history of bare-knuckle boxing, where legendary fighters like Bartley Gorman, Simon Byrne and Dan Donnelly got their start.
One can't imagine what what effect a couple of Irish Boilermakers or a few rounds of Apollo 13 would have on these famous brawlers but I hope I'll never have to find out.
6. Musical Prowess – Ireland and Korea's Got Talent
Amidst long histories of political turbulence, Ireland and Korea have been no stranger to worldwide media coverage, which possibly helped catapult some of their best musical talent onto today's international entertainment scene.
One of Korea's biggest stars today is Psy who took over music charts globally and set records for viral video views. Along with other popular groups like Girls Generation or Rain, they both belong to the genre known as K-pop which is known for more than just music and pop culture in Korea but also as a way to increase tourism and geographic interest. Ireland is no stranger to this either as they're known for being the launching point for such popular Irish rock bands in music history like U2, Van Morrison, and The Cranberries. Like Korea, they use their music not just as a means to entertain but also as an outlet and as a protest to the horrible violence such as bombings happening around them.
7. Cabbage Patch Kids
You know all of your annoying vegetarian friends? They would probably find themselves right at home in Ireland or Korea. Why? Well, because both countries are known for their use of cabbage in cuisines that they've since popularized around the globe. In fact, Ireland produces 34 million heads (that's a lot of heads) of cabbage a year, and it is often associated with St. Patrick's Day. Yes, a popular holiday in America exists where people feast on something as healthy as cabbage. Unbelievable but it's true!
Meanwhile, Koreans are no strangers to cabbage either. Did you know that the average Korean eats more than 40 pounds of cabbage a year in just kimchi alone?! 40 lbs! Could you imagine getting into a fight with a drunk Korean person now? They're probably lightning fast and equipped with quite a bit of endurance because they binge on cabbage all the time. To that, I'd say, "No, thank you!" and run away.
8. Delicious Potato Pancakes
While they do love their cabbage, don't be fooled. Koreans and Irish people love to get their carbs…and lots of it. Their carb of choice? Potato pancakes. Potato pancakes, or "boxty" to the Irish, are traditionally similar to latke, but other variations include a denser version found in most American diners. Koreans refer to them as "gamjajeon" and their version is made with potatoes, salt and oil. They're often served with dipping sauce made from soy sauce and vinegar. That's not the best thing they're often served with either. A popular side to potato pancakes, in both countries, is a tall, cold glass of beer. Because one has to hydrate while eating these heavenly treats, right?
9. Family Matters
As evident in their deep religious roots, both Ireland and Korea consist of people filled strong morals so it's no surprise that both also have a strong focus in family. If you actually look back in history, you would see that both peoples were clan-based societies, in which many families can trace their roots back to. If that's not enough evidence for you, imagine this: In America, it is often frowned upon to be living with your parents once you're in your 20s. Well, just until recently, it was not unusual for multiple generations to be living together in one home. Could you imagine fighting for the bathroom with your…grandma? Yeah, it's weird but that's how they lived. Luckily, this has changed and more and more younger people are opting to live in single-family homes. However, both countries still find much importance in keeping family at the top of their priorities. To this day, they continue to have reverence and respect for their ancestors. With all that being said, it's amazing that there aren't more sitcoms on television today based on Korean and Irish families crammed into one household. They'd be a hit!
Don't be mistaken. Despite the many idiosyncrasies, excessiveness, and history of turmoil detailed in some of these reasons, both countries are filled with very proud people. This is possibly due to having to stand in the face of torment from neighboring countries for centuries. In the end, though, both countries prevailed. Ultimately, that is why they hold onto their cultural identities so strongly and also what makes them two extremely nationalistic people. For Korea, this often transforms into white-hot nationalism. For example, if you tune into any of the country's sporting events, you'll see thousands of Korean fans cheering in unison as they bang on drums and wave massive flags. This could be seen in one of their proudest moments as a nation when they hosted the 2002 World Cup.
As for the Irish, it's not hard to tell that these are very proud people. One of the most popular sayings in the global lexicon, which comes from them, is, "Kiss Me, I'm Irish." This saying is based on the old myth of luck coming from the Blarney Stone. You must have been living under a rock if you've never seen this saying as it's displayed widely across the world on mugs, t-shirts, key chains, hats, etc. So no need to remind you of how prideful they are when the world does it for you on a daily basis!
[Disclaimer]: Both countries have their history of hardships and successes that make it worth exploring their similarities but it is definitely acknowledged that they do have their differences. In fact, some Koreans think of themselves as the Jews of the Orient but that's a separate list in itself. In closing, the next time you find yourself in either of these countries, remember these facts but don't allow that to prevent you from discovering the several other similarities not detailed here. Of course, excuse that recommendation if you find yourself drinking several boilermakers and eating potato pancakes. You probably won't be able to do much after that.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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