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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Kiwi Hangs with the Four Star . . .

U.S. Gen. James D. Thurman (L), the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, presents the Kiwi with the 2012 Good Neighbor Award (Non DOD Civilian) during a ceremony at the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Garrison, central Seoul, on Sept. 24, 2012. Since 2003, U.S. Forces Korea Command has given the award to honor people for their contribution to friendship between the two countries. (Yonhap)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hangin' with the Ambassador . . .

I'm not sure what I like best about going to the New Zealand Residence here in Seoul -- the fact that  Ambassador Patrick Rata and his staff are  so cool and so are the guests they invite, the grassy lawn outside the stunning residence, admiring the beautiful artworks, eating wonderful food including New Zealand lamb and green-lipped mussels (nom, nom, nom) or the fabulous N.Z. wines and Monteiths beers and ciders that are served in abundance.

If the price i have to pay is listening to and asking questions of a politician or two, some of whom are human and interesting, then writing a story for my work I don't get paid any extra for -- I can live with that.

Which is where I was yesterday, and the following is the result:

 SEOUL, Sept 7 (Yonhap) -- Adapting quickly to the speedy pace of life here in Seoul, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully fit a lot into his one-day visit to South Korea’s capital from Thursday.

Here to mark the Korea-New Zealand Year of Friendship, as the two countries celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties, McCully met with South Korean lawmakers, presented a plaque to actress and New Zealand Cultural Ambassador to Korea Ha Ji-won, gave media interviews, hosted a reception at the New Zealand Residence and had a late-night dinner with his counterpart, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, before leaving for home Friday morning.

Presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Murray McCullay, during the 2012 Korea-New Zealand Year of Friendship in recognition of the contribution made by Ha Ji-won in her role as New Zealand Cultural Ambassador promoting relations between the two countries.”
- the wording on Ha's plaque. Photo courtesy NZ Embassy

The trip followed a visit by Kim to New Zealand in August, during which the foreign ministers discussed progress on a free trade agreement, signed a new Antarctic Cooperation Agreement and shared a commitment to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

New Zealand service members were part of the United Nations contingent that assisted South Korea during the 1950-53 war with the North, and is an active part of the United Nations Command Armistice Commission that manages the Demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

“We are celebrating the warm bonds of friendship forged in the bonds of war,” McCully said at the Year of Friendship reception.

“At a time when golfing prodigy Lydia Ko has made LPGA history in Canada, I want to acknowledge the significant contribution Korean New Zealanders are making in all areas of New Zealand life,” he said. The minister was referring to South- Korean-born New Zealander Ko, who last month became the youngest winner on the LPGA tour at age 15.

Korea is New Zealand’s fifth-largest trading partner, second-largest source of international students and 1 percent of New Zealanders are of Korean descent, McCully said.

New Zealand Embassy sources said Friday McCully and the South Korean foreign minister continued their August discussion of regional topics during their dinner together the previous night.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hell Hath No Fury . . .

I started my day being attacked by an angry Korean woman. That's a creature that is difficult to imagine unless you've seen one.

I was waiting to flag down a taxi on the main street of my neighborhood, where it's always a matter of who raises their hand first. A young Korean couple was up the street from me and a cab was approaching from my side, so they started walking toward me to catch it first. I did the same, unwilling to have them cut in front, and reached the taxi just before them. And got inside.

The male then berated me, saying they had been waiting for 10 minutes and when I used clear language to tell him I disagreed, the woman tried to drag me from the car. Note to skinny Korean gals: no matter how angry you might be, laying hands on an Irish Maori is not wise. I did not harm her, just batted her away, closed the door and apologized to the taxi driver.

But it's a beautiful day regardless. It was a yellow envelope day, which was especially welcome after just paying a few thousand dollars in key money to take over the lease on my apartment, so I treated myself to a steak lunch at Blacksmith (great food, pricy but excellent service, but they wouldn't let me take out my uneaten bell peppers, saying they only do that for pizza. Fail.). Before lunch though, I got to talk and laugh with my love, something that is difficult when he's on the other side of the world and in an opposite timezone.

That's all it takes to make me happy.