A delegation of South Korean community leaders, last weekend, hailed St Munchin’s Community Centre in Limerick as a paragon of peace and community building.
The team arrived in Ireland from South Korea as part of a week exchange programme, set up by Global Peace Foundation (GPF), to learn about conflict resolution, peace, and community building in Ireland, according to GPF Korean Director, Steve Park.
The 18-member group began the first leg of their Irish tour traveling from Dublin International Airport to Limerick on Friday, and led by their team leader, Mr. Park, and Country Director of GPF in Ireland, Arnold Kashembe.
Mr. Pak said: “We have a crisis in South Korea where young people don’t want to live with elderly people and this has caused communities to collapse.
“But our visit to St. Munchin’s Community Centre has shown us how young and elderly people are engaging with ease, and it is clear that, not only can different generations learn from each other, they can also live together in harmony.”
According to the Director, Korea liaised with Ireland because of the similarities between both countries – stemming from ideological differences that divided Korea to North and South; and English colonial prowess and religious differences that partitioned Ireland to Republic and Northern parts.
Mr. Park added that Ireland is a benchmark for solutions to Korea’s conflicts because of its success in building, not just harmony between the Republic and the North, but also in community development.
Country Director, Arnold Kashembe, received the South Korean visitors at the Dublin Airport amidst cheering by onlookers.
He said: “The organisational and entrepreneurial state of St. Munchin’s Community has demonstrated to the Koreans that the power of community can do much.”
Mr. Kashembe added that both Ireland and Korea have suffered from economic crisis – Korea before 1997, and Ireland from 2008, and that the manner in which Korea managed its recession can benefit Ireland too.
The Country Director said: “A model that unites key areas of intervention, such as, community leaders; business leaders and university students can enable Ireland to go beyond the recession to unite everybody as a community, and grow again.”
The Chairman of St. Munchin’s Community in Limerick, Kieran O’Neill, opened the doors of the Centre earlier than normal operating hours on Saturday, to welcome the visitors.
He said: “In many countries, when people become old, nobody wants them, but it’s great to see another country thinking the same way about the elderly as we think – it was great to see.”
Mr. O’Neill added that St Munchin’s Community also helps the elderly to remain in their homes because one of the biggest fears in Limerick is that when the elderly are put in nursing homes, nobody would care.
“Once you don’t take independence from a person, it means an awful lot”, the Chairman added.
As part of the exchange programme, the Korean group visited the Cliffs of Moher and the Bunratty Castle in Co. Clare, as well as, wined and dined out of Irish food recipes at the Locke Bar in Limerick City.
The team will participate in other events including: a visit to the Korean Embassy, tasting of Guinness at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin; workshop with Corporation Ireland in Northern Ireland, and a visit to the Parliament in Belfast, before engaging with other communities in the North.
GPF Korean Director, said, 40 members signed up for the Irish exchange leg, but 22 withdrew because of the South Korean Ferry catastrophe that left hundreds of mostly students and children dead in April.
This exchange is the first of many exchange programmes that will take place between Ireland and Korea and funded by GPF. The organisation plans to exchange students and business leaders between Ireland and Korea in the next few months.
GPF is a non-profit organisation that promotes peace building, conflict resolution and community development through a multi-cultural value-based approach.
It was founded in 2009 by the son of the Korean spiritual Leader, Hyun Jin Moon, under the motto: “One family under God”.
GPF Irish Director said: “Our organisation has branches in 15 countries around the world and with its headquarters in Washington DC. Ireland is the first, and remains the only country in Europe where GPF has offices, since May 2013.”
He added that the organisation plans to extend to Germany and Belgium next year and that Ireland will coordinate all European activities.
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