Memorial of the Irish Dead of the Korean War (official name)
한국전쟁 아일랜드 전사자 추모비
For many years the IAK worked towards building a permanent memorial in Korea dedicated to Irish people and those of Irish descent who died in the Korean War (1950-53).
The unveiling coincided with a week long series of events commemorating 60 years since the armistice agreement which ended the Korean War.
Soldiers from all over the island of Ireland fought with regiments of the British, US and Commonwealth forces in the service of the United Nations Command (UNC). Ireland was not a member of the UN at the time.
11 Irish veterans made the trip back to Korea for events some returning for the first time since the war. These veterans served mainly with the the Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR) and other British regiments. There was also a veteran from the US 8th Cavalry. Half of the veterans were accompanied by family members and there was also family representatives from 2 soldiers who were killed in action.
Media Coverage of Memorial Unveiling
by Mark McConnell
There’s blood on the hills of Korea, it’s the blood of the brave and the true,
where the nations they battled together, ‘neath banners of white and pale blue,
as they marched over the fields of Korea to the hills where the enemy lay,
they remembered the Brigadier’s orders, those hills must be taken today.
for they knew as they charged up that hillside there were many would never return.
Some thought of their wives and their mothers and some of their sweethearts so fair
‘There’s blood on the hills in Korea, it’s the blood of the freedom we love,
may our names live in glory forever, and our souls rest in heaven above.’
And boys, when you go back to Belfast, when this War is over and done,
And forward they went into battle, with faces unsmiling, and stern,
and some as they plodded and stumbled were softly saying this prayer,
just think of the ones left behind you out in the Korean sun.
Media Coverage of Veterans Visit
including Memorial Unveiling
'Battle of Happy Valley' Information Panel and Battle Site Marker
As part of the War Memorial project, an information panel was also erected on the site of one of the battles Irishmen fought in, the so called ' Battle of Happy Valley.'
The formal unveiling of the Happy Valley Information Panel took place on Friday, 26 June ,2015 at 3pm.
This was facilitated by the same bodies and organisations as the War Memorial with the additional cooperation of the British Embassy.
While Ireland was not a member of the UN Command during the Korean War, Irishmen enlisted in the British Army from across the island of Ireland. The Battle of Happy Valley, which took place on the night of 3-4 January 1951 is a particular point of focus for Irish participation in the Korean War and it was at Happy Valley that the RUR incurred serious losses.
Colonel WRH Charley, OBE who fought in the battle once again returned from Ireland for the unveiling.
Following the ceremony an outdoor reception took place at an adjacent location.
The Irish Embassy arranged transport from the Embassy to and from the location on the day.
Gyeonggi-do, Jangheung-myun, Samha-ri, San 90-35
경기 양주시 장흥면 삼하리 산 90-35
Directions from Seoul by public transport and map [click here]
The Original Irish Korean War Memorial in Korea (Now located in Belfast)
Mark McConnell - one of the veterans who visited recited his very moving poem 'Korean Lament' at the unveiling of the memorial .
Unfortunately many soldiers did not survive the war and the IAK recommend a visit to the United Nations Memorial Cemetery Busan where some of the Irish casualties are buried. http://www.unmck.or.kr/eng_index.php
The building and laying of a monument finally become a reality in 2013.
The official unveiling and a small ceremony took place on Thursday, April 25th at the Korean War Memorial in Yongsan, Seoul.
The IAK is extremely grateful to all who supported the war memorial project and encourages you to visit both the memorial (see directions below) and the nearby War Memorial of Korea Museum. http://www.warmemo.or.kr/newwm/eng
Click to enlarge
Lixnaw, County Kerry
The monument was unveiled in 2005.
Further information available:
Greenwood Cemetery 500 25th Street Brooklyn, New York
Twenty nine Irish men fell in service of the US forces. In 2006 an Irish Korean War Memorial was erected through the support of the Irish government and private contributions while the United States Congress awarded posthumous citizenship in 2003.
Further information available:
In May 1951, the Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR) erected a Korean granite memorial on the battlefield they dubbed, with grim irony, "Happy Valley." But after locals dismantled the memorial base for construction materials and overturned the obelisk (the official reason being to facilitate the expansion of Seoul), the memorial was relocated to Ireland in the 1960's courtesy of Samsung. Today, refurbished, it stands outside Belfast City Hall.
Looking Back, Irish Korean War Veterans Revisit Battleground 60 Years Later
The War Memorial of Korea
The Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs
The Ministry of National Defence
Korean Veterans Association
The Veterans Associations of the Commonwealth Nations
The Ambassadors and Defense Attaché of the Commonwealth Nations
The Royal Irish Regiment
Canon Robert Jennings
Colonel WRH Charley, OBE
The Missionary Society of Saint Columban
The Society of the Holy Cross
British Embassy, Seoul
In addition to the IAK, the bulk of financial support was provided by the Government of Ireland's Emigrant Support Program (ESF) part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland.
Additional Sponsors and Fundraisers
(mostly relating to facilitating the veterans visit)
The Royal British Legion, Lisburn City Council, Hanwha Chemical, Hyundai Motors, Korean Air, Standard Chartered Bank
The Embassy of Ireland, The Somme Association and The Royal Ulster Rifles Association.
29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
서울특별시 용산구 이태원로 29 (용산동1가)
Samgakji Station (Seoul Subway Line 6),
Exit 11 or 12 or Exit 1 (farther away).
1) Take bus 110A, 110B, 740 or 421
and get off at The War Memorial of Korea Bus Stop
or buses 421, 149, 150, 151, 152, 500, 501, 504,
605, 750B, 751, 752, 502, 506, 507 or 750A
and get off Samgakji Station Bus Stop.
When you exit the station or get off the bus you will see the War Memorial Museum Building.
If you are directly facing the front of the museum from the road you will see all the UN flag poles. Quite near these flag poles to the left and right are steps leading down to a terrace. Take the steps on the right and you will see the Irish memorial near the bottom.
Please note that the memorial is a lot nearer to the road than to the museum.
*As part of the War Memorial project an information panel/marker was also erected in 2015 on the actual site of one of the battles that Irish men fought in. For information and directions please refer to the 'Battle of Happy Valley' Information Panel and Battle Site Marker section below.
Article by Andrew Salmon in the Wall Street Journal
The Irish Times
Video features Irish Korean War veterans and former Irish Ambassador to Korea Dr. Eamonn McKee
War Memorial of the Irish Dead of the Korean War
Financial and Logistical Support for Memorial
For more detailed information on some of those who died both military and civilian - please visit http://www.illyria.com/irishkor.html
Irish Casualties in the Korean War 1950-53
The Far Side of the World
Irish Servicemen in the Korean War 1950-53
Recommended Books on the Korean War
BBC NI Dublin Correspondent
Scorched Earth Black Snow
The First Year of the Korean War
To the Last Round
The Korean Minister for Patriots and Veterans Affairs Mr Park, Sungchoon visited Ireland on 3 and 4 October 2014 to meet with Veterans and bereaved family members of those who fought in the Korean war. Minister Park laid a wreath at the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge, Dublin and also visited Saint Mary's Garden of Remembrance in Thurles County Tipperary.
Other Irish Korean War Memorials in the World
Further Media / Links
*As far as the IAK is aware the four memorials mentioned on this page are the only Irish memorials exclusively dedicated to the Korean war anywhere in the world.
If anyone is aware of any others please contact us.
Frances Fitzgerald T.D. Irish Minister of Children and Youth Affairs visited Korea from 12-15 March 2014 to mark St. Patrick’s Day. During her visit the Minister laid a wreath at the War Memorial of the Irish dead.
Mr Brendan Howlin T.D, Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform visited Korea as part of the St. Patrick’s Day ‘Promote Ireland’ Programme 2015.
On the 19 March the Minister laid a wreath at the War Memorial of the Irish dead.
Frances Fitzgerald T.D.
Irish Minister of Children and Youth Affairs
For many years the IAK worked towards building a permanent memorial in Korea dedicated to Irish people and those of Irish descent who died in the Korean War. (1950-53).This project was the previous official charity of the IAK and aside from specific fundraisers, any money raised after costs of the various IAK events over the years went towards this enterprise. Additional funds were provided by other bodies in particular the Irish government's Emigrant Support Programme (ESP).
Brief history of Irish people in Korea
The people of Ireland have made their own unique contribution to Korea. This relationship dates back to the late nineteenth century when Irish born members of the British civil service served in Korea.
Research continues but at the moment it seems to be the case that Colonel Hugh Mckee is the first record of any Irish person in Korea. In 1871 McKee on the USS Colorado led a group which included four other Irishmen US Marine Private John Coleman, born 9 October,1847,Ireland,US Marine Private James Dougherty born 16 November,1839 'of Langhash',Ireland, US Marine Patrick H.Grace born 1835, Ireland and Michael McNamara born 1841 'of Clure',Ireland. The USS Colorado attacked Choji Garrison on Gangwha island close to where Incheon International Airport is now located. Colonel McKee died in the raid and the Irish born US Marines later won medals of honour.
Irish born British civil servants to work in Korea include William George Aston, British Consul-General in Korea from 1884 to 1885 (As far as the IAK can establish, George was the first Irish person to reside in Korea. Aston Hall in the British embassy is named after him.), Sir Nicholas Roderick O’Conor, British Minister to the Empire of Korea in Seoul from 1892 to 1895,John Mc Leavy Brown, appointed by King (later Emperor) Kojong as Financial Adviser and Chief Commissioner of Customs on 15th October 1893 until 26th November 1905 and Sir John Newell Jordan, British Consul-General in Seoul from 1896,becoming Chargé d’Affaires at the British Embassy in 1898 and Minister-Resident from 1901 until November, 1905.
There is evidence of a Methodist Missionary from County Laois, the Reverend Charles David Morris who ministered with his wife as far north as Pyongyang from 1901 until his death in 1927.
Anglican nun Mother Mary Clare (Clare Emma Witty) was born on 30th May,1883 in Enniskerry, County Wicklow. Sister Mary Clare as far as is known, was the first Irish born woman to reside in Korea. She arrived in Korea in 1923 via Kilburn, London and died in the Korean war near Chungkanjin in present day North Korea on 6th November,1950 a victim of the nine day long 'Death March' which began on 30 th October,1950 and which was led by North Koreans retreating from the advancing UN forces.
The 1930s saw the arrival of the Irish Catholic Columban Order mission who are still active in Korea today.When the Korean War started on 25 June, 1950 there were 28, mainly Irish-born, Columban Fathers working in Korea. From 27 June until 6 December, 1950 Monsignor Patrick Brennan, Fathers Anthony Collier, Francis Canavan, Thomas Cusack, James Maginn, John (Jack) O’Brien and Patrick O’Reilly were to perish. Father Canavan died in captivity in Hangjang-ni, in present day North Korea) on 6 December, 1950. Father. Canavan had also been on the nine day long 'Death March.'
With the outbreak of war came the biggest arrival of Irish people and those of Irish descent in the service of the United Nations Command (UNC). 109 Irish men from all over Ireland would die serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR). Irish President Mary Mc Aleese, in receiving an honorary degree at EWHA University, Seoul on 24 March, 2005 said:
"The Royal Ulster Rifles saw action in two battles, in January and April,1951 and it gave in sacrifice over 130 lives. Today I pay homage to my compatriots who made the supreme sacrifice in that war and to those, their colleagues and families who shared in that sacrifice through their loss and loneliness”.
Another 28 Irish fell, serving with the US forces.
It is unknown exactly how many of Irish heritage served and died across all the armies of the nations who fought under the UN flag in the Korean war. Ireland was not a member of the UN at this time. However, it is clear from reading the list of dead at the War Memorial of Korea that many of those who fought had some Irish heritage.
The Irish Korean war memorial in Yongsan, Seoul honours all those both military and civilian of Irish birth or heritage who died specifically during the Korean war. The IAK would like also to acknowledge all Irish people that have died in Korea before and since.
Irish people continue to contribute to Korea's welfare and building bonds between Ireland and Korea. The 2002 FIFA World Cup hosted by Korea and Japan saw the biggest number of Irish visitors to Korea at any one time (arguably on a friendlier mission than 1871!). The Republic of Ireland lost to Spain on penalties in a round of 16 match in Suwon just south of Seoul in front of approximately 3000 Irish supporters.
At any given time there are between 800 to 1000 Irish people residing in Korea. Irish nationals are involved in education, business, the arts, sports, religion, science and technology.
There have also been many Irish-Korean marriages.
*If you feel you could add to ongoing research about Irish people In Korea or are related to anyone mentioned please contact the IAK.
As outlined above, many Irish people have contributed significantly to life in Korea over the years. One renowned contributor is Kevin 0'Rourke, a resident of Korea since 1964.
Born in 1939, Kevin originally from County Cavan, was the first foreigner in Korea to earn a Master's degree and a Doctor of Philosophy in Korean Literature, both from Yonsei University.
He is recipient of numerous awards and the author of many books including a biography of the first Irish person to reside in Korea (William Aston) and his own biography My Korea: 40 years without a Horsehair Hat .
The library at the Irish embassy is named in his honour.
Below is a list of Kevin's publications and awards.
*Should you be interested in purchasing Kevin's works and have difficulty obtaining any title elsewhere, please contact the Irish Association.
Ten Korean Short Stories (Yonsei 1974)
Where Clouds Pass By (Yonsei 1974)
Cho Byunghwa Selected Poems (Seoul 1982)
The Square (Spindlewood UK 1983)
Tilting the Jar: Spilling the Moon (Universal 1988, Dedalus 1992)
The Music of What Happens (Universal 1992)
Singing like a Cricket; Hooting like an Owl, Selected Poems of Yi Kyubo (Cornell 1995)
Poems of a Wanderer Midang So Chongju (Dedalus 1995)
Looking for the Cow (Dedalus 1999)
Our Twisted Hero (Mineumsa 1988, Hyperion 2001)
The Book of Korean Shijo (Harvard 2001)
Mirrored Minds: A Thousand Years of Korean Verse (Eastward 2001)
Songgang kasa (Kegan Paul 2005)
100 Love poems from Old Korea (Global Oriental UK 2005)
The Book of Korean Poetry: Songs of Shilla and Koryo (Iowa University Press 2006)
My Korea: 40 years without a horsehair hat. Memoir and introduction to Korean culture (Renaissance Books 2013)
Selected Poems of Kim Sakkat (Keimyung 2012, Koryo Press US 2014)
The Book of Korean Poetry: Choson Dynasty (Stallion Press 2014)
William George Aston in Korea (Red Hen Publishing, 2016)
Lee Chondo The Truth Seeker (Miraesung 2017)
Awards and Appointments
1986: Tongsomunhak World Literature Prize
1989: Korean National Literature Prize
1995: East Asia Korean Literature Prize, Cornell
2001: National University of Ireland, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa)
2005: Professor Emeritus, Kyunghee University
2005: Presidential citation for teaching career
2006: Honorary citizen of Seoul
2009: Presidential citation for services to Korean language and literature
2012-2015 On the board of the Korean Literature Translation Institute (KLTI)
2017: Daesan Foundation Translation Award
Half a World Away
Irish author James Durney was brought over from Ireland by the IAK to give a talk, his books on the Korean War are highlighted above.
Also speaking on the day was Irish writer and Korean scholar Kevin 0'Rourke resident in Korea since the 1960's.
The day included a trip to the Memorial of the Irish Dead and a trip to "Happy Valley" one of the battle sites of the Korean War where Irish men fought and died.
The guide for the battlefield part of the day was Andrew Salmon.
Andrew is the author of many books on the Korea War (again highlighted above).
There is an article in the Autumn 2017 edition of 'Ireland's Military Story' featuring James Durney's trip to Korea and the Irish in the Korean war.
View the article [click here]
For general information about the magazine visit www.irelandsmilitarystory.com
Andrew Kilbride Chairman of the Irish Association of Korea introducing the day's proceedings and giving an overview of the work of the association.
James Durney Author
David Murphy First Secretary of the Irish Embassy (left) and Andrew Kilbride Chairman of the Irish Association (right) laying a wreath at the information panel.
Some of those on the trip at the information panel.
In November 2016 the IAK organised a day long event highlighting the work of the IAK and many of the things mentioned on this page and throughout this site.
In November 2013 the IAK organised a tour to some of the actual battle sites of the war.
The chairperson of the IAK Ms. Shauna Browne and the Irish Ambassador layed a wreath at some of the stops.
*The IAK can run similar trips in the future should there be enough interest. Please contact.
Below is information released at the time and some brief historical background and context relating to the sites visited on that trip.
Imjin River was one of the critical battles of the Korean War, and perhaps the most tragic. It was also one where two Irish units - the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Irish Hussars - proved their worth in the sternest test of war - a battle against overwhelming odds.
Andrew Salmon, who recently presented to the IAK and guided re-visiting veterans around the "Happy Valley" battlefield during the summer, will lead this IAK organised tour, which will take in the full valley where the RUR fought, stop at their final "backstop" position, and recount the stories of the men who survived.
The tour takes place on Sat Nov 9th starting at 8.50 am and starts from Korean War Memorial in Yongsan where we will meet on the main steps. Andrew will give us an overview of the war, and some of the weapons and equipment used. Then via coach we will head to Jeokseong, site of the Imjin River battle where Andrew will guide us. We shall return to Seoul around 6pm (depending on traffic).
Some walking will be involved, so wear sports/hiking shoes. All the 1951 brigade positions remain ROK echelon positions south of the DMZ to this day, so please wear subdued, rather than bright clothing.
On the night of 22nd April 1951, the greatest offensive of the Korean War – indeed, the biggest communist assault to be launched since the fall of Berlin – was unleashed. A third of a million Chinese and North Korean troops surged south in a “human wave” designed to annihilate the bulk of the UN Command and take Seoul by May Day.
At the epi-center of this onslaught, holding the line of the Imjin River directly north of Seoul, stood the UK’s 29th Infantry Brigade. In the thick of the fighting were the brigade’s Irish units – 1st Royal Ulster Rifles and 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars. For three nights, 29th Brigade held against 7-1 odds, but at tremendous cost: A quarter of its strength became casualties, and an entire battalion, “The Glorious Glosters,” was wiped out as the UN line fell back.The roles of all 29th Brigade units will be addressed, but with special focus on the Irish units. We will gaze over the river where the Ulster Rifles’ quick reaction force drove into oblivion; halt where the Irish Hussars made a hopeless effort to break through to the surrounded Glosters; drive up the valley which the Ulsters held against the Chinese; and stand on the backstop position held by the Irish soldiers in the battle’s desperate final hour.
Any member who wishes to lay a wreath may do so at the trenches at the brigade “backstop” position - held by the Ulster’s B Company in the face of swarming enemy - or at the official battle memorial at the foot of “Gloster Hill” – the site of the doomed battalion’s last stand. We suggest any messages attached to wreathes be written in both English and Korean, and placed in a sealed, clear plastic bag.
The Irish Ambassador to Korea Ms. Aingeal O'Donoghue laying a wreath
The Irish Ambassador to Korea with some of the group prior to departure at the Irish Korean War memorial
Andrew Salmon talking at the War Memorial Museum
An exhibition of historic photography is coming this March to celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Ireland. The year 2013 is also the 60th anniversary of the armistice that halted the Korean War, a conflict in which soldiers from Ireland fought. As it celebrates a meaningful year in the two countries’ ties, this event is sure to be a great opportunity to look back on the history and present of Korea and Ireland, helping to bring the two countries even closer together.
Organizer: The Embassy of Ireland in Seoul
Supporters: The Korea Foundation, Hanwha Chemical, Hyundai Motor Company, Diageo Korea, Korean Society of Ireland, Irish Association of Korea
Mon–Fri 11am–8pm, Wed 11am–9pm, Sat 11am–6pm, closed Sundays and public holidays
The Korea Foundation Cultural Center Gallery
(2nd fl., West Tower, Mirae Asset CENTER 1 Bldg.)
Culture & Arts Department, the Korea Foundation
(02)2151-6520 / firstname.lastname@example.org
This exhibition included images of Irish people in the Korean War and veterans in Ireland today.
During the exhibition a lecture was given by Andrew Salmon on The Royal Ulster Rifles and King's Irish Hussars in the Korean War.
In March 2013 the Embassy of Ireland in Conjunction with the IAK and The Korean Society of Ireland organised a Photographic Exhibition titled 'History and Vitality : Stories of Ireland and Korea'
Dublin's Gaiety Theatre (one of the exhibition images) where the Korean National Anthem, Ahn Iktae's Symphonic Fantasia Korea was first performed anywhere in the world.
*If you feel you can contribute to this page please get in touch with the Irish Association through the contact page. [click here]
This page was compiled and edited by memorial organising committee member Bernard Hughes.
You can contact him directly by email: ✉ [click here]