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Updated January 20th, 2024 at 08:44 IST

The Unifying Factor of Ramayana Transcends Religion: Tracing Indo-Korean Ties Back to 48 CE

Se Hoon Kim, a descendant of Queen Suri Ratnam, noted that India generates a lot of interest in South Korea and that Ramayana teaches the importance of unity

Srinwanti Das
Indo-Korean Ties
Se Hoon Kim spoke to Republic, giving a glimpse of how the consecration ceremony is bring India and the rest of the world together | Image:Republic
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New Delhi: As the entire country is eagerly waiting for the grand consecration ceremony at Ayodhya Ram Temple on January 22, the rest of the world seems to be equally upbeat about the holy event, with the wait of 500 years finally coming to an end.

Republic tried to capture the mood of that global excitement surrounding the Ram Mandir inauguration. Se Hoon Kim, Senior Correspondent of East & Asian Affairs Assignment Editor Global Strat Vies, spoke to Republic, giving a glimpse of how the upcoming consecration ceremony is not only a moment of pride and glory for India but also how it is a unifying force, bringing India and rest of the world together.

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Se Hoon Kim, Senior Correspondent of East & Asian Affairs Assignment Editor Global Strat Vies, spoke to Republic | Image: X

Kim, a descendant of Queen Suri Ratnam (an Indian Princess Suri Ratnam, who was married to a Korean king, Kim Suro of the Gaya dynasty, in 48 CE), highlighted the fact that India generates a lot of interest among the people in South Korea, from where Kim hails.

Queen Heo Hwang-ok's marriage to King Kim Su-ro is a shining example of cross-cultural collaboration | Image: X

“There is a lot of interest regarding India in general within South Korea. It (the upcoming consecration ceremony is touching all of us who know about Ramayana,” Kim highlighted adding that irrespective of creed or religion, Ramayana is a unifying force. “No matter if we are Buddhists or Muslims or Christians, Ramayana is a unifying factor and I think it will be so for the foreseeable future,” Kim noted.

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“As a Korean, I feel it has a lot to do with us. Ramayana teaches us the importance of unity. It is a reminder that the world may not be a happy place all the time but it is always good to fight back against it,” Kim explained, while talking about the core essence of Ramayana.

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Taking us back to the ancient ties shared between India and Korea, Kim elaborated, “I belong to a clan that is a descendant of Queen Suri Ratnam. Legend has it that her parents received a revelation from a higher spirit in their dreams that Princess Suri Ratnam's husband would be waiting for her in a distant land. And by faith they followed it, and at the end of her journey, she reached the Korean peninsula, from the southern portion, where I am also from. She later became the first Indian empress to live in Korea.”

So to speak, India-Korea friendship began in 48 CE, when Princess Suri Ratna ("precious gem") journeyed from Ayodhya, India, to Korea to marry King Kim Su-ro and subsequently became Queen Heo Hwang-ok ("yellow jade") of the Gaya Kingdom (42-562 AD). The queen was the wife of King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya, a ruling city-state during the Three Kingdoms period in Korea.

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Years later, King Suro constructed a grand temple on the spot where he met the princess. This is the stone pagoda in front of Hwang-ok’s tomb called Chimpungtap or the Wind-Calming Pagoda. The stones it has been built of are from India.

Tracing Indian Roots

In March 1999, the then Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil had invited the members of the Mishra dynasty of Ayodhya to a memorial ceremony for King Kim Suro. In 2001, the mayors of GimHae and Ayodhya signed a Sister City Bond. BM Kim, of King Suro’s clan, granted Rs 2 billion to improve the infrastructure of Ayodhya and also build the monument dedicated to Hwang-ok.

In 2014, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav had extended an invitation to the Governor of Gyongsangnamdo province Heon Dang Haw to visit the memorial and strengthen relationships between the two countries.

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The Department of Tourism, Government of Uttar Pradesh, had also written to H.E. Ambassador of Korea to India Joon Gyu Lee asking for architectural support for the monument.

South Korea's Hinduism Connect 

Notably, Hinduism enjoys a minority religion status in South Korea. As per reports, South Koreans visit Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Ram, frequently to pay homage to Queen Heo Hwang-ok, who is also known as Empress Boju, who first mentioned in Samguk Yusa, a 13th-century Korean text. The Indian-origin South Korean queen has a memorial in Ayodhya's Ram Katha Park near Sarayu River ghats.

India and South Korea Diplomatic Ties Under PM Modi

The two countries even share diplomatic ties. India and South Korea reportedly signed 11 agreements aimed at trade and business worth $50 billion by 2030 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. PM Modi has also underscored India’s commitment to focusing on diplomatic cooperation between the two nations.

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Published January 19th, 2024 at 21:54 IST

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