The Defence Ministers of India and South Korea inaugurated the India-Korea Friendship Park in Delhi Cantonment in March 2021. Earlier in 2000, the two countries had signed an agreement to develop both Ayodhya and Gimhae together as sister cities. Recently, Heo Hwang ok has come in the news due to the Ram Katha Park which has been renamed as Queen Heo Hwang ok memorial park.
The park has been renovated on the banks of Sarayu in Ayodhya and it is believed that the Korean queen had ancient affiliations with India. In 2019, the Department of Post had also issued two postage stamps to celebrate the bilateral relations between the two countries, which featured the queen.
Also, read about India-South Korea: Strategic Partners: RSTV – The Big Picture
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Who Was Queen Heo Hwang ok?
The Korean queen, Heo Hwang Ok birth place was Suriratna of Ayodhya. She was born as the daughter of King Padmasen and Indumati. Her story can be found in the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of Three Kingdoms), which is a collection of folktales, history and legends from the thirteenth century about the three kingdoms in Korea, including Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje. Padmasen had ruled the ancient kingdom of Kausala, a present-day region that extends from UP to Odisha.
As per Heo Hwang ok articles, when the Princess was 16, she visited the ancient city of Ayuta and married the king of the Southeastern state of Korea, Kim Suro in 48 BC. It is believed that she travelled on a boat along with a company of men and women who were sent by her father after he had a dream about her marriage with the king. Even today, there is some debate on the Indian origins of the queen as many different versions of the same story are in circulation. Thus, there is no single opinion among historians about the location of Ayuta.
Some historians also believe that the Princes could have belonged to the Ayutthaya kingdom from Thailand. Some popular theories also state that the town can be associated with present-day Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh but there is no specific Indian account about the same.
About The Memorial Park
Today, the memorial park comprises pavilions of the king and queen where their busts are also in place and a pond has been constructed to mark the journey of Princess Suriratna. Every year, many Koreans visit Ayodhya to pay their homage to Heo Hwang ok’s birthplace. There are two tombs in Gimhae in South Korea which are believed to be those of Kim Suro and Heo Hwang Ok, which are also maintained as a memorial park.
In 2016, the South Korean delegation sent a proposal to redesign the existing memorial, after which, Prime Minister Narendra Singh Modi and Moon Jae-in signed an MoU for the development of the said memorial. The inauguration of the same was attended by a South Korean first lady, Kim Jung-sook in 2018.
According to popular legends, the princess had also taken a golden egg with her to Korea and to represent the same, the park consists of an egg carved out of granite. A pagoda is also placed next to the tomb which was brought by the queen from India to calm the ocean gods. On a cultural level, the queen was a part of Korean culture for several years and thus, many plays and musicals today speak about her.
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India-South Korea Connections
The story of Heo Hwang ok has helped to boost the relations between India and South Korea. The present regional tensions between India and China have created a common interest for India and South Korea. In May 2015, the bilateral relationships between the two countries were upgraded. Now, the two countries share a special strategic partnership.
India has played a major role in defining South Korea’s policy wherein the latter has proposed to expand its relations beyond its immediate geographic regions. At the same time, South Korea has also influenced the East policy in India based on which, India aims to promote cooperation on economic grounds, develop cultural ties and strategic relations with several other countries in the Asia Pacific.
To Sum Up
The relations between India and the Republic of Korea have improved significantly in the last few years and have become multidimensional, intending to promote mutual goodwill, and convergence of interests.
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