The city of Ayodhya, which holds special significance for Hindus across India as a centre of religious and spiritual importance being the birthplace of Lord Ram, also holds special importance for South Koreans. Many of them believe that their ancestry can be traced to this historical city. According to the legend, Princess Suriratna, also known as Heo Hwang-ok, went to Korea in 48 AD and established the Karak dynasty in South Korea by marrying a local king. According to some Chinese texts, it is believed that the King of Ayodhya had a dream in which God ordered him to send his daughter to marry King Kim Su-ro. A popular South Korean book, Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) mentions that Queen Hwang-ok was the princess of “Ayuta” kingdom. An anthropologist named Kim Byung-mo Ayuta seemed to have confirmed the widely held belief that Ayuta is actually a reference to the city of Adyodhya. This sounds plausible as the two names are phonetically similar.
This has positive impacts over the modern relations between the two countries. An agreement was signed between the two countries to develop Ayodhya and Kim-hae as sister cities. Then again during the Vajpayee era, in 2001, more than hundred historians and government representatives including North Korea’s ambassador to India, unveiled Queen Hwang-ok’s memorial on the banks of river Saryu in Ayodhya. People of the Karak lineage visit the park every year in the months of February-March to pay tribute to princess Suriratna.
Now, with Yogi government at the helm of affairs in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the ties between the two countries with reference to the ancient city of Ayodhya have received a further boost. According to recent reports, construction of the ‘Queen Huh Memorial Park’ in Ayodhya in the memory of the princess who had travelled to Korea and married a local king there in 48 AD may begin in three months time. The state government project which would go a long way in strengthening the cultural and historical relations between the two countries will become a hotspot for tourists. The project is to be built on a site spread over 10,000 sq. metres behind the upcoming Ram Katha Museum. One Queen Huh Memorial had been established in 2001 by the Uttar Pradesh government. But the museum that is being planned now is going to be much bigger. It is going to be themed around the journey of the princess from Ayodhya to the Mangsan Island in Korea.
This comes in the backdrop of South Korean First Lady Kim Jung-sook who is on a four-day visit to India. The highlight of her visit to India is going to be her presence at the Diwali celebrations at Lord Ram’s birthplace, Ayodhya. She will be the chief guest during Deepotsva (lighting of lamps) celebrations on November 6. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had written in April to South Korea president Moon-Jae-in requesting him to visit Ayodhya for Diwali celebrations this November. A high powered delegation from South Korea was already expected to visit Ayodhya. It seems that South Korean government has also responded very positively to the invitation extended by chief minister Yogi Adityanath. South Korea very well understands the significance of this historical connection with India. With the decision to build a grand memorial park, it seems that the two nations are coming closer and honouring their cultural ties with brimming enthusiasm.