India and South Korea on Tuesday signed at least 11 agreements to further enhance business ties and more than double mutual trade to $50 billion by 2030, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined India’s commitment to deepening strategic cooperation between the two countries.
Visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in and PM Modi also asked their respective business communities to expand investment and promote joint ventures. The two sides discussed various issues in the realm of defence and security, artificial intelligence, trade besides resolving to work together for regional peace and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Besides bilateral talks, the leaders are also likely to discuss the building of a memorial park in Ayodhya that pays tribute to a 2,000-year-old story of the deep-rooted relationship between the two countries.
As per reports, every year, hundreds of South Koreans visit the birthplace of the Hindu God Ram for the sake of paying homage to their legendary queen Heo Hwang-ok, also known as Princess Suriratna. Heo was first mentioned in a thirteenth-century Korean text known as Samguk Yusa as the wife of King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya, which was a ruling city-state in Korea during the period of the Three Kingdoms.
The Samguk Yusa was compiled by a group of Buddhist monks as a collection of fables and historical accounts connected to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which included Baejke, Silla, and Gogureyo. Modern Korea derived its name from Gogureyo. The text mentions that Heo was the princess of Ayuta kingdom and that she arrived in Korea as a 16-year-old in 48 CE. She then married King Suro and is regarded as the first Queen of Geumgwan Gaya.
Though the Samguk Yusa is the only text that mentions Heo’s connection with Ayuta kingdom, there is no mention of where Ayuta was precisely located. All it suggests is that she came from an ancient land. Later, however, anthropologist Kim Byung-mo is believed to have suggested Ayuta to mean Ayodhya, based on phonetic similarities. However, this association is unclear because, during the ancient period, Ayodhya was named as Saketa.
Nevertheless, people of South Korea have continued to revere Heo and the Karak clan society in Gimhae is believed to be the descendants of her and King Suro. The tomb of Heo is located in Gimhae and a stone pagoda in front of it mentions that it is made of stones brought by her from Ayodhya. “The Gimhae Kims believe that they are the descendants of Queen Heo and have an ancient genealogical link with India. The Gimhae Kims are proud of this lineage and mention this fact whenever they meet Indian visitors,” writes former ambassador of India to South Korea, Skand R. Tayal in his book ‘ India and Republic of Korea: Engaged Democracies.’
He goes on to note that historians, however, believe the princess of Ayodhya to be a myth.