The legend of Princess Suriratna continues to connect Bharat and Korea after two millennia; cultural unity transcends the geographical distance
First Lady of South Korea, Kim Jung-sook, is going to visit Bharat from November 4-7, 2018. The First Lady and her delegation will attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the Queen Suriratna (Heo Hwang-ok) Memorial in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh and join the Deepawali celebrations. A lot of Koreans trace their ancestry to a legendary royal family in Ayodhya.
Who was Queen Suriratna?
According to the legend, Princess Suriratna, also known as Heo Hwang-ok, went to Korea in 48 AD, some 2000 years ago, and started the Karak dynasty by marrying a local king.
A popular South Korean book comprising fables and historical stories, Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms), mentions that Queen Hwang-ok was the princess of "Ayuta" kingdom.
The royal couple prospered. They had 10 sons. Today, historians say, descendants of the couple number more than six million, which is roughly about 10% of the South Korean population.
People from the Karak dynasty have also preserved the rocks that are said to have been used by the princess during her sea voyage to Korea to keep her boat stable.
Former South Korean presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim-Dae Jung, and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-Pil claim their ancestry to the Karak dynasty.
An anthropologist named Kim Byung-mo Ayuta appeared to confirm the widely held belief that Ayuta was actually Ayodhya, as the two names are phonetically similar.
An agreement was signed to develop Ayodhya and Gimhae as sister cities in 2000. Then in 2001, more than 100 historians and government representatives, including the North Korean ambassador to Bharat, unveiled Queen Hwang-ok's memorial on the west bank of the River Saryu in Ayodhya.
South Korean President Moon Jae In (left) and first lady Kim Jung Sook
Every year, people who claim to be from the queen's lineage come to Ayodhya to pay tribute to the princess at her motherland. In 2016, a Korean delegation sent a proposal to the Uttar Pradesh government to further develop the memorial.
As part of her visit from 4 to 7 November, the first lady will attend a ceremony that marks a start on the upgrade of the monument - a joint project between South Korea and India.
Queen Suriratna's story has been and can be the "foundation for building better relations" between South Korea and India. South Korean first lady's visit is yet another step towards that.