'Ayodhya Historically Important For India And South Korea': Who Was The South Korean Princess Born In 'Ayuta'?

South Korean ambassador to India Chang Jae-Bok said that Ayodhya is historically important for India and South Korea as it has a rich, ancient connection to the birth of the Indian princess, Suriratna, who was also known as Heo Hwang-ok, a South Korean queen.

Ram Temple in Ayodhya

South Korea once again highlighted the importance of Ayodhya and the Ram Janmabhoomi project and how it was 'historically' significant for India and the former. South Korean Ambassador in India Chang Jae-Bok was speaking at a press conference on Monday when he said, "The central government or the Uttar Pradesh government should elaborate the programme (of Ram Temple inauguration)."

He further said that South Korea would work on attending the Ram temple inauguration, if the government of India issued an invitation. 

It is not the first time that the historical link between Ayodhya and South Korea was brought to the front. A similar statement was made in 2020 by Shin Bongkil, South Korea’s Ambassador to India. During an interview, he said, “Ayodhya has important relations with Korea. In Korea’s ancient history book, it’s written that a princess from Ayodhya married a Korean king, Kim Suro."

He added, “In archaeological findings from the king’s tomb, artefacts belonging to Ayodhya have been found.” Bongkil's statement had come just a day before the bhoomi pujan (ground-breaking) ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

Tracing the history 

It is said that every year several South Koreans throng to Ayodhya as they trace their lineage to the Indian princess, Suriratna, also known as Heo Hwang-ok, who married King Suro of Geumgwan approximately 2,000 years ago. 

The king and queen started the Karak dynasty, whose descendants are believed to be more than six million Koreans, including former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil.

According to historical text, Samguk Yusa, Suriratna was born as a princess of Ayodhya to King Padmasen and Indumati. Padmasen ruled the ancient kingdom of Kausala, a region that extended from present-day UP to Odisha. When Suriratna was 16 years old, she was said to have travelled from 'Ayuta', the ancient name of present-day Ayodhya, to Korea to marry King Suro as it was her father's dream.

Suro was the founder and King of Geumgwan Gaya in south-eastern Korea, which was said to have been located around modern-day Gimhae city in Southern Gyeonsang province. The couple are said to have had 12 children.
Additionally, the symbol of the Geumgwan Kingdom is a twin fish symbol, which is also found in many historical monuments in Ayodhya.

This legend has given way to several cultural and diplomatic ties between the two countries.

In 2001, a memorial for the Indian princess was inaugurated in Ayodhya on the west bank of the Saryu River. India and South Korea signed an agreement to develop Ayodhya and Gimhae as sister cities and in 2016, a delegation was sent by South Korea to refurbish the memorial. 

Subsequently, in 2018, South Korean First Lady Kim Jung-sook attended the inauguration of the beautification work and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in also signed an MoU for developing the memorial.