I realize that we have talked about Korea’s racial purity before when I blogged about the Vietnam connection but this time I thought we could look at the Indian connection. Archeologist and Professor Emeritus of Hanyang University, Kim Byong-mo, seems to be one of the sources for the resurgence of Korean-Indian brotherhood. He recently announced while visiting India:
“I share my genes with the royal family of Ayodhya. Travellers from both these countries not just traded goods, but also genes. And I hail from the Kara (Kaya) dynasty, whose first woman was the princess of Ayodhya, who married the first Kara king. Her brothers went on to become the Kings of Ayodhya and this is how I am genetically connected to the holy city…The queen of Korea’s biggest dynasty Hoh was the daughter of Ayodhya and in that manner, Ayodhya is like our mother city. Princess Ho travelled by sea route and married King Kim Suro of Kara dynasty. He was the first king and the entire Kara clan, which comprises over about two-third the population of Korea are its descendents.”
The more famous and powerful Kims are – Kim Jong-pil (OutlookIndia) is reported to have written a letter to Bimlendra Mohan Mishra, a member of the Ayodhya ruling family describing his visit to India in March 2001 as being “very meaningful” and fulfilled his desire to visit Ayodhya and claimed that he was the 72nd generation descendant of the King Kim Suro or the Karak Kingdom.” Kim Dae-jung was also of the same clan so that means he too would have been related to the princess.
“Heo arrived on a boat and married King Suro of Korea’s Gaya Kingdom in A.D. 48, according to Samguk Yusa, an 11th-century collection of legends and stories. The chronicle says Princess Heo had a dream about a handsome king from a far away land. After the dream, Heo asked her royal parents for permission to set out on an adventure to find the man of her fate. The ancient book indicates that she sailed to the Korean Peninsula, carrying a stone, with which she claimed to have calmed the waters. Archeologists discovered a stone with two fish kissing each other in Korea, which is a unique cultural heritage linked to a royal family in Ayodhya. The stone is evidence that there were active commercial exchanges between the two sides after the princess’s arrival here.
The princess is said to have given birth to 10 children, which marked the beginning of the powerful dynasty of Gimhae Kims. Members of both the Heo and Gimhae Kim lineages consider themselves descendants of Heo Hwang-ok and King Suro. Two of the couple’s 10 sons chose the mother’s name. The Heo clans trace their origins to them, and regard Heo as the founder of their lines. The Gimhae Kims trace their origin to the eight other sons.”
Prof. Kim in 1997 informed the local Indian government in Ayodhya of the Korean-Indian connection and had work started on a statue or memorial to celebrate it (I could not find a picture of this monument anywhere). Bimlendra Mohan Mishra, a member of the Ayodhya ruling family said, “the Korean connection came as a major surprise to us. I expect the memorial to Queen Huh, now being built here in Ayodhya, to become a major pilgrim centre for Koreans.” In 2004, when the memorial was unveiled, Prof. Kim echoed Mishra’s sentiments when he said, “Ayodhya being birthplace of our great Queen Huh, has acquired the status of a place for pilgrimage to over six million descendants.”
In recounting the story in person, as he does in his book, the ambassador slips easily between historical evidence and the legends that pervade the era. “It was a time when gods used to appear and lots of things happened,” he said. “What’s more important than what is reality is what could be.”
In building the case for the historical side of the book, Parthasarathi pointed to several “puzzle pieces” that suggest the connection between India and Korea. He spoke of the venerated monk Jangyoohwasang, supposedly the brother of the princess, and Chilbul Temple, or “The Temple of the Seven Buddhas,” said to have been constructed by King Su-ro in celebration of his seven Buddhist monk sons reaching Nirvana. To Parthasarathi, these are pieces of evidence indicating that Buddhism reached Korea far earlier than many believe, as the Gaya Kingdom existed around the turn of the last millennium. Current thinking goes that Buddhism came here from China in the fourth century A.D.
“It’s reasonable to assume Buddhism was here earlier,” said the ambassador.
The second puzzle piece is the name of the kingdom itself. “Why should the kingdom’s name be Gaya? The most famous place where Buddha was enlightened in India was Gaya,” he said. “I’m not saying that there is a link, but it could be there.”
But according to a JoongAng article (that I can not actually find but have seen copied everywhere including this large pdf file, and these -here and here andhere- boards) in 2004 DNA samples taken from Kaya tombs in southern Korea indicated a link between Korea and India. This Buddhist site claimsthat Princess Heo was responsible for the introduction of Buddhism, at least to the people of Kaya.