Has it ever occurred to anyone in Korea (and around the world, for that matter) that Mayor Heo Seong-gon of the Gimhae City of Gyeongsangnam-do Province (near Busan) is a descent of the Queen of King Suro of the Gaya Kingdom over 2,000 years ago? This was learned during a tour of the ambassadors and other senior diplomats made to the Gimhae City on April 9, 2017.
Ambassadors of Colombia, Spain, Laos, Jordan and Romania and the senior diplomats of Bulgaria, Venezuela, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Australia—plus media and civic representatives of Korea, Japan, China and Austria—were warmly welcomed on April 9, 2017 by the ‘King of the Gaya Kingdom’ (Mayor of the Gimhae City) and the Legislative Representatives of the Kingdom (currently the Korean parliamentarians).
The case in point was the hearty welcome accorded to Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia and the other envoys and senior diplomats at the Gimhae City that day near Busan by Mayor Heo Seong-gon of the City, National Assemblymen Min Hong-chul and Gimhae-City Council Chairman Bai Byeong-dol as well as Chairman Song Se-gwang of the Ritual Proceedings Committee.
The Gaya Culture Festival is a major historical and cultural event of the Gimhae City (pop. 530,000), the long history and tradition of which is based on the Geumgwan Gaya, a leading Kingdom among the Six Gaya Kingdoms in the First Century.
King Kim Suro founded the Gaya Kingdom in A.D. 42 and married Princess Heo Hwang-ok (Korean name of a princess from ancient India (Ayuta) in A.D. 48.
This was the first historically recorded international marriage between a Korean and an Indian in the history of the Korean peninsula.
The Gaya Kingdom then was quite advanced in the production of earthenware and iron implements, and actively traded with its neighboring countries such as China, Nangnang, and Japan. Gaya thrived as one of the centers of international trade and exchange in the Northeast Asian region, and her culture flourished.
“We have here in Gimhae region various precious historical relics that date back to A.D. 42, which is 2,000 years since the founding of the Gaya Kingdom by King Kim Suro,” said Mayor Heo in his welcome remarks at a luncheon he hosted for the visiting ambassadors and other senior diplomats attending the opening of the Festival that day. Then he said, “The Gimhae City, befitting its name of ‘Historical City,’ houses the precious Old Tombs of Daeseong-dong, especially the famed Royal Tomb of King Suro.” (See excerpts from the welcome speech of Mayor Heo.
In response to the welcome speech, Ambassador Pinilla Pinilla said in part, “According to a story in The Korea Post, King Kim Suro founded Gaya in the Year 42 and married Princess Heo Hwang-Ok, a princess from India (Ayuta Kingdom), which was the first-known international marriage in the history of the Korean Peninsula and I also learn that the Gimhae City also was the center of international exchange in the Northeast Asian region and that its culture greatly flourished. On this occasion, we learn first-hand much about the history and culture of the Gimhae City and the Gaya Kingdom.” (See excerpts from his speech at the end of this report.)
Following the luncheon, the visiting ambassadors and other senior diplomats, mostly accompanied by their spouses and some by children, were invited to see some events of mounted Gaya warriors, which included various acts of fight with long spears and releasing arrows at a fierce tiger (a man-made target) from horse back. The Gaya ‘warriors’ clad in traditional Gaya armor also displayed how to use long spears.
The ambassadors and madams and other visiting senior members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps then were invited to join a traditional Gaya Kingdom's tug-of-war with the government and civic leaders of the Gimhae City, including Mayor Heo.
The ambassadors, the other diplomats and their spouses won! There were several games but each time the winner was the side which was joined by the ambassadors and other diplomats. It was obvious the local leaders wanted the Gwibin (distinguished foreign guests) win as a token of expression of goodwill and a warm welcome.
There were various other programs in store for the visiting senior diplomats and their spouses and family members, but due to the limited time both the city authorities and the visiting diplomats had to forgo the much-coveted events due to lack of time.
Excerpts from the welcome speech by Mayor Heo:
I extend my heartiest welcome to the ambassadors and other senior members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps visiting us today at the Gimhae City, the Capital City of the Gaya Kingdom, which cherishes the history of 2,000 years.
My warm welcome and profound gratitude also go to Distinguished National Assemblymen His Excellency Mr. Min Hong-cheol and His Excellency Mr. Kim Kyung-soo, and also to Chairman Mr. Bae Byung-dol of the Gaya City Council, who have all taken time out of their busy schedule to grace us with their presence.
In particular, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to Publisher-Chairman Mr. Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media, who has kindly provided us with a rare opportunity to accommodate the ambassadors and other distinguished diplomats here today.
It is a real pleasure and honor that we have today to introduce the Gaya Culture Festival with a brilliant history and tradition. We are preserving this historic and cultural legacies of the brilliant tradition of the Gaya Kingdom. We have here in Gimhae various precious historical relics that date back to A.D. 42, which is 2,000 years since the founding of the Gaya Kingdom by King Kim Su-ro. The Gimhae City, befitting it's name of “Historical City,”houses the precious Old Tombs of Daeseong-dong, the Royal Tomb of King Suro and the Historical Relics of Bonghwang-dong.
All these relics of the Gaya Culture are very well preserved—befitting the name, the Representative Historical Relics Site of Korea.
The Clay Arc Gimhae Museum and the Gimhae Buncheong Ceramic Museum are each a well-known tourist attraction in our region where the visitors can have their fill of appreciating the beauty of the regional craft art. In addition, the Gaya Old Tombs in Haman and Goryeong, as well as the Daeseong-dong Old Tombs, are drawing attention as precious cultural treasures that are now being listed as candidates for registration as UNESCO Cultural Heritage of the World.
Thus, we have inherited the brilliant and rich culture of the Gaya Kingdom and in order to widely introduce the excellence of the Gaya Culture, we have been hosting this Gaya Culture Festival each year.
This year marks the 41st anniversary of the Gaya Culture Festival, during which the Festival has continuously gained its popularity in and around Korea as a cultural event enjoyed not only by the Korean people but also by all the foreign tourists visiting Korea. This is has become a very important item of international cultural exchange and now we are preparing it to be one of the most important international cultural festivals.
Globalization of festivals means promotion of harmony of mankind and its development. All the different countries have different languages, foods and cultures. However, it is obvious that, through the medium of cultural exchanges, the mankind has attained continuous development of prosperity through the medium of exchanges.
That is why, this meeting of day with the Excellencies and other distinguished members of the Seoul Diplomatic Corps here today is all the more meaningful and significant.
And, of course, I am confident that this rare meeting with the Excellencies and Madams will greatly contribute to further development of our City.
Furthermore, I would say that the Gimhae City will do its level best on its part to do everything possible to revitalize and further promote the cultural exchange between Korea and all the countries of the world.
In closing, once again I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all the Excellencies and other Distinguished Diplomats here today for their kind visit to our city, and express my ardent desire that our Festival will remain a good memory for all the distinguished guests visiting us today. Thank you.
Excerpts from the congratulatory remarks by Ambassador Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia:
Dear Mayor Heo Song-Gon, distinguished members of the National Assembly, ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen,
It's my honor and pleasure representing today the ambassadors and the Seoul Diplomatic Corps on this special occasion celebrating the 41st Gaya Culture Festival and also extend my deepest gratitude to the organizers, the City of Gimhae and The Korea Post media
As Mayor Heo Seong-Gon expressed in his welcome address, all the history and brilliant tradition of the Gaya Kingdom have been preserved in this Festival.
For more than 41 years, the Gimhae City has been hosting the Festival which has become a very important and well-known event around the word as well as in Korea.
According to information from The Korea Post, King Kim Suro founded Gaya in the Year 42 AD and married Princess Heo Hwang-Ok of India, Ayuta.
I would say that this was the first known international marriage in the history of the Korean Peninsula.
Also the city was a center of international exchange and trade in Northeast Asia, and it's culture was also very well developed. So my conclusion is that Gimhae and Gaya have a long history and unique culture.
In continuing to preserve, build on, and develop the tradition of the Festival and for all these reasons, I would like to congratulate the mayor of the Gimhae City, Government officials, tourism officers and the citizens for the contribution and hard-work put in to continuously developing the city and the festival.
Finally, I would like to express our best wishes and will for the success of this important event.
A partial list of participating ambassadors, other dignitaries
Ambassador and Mrs. Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla of Colombia
Ambassador and Mrs. Gonzalo Ortiz of Spain
Ambassador and Mrs. Khamsouay Keodalavong of the Lao Repblic
Ambassador and Mrs. Adel Mohammad Adaileh of Jordan
Ambassador and Mrs. Mihai Ciompec of Romania
Ambassador for Peace Ferdinand Renz of Austria
Ambassadress for Peace Madam Fumiko Kadomatsu of Japan
Deputy Head of Mission and Mrs. Panko Panov of Bulgaria
Counsellor and Mrs. Juan Salas Counsellor of Venezuela
First Secretary and Mrs. Urasee Thiratangsathira Jeong of Thailand
Second Secretary and Mrs. Sardor Saidikov of Uzbekistan
Second Secretary Sayid-Olimhon Rasulov of Uzbekistan
Assistant Defense Attache Simon Hawkins of Australian Embassy
President Dilip Sundaram of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of India
Seoul Bureau Chief Shan Shi Lei of the Legal Daily of China
Reporter Chen Shang Wen of the People's Daily of China