By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with V/C Choe Nam-suk, Reporters Sua, Jinseon, Dasom
Ambassador Sripria Ranganathan of India in Seoul said, “We have a robust trade and investment partnership and I am confident that the Korean business people will capitalize on the huge opportunities offered by the Indian economy.”
Lady Ambassador Ranganathan made the statement at a reception she hosted in celebration of the 70th Republic Day of India at the Dung Dung Seom ‘Floating Island’ on Jan. 28, 2019 at the southern end of the Banpo Grand Bridge in Seoul spanning Itaewon and the Gangnam boomtown area of Seoul. (See excerpts from her speech toward the end of this report.)
It was one of the best-attended diplomatic functions in recent months.
Among the guests in attendance were Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun and many foreign mission chiefs who included Ambassadors Hazem M. Fahmy of Egypt, Stephan Auer of Germany, Peteris Vaivars of Latvia, Drumus Ersin Ercin of Turkey, Antoine Azzam of Lebanon, Abdul Hakim Atarud of Afghanistan, Frode Solberg of Norway, Daul Matute-Mejia of Peru, Yip Wei Kiat of Singapore, Mohamed Gello of Kenya, and Ramzi Teymurov of Azerbaijan.
From other segments of Korean society were media whence came a number of publishers including Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post (publishing 3 English and 2 Korean news media) with his editorial staffers.
The venue was beautifully decorated with a wide verity of colorful electric lights and lanterns along the paths leading to the venue from the river bank.
Korea and India has a long, long tradition of friendship and cooperation, including the economic and historical areas.
The economic and commercial relations between Korea and India remain robust and buoyant. According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as per New Southern Policy, Korea accords a high priority to expanding its bilateral trade and investment ties with India given that both countries share considerable synergies.
India is Korea’s 11th largest merchandise trading partner while Korea is India’s 18th largest export and 7th largest import destination. Korean brands have become well-established, household names in India; Korean companies' manufactured white goods and automobiles are counted among the market leading products in India. Korea is today India’s 16th largest foreign direct investor, and several cases of India companies’ acquisition of Korean companies have also proven to be successful.
Since the formal establishment of the diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1973, several trade agreements have been reached: Agreement on Trade Promotion and Economic and Technological Co-operation at 1974; Agreement on Co-operation in Science & Technology in 1976; Convention on Double Taxation Avoidance in 1985; and Bilateral Investment Promotion/ Protection Agreement in 1996. As a result, trade between Korea and India has increased exponentially in the past few decades, increasing from $530 million in 1992 to $10 billion in 2006.
The implementation of the Korea-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2010 spurred growth in bilateral trade even further; bilateral trade increased by 70% in mere two years between 2009 and 2011. Bilateral crossed $20 billion in 2017 after 5 years of decline. Recognizing the potential to fully utilize the agreement, Korea and India are currently negotiating to upgrade the CEPA as agreed and mandated by both leaders during the Summit meeting in 2015.
Korea’s main exports to India include automobile parts, telecommunication equipment, hot rolled iron products, petroleum refined products, base lubricating oils, nuclear reactors, mechanical appliances, electrical machinery & parts and iron & steel products.
India’s main exports to Korea include mineral fuels/oil distillates (mainly naphtha), cereals, iron and steel.
Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) is a state-funded trade and investment promotion organization that carries out various activities overseas such as market surveys, SME export promotion, trade information services, G2G export, foreign investment in Korea (FDI) promotion and business matchmaking. In India, KOTRA has set up its branch offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata.
The Export-Import Bank of Korea is an official export credit agency providing comprehensive export loan and guarantee programs to support Korean enterprises conducting business overseas. The bank has an office in Delhi.
Korea Trade Insurance Corporation is an official export credit agency that provides various trade insurance products and value-added services with the aim to contribute to the promotion of Korean exports as well as international trade on a broader scope. Ksure has an office in Delhi.
Bilateral investments have been robust and are likely to remain strong as both governments and business communities look forward to further cooperation and collaboration.
Korean FDI to India (up to December 2017) stood at $4.9 billion, of which $514 million alone was received in 2017. Korea is currently India’s 16th largest investor. Major Korean businesses such as Hyundai Motors, Samsung Electronics, LG, etc., have big presence in the country and plan to expand further. Given Korea’s competitiveness in the manufacturing sector, it is not surprising that its investment in India is heavily focused, in fact 84% of it, in the very same sector.
“Korea Plus” is a special investment facilitation cell set up in June 2016 jointly by the Government of India and the Government of Republic of Korea to promote, facilitate and retain Korean investments in India. The team supports Korean investors by providing pre-investment and investment execution consulting services such as opportunity assessment, policy guidance, and subsidy/ incentive advisory, site identification, and regulatory clearances. They also develop long term relationship with these investors to ensure smooth business operations in India.
Indian investments in Korea up until 2017 were about $578 million, with a major one being Tata Motors acquiring Daewoo Commercial Vehicle in 2004 and Mahindra & Mahindra acquiring a majority stake in Ssangyong Motors in 2010. Novelis Korea became part of Hindalco Industries, the flagship company of the Aditya Birla Group, when Novelis was acquired by the latter in 2007.
Historical relations between Korea and India
Korean-Indian relations, in fact, date back to the 48AD. On Nov. 4, 2018, BBC News of the United Kingdom ran a special feature on the ancient historical relations between Korea and India.
According to the BBC story, Ayodhya, which is best known as the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram, holds special significance for some South Koreans--many believe they can trace their ancestry to the city.
This belief comes from several historical Korean stories, which tell the story of an Indian princess - Suriratna - who married a South Korean king and started a dynasty.
According to the legend, Princess Suriratna, also known as Heo Hwang-ok (허황옥) in Korean name and known among Koreans, went to Korea in 48 AD, some 2000 years ago, and started the Karak (Garak in official Korean government system of transliteration) Dynasty by marrying Korean king at the time.
Some Chinese-language texts claim that the then King of Ayodhya had a dream where God ordered him to send his 16-year-old daughter to South Korea to marry King Kim Suro.
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 and both lived to be over a 150 years old.
An anthropologist named Kim Byung-mo said that Ayuta appeared to confirm the widely held belief that Ayuta was actually Ayodhya, as the two names are phonetically similar.
But there is no clear evidence to show that the princess even actually existed.
"Her origin story is considered to be mythical and is not considered to be history by academics," says David Cann of the BBC's Korean Service.
"There have been several fictional renditions of the story as there is plenty of room for imagination."
Kim is a common surname in Korea and King Kim Suro is considered to be the father of the Kim clan which is based in Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do Province.
"While traditionally children in Korea take their father's surname, the queen is said to have been sad that her children could not bear her surname," says Minji Lee of the BBC Korean Service.
"The legend says that therefore King Suro allowed two of their sons to take her name (Heo), which is used to this day."
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 Garak 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 President Kim Dae-jung and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil claim their ancestry to the Karak Dynasty.
In 2001, according to the BBC report, more than 100 historians and government representatives, including the North Korean ambassador to India, unveiled Queen Hwang-ok's memorial on the west bank of the River Saryu in Ayodhya.
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.
Prof. Kim Do-young, a Delhi-based expert on Korean studies, says that this shared history started being recognized in India "after diplomatic and economic relationship" between the two countries developed.
"Whether it is history or legend - based on it - mental or spiritual gap between the people is reduced and a common cultural ground is made," he adds, pointing out that it's interesting that there may be an "ancient bond" between the two nations.
BBC suggested, “Queen Hwang-ok's story has been and can be the "foundation for building better relations" between South Korea and India.”
On the other hand, concerning King Gim Suro, Wikipdia has the following introduction:
According to the founding legend of Geumgwan Gaya recorded in the 13th century texts of the chronicle Garakguk-gi of Samguk Yusa, King Suro was one of six princes born from eggs that descended from the sky in a golden bowl wrapped in red cloth. Suro was the first-born among them and led the others in setting up 6 states while asserting the leadership of the Gaya confederacy.
Also according to legend, King Suro's queen, Heo Hwang-ok, was a princess from a distant country called Ayuta (variously identified with Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, India or Ayuhatta in Thailand. However, the Indian city was known as Saketa, not Ayodhya, in the ancient period; while the Thai city was not founded until 1350 CE.
The legend as a whole is seen as indicative of the early view of kings as descended from heaven. Notably, a number of Korean kingdoms besides the six Gaya made foundation legends with ties to chickens and eggs. Jumong, the founding king of Goguryeo, is said to have been born from an egg laid by Lady Yuhwa of Buyeo; Bak Hyeokgeose, the first king of Saro-guk, or Silla, is said to have hatched from an egg discovered in a well; and Gim Al-ji, the progenitor of the Gim Dynasty of Shilla, is said to have been discovered in Gyerim Forest by Hogong in a golden box, where a rooster was crowing. Aspects of the legend have been mined for information about the customs of Gaya, of which little is known.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Ranganathan:
Your Excellency, Vice Foreign Minister CHO Hyun; Commissioner CHO Hyun Bai of Korea Coast Guard (KCG), Mayor Heo Seong-gon of Gimhae City Mayors of Seoul districts Members of the National Assembly & India-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Association (TBC)
Excellencies, distinguished fellow Ambassadors, Friends from Korea and friends of India: Annyeong Hasseubnikka. Namaste.
On behalf of my colleagues at the Embassy of India in Seoul, I extend a very warm welcome to each and every one of you to our Republic day celebrations here in the beautiful capital city of Seoul.
This is a very special occasion for Indians. We are celebrating India’s 70th Republic Day. It was on January 26, 1950 that the Constitution that the people of India adopted, enacted and gave to themselves, came into force. This was the second major milestone in our nation building process, the first being the achievement of independence in August 15, 1947. With the framing and adoption of the Constitution - and the birth of the Indian Republic - we embraced the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity among all citizens, irrespective of religion, region or community.
This is also a special occasion for us here in Korea, as we celebrate the deepening and strengthening of the friendship between India and Republic of Korea. In the past year alone, we have welcomed the Hon’ble ROK President Moon Jae-in, First Lady Kim Jeong-sook, and many other political and business delegations in India.
The Indian Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Chief Minister of Delhi, and many others from India have visited Korea. We have adopted a Vision document, setting our sights on a future-oriented Special Strategic Partnership for People, Peace and Prosperity.
We have a robust trade and investment partnership and I am confident that the Korean business people will capitalize on the huge opportunities offered by the Indian economy.
We have laid the foundation stone of a memorial at Ayodhya in honour of the age-old connections between the people of Korea and the people of India. We want Indians and Koreans alike to be able to travel easily and enjoy each other’s rich culture and heritage. I hope that the visa-on-arrival facility extended by India to Korean nationals will help our Korean friends travel to India frequently and experience Incredible India. We look forward to fruitful interaction and exchanges in the coming weeks.
Friends, My young and enthusiastic team at the Indian Embassy in Seoul, which includes our dynamic and personable Honorary Consul General in Busan Mr. Jeong Deok-min, is fully committed to realizing the vision of our leaders. We hope to work with all of you in our journey ahead.
I end by conveying my heartfelt gratitude to H.E. Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun for his unwavering support and visionary guidance for further strengthening India-Korea relations.
Thank you all for celebrating our Republic Day with us today. I wish each and every one of you a happy and blessed 2019.
SaeHae Bok Mani BaDeuSeyo. Gamsahamnida. Jai Hind!