As per the history, around 2000 years ago, Indian princess - Suriratna from Ayodhya travelled to South Korea and married a Korean King - Kim Suro. The story goes that Suriratna, a princess of Ayodhya, journeyed with her brother to Kimhae in what is now Korea in 48 AD to marry a king there after gods appeared to her father in a dream. The princess, renamed Huh Hwang after her marriage to King Suro, had 10 children and established the Kim or Karak clan.
The clan today has around 6 million members in South Korea — 12% of the country's population — and includes former president Kim Dae Jung; former prime ministers Heo Jeong and Kim Jong-pil; Kim Yoon-ok, the wife of former president Lee Myung-bak; and the Korean ambassador to New Delhi, Joon-gyu Lee.
When some members of the Korean clan read about the legend in Samguk Yusa, an 11th century Chinese-language memoir of the three kingdoms in Korea, they decided to explore the connection. In the late 1990s they got in touch with the Ayodhya administration and with Bimlendra Pratap Mohan Mishra, a descendant of Ayodhya's erstwhile royal family.
Interestingly, Queen Huh's tomb in South Korea has a pagoda in frontage, which is built with stones and believed to have brought from Ayodhya.
On the other hand, a monument has been built in memory of Hwang Huh on the picturesque banks of river Saryu in Ayodhya. Built in Korean tradition, the monument has a three-metre high stone weighing 7,500 kg.
Revival of this unique cultural connection between the two countries, while Indian Première Narendra Modi is on visit to South Korea, can help forge stronger diplomatic as well as economic relations.
Bimlendra Pratap Mohan Mishra, a descendant of Ayodhya's royal family, meets with Kim clan members.
But the clan had done its homework and was convinced that the queen migrated from Rama's capital. Besides documentary proof, it had two other pieces of evidence that pointed toward Ayodhya. First, the queen carried stones with her to balance her ship. These stones are not found in Korea and date back to India.
Second, the dynasty of the queen and king had a pair of fish as its symbol. Mishra's forefathers had the same emblem and you can see the image of the fish pair on several ancient structures in and around Ayodhya. It is considered a good omen.
The Korean clan constructed a memorial for the queen in Ayodhya in 2010 and members now visit the site in March of every year to pay homage to their "great-great grandmother". Kimhae, located in the southern part of Korea with a population of around 520,000, established a sister-city association with Ayodhya in 2010.
The memorial to Queen Huh in Kimhae.
A delegation comprising prominent people including Bimlendra Pratap Mohan Mishra from Ayodhya has even visited Kimhae at the invitation of the clan. But Mishra said previous Indian and Korean governments never pursued the connection seriously in the context of economic and cultural ties.
However, the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen on using the link to bolster ties between Seoul and New Delhi. It has already offered to renovate Queen Huh's memorial in Kimhae City.
The government of Uttar Pradesh state, meanwhile, has been persuaded by Delhi to refurbish the queen's memorial and other historic monuments in Ayodhya at a cost of around 60 million rupees. It is also in the process of beautifying the park where the memorial stands.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav recently met Hyeon Dong-hwa, who has lived in India since 1954 and has been associated with the Korean clan's work in Ayodhya since the beginning.
Hyeon feels apart from the Ayodhya legend, Buddhism has potential to bring India and Korea closer. He wants India, Korea and Thailand to develop an axis as Ashoka, a king from India, in the third century BC sent monks to Korea as well as Thailand to promote Buddhism.
In Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, chief minister Yadav has also invited the president of the Karak Clan Society to visit the state. As well, he wants to use the connection to woo Korean investment to his state, particularly in Noida, a city adjoining New Delhi.
Ambassador Lee frequently invokes the "Korean-Indian" parentage of his forefathers to further his country's interests in New Delhi. Last month, he took a 60-member delegation of Korean entrepreneurs to Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Modi, to explore increased Korean investment there.
Addressing a Korea-Gujarat friendship forum, the ambassador traced his lineage to Ayodhya, saying that one quarter of all Koreans were descendants of the Korean-Indian couple.
Last month, two Korean warships docked for four days in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state in southern India. The ships Choi Young and Cheonji were believed to have followed the route taken by the Ayodhya princess.