India and South Korea celebrate Independence Day on 15th August. India got independence in 1947. In a way, Korea was freed from the clutches of Japan in 1945. On August 15, 1945, Japan had announced unconditional surrender. After this, Korea was divided into two parts, North and South. India and South Korea have come a long way since the establishment of their diplomatic relations. Official relations between the two countries are now half a century old. They continue to cooperate in various fields of culture, technology, business, defence, etc., making their relationship more strong and dynamic. Both India and South Korea celebrate 15 August as Independence Day. Full diplomatic relations (ambassadorial level) could be established only in 1973, almost 25 years after independence. This relationship did not work out well as their relationship was stuck in ideological and structural barriers. Over the past two decades, South Korea, an important partner of India, has enjoyed multifaceted relations.
Historically speaking, Korea’s ancient chronicles such as the Samguk Yusa indicate a much older relationship with India. It tells the story of Princess Heo Hwang-ok (Suriratna) of the Ayuta (Ayodhya) Kingdom, who married King Suro of the Kaya Kingdom in southeastern Korea. Although some historians believe that Ayutthaya may represent the Ayutthaya Kingdom of Thailand, there is still research to prove the historical connection between India and Korea. Ambassador Skand Ranjan Tayel, in his book India and the Republic of Korea Engaged, noted, “The tombs of King Kim Suro and Queen Heo are located in the city of Gimhae… Indian heritage such as the stone carvings of a pair of fishes on the door frame Symbols of are present.” Democracies (2015) In 2022, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also inaugurated the Queen Hiyo Memorial Park during Diwali celebrations in Ayodhya. The monument depicts the journey of Princess Suriratna to become Queen Heo Hwang-ok and reflects the historical relationship between the two countries. There is also mutual love for each other’s culture. In September 2022, commenting on the cultural exchange between India and South Korea (for the student-led magazine, Yatharth), Dr. Sonu Trivedi, former director of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre, Embassy of India, Seoul, said, “ Popular films like 3 Idiots, My Name Is Khan, Taare Zameen Par and Guzaarish have attracted many young Koreans towards Bollywood. He also noted that “the soft power of both India and Korea in terms of yoga, Buddhism, Bollywood, culture, cuisine and K-wave has deepened people-to-people ties and strengthened human ties.” On the Indian side, the surprising popularity of K-dramas and films like Descendants of the Sun, Squid Game, Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, Train to Busan and Parasite have helped promote Korean culture among Indians, leading to Culture has increased. Korean language learners in India. According to a report by Netflix, Indian viewership of K-dramas on Netflix has increased by more than 370% between 2019 and 2020.
Marking a milestone in their relations, both countries are celebrating the 50th anniversary of India-South Korea diplomatic relations in 2023. However, India and South Korea did not establish direct diplomatic relations until the 1960s. In contrast to contemporary times and despite potential historical and cultural ties, the two countries could not engage in trade or cultural relations for almost two decades after gaining independence. Both countries have gone through colonialism. The similarities in their experiences of the freedom struggle should have brought them closer soon after. However, due to initial differences and structural reasons during the Cold War era between India and South Korea, both the countries had to go through a slow and challenging journey in establishing diplomatic relations.