India–South Korea relations have been relatively strong for 2,000 years, although more progress arose during the past three decades. Korea and India share a lot of similarities in every aspect. 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. Trade between the two nations has increased exponentially, exemplified by the $530 million during the fiscal year of 1992-1993, and the US$10 billion during 2006-2007. It further increased to US$17.6 billion in the year 2013.
During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, South Korean businesses sought to increase access to the global markets, and began trade investments with India. The last two presidential visits from South Korea to India were in 1996 and 2006, and the embassy works between the two countries are seen as needing improvements. Recently, there have been acknowledgments in the Korean public and political spheres that expanding relations with India should be a major economical and political priority for South Korea. Much of the economic investments of South Korea have been drained into China; however, South Korea is currently the fifth largest source of investment in India. To the Times of India, President Roh voiced his opinion that co-operation between India's software and Korea's IT industries would bring very efficient and successful outcomes. The two countries agreed to shift their focus to the revision of the visa policies between the two countries, expansion of trade, and establishment of free trade agreement to encourage further investment between the two countries. Korean companies such as LG and Samsung have established manufacturing and service facilities in India, and several Korean construction companies won grants for a portion of the many infrastructural building plans in India, such as the National Highways Development Project. Tata Motors' purchase of Daewoo Commercial Vehicles at the cost of US$102 million highlights India's investments in Korea, which consist mostly of subcontracting.
In June 2012, India, a major importer of arms and military hardware purchased eight warships from South Korea. India-RoK relations have made great strides in recent years and have become truly multidimensional, spurred by a significant convergence of interests, mutual goodwill and high level exchanges. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official visit to Seoul from 24–27 March 2012, pertaining to Nuclear Security Summits, which led to the deepening of bilateral strategic partnership that was forged during President Lee Myung-bak’s State visit to India. An agreement on visa simplification was signed on 25 March 2012 in the presence of the two leaders at the Blue House. A Joint Statement was also issued during PM's visit. PM had last visited Seoul from November 10–12, 2010 for the G20 Summit. Earlier President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil came on a State Visit to RoK from 24–27 July 2011 during which the Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement was signed. President Lee paid a landmark visit to India, as Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations on 26 January 2010, when bilateral ties were raised to the level of Strategic Partnership. His visit preceded an equally successful State Visit to RoK by President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, in February 2006 that heralded a new vibrant phase in India-RoK relations. It interalia led to the launch of a Joint Task Force to conclude a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which was signed by Minister for Commerce and Industry Shri Anand Sharma at Seoul on August 7, 2009.
|India||Republic of Korea|
|Area||3,287,240 kilometres² (1,269,210 sq mi)||99,392 kilometres² (38,375 sq mi)|
|Population Density||356/kilometres² (922/sq mi)||491/km² (1,291/sq mi)|
|Largest City||Mumbai – 13,922,125 (21,347,450 Metro)||Seoul – 10,464,051 (24,472,063 Metro)|
|Government||Federalparliamentaryconstitutional republic||Unitarypresidentialconstitutional republic|
|Official languages||English, 23 other constitutionally recognised languages||Korean and Korean Sign Language|
|GDP (nominal)||$ 2.439trillion ($1,820 per capita)||$1.392 trillion ($27,513 per capita)|
The fact that people on the Indian subcontinent were familiar with Korea's customs and beliefs is amply testified by the records of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, I-Ching who reached India in 673. I-Ching writes that Indians regarded Koreans as "worshipers of the rooster". This concept about Koreans was grounded in a legend of the Silla dynasty. The legend has it that in the year A.D. 65 the Silla King Talhae was told about a golden box lying in the neighboring forest. He personally went into investigate and discovered a golden box, resplendent with divine light, was hanging from a branch of a tree. Under the tree a rooster was crowing and when the box was opened, a beautiful boy was found inside. The boy was named "Al-chi" meaning "infant" and was given the surname "Kim" meaning gold to indicate his emergence from the golden trunk. The king formally named the boy his own son and crown prince. When Kim Al-chi ascended to the throne, Silla was called "Kyerim" meaning "rooster-forest", obviously because a rooster had crowded beneath the tree where he lay in the box.
This cordial relationship between the two countries extends back to 48AD when, according to legend, King Suro married Tamil Princess Heo Hwang-ok who travelled from Ayodhya in North India to Korea. According to the Samguk Yusa, the princess had a dream about a heavenly king who was awaiting heaven's anointed ride. After Princess Heo had the dream, she asked her parents, the king and queen, for permission to set out and seek the man, which the king and queen urged with the belief that god orchestrated the whole fate. Upon approval, she set out on a boat, carrying gold, silver, a tea plant, and a stone which calmed the waters. Archeologists discovered a stone with two fish kissing each other, a symbol of the Gaya kingdom that is unique to the royal family in Ayodhya, India. This royal link provides further evidence that there was an active commercial engagements between India and Korea since the queen's arrival to Korea. This legend however, is questioned by many scholars saying that many of Samguk Yusa's stories are either myths, legends or mostly folklore therefore the reliability of this legend is questioned often. In South Korea, where historians research about Gaya's history, they did not include this legend as part of Korean history as they concluded that, "The legend itself is rather questionable, as it is only found in the Samguk Yusa and not in any other sources. Also, there is evidence to conclude such unexpected inter-marriage happened.
In 2001, a Memorial of Heo Hwang-ok was inaugurated by a Korean delegation in the City of Ayodhya, India, which included over a hundred historians and government representatives. In 2016, a Korean delegation proposed to develop the memorial. The proposal was accepted by the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
A famous Korean visitor to India was Hyecho, a Korean Buddhist monk from Silla, one of the three Korean kingdoms of the period. On the advice of his Indian teachers in China, he set out for India in 723 CE to acquaint himself with the language and culture of the land of the Buddha. He wrote a travelogue of his journey in Chinese, Wang ocheonchukguk jeon or "An account of travel to the five Indian kingdoms". The work was long thought to be lost. However, a manuscript turned up among the Dunhuang manuscripts during the early 20th century.
A rich merchant from the Ma'bar Sultanate, Abu Ali (P'aehali) 孛哈里 (or 布哈爾 Buhaer), was associated closely with the Ma'bar royal family. After falling out with them, he moved to Yuan dynasty China and received a Korean woman as his wife and a job from the Mongol Emperor, the woman was formerly 桑哥 Sangha's wife and her father was 蔡仁揆 채송년 Ch'ae In'gyu during the reign of 忠烈 Chungnyeol of Goryeo, recorded in the Dongguk Tonggam, Goryeosa and 留夢炎 Liu Mengyan's 中俺集 Zhong'anji.桑哥 Sangha was a Tibetan.
India-Republic Of Korea Joint Commission for bilateral co-operation was established in February 1996, which is chaired by the External Affairs Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade from the Korean side. So very far, six meetings of the Joint Commission have been held, with the last one held in Seoul in June 2010. An Indian Cultural Centre was established in ROK in April 2011 and the Festival of India in Korea was inaugurated by Dr. Karan Singh, Honorable President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations on 30 June 2011. It will be celebrated for 8 months in order to revitalise the cultural relations between the two countries. Indian Community in ROK is estimated to be about 8000. Their composition includes businessmen, IT professionals, scientists, research fellows, students and workers. There are about 150 businessmen dealing mainly in textiles. Over 1000 IT professionals/engineers have recently come to ROK and are working in various companies including large conglomerates such as Samsung and LG. There are about 500 scientists/post-doctoral research scholars in ROK working in prestigious institutions. Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited India in 2014.
- Cultural relations of India and Korea / Raghuvira. In: Vivekananda, ., & Lokesh, Chandra (1970). India's contribution to world thought and culture. Madras: Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee.
- Jain, Sandhya, & Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. Vol. I contains material about Korean (and Chinese) Buddhist pilgrims to India.
- ^ abIDSA publicationArchived December 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ abBlue House commentaryArchived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^"Roh, Vajpayee discuss further cooperation". Retrieved 29 April 2016.
- ^"[시론] 중국·인도 FTA와 한국의 선택 - 조선닷컴". Retrieved 29 April 2016.
- ^ abcFICCI infoArchived 2008-02-21 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^"India to buy 8 warships from South Korea for Rs 6,000 crore". The Times of India. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
- ^Economy of india
- ^ abc"NDTV.com". www.ndtv.com. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
- ^Iryeon, pp. 161-164. (tr. by Ha Tae-Hung & Grafton K. Mintz) (1972). Samguk Yusa. Seoul: Yonsei University Press. ISBN 89-7141-017-5.
- ^Korean memorial to Indian princess, 6 March 2001, BBC
- ^UP CM announces grand memorial of Queen Huh Wang-Ock, 1 March 2016, WebIndia123
- ^Angela Schottenhammer (2008). The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Commerce and Human Migration. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-3-447-05809-4.
- ^SEN, TANSEN. 2006. “The Yuan Khanate and India: Cross-cultural Diplomacy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries”. Asia Major 19 (1/2). Academia Sinica: 317.https://www.jstor.org/stable/41649921?seq=17.
- ^http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp110_wuzong_emperor.pdf p. 15.
- ^"Sorry for the inconvenience". April 2016.
After two consecutive years of below 5 percent economic growth, India’s new BJP government was inaugurated in May amidst cheers inside and outside the country, in anticipation that business friendly and reform-minded Prime Minister Narendra Modi could put the Indian economy back on track. As part of its commitment to return to substantial growth, the new government has taken the lead in building closer ties with the outside the world, and there has been a steady stream of high-level envoys including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
With the improvement of foreign relations under Modi, a new light has been shed on relations between India and South Korea. As one of the earliest foreign investors after India’s economic liberalization in 1991, South Korea has been an aggressive yet enthusiastic investor that has continued to maintain its confidence in India’s potential. Bilateral trade is now 40 percent higher than it was in 2009, and South Korean companies including Samsung, LG and Hyundai are among the most respected companies in India, with strong commercial performance. Hoping to expand ties with India under the new government, President Park Geun Hye, who made her first foreign visit of 2014 to India, called Modi on July 22 to congratulate him on his victory in the general election and invited him to visit South Korea, which he accepted.
As highlighted by the recent phone conversation, as well as by the most recent joint statement between the two countries in January 2014, India and South Korea are looking to expand their strategic partnership by accelerating and further deepening political cooperation, economic engagement and cultural understanding. As India turns to the East for sources of growth and South Korea tries to diversify its oversea markets; and as India attempts to increase its global clout while South Korea seeks to strike a balance in the Northeast Asia; the need to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries is becoming even more pressing.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
For South Korea, India carries considerable economic and geopolitical significance. Not only is India an emerging growth market driven by an abundant youth demographic and rapidly rising middle class, it can also be a bridge for Korean businesses to penetrate the Middle East and African markets, considering its long and historical engagement with these two regions. The Modi government’s reforms will provide greater market access for foreign investors, and it could be an important opportunity for Korean investors to strengthen the foundation of their business in the country.
South Korea can also benefit from science and technology cooperation with India. India’s strength in the software industry can complement South Korea’s global competitiveness in hardware, while India’s competence in space science and technology, as proved by the launch of Asia’s first mission to Mars in November 2013, can help South Korea to realize its goal of becoming an aerospace powerhouse.
On the geopolitical front, India, as an emerging global power, can contribute to ensuring stability in Asia by engaging in regional affairs and providing a mediating role, as well as rendering valuable support to South Korea on Korean peninsula issues.
For India, South Korea can be a reliable partner that can help to modernize India’s physical and social infrastructure – from roads to railways, and from schools to sewage treatment plants. In fact, Modi has been frequently mentioning South Korea in his speeches when stressing the importance of infrastructure for economic growth. With Korean investors already showing interests in the Modi government’s plan for a $4 to 5 billion infrastructure fund, cooperation in infrastructure will only help the Indian economy.
Manufacturing is another area where synergy can be amplified. Goldman Sachs recently published a report titled “How India Can Become the Next Korea,” and concluded that India should adopt the Korean model to boost its manufacturing, considering a remarkable resemblance between the current Indian economy and the South Korean economy of the 1970s. Hyundai Motors is one example of how a Korean car manufacturer has been making an immense contribution to India’s manufacturing sector as well as exports, by producing 600,000 cars a year and exporting 230,000 of them to more than 120 countries from its Chennai plant. With easier access to doing business in India under the new government, more Korean companies from a variety of sectors including defense, shipbuilding, garments, and electronic goods will be investing in India’s future by building factories, transferring commercial technology, and generating more local employment.
Lastly, South Korea can share its knowledge and expertise in skills development. The South Korean government’s promotion of export-oriented manufacturing industries has made its economic miracle possible, yet its heavy investment in education is another indispensable factor that is worth noting. In particular, technical and vocational education and training has been a key aspect of South Korea’s successful development. In this light, the recent partnership between Samsung and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to set up technical schools across India is welcome, and more initiatives and cooperation are to be encouraged.
In 2013, India and South Korea marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties. Although it was only recently that the engagement between the two countries began to deepen, their relationship has proven beneficial in many different areas. With the new Modi government, there is now a greater expectation and enthusiasm for stronger ties between the two countries, and that opportunity should be seized. The next five years will be an interesting, yet immensely critical period for a sleeping elephant to wake up from its dream, and an ally would be of great help.
Soyen Park is a senior researcher in the economic section at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in India and a Ph.d Candidate at Korean University.The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the Korean Embassy in India or the South Korean government.