You have been enchanted with fairy tales since your childhood. You have always wished you could be a part of one. Well, you are a part of one.
You just don’t know it, yet.
Let me take you back during the ancient times when the fairy tale began. 삼국 유사 (Samguk Yusa), a 13th-century Korean chronicle is a collection of legends and stories from the 삼국시대 (Samguk Shidae/Three Kingdoms of Korea), namely 고구려 (Goguryeo), 백제 (Baekje), and 신라 (Silla). It has an interesting story to tell about a prince and a princess!
A few centuries ago, even before the Joseon and Silla dynasty, there was Geumgwan Gaya confederacy in Korea. The Gaya confederacy was founded by King Kim Suro who united the 9 villages to form the Gaya confederacy. The Gaya or Garak confederacy existed during the time of Three Kingdoms of Korea – Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla. If you look at the map of the then Korean kingdom, then you will find Gaya situated at the northernmost tip, between Baekje on the left and Silla on the right. The birth of King Kim Suro is no less than a legend itself. It is said that six eggs in a golden bowl wrapped in red cloth were brought to Earth from heaven. Each egg later matured into a young boy! Each boy then later went to establish his own confederacy. Seems interesting, doesn’t it?
The legend doesn’t just stop here. King Kim Suro’s wife, Heo Hwang Ok is also a legendary figure in Korean history. Did you know? She was only 16 when she got married to Kim Suro! She is said to have traveled from a foreign land, Ayuta. Many historians claim that she was an Indian princess, from Ayodhya.
Her parents had a divine dream from the Heavenly Lord. The Heavenly Lord told them to send her to Kim Suro the king of Gaya confederacy. He had no queen yet, so her parents sent Heo Hwang Ok to become Kim Suro’s queen. Heo Hwang Ok is also called as “Queen Suriratna“.
Then, the beautiful Heo Hwang Ok set sail on a boat to the land of Kim Suro. She traveled for two months towards an unknown land. She found a rare peach fruit named Beondo which blooms every 3000 years. Kim Suro was asked to choose a wife among the maidens. But he said he will be guided by the Heavens to select a wife. His commanders then found a vessel by a beach. They informed Kim Suro about the strange vessel. He commanded nine chiefs to bring the passengers of the vessel to his court. When Princess Heo Hwang Ok denied the offer, Kim Suro ordered to build up tents and camps at the slopes of a hill for her and the rest of the passengers. King Kim Suro later informed her that he already knew about her arrival, hence he denied marrying other maidens.
Oh, do you know an interesting aspect of their story? They had twelve children in all. Queen Heo Hwang Ok requested King Kim Suro to allow two children to keep her maiden name. The legend has it that the queen lived till the age of 157 years!
Do you know why I told you that you might be living a fairy tale?
It is because it is believed that about six million Koreans trace their lineage to Kim Suro and Heo Hwang Ok. Not only that Indians and Koreans share similar traces of DNA as well! Now isn’t that an interesting piece of information! Sharing a trace of supposed royal lineage and tracing your roots back to such an interesting legend, definitely sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it?
Actress Seo Ji Hye portrayed the role of Heo Hwang Ok in the 2010 drama Kim Suro The Iron King. Ji Sung portrayed the role of King Kim Suro.
Now it’s time for some fun facts!
Some sources say that the princess came from the South of India, possibly the present-day Tamil Nadu region. This comes from an interesting study that Korean and Tamil languages have quite a handful of words that have similar meanings.
For example, in Tamil, a snake is called a Bambu and in Korean, it is called Bambu-baem. The president of the Korean Society for Tamil Studies, Kim Jung Nam states that there are words in both languages which share similar meanings. Another basic example of linguistic similarity is ‘appa’, and ‘amma’. In Tamil, father is addressed as ‘appa’ and mother is addressed as ‘amma’. The same goes for Korean as well! Although in Korean, mother is called ‘eomma’, there is no denying of the similarity, is there?
There is a memorial of Queen Heo Hwang Ok in Ayodhya, India. It is made from the heavy stones imported from Korea. Mayors of Ayodhya in India and Gimhae in South Korea have also signed an international ‘Sister City’ bond back in 2001. The ‘Sister City’ bond formalizes and encourages cultural exchange and mutual development. Tombs of Queen Heo Hwang Ok and King Kim Suro are believed to be located in Gimhae, South Korea.
There is also an Indo-Korean friendship park in New Delhi that celebrates this connection!
In February 2019, South Korea and India jointly issued stamps commemorative Queen Heo Hwang Ok’s legacy. One stamp shows the Korean Queen Heo Hwang Ok and the other shows Princess Suriratna.