Scholars reveal ancient Korean-Iranian diplomatic ties

2013-02-03 20:25

This 14th-century Persian painting portrays a scene from the Kushnameh in what scholars believe could be the betrothal of prince Abtin (kneeling) and Silla princess Frarang (sitting elevated), illustrating ancient interactions between Persians and Koreans. (Hanyang University Museum)
A scholarly project analyzing a recently uncovered ancient Persian text, years in the making and involving experts from Korea and Iran, is now shedding light on the extent of interactions between ancient Korean and Persian peoples that span thousands of miles.

The Iranian Embassy in Korea is keen to promote the preliminary results of the joint research conducted by Iranian professor Daryoosh Akbarzade, who arrived here on Jan. 30, and Lee Hee-soo, professor of cultural anthropology at Hanyang University.

Akbarzade shared his findings during the “6th International Seminar on Kushnameh Research” co-organized by the Iranian Embassy at Hanyang University, Thursday.

“Although we think of relations between Korea and Iran mostly in terms of economics, this research shows that relations were more three-dimensional and date back more than 1,000 years,” said Darvishi Hossein, counselor for public diplomacy at the Iranian Embassy.

Hossein said this could enhance bilateral relations.

“(The research) uncovers how diplomatic relations were conducted between Korea and Iran over a thousand years ago,” Hossein said. “High-level officials in Iran are also interested in the results of this research.”

The scholars analyzed passages over the course of six years at universities in Iran, Korea and India of a recently uncovered pre-Islamic Persian epic poem, the Kushnameh, which contains thousands of lines describing the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to A.D. 935).

The researchers believe many historical figures are described in the poem. One such figure is a major character in the Kushnameh, Abtin, a Persian Sassanid prince betrothed to a Silla princess named Frarang at the invitation of a Silla king.

First escaping his home in the Sassanid Empire (A.D. 224 to 651) collapsing under waves of invading Muslim Arabs, Abtin departs on a long and arduous journey that takes him through magical and frightening encounters in seventh-century Iran and China.

Abtin eventually arrives in the Silla Kingdom. The epic Kushnameh then delves into lavish descriptions of a royal Silla Dynasty marriage between the Persian prince and the Korean princess, Frarang.

Akbarzade said separating fact from fancy was a difficult task, but the descriptions of Silla in the poem revealed the intimate and extensive interactions between what is today Iran and Korea, and piqued the interest of Korean and Iranian diplomats.

By Philip Iglauer (
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