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Korea, India celebrate 40 years of ties in New Year

Indian Ambassador to Korea Vishnu Prakash
Indian Ambassador to Korea Vishnu Prakash
The Indian Culture Centre in Seoul celebrated the first anniversary of its establishment in April this year, and Korea and India will mark their 40th year of diplomatic ties in 2013. The following is a Q&A with Indian Ambassador to Korea Vishnu Prakash:

Korea Herald: It’s been over a year since the Indian Cultural Centre opened in Seoul. What was the idea behind starting it? How can we compare the ICC in Korea to ICCs in other countries?

Vishnu Prakash: Our cultural ties go back two millennia to the visit of Indian Princess Suriratna from Ayodhya who came to Korea in A.D. 48, married King Kim Suro and became Queen Heo Hwang-ok. Some 5 million Kims, including the wife of President Lee Myung-bak, in this country of 50 million, trace their ancestry to the royal couple. The ICC was set up in response to an abiding fascination with Indian culture and heritage in Korea. Every ICC is unique in that it tries to accommodate interests of the host population while building bridges of cultural understanding. As yoga and dance (both classical and Bollywood) are particularly popular in Korea, we have highly qualified Indian instructors who hold regular classes and workshops.

KH: How has it been received? What has been the response of Koreans as well as Indians or other nationalities living here?

VP: It has become a cultural hub for India lovers in Korea and members of the Indian community. Its popularity has far exceeded our expectations.

KH: What are the plans going forward? What aspects of Indian culture ― besides kathak, yoga, language classes ― are on the anvil? Is the budget being increased every year?

VP: 2013 is being celebrated as the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Korea. An active calendar of cultural events including fine art recitals by Indian troupes, painting exhibitions, film festivals, essay contests and symposiums is in the process of being finalized. As we are a developing country, budgetary constraints are natural, but that has not stood in the way of holding the Indian flag high on foreign soils.

KH: What are the similarities between Indian and Korean cultures, and how can an organization like this help or contribute?

VP: There are striking cultural similarities between our countries and societies including filial piety, role and stature of the eldest male member of family, respect for age, and an emphasis on education. Cultural centers like the one we have (and South Korea is setting up its center later this month in New Delhi) enhance mutual cultural appreciation, understanding and connectivity.

KH: What is the context of Korea-India relations?

VP: South Korea is among the friendliest of countries with which we enjoy an issue-free relationship with numerous convergences. We look at the world and our regions through a similar prism. Economic relations constitute one of the key pillars of our ties. Korean companies like POSCO, Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan are world leaders, and are betting big on India. They are capable of and indeed are bringing in capital, cutting-edge technology and generating employment. We are closely working together in multiple sectors including infrastructure development, energy, steel, consumer electronics, education, defense, tourism and culture.

By Shalini Singh

Shalini Singh is a journalist with the Hindustan Times/New Delhi. She was in Seoul on a Kwanhun Club-KPF media fellowship. ― Ed.