Seoul, Nov 11 (IANS) South Korea, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived Wednesday, has a small but vibrant Indian diaspora of some 7,000 people, dominated by professionals from the information technology industry.
According to officials of the Indian mission here, over 1,000 engineers and software professionals have recently come to South Korea, working for large conglomerates such as LG and Samsung, which have today become household names back home.
There are also around 125 Indian scientists and post-doctoral research scholars working or conducting research at various institutions in the country, said the officials, adding the community is also widely respected.
Some of the Indian associations here include the Indian Association of Korea, with mainly professionals as members, the Annapurna Indian Women’s Association and another of the 600-strong Sikh community that runs two gurdwaras here.
Indian companies are also making inroads in South Korea
While companies like LG, Samsung and Hyundai are household names in India today, Indian companies, too, are making inroads into this East Asian nation of around 50 million people.
This is not only due to the presence of software companies from Bangalore and Hyderabad in this country but also some takeovers of South Korean enterprises by Indian companies.
Top on the list is Tata Motors, which acquired the commercial vehicle division of then bankrupt Daewoo for around $100 million, followed by the buyout of Alcan Taihan Aluminium by the Aditya Birla Group for $600 million in 2005.
The most recent investment proposal is that from automobile major Mahindra and Mahindra, which signed a pact to acquire majority stake in Ssangyong Motor Company, South Korea’s smallest automaker, known for its sports utility vehicle.
India has contributed to South Korea’s democracy
Aug 15 is an important date for India, but it is also the date the Republic of Korea was formed, that too, with a key role played by New Delhi, which the people of this country acknowledge.
India was the chair of the nine-member UN Commission set up in 1947 to hold elections in what was then simply called Korea after the end of Japanese colonial rule in 1945.
The successful conclusion of elections in the south a year later led to the formation of the Republic of Korea, also referred to as South Korea, Aug 15, 1948.
Again, when the Korean war of 1950-1953 came to an end the two sides accepted a resolution sponsored by India, which as chairman of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission had also contributed 60 ambulances to the UN.
Tagore in South Korea is much revered figure
Ever since nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore penned an evocative poem on Korea’s glorious past and brighter future in 1929, he is a much revered figure in this country. So much so that there is even a Tagore Society of Korea that has not only translations of works by him and other Indian writers but also promotes cultural relations with India.
Tagore’s poem ‘The Lamp of the East’ was published in the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper in 1929. In the South Korean nationalist imagination this poem has a remarkably important position as a sort of ‘external legitimator’ for Korean independence.
Culturally and socially, relations between India and South Korea are said to date back to 48 AD when a princess of Ayodhya married King Kim-Suro and was called Queen Hur-Hwang-ok.
The city of Gimhae, where the princess landed in South Korea, now has a pact with the Ayodhya administration in Uttar Pradesh, which even donated a site there for a monument of Queen Hur-Hwang-ok.
This apart, the two countries have several twin city and related pacts – between the commercial hubs of Mumbai and Busan, Gyeonggi Province and Maharashtra, Incheon and Kolkata.
Similar pacts are being considered between Seoul and New Delhi, Jaipur and Pocheon and Gwangju and Bangalore.
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)