Is the legend popular in South Korea?
Some of our colleagues in the BBC Korean Service say that they have heard about this legend but don’t believe it’s a widely talked-about story because “it goes back so far in the past”.
“I remember hearing about it when I was in primary school or junior high and my friends and I were fascinated how our ancestry involves someone from so far away,” says Ms Lee.
Some say that there is speculation that the princess is actually from Thailand since Ayuta may actually be Thailand’s Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Stories on the internet say that some people from Gimhae refer to this legend “like a family joke” especially if they have darker skin, attributing it to their “ancestor who may or may not have come from India”.
“Some believe that while it may be true that she came from a ‘southern country over an ocean’ the story was heavily embellished when Buddhism took root in Korea,” says Mr Cann, who also remembers going to see a musical rendition of the legend as a child.
How has the legend impacted modern ties?
An agreement was signed to develop Ayodhya and Gimhae as sister cities in 2000.
Then in 2001, more than 100 historians and government representatives, including the North Korean ambassador to India, unveiled Queen Hwang-ok’s memorial on the west bank of the River Saryu in Ayodhya.
Every year, people who claim to be from the queen’s lineage come to Ayodhya to pay tribute to the princess at her motherland.
In 2016, a Korean delegation sent a proposal to the Uttar Pradesh government to further develop the memorial.
As part of her visit from 4 to 7 November, the first lady will attend a ceremony that marks a start on the upgrade of the monument – a joint project between South Korea and India.
FL Kim Jung-sook will visit #India from Nov. 4-7. The FL and her delegation will attend the ground-breaking ceremony of the Queen Suriratna(Heo Hwang-ok) Memorial in #Ayodhya,#UttarPradesh and join #Diwali celebrations. @MEAIndia @narendramodi @IndiainROK @ambsripriya https://t.co/nu8PxOVwnO
— The Office of President Moon Jae-in (@TheBlueHouseENG) October 31, 2018
Prof Kim Do-young, a Delhi-based expert on Korean studies, says that this shared history started being recognised in India “after diplomatic and economic relationship” between the two countries developed.
“Whether it is history or legend – based on it – mental or spiritual gap [between the people] is reduced and a common cultural ground is made,” he adds, pointing out that it’s interesting that there maybe an “ancient bond” between the two nations.
Queen Hwang-ok’s story has been and can be the “foundation for building better relations” between South Korea and India.
Prof Young says the South Korean first lady’s visit is yet another step towards that.