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Connecting people and deepening ties: India-South Korea relations

18 November 2021


The recent Korean drama Squid Games has broken all Netflix records and left its audience in awe. While all the drama actors are earning praises for their impactful performance, a Korea-based Indian actor, Anupam Tripathi, is gaining a little extra affection from the fans due to his portrayal of an innocent and soft-spoken Pakistani migrant worker, Ali, in the drama. The success of Squid Games and the casting of Anupam Tripathi has brought India and South Korea closer. Usually, South Asian actors play minor roles of migrant workers, and even Anupam Tripathi had to play many such roles. Nonetheless, it can be assumed that after Squid Games , South Asian actors would have more chances of playing significant roles in Korean movies and dramas. People-to-people ties drive cultural understanding People-to-people ties help build a cultural understanding. Indian cultural organisations, Indian Cultural Centre (ICC), and Indian restaurants serve as important junctures, where Koreans and Indians interact and understand each other’s cultures personally. In 2011, the ICC was established in Seoul to “showcase India’s rich cultural heritage and promote cultural exchanges” between India and South Korea. Located just across the Embassy of India, ICC organises ‘International Day of Yoga’, ‘Tagore Jayanti’, ‘Gandhi Jayanti’, festivals of India, etc., to promote Indian culture in South Korea. ICC also conducts Hindi , Kathak, and Bollywood dance classes for its Korean students. Such activities provide a platform for Koreans to interact with Indians and understand the vibrant culture. Apart from this, the Indian community in Korea is increasing gradually. As of 2019, about 13,236 Indians are living in South Korea. The Indian community consists of students, workers, businesspeople, scholars, etc. Many Indians study in Korean universities—Ewha Womans’ University, Yonsei University, Seoul National University, Korean University—with the help of scholarships like POSCO Asia fellowship and KGSP. Some Indians living in Korea have also formed various associations to celebrate festivals. For example, the Indian Student Association at SNU celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi every year and invites their Korean colleagues, professors, and friends. Also, several Indians moved to South Korea, learnt Korean, and opened their businesses to sustain themselves in the expensive city of Seoul. Today, many Indian restaurants host Koreans, especially during weekends. Former Ambassador Skand Tayal mentions that the iconic ‘Ashoka’ restaurant became the first authentic Indian restaurant to serve Indian food in Korea. Now, other Indian restaurants such as ‘ Taj Mahal’, ‘Ganga’, ‘Chakra’ , etc., have emerged, helping Koreans overcome their cultural biases and bringing them closer to the Indian culture. Although the proportion of Korean diaspora living in India is smaller, they share meaningful relations with the Indian community. Many Koreans choose India as a viable destination for their children’s education. In an interview, the Consular General of South Korea, Kyungsoo Kim, mentions that since not all families can afford to send their kids to America, they send their children to India to learn English and live affordably. In this way, many Koreans interact with Indians from an early age and develop an interest in Indian culture. Additionally, Ambassador Tayal states that Korean students enrol themselves in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Delhi University for higher studies. Korean students coming from Korea bring their culture with them. The impact of the Korean wave or Hallyu can be seen throughout the lanes of Majnu ka Tila , in Delhi, which are filled with Korean food, especially ramen , cosmetics, electronic gadgets, and K-pop items. Many Korean restaurants and cafés such as Little Seoul, Busan, Gung The Palace, and Kori’s are opened to offer Korean cuisine. A lot of Indians are also learning Taekwondo and the Korean language from professional Korean teachers. The Korean Cultural Centre in Delhi regularly conducts Korean activities such as mask making, kimchi making, Korean movie screening, language classes, etc. Moreover, the Centre for Korean studies at JNU organises Hangeul day every year to commemorate the invention of Korean alphabets and promote Korean culture to Indians.


india international affairs strategic studies the pacific, east and southeast asia young voices