Connection Of Korea and Tamil Nadu – The Real Untold History

Similarities between the Tamil and Korean were first noted by French missionaries in Korea. Susumu Ōno caused a stir in Japan with his theory that Tamil constituted a lexical strata of both Korean and Japanese, which was widely publicized in the 1980s but quickly abandoned. Now, more new evidences emerge thru research to prove that yes there is strong connection between Korean and Tamil people.

In 2015, a conference on ‘Cultural exchange between Tamil Nadu and Korea in antiquity’ was organised by the Consulate General of Korea Mr.Kyugsoo Kim, International Institute of Tamil Studies and the InKo Centre.

Aim of the conference is to bring together various researchers and scholars to trace-establish linguistic and cultural links between Tamil Nadu and South Korea. Rathi Jafer, Director at the InKo Centre, points out that the link between South India, more specifically Tamil Nadu and South Korea, goes a long way back.


Origin Of Language

Korean researcher Jung Nam Kim, who participated in the conference, says many theories have been proposed to explain the origin of the Korean language. “The most prominent of these link Korean to the Altaic languages of central and east Asia, a family that includes Turkish, Mongolian, and Japanese. However, there are very few words, which have the same pronunciation and the same meaning between Korean and each of the Altaic languages. The competing theory associates Korean with the Tamil which is one of the world’s oldest surviving language, which also have many similar words to Korean,” notes the Canada-based researcher.

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Kim’s research delved into the arrival of Tamilians in Korea. “Tamilians must have arrived in South Korea in first century B.C. In addition, the Korean people have been called ‘the nation of white-coloured dress’. Why? Traditionally the Korean people like wearing the white-colored dress despite the cold weather. This custom must have been brought in by Tamilians who are used to wearing the white-coloured dress because of the hot weather,” he adds. Other than that, ancient Tamil Sitthar (scientist and monk who live several thousand of years ago) also wear white-coloured dress to show their level of wisdom.


Spread Of Buddhism

There have been instances of blacksmiths going from here to South Korea. There is the historical journey of Bodhidharma, the monk believed to be from ancient Tamil country ‘Tamilakan’ ( modern Tamil Nadu / South India) who spread Buddhism to China and Korea. We aim to initiate a research project soon to examine this particular historic links between Tamil Nadu and South Korea, both the ancient trajectories and the contemporary manifestations of this inter-cultural exchange. Of particular interest will be the Buddhist links that existed between the Pandyan, Pallava and the Gaya / Kaya kingdoms, the manner in which Buddhist scriptures, iconography, language and the introduction of iron and steel are credited as having been transferred from Tamil Nadu to South Korea,” she says.


Legendary Princess Heo Hwang-ok (Seempavalam)

According to popular legend, Heo Hwang-ok (Aai) or called as Seempavalam by Tamils, a princess from the distant land of Kanyakumari, came by boat accompanied by her battalion to Geumgwan Gaya, with her national symbol twin fish around CE 45. Modern researcher’s have strongly pointed out that Princess Heo Hwang-ok actually hails from Tamilakam probably Kanyakumari and not Ayodhya which was misquoted by earlier researcher. They also mention that princess Heo Hwang-ok has more Tamil  identity and connection based on literature, culture and physical evidences collected both from Korea and Tamil Nadu.

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Ayodhya are located far away at northern side of India and to be noted that inhabitant of north side have a totally different history, language and culture. Kanyakumari a maritime fort of ancient Tamil country called ‘Tamilakam’ was ruled by the mighty Pandyan Dynasty. The vast Tamilakam area were ruled by three major kingdom called Chera, Chola and Pandiyan.

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Princess Heo Hwang-ok then married King Suro and became the first queen of the Gaya kingdom. Recent genetic studies by researchers Jeong-Sun SEO and Kim Jong-il on the remains of her tomb revealed genetic similarities between Tamil’s and Koreans,” explains the scholar, adding that a lot more research needs to be done.

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Similar Words, Tradition and Arts between Tamils and Korean

According Consulate General of Korea Mr.Kyugsoo Kim who now based at Chennai, there is lot of similarities of words between Tamil and Korean language. Kyugsoo Kim start to do his own research after realised that Tamils like Koreans also address their fathers as ‘Appa’.

During his research, Kim came across about 500 words in Tamil and Korean which share the same meaning and pronounciation. For instance the Korean word ‘Apahada’ which is ‘Avadhipadu’ in Tamil means the same –‘in pain’ or ‘suffer’-in both languages. Similarly ‘Vanakam’ (hello in Tamil) in Korean is ‘Vangapta’, ‘Manaive’ (wife) is ‘Manura’ and ‘Nal’ (day) is also ‘Nal’. Similarly, ‘Omomo!’ in Korean is the same as ‘Amama!’ in Tamil, which signifies ‘astonished, stunned, flabbergasted, appalled, shocked, dumbfounded’. The Tamil word ‘thalattu’ is the same as Korean word ‘dalaeda’ because they refer to soothe, calm down, mollify, cajole, coax a person, especially a crying baby,” he revealed. And when it comes to syntax and grammar, Korean and Tamils share the same sentence structure. For example, ‘I am cutting the grass’ in Korean is ‘Naan pul-ul-beda’.


Not just words, the two cultures share a lot of cultural and traditional practices too. Just like Tamils, Koreans have the habit of leaving the slippers outside the house and bowing before the elders as a sign of respect. “When a baby is born in Korea, we have green chillies hung outside the house to ward off evil spirits and I find the same practice here too. It is remarkably surprising to see girls playing five stones here just like Korea.

Kim says another thread of similarity could be a stone, the first queen of Gaya kingdom, took from Tamilakam to Korea. This could be the ‘Illavattakkal’, the practice of a man lifting weight to prove his strength.The old Tamil ritual involved a young girl asking her lover to lift a heavy stone to prove his strength. These stones are still found in interior villages of Tamil Nadu, says Kim. It clearly show that the princess taking Tamil culture to Korea with her when she left Tamilakam.


He substantiates his argument by citing examples of Korean food which are similar to the Tamil cuisine. Rice cakes, rice puff and lentil cakes are a few to name. “There must have been an exchange of cultural habits and cuisines when people from both the cultures migrated to each other’s’ country ,” he adds. He also felt that there were a lot of similarities between Korean and Tamil music, “These are some things that goad me to look deeper into the cultural similarities and I must say I feel completely at home here”. The Consul General of Republic of Korea further added that Chennai has the largest Korean population of around 4,000 among any other state in India and around 300 Korean companies.


Supporting Mr.Kyugsoo Kim findings, Rathina Pugalenthi, a scholar from Viruthachalam near Cuddolore district, said that dance forms such as Korean drum dance and Thappaattam in Tamil Nadu had at least 12 similarities in terms of movements, and composition of eight members in a group, including two drummers.

Apart than music, Korean and Tamils shares another similarities in weaving too. Madam P. Banumathi, assistant professor, Department of Tamil in Valliammal College for Women, spoke about how the traditional weaving technology of the State was meritoriously followed in the interior parts of Korea even now.

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Current State and Future

Scholar and Professor Kannan Narayanaa of Tamil Heritage Foundation and an expert in Tamil-Korean heritage  further elaborate that the Koreans are as emotional as Tamilians and have the same affinity for bonding and intimacy like Tamils. “Even the smallest similarity is something we have to be really proud of. We just can’t have a meal without pickle and they too can’t have food without it. The Koreans believe they have Tamils ancestors and the queen who migrated from ancient Tamilakam may have been highly influenced by the Tamils way of living.” He adds that more research should be done in the area to strengthen the relationship between the two ancient country of Korea and Tamilakam.

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We hope with all these huge effort by various researchers, the real history and special relationship between Korea and Tamil Nadu shown to modern World and its time to rewrite the history.

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  1. Source & Credits : Consulate General of Korea Mr.Kyugsoo Kim, Korean researcher Jung Nam Kim Rathi Jafer, Rathina Pugalenthi, P. Banumathi, assistant professor, Department of Tamil in Valliammal College, Professor Kannan Narayanaa, and TOI.
  2. Image Courtesy : Nizhal Studios,, Ed Times,

Read More About China & Tamilakam’s Thousands of Years of Friendship :

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