Diplomatic Corner: Eminent Korean historian arrives in Pakistan via Silk Road route - Pakistan Today

Diplomatic Corner: Eminent Korean historian arrives in Pakistan via Silk Road route

ISLAMABAD: Eminent Korean historian Dr So Gilsun has arrived in Pakistan, taking a pilgrimage route through the Silk Road, starting from Xian, China, and passing through Dunhwang, Urumqi, Taklamacan Road, Pamir, Kashkar, Kashkurgan, Kunjerab Pass, up to Hunza to visit and study the rich cultural heritage sites of the Buddhists in Pakistan.

Republic of Korea’s Ambassador Kwak Sung-kyu, on Thursday introduced Dr So Gilsun, saying that the Korean historian is not only an academic who has studied the Koguryeo era, but is also a devoted Buddhist researcher, who embarked upon a pilgrimage to arrive in Pakistan.

The envoy, while addressing the audience at a seminar titled ‘Hyecho in Gandhara: Footsteps of a Korean Monk in Pakistan’, announced that South Korea and Pakistan would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to further enhance cultural cooperation between Korean Culture Heritage Foundation and the Department of Archaeology and Museum of Pakistan. The seminar organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea highlighted the historical and cultural linkages between the Korean and Pakistani people centuries ago.

National History and Literary Heritage Division Secretary Aamir Hasan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Tourism and Culture Department Secretary Shahid Zaman, Gandhara Art and Culture Association Chairman Mian Imran Masood, Pakistan-Korea Society President Sajjad Afzal Cheema and Dr Inkook Kim were also present.

Referring to the Korean historian, the ambassador said that when he first heard about his visit to Pakistan, he had no idea that the eminent Buddhist researcher would take a long route on Silk Road to arrive in Pakistan at this age.

“It was a one-month-long trip and must have been a hard journey for his age. It was such a hard journey as Hyecho, a Korean monk, did 13 centuries ago. Can you please give a big applause to this respectable Korean historian?” said the ambassador amid a standing ovation from the participants.

Alongside Dr So’s presentation, Dr Esther Park and Dr Muhammad Farooq Swati also made enlightening presentations. On top of that Prof Han Young Yong, a special guest from Korea, also performed a piece of Korean traditional dance, called ‘Sunbi Chum’.

Three eminent scholars, including Dr Muhammad Farooq Swati, Dr Esther Park and Dr So Gilsu, in their presentations at the seminar, shed light on the travelogue of the Korean monk Heycho who travelled around Pakistan in the 8th century.

The scholars also highlighted the impact of these early travels on the spread of Buddhism in the Korean peninsula and around the world.

Dr Swati presented insights into the importance of the KP region as a historical melting pot for cultures, traditions, artwork and architecture. Dr Park spoke about the memoirs of Heycho titled ‘Memoir of the pilgrimage to the five kingdoms of India’ which is one of the earliest recorded travelogues to vividly describe many areas of Pakistan in the 8th century.

Dr Park also suggested taking steps for increasing Korean Buddhist tourists to Pakistan. Dr So spoke about his recent travels across China and Pakistan during which he followed the ancient routes taken by the Korean monk Heycho.

The audience also watched the classical Korean Sunbi Dance performance by Dr Han Young Yong. Sunbi refers to the academic in Josun dynasty, who focused on studying with neither any official position nor rewards.

On the occasion, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea Kwak Sung-kyu introduced a co-project for preservation and treatment of cultural relics which is progressing between the Korean and the Pakistan governments. He also committed and offered to further work together, on the federal or provincial government level, to enhance the cultural interactions and people-to-people exchanges in the coming days.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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