'History meets modernity in Delhi'

When you ask Shin Yeon Hee, the mayor of Gangnam district in Seoul, to draw parallels between Delhi and Gangnam, she describes culture, heritage and history of capital city in such meticulous detail that would make one doubt her claim of visiting Delhi for the first time.

Though Metrolife met her shortly after her arrival in Delhi, she was mentioning places like Humayun Tomb, Pragati Maidan, Delhi University, Qutab Minar and Delhi Metro with an uncanny ease as if they are the part of her daily lingo.

“Both (Delhi and Gangnam) are educational hubs. People from different parts of country come to study. Both are commercial centres carved out of historical cities with a host of monuments. We have a world Trade Centre and 1,300 year-old Buddhist temple. It’s a city where history meets modernity,” she says.

As she is on a business visit, she doesn’t forget to add that Gangnam also has an exhibition ground Coex exactly on the lines of Pragati Maidan in Delhi. Hee may not be deeply fond of music but she takes pride in the fact that a song by the name “Gangnam Style” became a rage of unimaginable proportions in India.  Popularity of the song may not be sole reason of her maiden visit to New Delhi but it certainly played its role, she concedes. She was on an official visit to woo Indian investors to invest in the South Korean city for its strong commercial appeal.

“It is the district which acts as a gateway to the entire Korea because of its good connectivity. We have six lines of metro on which one can travel to anywhere in the country within a short time span of three hours,” said Hee, a PhD in public administration who spent 33 years as Seoul metropolitan government officer.

She enjoyed being in Delhi and fancied Qutab Minar where she went in mere 24 hours of setting foot on Indian soil. “I was impr­e­s­sed to see the proper upkeep of historical monum­ents by the authorities here,” she said.

Like other Koreans, she too has a special corner for India, not only because of latter’s rising economic clout but because Buddhism – widely practised in South Korea – took birth here.

There are a plenty of Indian restaurants operating out of Gangnam, she admits without any qualms that she relishes Korean guksu over Indian rice. Of course, she savours Indian curry too, but besides that, none of the Indian food could linger in on her taste buds, she says.

For this, she is lobbying hard with her government to open centres of learning of Korean language in Indian universities. “DU and JNU already have centres of Korean stu­d­ies up and runn­i­ng and we hope more institutions will open such centres.”

While leaving, she folds her hands in a Namaste, smiles and says, “Thank you!”

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