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An incredible story, all too often completely forgotten. Korea was one of the centers of Arab culture in Asia until 1427, so much so that it still bears some legacies today
The union between these 2 cultures begins in the distant 7th century, when some Arab merchants arrived for the first time in Korea, specifically in the kingdom of Silla. However, they will stabilize in the region only starting from 1024 when 100 Muslims chose to place the roots of their future in this peninsula, they were the first to unite the two cultures. Emigration to Korea increased more and more, but it was only with the conquest of the Mongols that Muslims began to have a real political weight, moreover not indifferent.
Under the Yuan empire the followers of Islam formed a real social class, the Setu, considered inferior to the Mongols alone. The best way ever to help the country’s development.
The Middle East in Korea
The development that the Setu and the Hui, the Muslim Chinese, gave to the peninsula was immense. A cultural contamination that has gradually extended to every field of daily and scientific life. To give you two examples, we could talk about Soju and astronomy.
The popular Korean distillate finds its origins in arak, an alcoholic typical of the Arab-Persian culture, so much so that it is still known today as arak-ju in the Kaesong area. However, the contribution with the stars was even more significant: in fact a large part of Korean geography has its origins in Arab cartographers. The latter were the first non-Asians to describe the country, and at the time much of the information about the world came from that geographical area. In the early Joseon era, the Islamic calendar also served as the basis for the local calendar revolution, forming a true Sino-Islamic tradition that survived until the 19th century.
To the present day
With the accession to the throne of Sejong “the Great”, Muslims were forced to leave the country, integrating with the more welcoming and close Chinese empire. We will have to wait for the Korean War to see Muslims in the peninsula again. With the outbreak of the war, the UN demanded help from each of its members, including Turkey, which sent the “Turkish Brigade” to the country. In addition to military support, however, the army also provided military aid to the population, so much so that several Koreans converted and some Turks chose to stay, forming a very small but still existing community.
In 1962 the first mosque in the country was built after centuries thanks to Malaysian funding and in 1967 the first Korean Islamic association was born, which grew exponentially thanks to the many Muslim emigrants. A dream that continues, with a majestic past. Follow us on our facebook, YouTube and Instagram page, every like, sharing or support is welcome and helps us to dedicate ourselves more and more to our passion: telling the Middle East.