This amazing news comes to us from North Korea.
“I thought it would be a week, but that week became 70 years”, these emotional words are uttered by Hyun Mi, 83, who fled Pyongyang when she was only 13 years old with her parents and five siblings to escape fighting on the Korean Peninsula. Now she has been able to visit her hometown using virtual reality technology.
Thousands of people fled North Korea during the Korean War in the 1950s across the border into China and Russia while many ended up in South Korea. The North Korean women stayed behind to guard their houses as the Chinese soldiers were not killing women while men and their children fled to save their lives. Hyun’s family left her two younger sisters in the care of her grandmother. They planned to come back after the war ended but it was impossible as North and South Korea erected an impenetrable border between the countries. This war separated many families from the places they knew and their loved ones.
The anxiety to meet the loved ones prompted South Korea’s Ministry of Unification to ask the country’s Red Cross to create a project to connect them with their hometowns. The Red Cross worked with Ahn Hyo-jin, the chief executive of Seoul-based VR Company Tekton Space, to create VR experiences for North Korean refugees. Ahn said, “There are many displaced people in Korea and all of them are longing to visit their hometown but cannot due to the circumstances.” Hyun is a well-known singer in South Korea and sings about being separated from loved ones.
Ahn’s company interviewed Hyun asking her to recall her childhood memories while a sketcher was called for sketching Hyun’s description checking time to time to see if the sketch matched her memories. Those sketches were then turned into 3D designs. The 3D designer, Moun Jong-sik said, “It was very daunting when we began. What if the thing that I made does not resemble her memories?” Hyun was very happy to see the VR sketch and could not stop crying and said, “I made it to North Korea.” As she surveyed a snow-covered recreation of her house in North Korea, she kept on thinking about her parents who were now dead. She said, “The faces of my mother, father, sisters and brothers flashed before me.”
Hyun briefly united with her younger sister who was 6 years old when she left her. Hyun said, “She was almost 60 but she still looked the same. I saw how she lost her hair, all her teeth and toenails, too.” Hyun still feels sad and disheartened to see such a pathetic condition of her hometown.
Let’s hope that all separated families get united and meet their loved ones as soon as possible.
Image Source: Press Bolt News