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Home / World / Virtual reality helps South Korean women return home in North Korea

Virtual reality helps South Korean women return home in North Korea



Hyun Mi (Hyun Mi) fled Pyongyang with his parents and five siblings and escaped the fighting on the Korean Peninsula when he was only 13 years old. The Chinese army is approaching the North Korean capital, and her family plans to hide south until they pass.

Xuan Said, 83, said: “I thought it would be a week, but that week became 70 years.”

But now, for the first time since the family fled, Hyun has been able to use virtual reality technology to visit her childhood home (at least one version).

In the absence of a real family reunion, the South Korean government hopes that the new virtual reality project can provide some comfort to North Korean refugees who are worried about the aging of time.

Escape from North Korea

During the Korean War in the 1

950s, thousands of people like Hyun fled to North Korea and crossed the border into China and Russia. Many people eventually came to Korea.

Photo released on December 26, 1950​​, North Korean civilians who fled to South Korea accompanied by a military police jeep. This photo was taken during the Korean War between North Korea and North Korea.

Photo released on December 26, 1950​​, North Korean civilians who fled to South Korea accompanied by a military and police jeep. This photo was taken during the Korean War between North Korea and North Korea. credit: AFP/Getty Images

Yun Xianxian said that many North Korean women stayed behind to guard their houses, while men and their children fled, fearing that they would be killed by Chinese soldiers, who are less likely to be killed.

Her family left two sisters, 6 and 9 years old, under the care of their grandmother.

They planned to return when the fighting eased, but after the armistice ended in 1953, North Korea and South Korea set up an almost impenetrable border between the two countries to prevent anyone from crossing either side.

Many families like Hyun are separated from the places they know and the people they love.

In the following decades, under the leadership of a dictator dynasty, North Korea became more and more isolated from the world. The dictator wanted North Korea to reunify, but it had to proceed on its own terms.

An unfixed photo taken on January 18, 1951 shows North Korean refugees passing through frozen rice fields as they fled to the south.

An unfixed photo taken on January 18, 1951 shows North Korean refugees passing through frozen rice fields as they fled to the south. credit: AFP/Getty Images

Although the two countries allowed selected families to reunite for brief and emotional gatherings, most families separated during the war never saw their relatives.

The meeting was conducted through the lottery system based on age and the strength of family connections. In the past, when relations between the two countries deteriorated, the reunion was cancelled. The last meeting was held in 2018, when 89 families from South Korea met with their North Korean relatives. Many people participated in the 90s.

Past reminders

The suffering of separated families prompted South Korea’s Unification Ministry to ask the country’s Red Cross to establish a project to connect them with their hometown.

The Red Cross teamed up with Ahn Hyo-jin, CEO of Seoul-based VR company Tekton Space, to create a VR experience for North Korean refugees.

An En said: “There are many displaced people in South Korea. They are all eager to go to their hometown, but because of the situation, they can’t.”

Hyun-a famous South Korean singer whose popular songs include those about being separated from relatives in the 1960s-is the first North Korean refugee to take a virtual tour of her homeland.

A 3D artist sketch of Pyongyang based on the memory of artist Hyun.

A 3D artist sketch of Pyongyang based on the memory of artist Hyun. credit: Courtesy of the Ministry of Unification

An En said it is not easy to rebuild places in remote North Korea.

His company interviewed Hyun to remind her of vivid moments in her childhood. When she speaks, the designer outlines her description and checks regularly to confirm whether the drawing matches her memory. Then convert these sketches into 3D designs.

3D designer Moun Jong-sik said: “In the beginning, it was really daunting.” “What if I do something different from her memory?”

But when Hyun put on the VR headset in September this year, she found that she couldn’t stop crying.

“I’m in North Korea!” Hyun shouted.

The virtual reality entertainment market in Pyongyang, North Korea, spent childhood dazzlingly beautiful.

The virtual reality entertainment market in Pyongyang, North Korea, spent childhood dazzlingly beautiful. credit: Courtesy of the Ministry of Unification

She said that the entertainment in Pyongyang was not exactly the same as she remembered, but it was very close. When Xuan investigated the ice-covered recreation area of ​​the house where she grew up, she said that she had been thinking about her parents, their parents were long dead.

She said: “The faces of my mother, father, sisters and brothers shone in front of me.”

Hyun remembered how crowded the house with eight siblings at the dining table was, and sneaked into her father’s shop to eat squid. She has seen seafood markets in Pyongyang where she used to skip rope and the Taedong River where she used to swim as a child.

Xuan still lives in the pain of leaving behind two sisters. Twenty years ago, she held a meeting with one of the brokers who had a brief stay in China and had business relations in North Korea. Their meeting was filmed by a documentary film crew and then televised. Her sister was only 6 when she left, and her life was much harder.

“As long as I come with you, I can be a star singer like you.” Xian recalled.

Entertainment activities at Hyeonmi’s house in Pyongyang.

Entertainment activities at Hyeon Mi’s house in Pyongyang. credit: Courtesy of the Ministry of Unification

“She is almost 60 years old, but she still looks the same. I saw how she lost all her hair, all her teeth and toenails,” Hyun added.

In the 1990s-during the time when H met his sister-North Korea was hit by a famine that killed an estimated 600,000 people, although earlier estimates made this number even higher.

She said: “Even if I went to the cafeteria today, I cried because there is a lot of food there.” “It makes me very painful to see any food thrown out because it reminds me of the sisters in the north.

Future plans for refugees

Although there is no official statistics on the number of North Korean refugees in North Korea, the South Korean Unification Ministry said in the latest statistics released last month that since 1988, 133,000 people have officially registered to meet their families in North Korea. However, as the refugees get older, these opportunities for reunion are becoming fewer and fewer.As of November, there were 49,700 registered refugees Still living in Korea.

An En hopes that Xuan’s experience is just the beginning.

Ann said the country’s Unification Ministry has expressed interest in expanding the project next year to mimic other areas where refugees have lived before. Ministry of Industry and Information Technology officials said that although they do not have a timetable, they are currently considering a plan. But he added that it is impossible to create customized projects for every refugee.

An’en’s company interviewed many displaced people, who, like Xuan, hope they can return to their hometown. They also want to see their family, but VR technology cannot solve the problem-the experience does not include people.

Xuan said The virtual reality project gave her some comfort. What she really wants is the freedom to see her family in real life.

She said: “I don’t need much, or even unity. If we can visit each other, I will be very grateful.”


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