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This Moving Digital Project Allowed a North Korean Man to Finally Travel Home

Kim Gu-Hyeon, 88, hasn’t been to his village since 1947.

Kim Gu-Hyeon hasn’t been back home since 1947. The 88-year-old man is just one of 66,000 North Koreans living in South Korea, essentially stranded there after the conclusion of the Korean War drew tightly guarded boundaries between the neighboring countries. The armistice put Kim firmly on one side, his village and family on the other. Kim never got to say goodbye to his parents, who died decades ago.


“My hometown was a cozy little village surrounded by mountains,” Kim recalled. “It looked like a painting. That’s how beautiful the village was.”

But thanks to a project by the Hyundai Motor Group, Kim got to see his small village once again—at least in virtual reality. With help from VWorld, the South Korean government’s 3D terrain visualization technology, Hyundai engineers and researchers used Kim’s recollections of his village to recreate it digitally.

Then came the visit itself. An engineer drove Kim within miles of the Demilitarized Zone, the volatile border between North and South Korea. There, they encountered a 93-by-20-foot screen, which projected the image of a drive through Kim’s North Korean village. Kim encountered downtown Pyongyang, the capital of the country, then the misty river of his youth, then his small house itself.

“I wish this were real,” Kim said in the heartbreaking video recording his visit. “I hope this becomes a reality soon.”

(Via QZ. Cover image via Youtube screencapture)