Another Turkish war veteran searches for ‘little’ Korean friend 65 years later

Another Turkish war veteran searches for ‘little’ Korean friend 65 years later

KAYSERİ – Anadolu Agency
Another Turkish war veteran searches for ‘little’ Korean friend 65 years later

After the timeless story of a close bond between a Turkish soldier and a Korean girl captured people’s hearts, another Turkish veteran hopes to re-forge a similar bond.

The story of how Süleyman Dilbirliği befriended an orphaned five-year-old girl in the midst of the 1950-1953 Korean War and cared for her for more than a year recently became a hit movie in Turkey.

After he was shipped back to Turkey and Eunja Kim - or Ayla, as her Turkish friend knew her - was sent to an orphanage, the two people were separated until 2010, when they were reunited at an event marking the war’s 60th anniversary.

Dilbirliği died in December shortly after “Ayla,” a movie directed by Can Ulkay, hit the big screen.

Since then another veteran, former Sgt. Mehmet Karamustafaoğlu, has expressed hopes to find the young girl he befriended during that long-ago war, a girl known as Ayce.

Nearly two months after he arrived in Korea to join U.N. forces defending the south, Karamustafaoğlu saw a little girl lying on the side of the road. Fortunately, she was alive.

For 10 months, Karamustafaoğlu took care of the 2-year-old, and gave her the Turkish name Ayşe, later simplified into Ayce, which non-Turkish soldiers found easier to pronounce.

The little girl soon recovered and learned Turkish with the help of her benefactor.

As his departure loomed, Karamustafaoğlu tried to find a way to take Ayce to Turkey, but local officials would not allow it.

Karamustafaoğlu entrusted the girl to a fellow soldier before leaving Korea in 1952.

The father of three grown-up children, Karamustafaoğlu has long looked for Ayce, who should be around 70-years-old now.

When Karamustafaoğlu was invited to South Korea as part of a sister cities project in 2004, he thought he had a chance to find Ayce, but came up short.

“We can’t find Ayce. She might have gone to Australia as an asylum-seeker after the war,” he cited officials as saying.

After handing over a photo of Ayce to Korean newspapers, Karamustafaoğlu watched the hit film Ayla with tears in his eyes as he learnt of the oddly similar story about another veteran and a Korean girl.

“Korean officials and I did everything to find her, but it was in vain,” he lamented.

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