Wife of Turkish foster father of Korean War orphan dies one day after her husband
On Dec. 7, Süleyman Dilbirliği died at the age of 91 in Istanbul. Dilbirliği had adopted Eunja Kim during the war and named her “Ayla.”
The story of Dilbirliği and Ayla came to prominence recently after director Can Ülkay told their story in the movie titled “Ayla,” which is Turkey’s foreign-language Oscar nominee.
In the film, the girl has no parents and Süleyman names her Ayla. Within a short time, Süleyman and Ayla become like father and daughter. But at the end of the 15-month process, the team has to return to Turkey. Süleyman cannot bear to abandon Ayla, and does everything within his power to take her with him. After repeated failure, he is forced to give Ayla to an orphanage, but does not give up on the hope of one day reuniting with her.
Last month, the premiere of the film was screened in Istanbul. Eunja travelled to Turkey for the screening, when she visited her foster father in hospital.
Officials at Haydarpaşa Numune Training and Research Hospital said Dilbirliği died of multiple organ failure.
“The overall condition of our patient deteriorated over the past week and our veteran died of organ failure despite all the medical efforts over the last 24 hours,” the hospital said in a statement.
Coşkun Yılmaz, head of the Istanbul directorate of culture and tourism, described their hospital reunion two weeks ago.
“Kim grabbed her foster father’s hands as soon as she entered the room and later she cried a lot,” he said.
“It was a very sad scene.”
Turkish troops served under U.N. command during the 1950-53 war, during which 774 Turkish soldiers were killed.
“Ayla” received awards at international film festivals including the Asian Pacific Film Festival in Los Angeles and the Cape Town International Film Festival.
Ayla has been nominated as Turkey’s entry for Best Foreign Language Movie in next year’s Oscars.