S Korean Embassy steps in to help war veteran


The South Korean Embassy in the capital Ankara has decided to step into action after Anadolu Agency's (AA) recent story about Mehmet Karamustafaoğlu, a Turkish Korean War veteran looking for a young Korean girl he befriended and cared for during the 1950-1953 war.

Ninety-year-old Karamustafaoğlu told AA yesterday that the embassy had requested the Turkish War Veterans Association to send all related documents to them, a move which gave him renewed hope about finding his little "Ayçe," who should be around 70 now.

A father of three grown-up children himself, Karamustafaoğlu has long looked for Ayçe. When he was invited to Korea as part of a sister cities project in 2004, he thought he had finally found a chance to find Ayçe, but failed to do so. According to the war vet, the Korean officials told him they could not possibly find Ayçe as she might have gone to Australia as an asylum-seeker after the war. Later, after giving a photo of Ayçe to Korean newspapers, Karamustafaoğlu saw Ayla in theaters, a film based on the true and touching story of a close bond between another Turkish war veteran and a Korean girl. The movie was released late October last year and soon became a hit. "Korean officials and I did everything to find her, but it was in vain," he said, adding the embassy's move had renewed his hopes. "If they can find Ayçe, I'm ready to do everything to bring her to Turkey," Karamustafaoğlu said, recalling how he took her to the hospital when she was sick. "She was a really clever girl. I bought her new dresses when I went to Japan. I remember she liked them all," he said. Karamustafaoğlu said he would also cover all expenses if she were found.

Nearly two months after Karamustafaoğlu arrived in Korea in 1951, as part of the U.N. forces defending the South, he 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 even gave her the Turkish name Ayşe, later simplified into Ayçe, 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 Ayçe to Turkey, but local officials would not allow it. Karamustafaoğlu entrusted the girl to a fellow soldier before leaving Korea in 1952.

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