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This tearjerking story of Turkish soldier and a little girl inspired an Oscar nominated film

Their story filled with hope and care has inspired millions around the world and tells the story of compassion in the middle of a war.

This tearjerking story of Turkish soldier and a little girl inspired an Oscar nominated film
Cover Image Source: YouTube | @MBClife

The Korean War (1950-1953) brought both immense loss and significant liberation, illustrating the complex legacy of conflict. Turkey joined the Korean War under the U.N. command to devote their efforts in support of South Korea during its struggle for freedom, democracy and independence, per Daily Sabah. Around 741 Turkish troops were lost in the war and there were countless civilian casualties as well. The Turkish sacrifice in the war coined the term "blood ally" for Turks in South Korea. Amidst this bloodshed, a heartwarming tale emerged.



 

A 5-year-old South Korean girl named Eunja Kim was discovered by Sgt. Suleyman Dilbirligi on the battlefield. Kim's parents had passed away during the ongoing war in 1953 and the little girl was found by the Turkish soldier alone in the woods. Dilbirligi brought her to the Turkish garrison, where he cared for her over the next 14 months. However, their sweet bond did not last for long as the Turkish troops had to return to Turkey after the war. T Kim was entrusted to other troops there and later she was transferred to an orphanage.

Image Source: Turkish troops line the side of a road, awaiting a Chinese attack, during the Korean War, (1950 - 1953), fought between North Korea, aided by Communist China, and South Korea, supported by the US and the members of the UN. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Image Source: Turkish troops line the side of a road, awaiting a Chinese attack, during the Korean War, (1950 - 1953), fought between North Korea, aided by Communist China, and South Korea, supported by the US and the members of the UN. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Their story was even adapted on screen by Turkish director Can Ulkay in 2017 and was titled "Ayla," the nickname given to the little South Korean girl by the soldier. The real-life inspiration behind the characters of the film, Dilbirligi and Kim, reunited once again in Istanbul for the film's premiere, per the media outlet. "Ayla" was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars at that time. Even though, there aren't enough pictures showing the real characters against the reel ones, film enthusiast Jonnyy Benitezz also shared a side-by-side comparison between the actors of the 2017 film and real-life soldiers and the little girl from 1953 on his Facebook page.

Image Source: Turks marching prisoners back to the Command Post as more troops move up to engage the enemy during the Korean War. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Image Source: Turks marching prisoners back to the Command Post as more troops move up to engage the enemy during the Korean War. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

After fifty years apart, the pair was reunited in 2010 by South Korean officials moved by his story during the 60th-anniversary commemorations of the war. During Kim and Dilbirligi's second reunion, the Seargent was physically fragile, according to an MBC Documentary on YouTube. However, their latest reunion was a lot more emotional when a now 71-year-old Kim visited her Turkish savior at a hospital in Istanbul where he was being treated for respiratory failure. The 91-year-old vet could only use his hands to gesture and communicate with Kim because of his fragile health and Kim burst into tears at his sight as she called him her "father."

Coşkun Yılmaz, head of the culture and tourism authority in Istanbul, also accompanied Kim during the visit, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that it was a "moving" moment showing the longing of "a daughter for her father." Unfortunately, Dilbirligi passed away at the age of 91 shortly after the film's premiere. He took his final breath at Haydarpasa Numune Training and Research Hospital where the officials stated that the veteran passed away due to multiple organ failure.



 

As for the film, it was screened once again in 2023 at the Korean Cultural Center in South Africa to celebrate the friendship between Türkiye and South Korea, per AA. “Today we remember not only the Turkish soldiers who fought to secure the blessing of freedom and democracy on the Korean peninsula but also the exemplary social responsibility shown by the Turkish soldiers,” Turkish Ambassador to South Africa Aysegul Kandas said in an address before the screening. She said Turkish troops provided shelter to the Korean children who had lost their families in the tragic war and later established a school in Ankara to provide preliminary education for those children.

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