S.Korean Embassy in Turkey steps in to help war veteran

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

Ninety-year-old Karamustafaoglu told Anadolu Agency on Thursday 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 "Ayce" who should be around 70 now.

A father of three grown-up children himself, Karamustafaoglu has long looked for Ayce. 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 Ayce, but failed to do so.

According to the war vet, the Korean officials told him they could not possibly find Ayce as she might have gone to Australia as an asylum-seeker after the war.

Later, after giving a photo of Ayce to Korean newspapers, Karamustafaoglu 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 Ayce, I'm ready to do everything to bring her to Turkey," Karamustafaoglu said, recalling how he took her to 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.

Karamustafaoglu said he would also cover all expenses if she were found.

"I think she will remember me because she cried a lot when I had to return to Turkey. She had nobody there. We searched a lot. She literally had nobody there."

From Ayse to Ayce

Nearly two months after Karamustafaoglu arrived in Korea in 1951, as part of the UN forces defending the South, he saw a little girl lying on the side of the road; fortunately, she was alive.

For 10 months, Karamustafaoglu took care of the 2-year-old, and even gave her the Turkish name Ayse, 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, Karamustafaoglu tried to find a way to take Ayce to Turkey, but local officials would not allow it. Karamustafaoglu entrusted the girl to a fellow soldier before leaving Korea in 1952.

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