An Unusual but Touchy Reunion Through Virtual Reality

Mother met with her 'dead' daughter with this technology and went viral on Youtube

An Unusual but Touchy Reunion Through Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality

An Unusual but Touchy Reunion Through Virtual Reality


A Korean channel broadcasts the documentary of this reunion. People around the world watched it 13 million times. Whether it is good to use VR to do such things like that is a burning question today.

It is almost an emotional breakdown for everybody to see this video. It has become a subject of debate for the critics. Some of them think it is a part of voyeurism while others consider it as a symbol of pain exploitation of an individual.

In South Korea, experts developed a VR system that provided the mother with an opportunity to see her dead daughter again, touch, speak with and even to wish the daughter 'Happy Birthday.'

Na-yeon died of leukemia in 2016 when she was only six. From the footage, we can see that the girl appears in front of her mother, hiding behind a pile of wood. The setting is in a park, and it seems the girl is playing hide and seek with her mother. 

She comes out and asks, "Mum, where have you been? I've missed you a lot. Have you missed me?"

Jang Ji-sung is overwhelmed with emotions as we can see tears falling beneath the VR box. She tries to touch the girl by moving her hands in the air. The mother responds, saying "I have missed you Na-yeon."

As her hands move, we see the hairs of the computer-generated six-year-old girl's hair moves as a response to her mother's hand.

But in reality, there was only Jang who stood in front of a green screen in a studio. She was wearing touch-sensitive gloves and a virtual reality headset. Although she knows her daughter is no more (she carries her daughter's ash in her locket), she felt her daughter was real.

The documentary also shows some audiences who are even wiping seeing Jang. They are Jang's husband and her three children.

The Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) made the nine-minute documentary and named it 'I Met You.' In only one week, it reached 13 million views.

As a human being, all of us feels in the same way for Jang. By reading the comments section from the uploaded clip, we can see people expressing support and sympathy for Jang.

Some related their own grief with Jang as one of the comments says, "My mother unexpectedly passed away two years ago, and I wish I could meet her through virtual reality."

According to Park Sang-hyun, a media columnist, this kind of documentary is nothing but a sign of exploitation of personal pain.

He gives his opinion to the AFP news agency. He says, "It's understandable a grief-stricken mother would wish to meet her late daughter. I would do the same. The problem lies in that the broadcaster has taken advantage of a vulnerable mother who lost a child for the sake of the viewer ratings." 

He also tells about the consequence of this filming to Jang's mental health. If she has been taking counselling before the filming or not and if she was, then would her psychiatrist approve this or not are some intriguing questions.  

All the processes from making the virtual Na-yeon to filming the documentary took eight months for the makers. But they say that their intention was only consoling the family. And they broadcast the program to comfort others like Jang. It was never their intention to promote virtual reality as a medium of provoking sorrows on a personal level in South Korea.

A producer of this documentary tells a reporter that they used the technology as a "new way to keep loved ones in memory"

It is human nature that we want to keep our beloved one's memory ever-fresh. The same thing applies to Jang also. She tattooed her daughter's name and date of birth on her arm. She thinks that this program can console others who also lost their beloved persons.

Before turning her blog private, she wrote, "Even though it was a very brief ... I was really happy at the moment."

At the ending point of the clip, we see that Jang and Na-yeon are sitting at a table. They both sing "happy birthday" together celebrating Na-yeon's missing birthdays.

Before Na-yeon blows the candle, she makes a wish to her mother. She says, "I want my mother to stop crying."