A Virtual Homecoming

Hyundai and a little old man, dream of a unified Korea

“Swallows fly back north after winter. Salmon swim back to fresh water from the ocean. All animals ultimately find their way back home.”

With millions of refugees fleeing the destruction of Syria, the plight of displaced persons all around the globe has become a major talking point with the media. While the world’s eyes have once again been opened to this painful reality, displacement itself is a tale as old as time.

For Kim Gu-Hyoen, May, 1947 was the last time that he saw his family. After the split between the two Koreas, Mr. Kim was unable to return home to his small village in the North. That village no longer exists, and his loved ones are long gone. But thanks to a virtual journey crafted by Hyundai Motor Group, this month Mr. Kim traveled home in spirit, after 68 long years of isolation.

On November 5th, Hyundai Motor Group launched its “Going Home Campaign”, a virtual reality feat, and tribute to the company’s late founder, Chung Ju-yung, who fought and advocated for the reunification of the two Koreas until the very end of his life. By using automotive design, 3D technology and HMI (Human Machine Interface) simulation, Hyundai and the Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute of South Korea were able to reconstruct the small village that Mr. Kim left so many years ago.

Mr. Kim looks out the window of his apartment in South Korea.

Every journey has to start somewhere. Mr. Kim’s homecoming took off at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. After crossing a checkpoint, Mr. Kim and his son (sitting in the driver’s seat) pulled up to a massive, dark screen. At this point, Mr. Kim entered his old address into the GPS system of a sleek black Hyundai, and suddenly the screen before them flickered to life, reflecting the work of several years: a fantastically realistic simulation of driving through North Korea, to the little village of Mr. Kim’s youth.

“I wish this were real”, Mr. Kim says to himself over and over again, as he looks out the window, at the rolling landscapes flashing by.

It’s touching to see Mr. Kim’s journey back home. The emotional music playing in the background helps, but the story on its own is admittedly a powerful one. Of course, as with most things in this world, the whole thing is an elaborate marketing scheme.

“On the day the two Koreas reunite as one nation, Mr. Kim’s journey back home will be accompanied by Hyundai Motor Group.”

Marketing scheme or no, this is one video worth watching, and one of our favorite VR projects of 2015. Indeed, Hyundai has given us just one more example of how virtual reality is permeating every aspect of our lives, and even transcending political borders. Now that, is something to think about.

Cheers, and happy new year from the Knoxlabs team.