"Paradise": Korean TV reunites mother with late daughter -- in virtual reality

"Paradise": Korean TV reunites mother with late daughter -- in virtual reality

The video isn’t subtitled but you don’t need subtitles. The whole thing is perfectly clear, and relentlessly excruciating, by dint of the situation. All you need is the basics: The child died in 2016 when she was seven from a blood-cell disorder and her mother is still trying to cope, tattooing the girl’s name on her body and wearing some of her ashes in a necklace. VR wizards tried to engineer a reunion of sorts, creating an avatar of the girl from 3-D recordings made of her younger sister and adding voice recognition and some elementary AI. To make it as real as possible, they created a sense of physical touch by having the mother wear haptic gloves in addition to a VR headset.

Reading that, do you even need the clip? Imagine it. The thought is overwhelming.

Kotaku calls the decision to air this intensely intimate experience on television “extremely f***ed up.” I understand that reaction. But after watching it and reading what the mother had to say afterward, I’m torn.

“Maybe it’s a real paradise,” Jang Ji-sung, the mother of four children, said of the moment she met her deceased daughter, Nayeon. “I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it’s a very happy time. I think I’ve had the dream I’ve always wanted.”…

The mother has said she had decided to appear in the document to comfort “someone who has lost a child like me, or who has lost a brother or a parent.” From the start of the broadcast to the next morning, more than 200,000 people have visited Jang’s blog until it was closed. Her age and location were withheld.

“Three years later, I now think I should love her more than miss her and feel sick so that I can be confident when I meet her later. I hope many people will remember Nayeon after watching the show,” Jang wrote on her blog.

I couldn’t do it. It’s too much.

But I can believe that this made her grief easier, not harder, and I can believe that some who watched it were comforted by the prospect of having their own VR reunion someday. Considering how differently different people grieve, it’s inevitable that time spent with a simulacrum of the dead will help ease some into acceptance and recovery. There’s joy in that.

And agony too. Steel yourself before you click.

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