This real love letter from 430 years ago is just like a tragic and beautiful Korean drama
Is there a more tragic story than saying goodbye to someone you love because of death? Nothing is harder. We would like to believe that death doesn't mean the end of love. We might think that we can only see this kind of undying love in Korean dramas, but here is a true story that happened in Korea 428 years ago about a love that even death couldn't break. In 1998, Archaeologists in South Korea unwrapped cloth covering the 16th-century mummy of Eung Tae, who was sincerely loved by someone based on the heart wrenching love letter found inside.
The male mummy was found in a coffin while workers were moving a grave at Korea's ancient Goseong Yi’s family gravesite in Andong City, South Korea. Korean archaeologists dismantled it and removed pieces of clothing until they reached the body in the coffin. There was a male mummy who still had intact skin and a beard despite his skull being badly decayed. He was tall, even by today's standards, measuring 5 feet 9 inches and sturdily built, so archaeologists speculate that the man must have had a charming appearance. On closer inspection, archaeologists found a letter from his wife covering his body. It turned out to be the key to his identity.
There was also hemp shoes made of human hair. The letter was written by the mummy’s wife who has an unknown name. She is called ‘Won’s mother,' quoting an expression from her letter which starts with ‘To Won’s father.’ She sent the letter to her husband, Lee Eung Tae(1556-1586), who died the 1st of June in 1586. He was only 31 years old but his youth couldn't prevent the epidemic from taking him from her.
To Won's Father
June 1, 1586
You always said, "Dear, let's live together until our hair turns gray and then die on the same day. How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?
How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we laid down together you always told me, "Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?" How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?
I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where should I put my heart now, and how can I live with the child missing you?
Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to you speaking in detail in my dreams, I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.
When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.
You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end [to my sorrows] that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say, so I stop here.
How many words she had for him! She started from the paper’s right to the end of its left and then moved to the upper empty space. That was also not enough, so she kept on writing on the right empty space. At that time, paper was a valuable thing. She may have had only a sheet of paper, but no matter how many sheets she had, it wouldn't be enough for her. And there was also hemp shoes made of her hair. She started to make the shoes since her husband was ill in bed. No one knows why she mixed her hair into the shoes. She may have been short in the needed material, or she may have wanted to put her heart into it that way.
When her husband died, she had a little boy and was pregnant. It doesn't sound like it would be easy for her to live without her husband. Six years later, the Japanese invasion of Korean began in 1592. How did she go through that hard time? Was she alive? Her love and life capture our imaginations.
The discovery of the eulogy caused a media frenzy and has captivated the public for more than a decade, leading to several novels, an opera and a feature film. There is a statue of her, and the opera is still playing in Korea.
Why are people so interested in her love life? Did that kind of love exist only in the Joseon Dynasty period? Is it so hard to find that kind of ardent love now?