Green Island off the southeast coast of Taiwan is now a memorial park, but in 1949 it was a penal colony where political prisoners were detained. This was the time of the White Terror, when the island’s military rulers declared a state of emergency and aggressively persecuted Communists. An estimated 4,000 Taiwanese did not survive this period, and many were imprisoned for years.
A-Keun was among them. In the VR piece The Man Who Couldn’t Leave, he is the guide who welcomes the viewer to the barracks. Surrounded by fellow prisoners, he talks about daily life, boredom, hunger, comradeship and the loss of a sense of time. Most moving is the story of his friend A-Ching, who died in prison, leaving a final letter with A-Keun to deliver to a daughter he would never live to see.