Centuries-old Korean love letter sets Internet hearts ablaze

Jordana Divon
Shine On

Before romance was as quick as two-line text, lovers used to spend hours pouring their hearts out to each other on quill and parchment.

And while each generation may think it has the lockdown on love, a 426-year-old letter from a pregnant Korean woman to her dead husband proves we have more than dates and names to learn from history.

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The letter that's now setting Internet hearts ablaze was discovered in the coffin of a 16th century man named Eung-Tae Lee. Lee was part of the Goseong Yi, a clan indigenous to what is now modern-day Andong City in South Korea. The Goseong Yi rose to power toward the end of the 14th century and remained prominent for many centuries, as reported in the blog Explorer MF.

Archaeologists discovered a coffin containing the mummified remains of Lee during a 1998 tomb excavation.

Buried alongside his body were a pair of woven hemp-bark sandals, locks of his mourning wife's hair and the letter that, 14 years later, has suddenly sparked online interest for its heartbreaking declarations of love and sorrow.

Full text below (via Letters of Note):

To Won's Father

June 1, 1586

You always said, "Dear, let's live together until our hair turns gray and 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 lay 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 would I put my heart in 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 your saying 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 and I stop here.

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Other contenders in the great historical love letter category include Ludwig von Beethoven's classic notes to his "Immortal Beloved," and Henry VIII's ill-fated love declarations to Anne Boleyn.

And who would have thought that tiny but fierce military genius Napoleon Bonaparte possessed such a romantic streak? Letters to his wife, Josephine, prove the Corsican had as much skill with words as he did with battle blueprints.