A man believed to be the oldest North Korean-born person in New Zealand doesn't think outliving friends and loved ones is necessarily a blessing.
In Myung Kim, born in 1922, is celebrating his centenarian birthday on April 16 based on his Korean age. Korean babies turn 1 on the day of their birth and another year is added on January 1.
A former government worker under the Kim Il-Sung regime, he escaped to the South in 1948 with the intention of setting himself up before bringing his wife and two sons, then aged 5 and 3, over.
But then the Korean war broke out in 1950 and he never got a chance to see or contact his family again.
Kim said his life in the South is far from being paradise, and he faced immense challenges as a result of discrimination from South Koreans.
He remarried and had another son, who now lives in New Zealand and sponsored both Kim and his wife to come over in 1999 under the parent immigration category.
However Kim's wife died in 2018, and Kim and his son - who he does not want to name - are not on talking terms and he says they have not been in contact for years.
Kim now lives alone at a West Auckland rental housing for older people, and goes out only on rare occasions when members from the local Korean community take him.
"People really don't know what they're talking about when they say I am lucky to be living to this ripe old age," he said.
When asked what advice he would share with the young, Kim said they should live life to the max, do things they want but most importantly learn to love themselves and their own company.
Born in the Hwanghae Province in North Korea, Kim said his life has been tough and in a blink of an eye, he went from being a young man seeking a better life for his family to a man wondering each day if it would be his last.
"Learn to love yourself, because if you happen to be one of those who live a long time, then all your friends and loved ones will have gone before you and all you've got left is yourself," Kim said.
"Get a meaningful hobby, have pets - because unlike humans, they can be replaced - and read plenty of books because they will take you places even when you're no longer physically able to."
Besides doing plenty of reading, Kim keeps busy in the garden growing a variety of mugunghwa - also known as the rose of Sharon - the national flower of Korea.
He said growing mugunghwa, a flower considered an important symbol of Korean culture for centuries, keeps him connected with his motherland.
For company, Kim has two budgerigars and three cockatiels, which he talks to like "little babies".
"I am thankful and grateful for the life that New Zealand has given me, and maybe it's because of the fresh air here that I am still alive," Kim said.
"But no matter what, I will always be a foreigner here and my heart and memories are still with Korea."
In his wallet, Kim carries a photo of himself with his best friend Lee Young Do, who he said was killed by firing squad during the Korean War.
Kim isn't planning any celebrations for his birthday, he said it would probably just pass like any other day.
He has tried multiple times to locate the family he left behind in North Korea, but without success.
"Until today, the hardest part for me is not knowing whether my sons are all right or if they are even still alive," he said.
"If I can get one wish granted when I turn 100, it is just to get that answer. I just wish that they have had a happier life than me, and have made me a grandfather or even a great-grandfather."
The life expectancy for males in North Korea is 68 years, and his sons would be in their 70s if they are still around.
Diane Lee, co-president of the Korean-New Zealand Cultural Association, said there are about 30 North Korean-born people living in New Zealand.
Most of them would have been escapees to the South and migrated here with South Korean passports.
"Many of them are in the older age group who are in their 60s and over, but In Myung Kim is the oldest," Lee said.