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A Comparison of Vietnam and Korea in Memorizing the Korean Troops’ Involvement in the American War in Vietnam

Le Hoang Ngan (Sungkonghoe University MAINS)

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Based on the historical context of the American War in Vietnam and the relationship between Vietnam and South Korea after the war, this research highlights the Korean army’s involvement in the war in Vietnam from 1964 to 1973 as well as analyses and compares how Vietnam and Korea have memorized this...
Based on the historical context of the American War in Vietnam and the relationship between Vietnam and South Korea after the war, this research highlights the Korean army’s involvement in the war in Vietnam from 1964 to 1973 as well as analyses and compares how Vietnam and Korea have memorized this historical period. The dispatch of Korean army in the American War in Vietnam as one of America’s allies has paved the way for South Korea’s socio-economic benefits, however, it has caused physical and psychological injuries for the Vietnam veterans in Korea, who directly participated in the war. More importantly, during the nine-year period participating in the American War in Vietnam, the Korean armed forces had carried out a huge number of massacres. More than 5000 innocent Vietnamese civilians were killed and this devastating consequence has yet to receive sufficient care and compensation. Despite of the hard living condition, local Vietnamese living in the areas where Korean army used to station have collected money and devoted their effort to build up memorials to honor the massacre victims. The memorials also serve as reminders of the crimes that the Korean army had caused to their families and neighbors. In Korea, this forgotten truth has been exposed to the public nationwide and worldwide by many concerned intellectuals. In addition, many Korean social organizations have worked ceaselessly on charity activities in Vietnam as ways to express their apologies and to make up partly for these people’s losses. Meanwhile, neither the Vietnamese nor the South Korean government has established any formal recognition of the impacts and consequences of the Korean army’s involvement in the American War in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has carried out proper investigations and constructed historical buildings relating to the massacres caused by the Korean armed forces. However, questions are raised as the government also publicizes the policy “Close the past, Proceed to the future” and just focuses on the development of diplomatic and economic relations with South Korea. Korean government; on the other hand, has addressed the Korean troops’ participation in the American War in Vietnam indirectly in the speeches of some state leaders of the country, but it has yet to be discussed publicly in the meetings between the Vietnamese and Korean leaders since the normalization of the two countries. This research also focuses on analyzing some typical case studies such as memorial constructions in Vietnam, intensive commemorating monuments sprung up in Korea and constructions for educational purposes. The construction for educational purposes includes museums and exhibition houses, which display elements relating to the Korean army’s involvement in the American War in Vietnam. These displayed elements are used to depict the differences in recalling the same historical event between the two countries. While Vietnamese records in detail the massacres and carries out activities on the memorization of war victims, Korean keeps an account of facts about their army’s activities in the American War in Vietnam and praises the supposed glorious achievement of the Korean army. However, they have never mentioned the massacres that their troops had caused to thousands of innocent Vietnamese civilians. By showing the differences in the ways Vietnamese and Korean memorize and commemorate the Korean army’s participation in the American War in Vietnam, the research shows how important it is to have the official investigations and an open recognition upon this historical event. It is believed that Vietnam and Korea can only reach a real reconciliation, become each other's partner, and avoid the repeated history when the two countries are able to share a common history page of the same historical event, the Korean troops’ involvement in the American War in Vietnam.
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Acknowledgement

Abstract
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Acknowledgement

Abstract

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 : Introduction 1
1.1 Background Information for the Chosen Topic 1
1.2 The Objectives of the Research 3
1.3 Research Methodology 3
1.4 Overview of Chapters 4

Chapter 2 : The Overview of the Korean Military’s Involvement in the American War in Vietnam (1964-1973) and Brief of the Relationship between Vietnam and
Korea after the American War in Vietnam 6
2.1 The Overview of the Korean Military’s Involvement in the American War in Vietnam (1964-1973) 6
2.1.1 Historical Context Bringing about Korean Troops’ Involvement 6
2.1.2 Reasons 7
2.1.3 The Process of Korean Troops’ Deployment to Vietnam 8
2.1.4 Outcome of Korean Army’s Participation 10
2.2 Brief of the Relationship between Vietnam and Korea
after the American War in Vietnam 11

Chapter 3 : The Overview of Korea’s Memory of the American War in Vietnam 12
3.1 Korean Government’s Official Memory 12
3.2 Unofficial Memory in Korea 15
3.2.1 Activities of Korean Non Government 16 Organization
3.2.2 Vietnam Veterans’ Memory 17

Chapter 4 : The Overview of Vietnamese’s Memorization of the Korean Army’s Involvement in the American War in Vietnam 22
4.1 The Vietnam Government in Conducting “Close the Past, Proceed to the Future” 22
4.2 Vietnamese Civilians’ Memorization 26

Chapter 5 : Comparison between Ha My Memorial Monument in Dien Ban, Quang Nam and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument in Dongjak, Seoul 30
5.1 Ha My Memorial Monument 30
5.2 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument in Dongjak 32
5.3 Comparison 34
5.3.1 Ha My Memorial Monument 34
5.3.2 Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Monument in Dongjak 37

Chapter 6 : Comparison between Oeumri – Vietnam Veteran Meeting Memorial and Binh Dinh General Museum 39
6.1 Oeumri – Vietnam Veteran Meeting Memorial 39
6.2 Binh Dinh General Museum 40
6.3 Comparison 42
6.3.1 Common Points between Oeumri and Binh Dinh Museum 42
6.3.2 Difference in Details of the Two Places 43

Chapter 7 : Conclusion 49

Notes 54

Bibliographies 58

Appendix 66
List of Massacre Memorial Monuments in Vietnam 67
List of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Projects in Korea 69
Binh Dinh General Museum photos 76
Oeumri – Vietnam Veteran Meeting Memorial photos 79
Ha My Memorial Monument photos 82
Photos of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monument in Dongjak 84
Photos of Memorial Monuments in Vietnam 86
Photos of Memorial Monuments in Korea 88