Koreans in Vietnam

With the background to Korea’s involvement in the Korean War coming to light today, I think it’s a good time to link to the English website of the Vietnam Veterans of Korea — definitely a MUST READ. Tons of stuff in Korean over at War Story of ROK Forces in Vietnam 1965-1973. Korean Veterans of the Vietnam War (English) has some info on Korea’s participation in the war, including some interviews with Korean vets. The homepage of the decidedly anti-communist Vietnamese National Party ran an essay on Korean troops in Vietnam after the Hankyoreh’s Ku Su-jeong reported on Korean atrocities during the conflict in 1999. While hardly approving of some of the tactics employed, the Vietnamese site does point out that Koreans were the second-best combat troops in Vietnam behind the Australians and that the brutality was at least effective:

The massacre reported in the Hankyere might be the same incident that many Vietnamese heard in 1966. The rumor ran that in an operation, the Korean troops encountered strong fire from the communist unit in a village. The Korean unit encircled the village, sealed off all possible escape routes. They used megaphones to warn civilians to get out of their village in a given time or get killed when the Koreans came in.

After the deadline, the Koreans launched a fierce attack and seized the objective in a short time. In their search throughout the village, the Koreans shot to kill every single moving creature they met. According to the rumor, more than 300 peasants – old and young women and men, children – were massacred, plus several scores of enemy troops that mingled with the villagers.

News of the massacre quickly spread far and wide, and from then on, communist units dared not use villagers as their human shields against the Korean force. Some Koreans said that both sides in Korea had been doing the same during the Korean War.

The savage tactic proved effective, as security was maintained considerably in the Korean Force’s TAORs (Tactical Area of Responsibility). Even thieves were scared off from the area. But no Vietnamese anti-Communist ever thinks of such inhuman tactic.

  • kimbob

    I like how Korea treats its own war vets. Disgraceful.

    There’s that Hankyoreh again. It’s the same paper that is the biggest critic when it comes to US military’s role in the Korean War. Whatever they say, it must be true, right?

    It’s only the Koreans who were cruel to the Vietnamese right? It’s a stereotype that never goes away. I’m sticking up for these old guys in a world where they are shunned and unfairly accused. For instance, how much help did they get for serving their country thereby suffering the causes of Agent Orange? None. Zero. Zip.

    “The rumor ran that in an operation,”

    Rumors, that’s right – look up the word in the dictionary. It means ‘unconfirmed’, ‘unverified’. Stereotypes of Koreans in Vietnam as just killing machine goes a long way.

    “But no Vietnamese anti-Communist ever thinks of such inhuman tactic.”

    Both South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese were infamous for their brutality toward the civilians, who’re you kidding? It’s funny that Hankyoreh or any other papers like that would never publicize atrocities committed by the Communists from North Vietnam.

  • http://bobjones.edu virtual wonderer

    One thing I never understood about people is how they came to equate any sort of guerilla warfare as a “legitimate” way of waging a war. Like dropping napalms are evil, but using grandma as human shield is a nice way of opposing a much stronger conventional army.

  • Ray

    It??s only the Koreans who were cruel to the Vietnamese right? It??s a stereotype that never goes away.

    It is??

    You know, this essay does mention the fact that only the Americans were only outside power to ever be focused on during that war, thus the fact that they got a lot of shit for being the brutalizers. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the Korean army (or any other non-American force besides the Vietnamese) committing atrocities, although I’m sure it’s been done before in one way or another.

  • slim

    I’m not sure this is news. Back during the normalization of Seoul-Hanoi ties, I recall reading a lot about how Vietnamese had a tougher time reconciling with Koreans because of the brutality than they did with the Yanks. Recall also that many of the folks who commanded the troops who conducted the Kwangju massacre cut their teeth in Vietnam. Kill a Commie for Mommy, as they say.

  • kimbob

    “tougher time reconciling with Koreans because of the brutality than they did with the Yanks.”

    Myth #1.

    Where the Koreans operated, I dare say, they were far more popular with the civilians than the South Vietnamese and American forces. The further the distance away from the Korean operations, the worse Korean reputations got. I’m sure there were some brutalities committed by Koreans, but they were the exceptions, rather than the rule. Look around Vietnam, it’s full of Korean pop culture, they sure didn’t have trouble reconciling.

  • http://asiajazeera.seesaa.net watoro

    I??m sure there were some brutalities committed by Koreans, but they were the exceptions, rather than the rule.

    That’s what the Japanese right wingers tell me all the times…

  • kimbob

    My response, watoro. Atrocities by Japanese were real and well documented and its scale goes beyond anything that Koreans allegedly did in Vietnam (and I’ve not seen any evidence other than what the communists in Hanoi say). Japan invaded Asia to conquer and subjugate, On the other hand, Korea went to Vietnam to help America and South Vietnam fight communism – big difference.

    Japanese atrocities in Asia were real. Korean atrocities in Vietnam are not real. Koreans also suffered the same fog of war that Americans in Korean War also encountered.

  • http://koreanamerican431.blogspot.com/ baduk


    Get off the liar wagon. Korean troops did commit atrocities. All soldiers do.

    It is high time for us to admit those acts as they come out and truly appologize to Vietnamese people. Hiding them only makes us look Japanese.

    Admit your mistakes and truly repent. Korean Christians do.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com Kushibo

    badukGet off the liar wagon. Korean troops did commit atrocities. All soldiers do.

    It is high time for us to admit those acts as they come out and truly appologize to Vietnamese people. Hiding them only makes us look Japanese.I’ll go one better: hiding them only allows for the recurrence later on.

    During World War II, while it is true that hundreds of thousands were serving the Japanese involuntarily, some of these conscripts and some of the volunteers did commit atrocities, particularly in the POW camps. A couple dozen Koreans, in fact, were executed for war crimes (a tiny percentage of the Japanese imperial total).

    But because the issues and circumstances never really came to light for the general public, it was easy for them to be repeated, not just during Yugio, but also during the Vietnam War. And in the future, who knows? Maybe the way a lot of Korean factory heads run things in China and Southeast Asia is due to a lack of reflection on the capabilities of some Confucian-oriented Korean people in authority to do violent harm to their underlings.

    And this is another reason why I find the right-wing Japanese rhetoric so disturbing. Painting the atrocities as little more than a huge fabrication or the war itself as a defensive war derails important Japanese attempts in the past to come to grips with the horrors committed by people from their culture, even themselves. By denying it, watering it down, or rationalizing it away, you make it more likely to happen in the future. And that is why at least some people are nervous about the rhetoric coming from Japan’s right and Koizumi’s lack of concern about some of these issues.

    I would like to see the evidence that Korean troops committed these atrocities. My guess is that many of them are true, but that that morphed (by design maybe) into a legendary behavior that exceeded actual incidents. That’s NOT an excuse for any of it, but it would easily reconcile the two major sides of the issue.

    Korea cannot demand that Japan come clean if it doesn’t come clean itself. That “the other side” has 100 or 1000 times more atrocities to atone for doesn’t let your side off the hook.

  • http://koreanamerican431.blogspot.com/ baduk


    I agree with you one hundred percent. And, the best way to educate people is through movies.

    Korea did make some appologestic movies about VietNam, “White War” and others. I haven’t watched any yet so I cannot comment on details. But, these movies were anti-war and did provide some scene of Korean atrocities.

    Now, if I could get hold of some money to make “anti-Commie” movies, I would be so happy.

  • non korean

    I went to Vietnam a few years ago. Being a Yank I was a bit leery of how I would be received. They were all very polite and friendly to me after I said I was an American- to my face at least. Then again I was mostly in the South. The North tends to be a lot more Anti-American. When I brought up that I taught English in Korea I got a very negative response about Koreans and their reputation for cruelty in the war. I’m not in anyway saying the US didn’t commit atrocities in Vietnam just as all countries do with fierce fighting. Anyways definitely a love/hate relationship with Korea- they do love the Korean wave or should I say Korean cultural imperialistic hegemony.

    I fully agree with Virtual wonderer. Using human shields is an atrocity.

  • kimbob

    “I would like to see the evidence that Korean troops committed these atrocities.”

    Let me get this straight. You haven’t seen the evidence yet you have made up your mind.

    Baduk, I too thought Koreans committed unspeakable atrocities daily against the Vietnamese, until I began to read the experiences of the US vets who have served with the Koreans in Vietnam. 99.99 % of the time, they will be the first ones who will come to the defense of the Koreans. Sure there are lot of stories of legendary proportions about how Koreans skinned suspected enemies, and dropped prisoners off the helicopters but I have yet to read somebody who actually withnessed this. There were lot of US military advisers, forward area reconassaince, and troops who worked with the Koreans, I have yet to find and read American troops describing how Koreans went into a village and allegedly wiped them out by the hundreds. If this really happened, then the many American troops who worked with the Koreans would have withnessed it. If there’s a coverup, then those Americans would also be guilty of the coverup.

    At any rate, I’ll try to post this subject on the free board of the Korean Vietnam War Vets which Marmot posted, and ask them this question. Maybe one of the Korean or American vets who were the ones there (not us arm chair analysts who’s never been in a war) can input their opinions about the accusations that they were just bunch of baby killers.

  • kimbob

    Baduk, that movie’s title was “White Badge”, screened in 1992.

    The movie was a bold faced lie of the original book. I read the original book, the original book and the movie were completely different. The movie guys decided that they wanted a movie similiar to “Platoon” with all the glory actions of Vietnamese civilians getting murdered by evil Korean troops. The author felt betrayed because that was not how the book went, not even close.

  • http://kushibo.blogspot.com Kushibo

    Kimbob wrote:Let me get this straight. You haven??t seen the evidence yet you have made up your mind. You didn’t get that straight at all.

    I never said I never saw any evidence. I have read reports of this stuff and historical accounts, but I don’t know if that’s the entire story. Some of the accusations may be less substantiated, I don’t know. That’s why I’d like to see or hear the evidence for these.

    But from what I have seen or read, I think there may be some validity, but as I described, some of the reputation may be more legend or rumor than what really happened.

  • kimbob

    I just posted this onto the freeboard at the Korean Vitnamese War Vets page. Here’s what I posted.

  • Larry Kwong

    It’s time for Koreans to look into their own closet to see all their dirty clothes. Not only should they be facing their own atrocities they committed as American mercenaries in Vietnam war, but they must remind themselves that they were not victims in WWII, but that they fought war side by side with Japanese as their allies. In fact, Koreans were known to be the most brutal and cold blooded throughout the Southeast Asia as there were so many Koreans executed as War criminals in disproportion with a small number of servicemen in Japanese army. Again, it’s time for Koreans to stop lying to hide their real past and time to come out.