PSPD in English Archive 2000-07-31   2249

ASQ Special No.1 : Massacre of Civilians during the Vietnam War

Massacre of Civilians during the Vietnam War

Oh Yeon-ho (Chief of OhmyNews, oyh@ohmynews.com)

Prof. Chung Woo-sik, fought in Vietnam in 1965 as a platoon leader of the 2nd regiment of the Blue Dragon Marine Brigade. He described “scandalous incidents” on the battlefield as they happened. His accounts contained the rapes and mass killings of civilians. The shadows of the Vietnam War are revealed by the veteran for the first time in 35 years. He added that the war has no legitimacy for South Koreans.

South Koreans reacted with palpable shock at learning the scale of massacres committed by their countrymen in Vietnam, which was brought to light by a run of expose reports in Hankyoreh 21 and by a campaign by the non-governmental group We and I. In the war, 4,687 Korean soldiers lost their lives. Vietnamese authorities claim that a like number of Vietnamese civilians were killed by the South Korean armed forces.

In a telephone interview with Hankyoreh 21 on December 21, 1999, retired Maj. Gen. Chae Myong-shin, who was commander of the South Korean forces in Vietnam in 1965-69, said, “there are claims that South Korean soldiers raped and killed Vietnamese civilians, but there is no way to verify them.” He concluded, “so far those are unsubstantiated claims.”

In a December 10 meeting for the fact-finding of the Korean mass killings of Vietnamese civilians, Kim Hyun-ah, speaking for We and I, said, “there are only victims’ accounts of the killings, but no Korean soldier has to date come out and make testimony.” She insisted that the South Korean government launch an investigation in the massacres.

The South Koreans should fully investigate the carnage they have committed as well as the brutalities they have been victimized by. This is how we squarely demand an apology from the US government over the No Gun Ri massacre. The AP found the GIs who took part in the massacre, and their accounts served as a momentum in bringing the No Gun Ri incident to light. I covered the rancor the No Gun Ri people had harbored toward the massacre for Mal, a monthly journal, in 1994, and appreciated the AP coverage. It was too late, perhaps, but very clear-cut.

This has prompted me to look for platoon-leader veterans who would give their accounts of the war. The low-rank officers, because they have been at the forefront of the war with soldiers, have firsthand knowledge of what happened on the ground, and a capacity to grasp its implications.




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