Vietnam, once an impoverished country suffering from international isolation, has emerged to become one of the fastest growing economies with a GDP of US $189.5 billion in 2014. It is a member of the World Trade Organization and has a young, vibrant middle class. Its exports and foreign investments are forecasted to increase and it is a participant in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement with the United States and ten other countries.
When Nguyen Van Linh took over in 1986, he introduced liberal economic policies which started Vietnam’s road to progress. Today, it remains a communist country but has cordial ties and trade agreements with the powerful economies, among them the United States, members of the European Union, Japan, China and South Korea.
But all these come with a heavy price. For many decades, Vietnam was besieged by wars in the 19th and 20th century. The Vietnam War may have brought it independence and placed the nation under a one-state communist rule. But the survivors of the Vietnam War and their families have not recovered from the trauma they suffered at the hands of the South Korean troops. To recall, around 320,000 US-allied soldiers of the Korean Force were deployed by ex-general Park Chung-hee, the father of the sitting president, to Vietnam to help the United States in their fight against the North. But the soldiers did more than fight the communists. They raped and assaulted the women, tortured and killed civilian men and children and ravaged communities, wiping out whole villages. Like beasts, they would descend upon a village and kill everyone in sight, throwing grenades, tying up old men and slitting their abdomens until the entrails hung out, severing the limbs of children and throwing them onto the trees. Bodies were thrown into mass graves and those managed to hide and survive buried the remaining dead bodies.
The Binh Dinh Massacre
On February 25, 1968, in the Binh An community in the Tay Son district of Binh Dinh province, South Korean troops entered the area to look for Viet Congs, the communist guerilla forces. But without hesitation, they slaughtered the civilians in the area, killing 380 innocent men, women and children in one hour. The rampage continued for six weeks with more than one thousand killed. A 200-meter trough was dug up and the bodies were thrown into it. At the People’s Council building is a poster where the names of the people are written.
The Binh Hoa Massacre
The Binh Hoa massacre is a little known horrific event that occurred between December 3 – 6, 1966.The Blue Dragon Brigade of the South Korean forces burned down all the houses after killing 502 elderly people, women and children, including 21 pregnant women. Hundreds of cows and buffalos were not spared. After the massacre, the surviving Vietnamese joined the communist guerillas and fought against the US and Korean troops.
Dien Nien – Phuoc Binh Massacre
On October 9, 1966, South Korean Marines killed 448 villagers in Dien Nien Temple and Phuoc Binh hamlet. The soldiers were presumably after the North Vietnam communists, yet the victims were mostly women, children and the elderly. Simultaneously occurring at Binh Tai in the Quang Ngai province, another group of Korean Marines murdered 168 unarmed civilians.
Other similar massacres were committed by Park’s military, in the guise of aiding the US forces and annihilating communists to stop the spread of their ideology. These carnages include the Khanh Giang-Truong Le, Ha My, Phong Nhị and Phong Nhất, Tây Vinh and the Vinh Xuan massacres.
Attempts by Vietnam survivors and their relatives for South Korea to admit to its bestiality during the war have been met with resistance and denial by Seoul. The veterans believe it is their legacy that they fought off the enemy and helped Vietnam, even if the south eventually lost. Pres. Park, in a 2013 visit to the country, visited the tomb of Ho Chi Minh but made no mention of her country’s brutal actions during the war.
The Vietnam administration is reluctant to support its own victims. In its economic relations with South Korea, it is the subservient partner and will do anything to keep the ties going. As a communist state, it also controls the media and any report that is contrary to the interest of Hanoi will be dealth with severely.
The Vietnamese war victims must rely on external NGOs and similar groups to support their cause. In the meantime, things are not looking too bright for them.
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