People’s Tribunal on War Crimes by South Korean Troops during the Vietnam War to hold by Minbyun and the Korea-Vietnam Peace Foundation. IMAGE BY JJW ON WIKIMEDIA COMMONS. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
ANDRE KWOK AND NATHANEAL KWON – 13 MAY, 2022
In 2018, two survivors of massacre perpetrated by South Korean troops in Vietnam during the Vietnamese-American war, instigated the People’s Tribunal on War Crimes by South Korean Troops during the Vietnam War. This signalled a watershed moment in the history of civil activism and transitional justice in South Korea; yet, there is still much to be done.
Following the outbreak of conflict in Vietnam (1955-1975), U.S. President Lyndon Johnson initiated the Many Flags campaign to consolidate a united front against communism in Indochina. While several countries, including Thailand, Australia and New Zealand participated, South Korea contributed by far the largest number of troops after the U.S.: around 300,000 rotating troops by the end of the war.
Dictator Park Chung-hee sought to build a stable South Korean government, and so he agreed to take a leading role in the war in exchange for American military support in the Korean peninsula and economic support for Park’s ambitious development plans. The estimated $1 billion USD worth of American aid and other war-related income was a vital lifeline for the crumbling Korean economy.