[KS] Brian Hwang's Discussion Question

Jiyul Kim jiyulkim at gmail.com
Sun Apr 15 11:31:23 EDT 2012

I write as someone who studied this issue in some detail albeit some 
time ago by writing a MA thesis on it (US and Korea in Vietnam and the 
Japan-Korea Treaty: Search for Security, Prosperity and Influence, 
Harvard, 1991 available at www.dtic.mil "ADA237979"), as a career US 
Army officer (28+ years) and PhD candidate in History with focus on 
Korea of 1968-1972.

Labeling the Korean soldiers in Vietnam as "mercenary" is overly 
simplistic. It is my understanding that only volunteers were sent. The 
reason being that as the first overseas deployment of South Korean 
forces and a major one at that Korea did not want to force anyone to go 
over and only send the best qualified. All soldiers destined for Vietnam 
went through intense training and preparation.

The motivations of the volunteers are complex. Economic was undoubtedly 
a key factor in a period when Korea was one of the poorest countries in 
the world. It is true that the USG paid a lot of money and provided 
materiel, but most of those funds, routed through the USG, were kept by 
the ROKG to fund modernizing programs. But they were also motivated  by 
ideological (anti-Communism in a period that saw intense NK provocations 
1966-1970), patriotic (the enthusiasm for the nation building project 
under Park) and sense of duty (repay the debt of the Korean War). The 
sense of national mission and purpose among the general populace that VN 
generated in the mid 60s was intense. It filled Koreans with intense pride.

The atrocities of civilian massacres, of which there were many as shown 
by a Friends Committee investigation in the early 70s and more recently 
in the late 90s, is also a complex subject to explain. I gather that the 
"type of warfare" that Brian mentions is counterinsurgency (COIN) 
although I have no idea what "civilian warfare" means as I have never 
encountered the term in my career and study of history of warfare. COIN 
is messy and difficult as we have found out again in Iraq and 
Afghanistan and military forces are perhaps not the best means to 
conduct it. But I think there is a greater factor, a cultural one. 
Although the Korean deployment was officially depicted as a "crusade" to 
save another Asian nation from Communism, the Korean soldiers in Vietnam 
almost immediately looked down on the Vietnamese. The Koreans seemed to 
have had a sense of cultural and physical (Vietnamese were generally 
smaller in stature) superiority calling the Vietnamese /ttangk'ong/ 
(peanuts). Of course this is a generalization and many Koreans deeply 
respected the Vietnamese. It was similar to the way many Americans 
looked down on the Vietnamese that contributed in small part to the 
American defeat because the PAVN/VC were underestimated (how oftern have 
we done that in Asian wars). In a certain sense and in the passion of 
the battlefield I don't think it was not difficult to see the Vietnamese 
in less than human terms. There is also the general emotions of the 
battlefield in any time and place where soldiers, the ones with the 
instruments and powers to determine life and death, feel empowered 
beyond reason. This is fortunately a relatively rare occurrence due to 
military training discipline and simple sense of human decency, but 
exceptions happen (Sergeant Bales in Afghanistan).

Don Kirk's recommendation to talk directly with Korean veterans could 
help define this issue even if not definitely.

In any event, I say these things only to state that Brian's framework 
seems overly simplistic and the subject needs much more sophisticated 
and nuanced analysis.

Jiyul Kim
Oberlin, Ohio

On 4/15/2012 6:05 PM, Michael Munk wrote:
> Wasn't the US funding used for extra pay and benefits to Korean 
> troops, which encouraged them to "volunteer" for Vietnam?
> Mike Munk
>     ----- Original Message -----
>     *From:* Kevin Shepard <mailto:kevin_shepard at yahoo.com>
>     *To:* koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws <mailto:koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>     *Sent:* Saturday, April 14, 2012 10:40 AM
>     *Subject:* Re: [KS] Brian Hwang's Discussion Question
>     I think you will be hard-pressed to justify calling individual
>     soldiers mercenaries - the Korean government may have received
>     funds from the US, but ROK soldiers were drafted into mandatory
>     service. If you come across documentation that individuals
>     volunteered for Vietnam in order to receive funds from the US,
>     please send such documents to me.
>     Kevin Shepard, Ph.D.
>     Strategist
>     UCJ 5 Strategy Div.
>     ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     *From:* "koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws"
>     <koreanstudies-request at koreaweb.ws>
>     *To:* koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
>     *Sent:* Sunday, April 15, 2012 1:00 AM
>     *Subject:* Koreanstudies Digest, Vol 106, Issue 9
>     Today's Topics:
>       1. Discussion Question (brianhwang at berkeley.edu
>     <mailto:brianhwang at berkeley.edu>)
>       2. March 2012 Issue of "Cross-Currents: East Asian History and
>           Culture Review" Available Online (Center for Korean Studies)
>     ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>     Message: 1
>     Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2012 10:15:24 -0700
>     From: brianhwang at berkeley.edu <mailto:brianhwang at berkeley.edu>
>     To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws <mailto:koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>     Subject: [KS] Discussion Question
>     Message-ID:
>     <7cb59ce69b486f3c15e6bba3e396a6d4.squirrel at calmail.berkeley.edu
>     <mailto:7cb59ce69b486f3c15e6bba3e396a6d4.squirrel at calmail.berkeley.edu>>
>     Content-Type: text/plain;charset=utf-8
>     Hello all:
>     I am a history student at University of California, Berkeley.
>     Currently I
>     am working on a paper regarding Korean involvement in the Vietnam
>     War. My
>     argument is that although Korean soldiers were 1) mercenaries (because
>     they were paid predominantly by US dollars to go) and 2) anti
>     communists
>     (because of past history), the atrocities that they are accused of
>     committing are not primarily due to the aforementioned reasons, but
>     because of the type of warfare that they had to fight in Vietnam,
>     including guerrilla warfare and civilian warfare.
>     Do you all think this is a valid argument? Are there any primary
>     sources
>     that would help me in my argument, including ones that attribute
>     Korean
>     atrocities to their mercenary and anticommunist nature?
>     Thank you!
>     ------------------------------
>     Message: 2
>     Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2012 11:00:21 -0700
>     From: "Center for Korean Studies" <cks at berkeley.edu
>     <mailto:cks at berkeley.edu>>
>     To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws <mailto:koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>>
>     Subject: [KS] March 2012 Issue of "Cross-Currents: East Asian History
>         and    Culture Review" Available Online
>     Message-ID: <037401cd199f$4b410820$e1c31860$@berkeley.edu>
>     Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
>     March 2012 Issue of "Cross-Currents: East Asian History and
>     Culture Review" now online
>     The second issue of IEAS's new, interactive e-journal
>     "Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review" is now
>     online. The theme of the March 2012 issue is "Japanese Imperial
>     Maps as Sources for East Asian History: The Past and Future of the
>     Gaih?zu" (guest edited by K?ren Wigen, professor of History at
>     Stanford). Visit
>     http://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-2 to read the
>     articles, a review essay written by Timothy Cheek (University of
>     British Columbia) about Ezra Vogel's new book on Deng Xiaoping,
>     and abstracts of important new scholarship in Chinese. The March
>     issue of the e-journal also features a photo essay by Jianhua Gong
>     documenting Shanghai's longtang alleyways.
>     A joint enterprise of the Research Institute of Korean Studies at
>     Korea University (RIKS) and the Institute of East Asian Studies at
>     the University of California at Berkeley (IEAS), "Cross-Currents"
>     offers its readers up-to-date research findings, emerging trends,
>     and cutting-edge perspectives concerning East Asian history and
>     culture from scholars in both English-speaking and Asian
>     language-speaking academic communities.
>     * * ** **
>     March 2012 issue of "Cross-Currents" e-journal
>     (See http://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-2)
>     *Co-Editors' Note*
>     Building an Online Community of East Asia Scholars
>     Sungtaek Cho, Research Institute of Korean Studies (RIKS), Korea
>     University
>     Wen-hsin Yeh, Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), University
>     of California, Berkeley
>     *Japanese Imperial Maps as Sources for East Asian History: The
>     Past and Future of the Gaihozu*
>     Introduction to "Japanese Imperial Maps as Sources for East Asian
>     History: The Past and Future of the Gaihozu"
>     Guest editor K?ren Wigen, Stanford University
>     Japanese Mapping of Asia-Pacific Areas, 1873-1945: An Overview
>     Shigeru Kobayashi, Osaka University
>     Imagining Manmo: Mapping the Russo-Japanese Boundary Agreements in
>     Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, 1907-1915
>     Yoshihisa T. Matsusaka, Wellesley College
>     Triangulating Chosen: Maps, Mapmaking, and the Land Survey in
>     Colonial Korea
>     David Fedman, Stanford University
>     Mapping Economic Development: The South Seas Government and Sugar
>     Production in Japan's South Pacific Mandate, 1919--1941
>     Ti Ngo, University of California, Berkeley
>     *Forum*
>     Asian Studies/Global Studies: Transcending Area Studies and Social
>     Sciences
>     John Lie, University of California, Berkeley/
>     Defenders and Conquerors: The Rhetoric of Royal Power in Korean
>     Inscriptions from the Fifth to Seventh Centuries
>     Hung-gyu Kim, Korea University
>     *Review Essays and Notes*
>     Of Leaders and Governance: How the Chinese Dragon Got Its Scales
>     Timothy Cheek, University of British Columbia
>     A Note on the 40th Anniversary of Nixon's Visit to China
>     William C. Kirby, Harvard University
>     *Photo Essay*
>     "Shanghai Alleyways" by photographer Jianhua Gong
>     Essay by Xiaoneng Yang, Stanford University
>     *Readings from Asia*
>     Ge Zhaoguang , Dwelling in the Middle of the Country:
>     Reestablishing Histories of "China" [????:????"??"???]
>     Abstract by Wennan Liu, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
>     Wang Qisheng, Revolution and Counter-Revolution: Republican
>     Politics in Social-Cultural Scope [???????????????????]
>     Abstract by Bin Ye, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences
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