(Newswire.net — June 9, 2016) — The first step to apologizing is to admit to one’s actions and take responsibility for them. President Park has still to do so for her country’s past actions in foreign wars.
Retracing history, South Korea led by strongman President Park Chung-hee, the sitting president’s father, sent over 320,000 soldiers to fight in the Vietnam War. They came from the ROK Army and ROK Marine Corps. The first troops arrived in 1964 and for nine years until 1973, they inflicted all sorts of brutality on the Vietnamese. Among the US allies, South Korea was the largest military contingent in Vietnam, second only to the United States Forces. The official line for helping the US was to repay them for defending South Korea in the Korean War and to solidify military alliance between the two countries.
Now it can be told that financial incentives were also a key consideration for Park to send his troops to Vietnam. It is said he even campaigned hard for the war to continue. The Johnson and Nixon administration gave over tens of billions of dollars for the soldiers but all the money was coursed through Park. Most of it was used to realize the dictator’s ambitious economic development program. Hence, from being one of the poorest countries in the 1950s, the Republic of Korea experienced rapid growth in its economy starting in the 1960s.
When the South Korean military were in Vietnam, they were given carte blanche to do as they wished. The only goal was to vanquish the enemy. And they did so, in the most inhumane of methods. The “enemy” for them was anyone Vietnam. Unarmed men, helpless women and children, and the elderly were not spared. Their stories were only revealed forty years after the war ended, when a Korean graduate student studying in a university in Hanoi became curious about the accounts she heard and started digging them up. The untold tales of massacres of entire villages were finally revealed in her articles that saw publication in a weekly newsmagazine.
Shocked and disgusted that her fellow countrymen were capable of such despicable acts, she got help in putting up the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation with the aim of fostering healing of the Vietnam people survivors of war and establishing a peaceful coexistence among other people.
The stories of the Vietnam comfort women came later. It seems the Korean soldiers were not content with killing the weak and defenseless. They assaulted and raped thousands of the women, then left them with their children. Born of mixed blood, the children are called Lai Dai Han and live in the margins of society, scorned and ridiculed.
Statesmen and civic groups are asking for an apology for the Vietnam victims. But Park Geun-hye chooses to be silent, not admitting to the crimes perpetrated during her father’s regime. In the domestic arena, he was already ruthless on his opponents. In the Vietnam War, he condoned the acts of his soldiers because it is not possible for him to be unaware of what was going on. His daughter, an ultra-conservative, is bent on protecting the country’s integrity and her own father’s name. In Vietnam on a state visit in 2013, Park laid flowers on the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnam president and chairman of the Communist Party. But nary a word was said about the war. In 2001, when President Kim Dae-jung apologized to Vietnam for the acts of his people, Park criticized him for bringing shame to South Korea.
Behind the scenes, she is pushing for the government to take charge of the production of history books for schools. There are fears that it will be revised to put Park Chung-hee in a better light. In her autobiography, she wrote “The slander against my father continued, and I couldn’t just stand by and watch. As I saw it, my father had no personal ambition other than for his country, the Republic of Korea.”
The latest insensitivity shown by Ms. Park is her praise of the Korean TV series “Descendants of the Sun,” set in a war-torn country where a Korean officer falls in love with a doctor with a peacekeeping mission. There have been debates over whether it will bother Vietnam people because it will bring back memories of the war. But Park is encouraging its showing in other countries to promote tourism.
Pres. Park always puts her own interests first. In 1960, her father received $800 million from Japan in the form of soft loans, grants and trusts. Last December, she was able to obtain another apology from Japan for the Korean comfort women and an $8.3 million payment for the victims. But she is her father’s daughter and it will be surprising if she acknowledges the sins of her country and apologize to the Vietnam people. Still, stranger things have happened.