Recognizing acts of sexual violence during Vietnam War, decades later

November 8, 2017

NEW ORLEANS –  On the eve of President Trump’s visit to Vietnam to speak at the APEC Summit, some 100 people gathered at the Three Happiness Restaurant in Gretna, La. yesterday to hear the untold stories of Vietnamese women who suffered sexual violence at the hands of South Korean soldiers during the Vietnam War and of their children. Organizers said they chose to host the event in this location because of the region’s large and active Vietnamese population.

The program included live Skype video with women in Vietnam. The stories they shared, translated from Vietnamese, were harrowing. They told of the days they were raped, how South Korean soldiers trapped them or forcibly pulled them into their rooms or homes, and the ensuing pain and stigma. Ms. Tran Thi Ngai, mother of the founder of the organization Justice for Lai Dai Han, was brought to tears when describing what had happened to her.

“One day when I was studying at school, a soldier followed me home. When my parents weren’t home, he came into my house, beat me, and then raped me. I was so afraid. Afterwards, no one believed me when I said that he had raped me. My family cut me off – they didn’t consider me or my children a part of the family.”

Many echoed her sentiments, saying that their families beat or disowned them when they went home and told their families about their assault. No one believed them. Oftentimes, children resulted from these rapes, and they also suffered from stigma and discrimination.

Another woman, Ms. Nguyen Thi Coi, had a son by the soldier who assaulted her. She remarried but her husband always treated her son differently, calling him ‘a Korean mixed breed.’ Among their peers, the Lai Dai Han children were teased and called terrible names. As Ms. Vo Thi Tuyet, a Lai Dai Han child, said, she doesn’t know who her father is but she will never forget what happened to her mother.

Many of the women and their children have suffered in silence for years. Now, as the women are aging, the pain is too great to bear alone, which is evident when the women speak about what happened to them.

“The pain you feel is a pain we all feel,” reflected State Senator Troy Carter, who attended the event in his Senate District. “While President Trump is visiting Vietnam, we are hopeful that this gathering – and other similar ones – will send a message.”

Of the more than 20,000 Vietnamese women that were raped by South Korean soldiers, only 800 women are alive today, but due to the nature of the crimes committed against them, many of the women have stayed silent.

As the eyes of the world focus on the APEC Summit in Vietnam, Justice for the Lai Dai Han is seeking to raise global awareness of the sexual violence that was committed by South Korean soldiers against Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War.