Violated by Korean military, Vietnamese women fight for truth to break out [Translated]
November 7, 2018
An unrecognized episode in the Vietnam War, the recognition of the rape of Vietnamese women by South Korean soldiers stationed at the time still faces the denial of the Korean state.
Just 42 years ago, the war in Vietnam was ending. Twenty years of consecutive war that left the country ravaged and divided. To this day, it still bears the scars of this major conflict. The first – and the most obvious – are in the very landscape of the country: in total, the United States dropped 7.08 million tons of bombs on Vietnam (against 3.4 million by all allies on all fronts of the Second World War). Also, still today, 80% of Quang Tri Province, a province in the center of the country, was the line of demarcation between the two factions during the war and is littered with unexploded ordnance.
But other wounds, deeper, more “invisible” and no less painful, remain alive, like the Lai Dai Han, the name of these children born from the rape of Vietnamese women by Korean soldiers.
The Lai Dai Han: The Forgotten War
Like all stories of rape and violence affecting women around the world, the episode of the Lai Dai Han took a long time to become known in the public sphere. The term, Vietnamese, translates literally as “half-blood”. On paper, it refers to children born to Vietnamese mothers and South Korean fathers. But behind this reality hides a much more horrific reality: massacres and mass rapes committed on Vietnamese women by South Korean military, among the 320,000 or so soldiers in office at the time, in support of the United States in their fight against communist North Vietnam.
The Lai Dai Han are the children born of these forced marriages.
Their precise number is not known, but they are estimated to be between 5,000 and 30,000 – an absurdly broad range that shows how little consideration they have received since the facts. Born of an oppression occupying, these families, already precarious, had a real ordeal after the “liberation” by the north. Racism, social, professional and economic exclusion, the Lai Dai Han were maltreated in turn by the losers and then the winners – who blamed them for their mixed ancestry and lack of fathers, making them “bastards” of the war. As for the women, they were put aside and treated as outcasts, some having to leave their homes.
A frequent attitude towards rape, of which women are almost always the first victims. It is not surprising then that the first people to react are not the women, victims of violence, but their descendants.
Denial of South Korea
But in the face of the horrors perpetrated by these soldiers, South Korea is crumbling into a guilty denial. Worse, in 2013, faced with rising accusations, the Korean defense minister, through a spokesman played the card of denial “such massacres civilians, intentional, systematic and organized by the Korean army is impossible. If such an incident had existed, it would have been exposed and made public for a long time. The [Republic of Korea] fought in Vietnam to stop the communist breakthrough of South Vietnam Free. Since our army carried out its mission under strict rules, there was no sexual exploitation of Vietnamese women “.
Unfortunately, this image of Epinal is damaged by the witnesses who lived at that time. Several articles published by veterans of the war thus question the official version. A Korean soldier stationed at the time, Sergeant Kim Nak-yeong, says, “Some units did not pose the slightest problem because they had been strictly ordered not to attack civilians. But I’ve heard of brutal sexual assault in the area of operations, so I think there’s a good chance this story is true. ”
Other testimonies, chilling, also come from the victims, now elderly. “Four men took me one by one, one after the other,” said one. “They left one person at a time in the trenches. They left me there, night and day, and they raped me again and again. ”
The place of women in South Korea, always at the source of tensions
Today, being a child of Korean father, in Vietnam, remains synonymous with social exclusion. As so often in such cases, rape victims and their descendants are now marginalized, reclusive, in neighborhoods apart from Vietnamese society.
Too often, the fault lies with the women, rather than the aggressors.
While a standoff is committed for the victims to be recognized by the Korean state, the latter do not leave unfortunately with an advantage. The South Korean society has an image of the historically bad woman, as the independent documentary ” Save my Seoul ” exposes , in its report on sex trafficking in South Korea, or the accusations of prostitution. organized on the American bases by the Korean state.
Another reality that South Korea fiercely denies is that, in Seoul’s eyes, prostitution is, after all, illegal.