After months of intense construction, the Korea-Vietnam Peace Foundation (KVPF) proudly inaugurated four children’s playgrounds in the central province of Quang Nam on Tuesday.
Just 50 years ago, the land where the playgrounds now stand was the scene of a horrific wartime massacre.
Now, the colorful jungle gyms serve as fresh seeds of hope for the citizens of Quang Nam.
On Tuesday morning, the front of Van Thanh Tung Elementary School in Dien Duong Ward, Dien Ban Town, Quang Nam Province was busy with students and local residents, clamoring amongst the bouquets of fresh flowers decorating the school’s newly-built playground.
Many of the students are related to victims of a wartime massacre committed in the town half a century ago, and all are a sign of hope that the traumas of the past will never be allowed to repeat themselves.
In the schoolyard, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep, the school’s principal, together with teachers, has gathered the student body to prepare for a ceremony honoring the group of Korean scholars who funded the playground in hopes it would alleviate some of the traumas inflicted upon the people of Quang Nam during the war.
On January 24, 1968, 135 civilians in her locale, the majority of whom were women and children, were brutally massacred in a raid by South Korean troops who fought in the American war in Vietnam.
Although the wounds of the massacre can never fully heal, the people of Dien Duong are attempting to make peace with the past.
Accepting apologies from the KVPF, allowing them to build a memorial cemetery, and approving playgrounds built by the group with support from the Lotte Scholarship Foundation are part of that healing process.
Future on the playgrounds
The KVPF recruited top-notch Vietnamese architects to plan the construction of the playgrounds in Quang Nam, as well as inviting 20 students and lecturers from the University of Foreign Language Studies in Da Nang to participate in the projects.
The students, seen as consultants on the project, were asked to pitch ideas and join in discussions with the architects who designed the playgrounds.
Project executives also surveyed the opinions of local students and shaped the playgrounds accordingly, using familiar imagery such as octopuses, beehives, and railroads.
To the surprise of both teachers and the Dien Duong Ward leadership, Ho Khue, a Vietnamese architect who achieved international fame for his eco-friendly designs, agreed to provide consultancy on the project.
At the inauguration ceremony held for the playgrounds on Tuesday morning, one Korean volunteer referred to the project as an effort to compensate for the sorrow that the locals in Quang Nam have experienced.
Kang U Il, president of the KVPF and an avid supporter of the project, was unable to attend the inauguration due to the current coronavirus-related border closures.
Instead, Kang wrote a letter to the children of Quang Nam, expressing his wish that the playground will be a means for them to make meaningful playtime memories.
Part of his letter, which was read at the ceremony at Van Thanh Tung Elementary School, stated, “This is a gift to affirm hope and wishes toward peace, also one for the jovial and innocent smiles of the students who witness the traumatic memories.”