A group of 37 South Koreans have arrived in a hamlet in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Nam to attend a memorial ceremony for the victims of a massacre committed by Korean troops 55 years ago in the hamlet during the war in Vietnam.
As members of the Ho Chi Minh City-based Korea-Vietnam Peace Foundation (KVPF), these people attended the ceremony that was conducted by local authorities in coordination with KVPF in Ha My Hamlet, Dien Duong Commune, Dien Ban District, on Tuesday morning.
Kim Chang Sup, the head of the group, read an apology letter in front of the ceremony attendees and the stone stele engraved with the names of 135 civilians who died in the massacre in Ha My on February 21, 1968, or the 24th day of the first lunar month of the year.
Kim said the group members extended their deep apologies to all the massacre victims’ relatives, who feel heartbroken whenever spring comes and offer incense to their deceased loved ones every morning and evening.
After he concluded the letter, all the members bowed on the ceremony stage as an apology in front of the deceased's relatives who shed tears.
As shown on the stele, the killing occurred in Ha My on the day, when troops of South Korea's Blue Dragon Brigade raided the hamlet and made a mass shooting that claimed 135 lives, most of whom were women and children.
Many families were completely wiped out following the incident and many children became orphans and had to rely on their neighbors.
Since then the lunar January 24 of every year has become the collective anniversary of the death of all the massacre victims in Ha My, Nguyen Toai, a local man who had five relatives killed and two others injured in the bloodshed, was cited by Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper as saying.
Kang Min Jung, a member of the group and also a South Korean National Assembly member, said the KVPF message is to heal the wounds of war, offer apologies for the mistakes in the past, and pray for peace.
Besides attending the memorial ceremony, the KVPF members have also visited relatives of the massacre victims and offered scholarships to poor students.
KVPF is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in September 2016 to raise awareness of and redress Korean wrongdoing during the war in Vietnam.
On February 7, the Seoul Central District Court in South Korea ordered the central government to pay more than 30 million won (US$23,360) in compensation to Nguyen Thi Thanh, 63, a survivor of the killing of civilians by South Korean troops in Ha My in 1968.
Thanh filed a suit against the South Korean government in 2020 seeking such compensation, saying she lost her family members and suffered wounds herself in the massacre.
The court ruling marked the first acknowledgement of South Korea’s liability in compensating the victims.