Statue unveiled as S.Korea apology to Vietnam

An event commemorating Vietnamese war victims and the 41th anniversary of Vietnam’s reunification was held in central Seoul afternoon Wednesday by a South Korea-based peace foundation.

The concluding performance at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016

An event commemorating Vietnamese war victims and the 41th anniversary of Vietnam’s reunification was held in central Seoul afternoon Wednesday by a South Korea-based peace foundation.

The event was hosted by the Committee for the Establishment of the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation, or Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation for short, at the Francesco Education Center in Jeong-dong, Seoul.

With the slogan “for an apology to Vietnam, for the righteousness of future generations, for peace across Asia,” the event paid tribute to Vietnamese civilians who had been killed by South Korean troops in massacres during the American war in Vietnam, the fact that had been ignored for a long time after the war until it was unveiled by the South Korean media in the early 2000s.

As many as 1,361 Vietnamese civilians were killed in massacres carried out by the Korean Tiger and Blue Dragon divisions from 1966 to 1968, according to estimations by the Seoul-based current affairs weekly Hankyoreh 21 and figures from the Vietnamese side’s war crime investigation commission.

The event also hoped for peace between Vietnam and South Korea, as well as promised to turn a new page on the peaceful relationship between the two countries within the next 50 years.

The ceremony was held in front of the statue of a young girl who symbolizes the ‘comfort women’ who had been made to serve as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II.

The statue was placed side by side with the ‘Vietnam Pieta’ statue, which depicts a Vietnamese mother embracing her newborn as if protecting him from the raging war outside.

The juxtaposition of the two statues, both crafted by South Korean couple Kim Seo Kyung and Kim Eun Sung, implies the resemblance between the two characters, as well as the hope for a peaceful future across Asia that transcends the painful histories and national borders.

The ‘Vietnam Pieta’ statue (L) and the memorial of ‘comfort women’ at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

“As a war victim myself, I understand more than anyone the excruciating pain of war. It’s a pity that it took me so long to learn about these facts. I therefore think we can wait no longer to extend a sincere apology to Vietnam,” Lee Yong Soo, a ‘comfort woman’ and member of the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation, spoke at the event.

“I wish for nothing more than that the governments and people of both countries would listen to the voices of war victims like myself,” she added.

Lee Yong Soo, a ‘comfort woman’ and member of the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation, bowed before the two statues at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

Seventeen-year-old Park Jeong Hwan, a South Korean high school student who attended the press conference, expressed his surprise while answering interview questions.

“These facts about the Vietnam War are not at all mentioned in South Korean history textbooks, so it took me by complete surprise when I first knew about these dire massacres,” Park Jeong Hwan admitted.

“It is really not fair when we get angry at the Japanese for making South Korean women sex slaves but completely ignore the crimes that our own army has committed in Vietnam. I hope that from now on our history textbooks would acknowledge full accounts of historical facts so that future generations can fully understand the truth and have a proper attitude towards history,” he said.

“Only through comprehensive resolution of past conflicts can true peace be established,” Park concluded.

Monks are seen offering prayers to the two statues at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

At the event, South Korean film director Lee Kil Bora and Vietnamese student in South Korea Nguyen Ngoc Tuyen, both born after the conclusion of the war, took turns to read their letters calling for acknowledgement of the past to join hands in establishing a sincere peaceful relationship between the two countries.

The event concluded with a performance where mothers embraced their children in their arms while unfolding a white strip of cloth that represented the remembrance of little souls. The mothers made their way to the ‘Vietnam Pieta’ statue as if seeking for consolation.

The concluding performance at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

The concluding performance at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

The attendants then queued up to offer flowers to the statue as an apology for the cruelty of warm, before joining voice in the choral song ‘The Last Lullaby’ by composer Hong Soon Gwan to conclude the event.

“Don’t forget. My darling, don’t forget… Don’t forget the tears of your mother. Don’t forget the sorrow of your father. Don’t forget our peace,” the song sang.

Hong Soon Gwan played the guitar and sang his song ‘The Last Lullaby’ with attendants at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

The press conference attracted the attention from major South Korean newspapers such as The Hankyoreh, The Kyunghyang Shinmun, The Dong-A Ilbo, Yonhap News Agency, YTN News, OhmyNews, as well as several reporters from other newspapers.

Established South Korean intellectuals and scholars also attended the event, namely Professor Ko Gyoung Il from Sangmyung University, President of the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation Roh Hwa Wook, and Historian Dr. Ku Su Jeong.

Dr. Ku Su Jeong also read a statement demanding historical responsibility from the South Korean government for war crimes committed by its army during the war in Vietnam.

Japanese reporter Yoshikata Veki asserted that such moves by South Korean organizations can also make a big impact to many Japanese people who still refuse to acknowledge war crimes of the past.

Roh Hwa Wook. President of the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation, speaks at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

Dr. Ku Su Jeong reads a statement demanding historical responsibility from the South Korean government for war crimes committed by its army during the war in Vietnam at the event honoring Vietnamese war victims at the Francesco Education Center in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2016. Photo: The Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation

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