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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Mmmmmmm.... dioxins

At Any Street Corner, who I've been meaning to link to for a long time, has everything you ever wanted to know about Agent Orange. Apparently a court in the US has just thrown out a case brought by 4 million Vietnamese victims against the US chemical companies (Monsanto, Dow etc) that manufactured the stuff.

It's worth remembering that the substance was also used by the US military in Korea in the late 60s when they thought the DMZ was getting a bit too overgrown and they might not be able to see the Commies for the trees. It's also worth remembering that Korea has more than its fair share of Vietnam vets registered as victims of Agent Orange - 40,000 - of whom some 60% are defined as suffering from depression.


At March 12, 2005 5:26 PM, Anonymous sy said...

Seventeen years ago or so the MBC broadcast a documentary on the Vietnam/Korean children born during, after the war. It didn't provide any context as to the background, how those children had come about, etc – well only vaguely. But then it was still a taboo even to deal with the war in any ways other than as an anti-commie mission the Koreans proudly took up on.

I was wondering if different takes on the war have entered into public discourse. Or is it still stuck somewhere Hwang Suk-young’s fiction (the title of which escapes me now) that deals with the war left off.

At March 12, 2005 7:15 PM, Blogger kotaji said...

Unfortunately I don't know that much about current discourse on the Vietnam war in Korea. Clearly though it's not too hard to predict where the differences of opinion might lie. I'm sure, for example, that the Korean far right will still use the Korean participation as a source of pride and a guide to the way Korea should be behaving now. I think quite a lot of veterans are involved in Korean rightwing organisations too.

On the other hand, as in the US, many veterans seem to have been quite radicalised by the experience. Hwang Sôg-yông's 'Shadow of Arms' (무기의 그늘) is another one of those books on my reading list which I must get around to... I have an essay by Hwang which explains some of his thinking behind the book though, so I might post some excerpts from that. Apparently it has been translated into Vietnamese and very well received there.

In the context of the anti-war / anti-troop dispatch movement in Korea last year the socialist newpaper Ta Hamkke published a few articles dealing with the Korean involvement in Vietnam. Here are two which might be of interest if you can read Korean:

소설가 방현석이 베트남 전쟁에 대해 말한다

베트남전 참전 출신자 김영만씨 인터뷰

At March 13, 2005 4:33 PM, Anonymous sy said...

I’d love to see excerpts from that essay if you have the time to put it up.

As 방현석 implied without implying (or it’s me reading into it) the Korean War and the Vietnam War share some resemblance, however superficial, in their historical backgrounds and political natures, that is, a war of reunification if independence (not saying Kim Il-Sung was the Korean equivalent of Ho Chi-Min, mind you). This, I used to speculate, could be the main reason why the leftists weren’t so eager to outwardly be expressive on the latter case. That may have dragged them into questioning the former and in which case it wouldn’t have ended only as intellectual exercises what with National Security Law in place.

Anyway my hope is that the Korean government will come to acknowledge the harms done onto the Vietnamese people and take responsibility for it just as they hold similar hopes for the Japanese government over few issues.

As for the veterans in right wing org., in the late 80’s when the film Platoon opened in Seoul it duly met with weeks of street-protest organised by them. It goes to show they cover cultures-front as well...


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