South Korea–Vietnam relations
South Korea and Vietnam established formal diplomatic relations in 1992, though the two countries had already had various historical contacts long before that. According to Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Văn Khải, "The Republic of Korea is a very important partner of Vietnam and a good model for Vietnam to expand cooperation and exchange experiences during its development process."
Both North and South Korea lent material and manpower support to their respective ideological allies during the Vietnam War, though the number of South Korean troops on the ground was larger. Then-South Korean president Syngman Rhee had offered to send troops to Vietnam as early as 1954, but his proposal was turned down by the U.S. Department of State; the first South Korean personnel to land in Vietnam, 10 years later, were non-combatants: ten Taekwondo instructors, along with thirty-four officers and ninety-six enlisted men of a Korean Army hospital unit. In total, between 1965 and 1973, 312,853 South Korean soldiers fought in Vietnam; Vietnam's Ministry of Culture and Communications estimated they killed 41,400 North Vietnamese Army soldiers and 5,000 civilians. South Korean troops were hampered by their lack of command of any of the major languages in the country or among their allies. They were also accused of war atrocities, and are known to have left behind thousands of children of mixed Korean and Vietnamese descent.
In 2001, South Korean president Kim Dae-jung expressed his condolences for Korea having inflicted pain on the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War, although unintentionally. Also, he promised to continue supporting the development of Vietnam.
Nevertheless, with the tradition of tolerance, humanity and peace and friendship, Vietnams policy in dealing with issues left behind by history is to put aside the past, look forward to the future and cooperate for shared development. The ROK also shares the understanding that sincere and effective cooperation with Vietnam in addressing consequences of the war is a matter of morality and a practical way to overcome the complex about the past. We highly appreciate the fact that the ROKs Government, mass organizations and individuals have carried out many activities aimed at and made concrete contributions to helping Vietnam's reconstruction and development efforts. In just over 10 years since the establishment of the diplomatic relations, Vietnam and the ROK have become each other's important partner. The two countries share cultural and historical similarities well as that of national construction built on peoples creativeness.
In 2009, South Korea and Vietnam agreed to lift the bilateral relationship to the “comprehensive partnership”. In 2003, readers of South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh, which ran a series of articles exposing atrocities committed by South Korean troops during the war, donated over US$100,000 to set up a memorial park and peace museum in Phú Yên Province. Former South Korean soldiers such as Ahn Junghyo and Hwang Sok-yong have also written novels about their experiences in Vietnam.
In the aftermath of the controversial 2006 North Korean nuclear test, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Dzung expressed the Vietnamese Government's grave concern over the test, stating that it will heighten tensions and threaten the region's stability, and stated that Vietnam supports the "denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula. After the ROKS Cheonan sinking of 2010, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said: "The sinking of Cheonan is a regrettable incident. The Government of Vietnam expresses its heart-felt condolences to the Government of the Republic of Korea for the loss of lives in the sinking. Vietnam has attentively and closely been following the current developments in the Korean Peninsula. Vietnam consistently and persistently supports peace, stability in the Korean Peninsula, and favors dialogue for peaceful settlement of all matters. Vietnam wishes that parties concerned could exercise restraint for the sake of peace, stability in the Korean Peninsula and in the region."
Trade and investment
Four years after the 1992 normalisation of diplomatic ties, South Korea was already annually conducting $1.3 billion of trade with Vietnam, making them Vietnam's third-largest trading partner; they were also the fourth-largest foreign investor after Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong, having put $1.987 billion into Vietnam. The pace of their investment roughly doubled over the next ten years; in the first five months of 2006, new South Korean investment in Vietnam totalled to around $400 million, and roughly one thousand Korean companies had operations in the country.
Movement of people
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