South Korea–Vietnam relations

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South Korea – Vietnam relations
Map indicating locations of South Korea and Vietnam

South Korea


South Korea and Vietnam established formal diplomatic relations in 1992, though the two countries had already had various historical contacts long before that.[1] 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."[2]

Although South Korea and Vietnam are run under two totally different systems, when South Korea is mostly pro-US and a republic, while Vietnam is a one-party state espousing communism; nonetheless, South Korea is being considered as a major ally of Vietnam. Vietnam is also the only communist country to ally with South Korea. Due to the Chinese factor in both two countries, they have been aiming to work further together.


The last remaining survivors of the Lý Dynasty had fled to Korea following Trần Thủ Độ's total massacre of the Lý family. One of famous Lý survivor was Lý Long Tường, who later helped to defeat the Mongols and halted total Mongol occupation of Korea for many years, even later Korea was forced to become vassal.

Vietnam War[edit]

The areas of responsibility of the South Korean army in Vietnam as of December 1966
Korean Soldiers in Vietnam.

The two Korean states: 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

As stated by Vietnamese president Trần Đức Lương in 2004:

Nevertheless, with the tradition of tolerance, humanity and peace and friendship, Vietnam’s 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 ROK’s 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 people’s creativeness.[7]

In 2009, South Korea and Vietnam agreed to lift the bilateral relationship to the “comprehensive partnership”.[8] 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.[9] Former South Korean soldiers such as Ahn Junghyo and Hwang Sok-yong have also written novels about their experiences in Vietnam.[5]

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.[10] 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[edit]

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.[1] 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.[11] Far most, many of Korean businessmen who came to Vietnam for investments are mostly Korean with Vietnamese ancestry.

Military cooperation[edit]

Being the only communist ally with South Korea, Vietnam has recently seen the increasing number of military and weapon products from South Korea to Vietnam.

South Korea, in turn, is also one of the few countries to have sold and helped modernizing the People's Army of Vietnam, in a trading cooperation between Republic of Korea Armed Forces and the Vietnamese military. There is also a recent growing Vietnamese military officers travel to South Korea to learn about the Korean military as well.

After Barack Obama decided to lift off lethal weapons embargo on Vietnam, the future cooperation between South Korea and Vietnam is being seen as really bright.

Movement of people[edit]

As of 2009 there are nearly a hundred thousand each of Koreans in Vietnam and Vietnamese people in South Korea.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Balfour, Frederik (1996-09-16), "Vietnam a Strategic Choice", International Herald Tribune, archived from the original on 2007-06-14, retrieved 2007-03-27 
  2. ^ RoK, Viet Nam's important partner, says PM 14-06-2006. Government of Vietnam (
  3. ^ Larsen, Stanley Robert; Collins, James Lawton Jr. (1985) [1975], Vietnam Studies: Allied Participation in Vietnam, Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History, CMH Pub 90-5, retrieved 2007-03-27 
  4. ^ Ku, Su-Jeong (1999-09-02), "The secret tragedy of Vietnam", The Hankyoreh, retrieved 2007-03-27 
  5. ^ a b Kagan, Richard C. (October 2000), "Disarming Memories: Japanese, Korean, and American Literature on the Vietnam War", Critical Asian Studies, 32 (4), archived from the original on 2008-12-01, retrieved 2008-12-02  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kagan" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ "Kim Dae-jung Holds Talks With Vietnam Leader" August 24, 2001. People's Daily
  7. ^ President Tran Duc Luong’s interview 11-11-2004. Vietnam Government (
  8. ^ Vietnam, RoK strengthen strategic partnership 10/19/2009. VOICE OF VIETNAM
  9. ^ Arthurs, Clare (2003-01-21), "South Koreans atone for Vietnam War", BBC News, retrieved 2007-03-27 
  10. ^ "On the nuclear test conducted by the People Democratic Republic of Korea on October 9, 2006". Retrieved 2006-10-09. 
  11. ^ Kelly, Tim (2006-09-18), "Ho Chi Minh Money Trail", Forbes, retrieved 2007-03-27 
  12. ^ 《재외동포현황》 [Current status of overseas compatriots], South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2009, retrieved 2009-05-21 
  13. ^ "체류외국인 국적별 현황", 《2009년도 출입국통계연보》, South Korea: Ministry of Justice, 2009, p. 262, retrieved 2011-03-21