Seoul Court: S. Korea Must Compensate Vietnam War Victim

Image copyright: Newsis [via Korea Times]

The Facts

  • The Seoul Central District Court ruled Tuesday that the South Korean government must pay some $24K, with interest, to compensate a Vietnamese woman who was shot and lost relatives during the 1968 Phong Nhị massacre.

  • This marks the first time South Korea is held responsible for a massacre of civilians during the Vietnam War, likely setting a precedent in the country and encouraging victims of other alleged mass killings to file similar lawsuits.

The Spin

Narrative A

After decades of government coverups, Thahn's successful lawsuit has finally achieved a de facto acknowledgment of atrocities committed by Korean troops during the war in Vietnam. In the face of extensive official documentation proving that these wartime crimes against civilians indeed took place, the Korean government should now outright admit wrongdoing and apologize to victims.

Narrative B

South Korea became involved in the Vietnam War following a formal request made by the South Vietnamese government for military assistance as communists escalated violence, engaging in counterinsurgency and medically treating over 30K civilians. While it is true that civilians could have been killed by Korean troops, this wrongdoing calls attention to the monstrosity of war and the incomprehensible reality of battlefield rage. More must be done to address the root causes, and not just by South Korea.

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