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S. Korea appeals court ruling ordering compensation for survivors of Vietnam War massacre

South Korean soldiers during the Vietnam War
via The New York Public Library

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    South Korea has appealed a court ruling that ordered its government to compensate a Vietnamese victim 30 million won (approximately $23,000) due to atrocities committed by South Korean troops during the Vietnam War.

    South Korea’s defense ministry announced the appeal on Thursday, citing a lack of evidence.

    “We will fully cooperate with the trial proceedings under continued consultations with related agencies to receive an appellate ruling based on substantial truth,” the ministry told Reuters.

    Following the news, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang described the South Korean government’s move to appeal the ruling as “extremely regrettable.”

    “Vietnam’s policy is to put aside the past and look towards the future but this does not mean that we deny the truth of history,” Hang said in a press conference on Thursday. 

    Last month, South Korean troops were implicated in mass killings during the Vietnam War.

    The suit was filed by Nguyen Thi Than, 62, in 2020 for the wartime civilian massacre that took place in the villages of Phong Nhi and Phong Nhut on Feb. 12, 1968. 

    Nguyen, who was 8 years old at the time, lost five of her family members to the massacre, which ultimately left 74 dead. She continues to suffer from gunshot injuries sustained in the attack. 

    The Seoul Central District Court held the government responsible for “the clear illegal actions” of its troops and ordered it to compensate the victim. 

    The ruling marked the first legal acknowledgement of the country’s involvement in Vietnam War atrocities. About 350,000 South Korean military personnel were deployed in Vietnam between the years of 1964 and 1973. 

    During the trial, the South Korean government denied allegations of its military’s involvement in the massacre.

    South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup said there were “absolutely no massacres committed by our troops,” adding that the decision had damaged the honor of South Korean soldiers.

    “We cannot agree with the ruling,” he said at the time. “We will hold discussions with related agencies to determine our next legal step.”

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