S Korean veteran admits massacre of civilians during Vietnam War

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at bom4.vsnl.net.in
Wed Apr 19 06:42:04 PDT 2000

Wednesday 19 April 2000

S Korean veteran admits massacre of civilians during Vietnam War SEOUL: South Korean marines massacred dozens of unarmed villagers during the Vietnam War, a retired marine officer was quoted as saying in a magazine published on Tuesday. Several news reports have carried accounts of such killings. But until former marine Capt. Kim Ki-tae spoke out, all South Korean veterans interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity. "It was a wholesale slaughter," Kim told the weekly Hankyoreh-21. "I was the executioner." On November 14, 1966, Kim said his company arrested 29 young unarmed Vietnamese men in a jungle in Quang Ngai, central Vietnam. Kim said he meant to hand them over to South Vietnamese authorities. But a radio call came from the battalion to hurry and move to support another unit ambushed by Viet Cong guerrillas. "We didn't know what to do with these Vietnamese. They were all trussed together with electrical wire. They were trembling with fear," said Kim, 65. "Finally I said, `Take them away!"' Soldiers pushed the Vietnamese into a bomb crater and threw grenades in. Kim said he shouted, "I want a thorough job!" With that, soldiers climbed down into the crater and checked each body, shooting anyone who was still breathing. Kim said he suspected that not all of those killed were Viet Cong guerrillas. "I told the truth as a way of repenting," Kim said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. In his interview with the magazine, Kim gave gruesome details of South Korean atrocities during the war. Kim said South Korean soldiers went wild when they were ambushed. Four days before the 29 Vietnamese were killed, Kim said, his unit wiped out an entire village of 30 to 40 huts in Quang Ngai. "Two platoons of my company advanced in front of us. They shot at everything that moved. By the time I got there, the village was strewn with corpses - children, women and old men," Kim said. "I yelled on the raid to stop the killings." Kim's company continued moving on. On the afternoon of that day, the advancing platoons rounded up 40 to 50 people in another village and distributed candies and cigarettes. Kim saw the villagers and told the platoon picking up the rear to free the villagers. "But when I left the village, I heard shooting and grenade explosions behind. I asked what was going on. The answer came back saying nothing was happening," Kim said. "I just told them to do a thorough job if they started it." Kim said he wanted to make sure that no one would survive to testify. "It is just one man's confession, and right now it is impossible to verify the claim," Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a statement. It added it has no immediate plan to investigate. The Vietnam government says that it wants to leave the past behind and build friendly relations with all countries. South Korea is a major investor in Vietnam. South Korean veterans said ambushes were rampant during the war and it was often impossible for them to distinguish between guerrillas and innocent villagers. About 320,000 South Koreans fought in the Vietnam War between September 1964 and March 1973, alongside U.S. troops. They were the largest foreign contingent after Americans. Of them, 5,077 were killed and 10,962 wounded. Accounts of South Korean atrocities have been current here for years. "One of my unit members kept a Viet Cong eyeball in alcohol. Another kept a string of dried ears. They said they wanted to take them home as souvenirs," Kim said. (AP) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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