A South Korean court has ordered Seoul to compensate a Vietnamese war victim, in a move that marks the first legal acknowledgement of the South’s liability for atrocities the country’s troops committed in the war.
South Korea, under the government of Park Chung-hee, sent about 300,000 troops to South Vietnam to fight alongside U.S. troops from September 1964 to March 1973.
Seoul Central District Court ordered the government in a ruling on Feb. 7 to provide around $23,800 in compensation and additional funds for delay to Nguyen Thi Thanh.
Nguyen, a survivor of killings of civilians by South Korean troops, filed a suit against Seoul in 2020.
The 63-year-old said she lost her family members and suffered wounds herself when South Korean marines killed about 70 civilians in her hometown in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Nam in 1968.
“The Korean marines threatened the plaintiff and her family with guns and shot them after forcing them to come out of their house,” the court said. “The plaintiff’s family members died at the site, and we accept that the plaintiff sustained severe injuries.”
According to the court, the soldiers also shot Nguyen’s mother, who was not with the family at the site, after forcing her to appear at a place with the others. “This is an evidently illegal act,” the court said.
In a video call from Vietnam, Nguyen welcomed the ruling and said it would be a “comfort for the souls who fell victim to the incident.”
The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the two countries had been in close consultations over pending issues for “future-oriented” advancement of diplomatic ties, which were formally established in 1992.
“Korea and Vietnam have achieved unprecedented development of relations over the past 30 years based on the principle of ‘Let’s leave the past unfortunate events behind and move toward the future,’” it said in a statement.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry has yet to respond.