The South Korean military committed tens of thousands of rapes against Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War. This is substantiated by the testimony of South Korean veterans as well as Vietnamese witnesses and survivors. This fact has also been corroborated by United Nations officials, several former members of the US Congress and the US State Department.
Even though South Korea acknowledges and has even apologized for violence committed by its soldiers in other conflicts, such as their violence toward prisoners of war in Iraq, the government of South Korea has refused to apologize or even acknowledge their violence against women during the Vietnam War, let alone the subsequent mistreatment of their offspring. The offspring of Vietnamese women attacked by South Korean soldiers are known as the “Lai Dai Han”, or “mixed bloods” in Vietnamese, and are heavily discriminated against to this day. It is estimated that up to 150,000 babies were fathered by South Korean troops during the Vietnam War. However, it is hard to know just how many Lai Dai Han there are because sexual violence was both rampant and poorly documented. South Korea continues to avoid taking responsibility for this atrocity and has not offered the victims any compensation.
According to South Korea’s Act No. 16, otherwise known as the “Nationality Act”, all offspring of Korean nationals, whether born within South Korea or abroad, are entitled to South Korean citizenship and support. This law has been in place since December 20th, 1948, long before South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War, which began in 1964. The tens of thousands of Lai Dai Han children who were born as a result of South Korea’s involvement in the war have yet to receive the support they deserve.
In fact, it has become increasingly difficult for Lai Dai Han to prove that they are in fact half Korean. South Korean legislation has made it easy for the soldiers who fathered Lai Dai Han children to deny their offspring and shirk responsibility. Many of the Lai Dai Han have had to resort to suing their biological fathers in order to prove their Korean ancestry and force their fathers to accept responsibility. Those who do not know their fathers’ names have no way of proving their heritage, which prevents them from gaining the support they are entitled to as the offspring South Korean nationals. Those that are “lucky” enough to gain legal recognition of their heritage through lawsuits still have to jump through countless hoops in order to prove their Koreaness, many of which are impossible for the Lai Dai Han to achieve.
In order to gain Korean citizenship, the Lai Dai Han must not only prove that their fathers are Korean nationals, but that they are sufficiently “Korean enough” themselves. They must pass rigorous citizenship testing, which requires that they speak fluent Korean and have knowledge of Korean history.
Most Lai Dai Han were raised by single mothers in poverty in Vietnam, with limited knowledge of their fathers and little to no formal education. Because having children out of wedlock is considered shameful in Vietnam, giving birth to and raising Lai Dai Han children was incredibly stigmatizing. Many of the Lai Dai Han state that they were unable to pursue education or job training to the level that their peers were, leaving them incredibly impoverished. Their mothers were often shamed so heavily for having Lai Dai Han children that they had to flee their homes. Many contemplated suicide. Most Lai Dai Han feel unwelcome in Vietnamese society, even though it is the only one that they know. Given the strict standards the Lai Dai Han are forced to meet in order to qualify for Korean citizenship, it is clear that they are not being welcomed in Korea either.
Although they face discrimination for the actions of their fathers, it is rare for Lai Dai Han to actually know who their fathers are. The majority only know their father’s surname and have never met their Korean relatives or spoken Korean. South Korea’s stringent citizenship requirements perpetuate discrimination against the Lai Dai Han, who have already been denied education and opportunities their entire lives. The Lai Dai Han have been through enough. They should not have to go through an expensive, multi-year long process just to prove that they deserve to be treated with humanity and respect by the South Korean government.
South Korea has been able to avoid addressing the violence and suffering caused by their soldiers in Vietnam by denying the Lai Dai Han their legal rights for far too long. We cannot let them get away with this any longer.
Please consider signing our petition to show your support for the Lai Dai Han. International pressure is the only way we will be able to force South Korea to admit its mistakes.