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S.Korean activist seeks justice for wartime massacre victims in Vietnam



Over the past 12 years, South Korean activist Kwon Hyun Woo has stood his ground to promote restorative justice and healing in the Vietnam-Korea relationship, a trauma-loaded linkage that can be harkened back to the enormities caused by Republic of Korea (RoK) troops during the war in Vietnam.

He was recently seen at the inauguration ceremony of four children’s playgrounds built under a charity project of the Korea-Vietnam Peace Foundation (KVPF) at Dien Duong Ward, Dien Ban Town in the central Quang Nam Province, the land that was once the scene of an appalling wartime massacre.

Stories of forgiveness

These acts of atrocity, which was committed by RoK armed forces during the American war in Vietnam, first came to Kwon’s attention in 2008 during his time spent in a literature and history club.

Digging deeper into the complicity of Korean forces in the war, he was appalled by the stories he read, which was extensively ignored in the historical canon of South Korea.

After the fact, he got in touch with a Korean non-governmental agency working to address the war legacies, which led to his mission trip to Vietnam in the summer of 2008.

During this trip, he sought to construct roads and erect memorial headstones at Ha My, Phong Nhat and Phong Nhi residential areas of Dien Ban Town, where RoK troops massacred dozens of civilians, most of whom were women and children, on February 12, 1968.

Kwon’s itinerary involved multiple encounters with massacre survivors, which initially came to him as an intimidating thought: He feared his army buzz cut and Korean soldier-resembling outlook might trigger horrific memories from the locals.

To not agitate the survivors, he forced himself to act in a demure, vigilant manner as well as keeping a certain distance from the survivors.

Yet, contrary to his presumption, he was treated with nothing but hospitality from the Dien Ban community.

In a rare occurrence during the trip, he saw a survivor went tempestuous after being asked about that life-and-death experience in the massacre by a Korean student.

However, the situation did not escalate further as the survivor’s relatives immediately intervened and calmed the woman down.

As his mission continued, the theme of forgiveness became more evident: A survivor that his team visited wrote “I forgive [you]” in a letter and handed it to the Korean visitors before drawing her has breath.

The image has been ingrained in the back of his mind ever since.

In this supplied photo, South Korean activist Kwon Hyun Woo (second row, black T-shirt with glasses) and locals attend the inauguration of a children’s playground in Dien Duong Ward, Dien Ban Town, Quang Nam Province. Photo: T.B.D. / Tuoi Tre
In this supplied photo, South Korean activist Kwon Hyun Woo (second row, black T-shirt with glasses) and locals attend the inauguration of a children’s playground in Dien Duong Ward, Dien Ban Town, Quang Nam Province. Photo: T.B.D. / Tuoi Tre

Go till the end

Kwon Huyn Woo is an integral part of the ‘Sorry, Vietnam’ movement under the KVPF, whose work includes organizing trips to visit massacre survivors and sending them apologies for the damage that South Korean troops exerted.

The initiative is funded by the subscription fee from members of the KVPF, among other sources.

These resources are also directed into philanthropic activities — from building memorials to honor massacre victims to giving scholarships and building schools, roads and houses for families of the harmed.

They attempted to send massacre survivors to South Korea and engaged them with local residents, journalists and scholars to shed light on the massacres in Vietnam and pressure war veterans to admit the war crimes they committed.

The movement also works in governmental advocacy, soliciting an official apology and reparation to the Vietnamese people from Korean authorities.

According to Kwon Hyun Woo, the movement to restore justice for Vietnamese victims witnessed a spike in South Korea of late, with massive endorsements seen from the progressive demographic.

The collective effort of KVPF’s members – which include scholars, lawyers, journalists, students and even legislators – has made a visible impact on the South Korean authority.

On the flipside, this movement also faced major backlash from war veterans in Korea, who ferociously refuted the notion of a war crime committed by them.

However, several of them did have a change of heart, showing remorse and seeking atonement before they passed away.

In general terms, the work is only halfway done, and Kwon swore to walk this talk till its very end.

In 2012, he attended a Master’s program in Vietnamese literature at a university in Vietnam. It was at this time that he met his wife, a South Korean woman with whom he now has a one-year-old daughter and lives in Ho Chi Minh City.

Kwon also has a Vietnamese, ‘Vu’, which, according to him, came from an attempt of a student to transcribe his name into Vietnamese while hollering at him in the university hallway. It turned out to be his favorite and stuck with him to this day.

After twelve years of dedication to the massacre victims in Vietnam, Kwon sees his work as a reassessment of South Korea’s complicity in the war in Vietnam rather than mere trauma provocation.

Revisiting the past is a way for contemporaries to not forget, to not repeat the old mistakes and live fully in the present, he added.

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UAE Celebrates 51st National Day and 30 Years of Diplomatic Relations with Việt Nam



H.E Obaid Saeed Aldhaheri, Ambassador of UAE wrote to Việt Nam News on the country’s National Day.

This year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrates its 51st National Day, which coincides with the preparations of UAE and Việt Nam to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (1993-2023).

On the 2nd of December every year when Emiratis celebrate their National Day, they touch on the great development achievements of the country during the previous year, and what they aspire to achieve during the next year.

In that day on 1971 when founding its Union, UAE began its confident and triumphant journey towards progress and development, to achieve its pioneering ambition in all fields, as an embodiment of the “UAE Vision 2021”, which achieved progress, development and prosperity thanks to the vision of its wise leadership.

UAE is always highly appreciated by the international community as a pioneer in conveying messages of peace, tolerance and friendship to the globe, and for this reason it is keen to build high-level friendly relations with countries around the world. The UAE, under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may God protect him, continues the path of national development and economic growth as an extension of the legacy of the Founding Father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, may God rest their souls, and the future model of the UAE.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in his visit to Việt Nam’s pavilion in the Opportunity District at the Expo Dubai 2020. Photos courtesy of the embassy

With a balanced foreign policy based on the approach of moderation and the values ​​of truth, goodness, human giving and tolerance, UAE has become an icon of humanitarian giving in the world, as it has committed itself to building bridges of friendship and cooperation with other countries, and has adopted active diplomacy based on openness to the outside world. The UAE has woven a wide network of relations with various countries of the world, based in essence on respect for the principles and charter of the United Nations and the international community, especially democracy, human rights, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

The UAE has continued to support the Sustainable Development Goals, which represent a roadmap and a specific path for building a better and more sustainable tomorrow for the world and future generations. The UAE continues to devote its efforts to facing major global challenges, especially those related to eradicating poverty, preserving the environment and confronting climate change, laying the foundations and rules for justice and peace, and supporting and promoting global progress.

During the process of its development, the UAE has gained high rankings in various global indicators, provided a safe and stable environment for foreign investment marked by stability, modern infrastructure and effective economic policies, alongside flexible laws that encourage foreign investors in different sectors. Furthermore, a number of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPA) signed recently between UAE with strategic partners such as India, Indonesia and Israel would facilitate for Vietnamese entrepreneurs more opportunities to enter and benefit from these potential markets.

The UAE leadership always supports multifaceted cooperation with Việt Nam since the United Arab Emirates and Việt Nam formally established diplomatic relations in 1993; so far numerous achievements have been recorded in different fields. And as we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of diplomatic relations, this coincides with the international community’s acknowledgement of the UAE and Việt Nam’s efforts, which were reflected in the two countries’ winning non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council for the period 2020-2021 and the period 2022-2023; and membership in the Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024 and the period 2023-2025; Việt Nam elected as Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly’s 77th session; the UAE winning the hosting of the Conference of the Parties to Climate Change COP 28 in 2023, and the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai in early October 2021 as a unique event in the region that includes an unprecedented number of countries and diverse cultures as the culmination of the great efforts of past years and a symbol of the beginning of the next fifty years in the march of UAE achievements.

Dubai City

Over the past three decades, the fine relationship between UAE and Việt Nam has been increasingly strengthened and diversified. Indeed, the two countries have continued an effective cooperation in various fields including politics, diplomacy, trade, investment, aviation, culture, education, labor and tourism, which have been supported with high-ranking visits, investment and trade promotion delegations and friendly exchanges, together with signed agreements and MoUs as well as mutual support at various international organizations that reflect the huge potential for our partnership. 

As a result, the UAE is already considered one of the leading foreign investors in Việt Nam, it is Việt Nam’s largest export market in MENA, and we are confident that this trading and investment relationship will continue to grow stronger. As a hub of the Middle East and a gateway to both Europe and Africa, the UAE is well placed to facilitate Vietnamese access and expansion into the global market. Concurrently, UAE also recognises Việt Nam as a gateway to South East Asia. VNS


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Vietnamese woman brings new life to village of alcoholics



A woman saves the life of alcoholics in Dak Pao Village, Son Mau Commune, Son Tay District, Quang Ngai Province. Alcohol used to be their barrier to poverty reduction in the village. 

Dinh Thi Hang, chairwoman of Son Mau Commune Women’s Union, is this woman. She helped locals fight against alcohol “ghost” in Dak Pao mountainous village.

Village of alcoholics

The path from the heart of Son Mau Commune to Dak Pao Village is as charming as a painting in the cool weather. Hills stretch to the horizon while local farmers are in the fields.

Dak Pao is home to Ca Dong ethnic people.

Hang said that several years ago, it was common to see drunken men lying next to their motorbikes on the streets in Dak Pao. 

“Ca Dong people often drink, but in Dak Pao, they drink too much. They drink until they get drunk and fall.

“Their health may not be good enough to work with the drinking habit. The number of alcoholic men was higher than the number of working men,” said Hang.

Of course, the poverty in the village was the result of drinking.

Figures showed this fact. The village had 50 households but half of them were poor.

Every home had alcoholics. In some families, both the wife and husband were drinkers. 

As their kids were not taken care of, teachers and the local government were forced to step in.

Hang said people called it the alcohol “ghost” village instead of Dak Pao. 

Dak Pao is half-hidden in Truong Son Dong Forest, where the real torments were caused by alcoholic drinks.

Domestic violence was among them. Drunken men lost their minds and beat their wives and children.

When the husband could drink, his wife also drank. They drank despite their poverty. 

“Although officials came to advise them, they deeply abused alcohol, causing domestic violence. The broken-hearted scene I witnessed was kids having cold meals while their parents got drunk,” Hang shared. 

Fighting against alcohol “ghost”

Son Tay is the poorest area in Vietnam. Poverty reduction and education are going to be key targets in the next few years. 

However, its economy has improved in recent years. 

In June 2019, Son Mua Commune People’s Committee and Party Committee hosted a meeting on local economic development.

Hang attended the meeting and proposed getting rid of alcohol drinking in Dak Pao, which was the best way to help the village escape poverty. 

The Son Mau Commune authorities totally agreed with her.

Dinh Thi Hang (right) talks to Dinh Thi Vum, whose husband used to be an alcoholic. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre
Dinh Thi Hang (right) talks to Dinh Thi Vum, whose husband used to be an alcoholic. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre

Years ago, villagers chose alcohol rather than their job. Officials even saw them getting drunk in the afternoon although they had just advised them to give it up in the morning. 

Hang proposed her plan “Women say no to alcohol drinks” and conducted the plan in Dak Pao first.

“I think that women are easily approached as they may be too tired of drunken men in their family,” said Hang. 

Hang knew that it was such a difficult journey but villagers could not get rid of poverty if they continued drinking. 

The Son Tay Commune Women’s Union set up a team to oversee villagers. 

Her plan finally got the initial rosy results. More and more villagers gave up drinking and returned to their fields.

“Those getting back to farming work become a mirror of others,” shared Hang. 

A new life in Dak Pao 

Dinh Van Ton and his wife Dinh Thu Muoi both used to be alcoholics. They now have a better life thanks to Hang’s team. 

The couple was punished many times because of getting drunk as they had committed legally themselves to giving up drinking before.

When they got sober, the couple realized that they received a lot of punishment records. 

Since then, they stayed away from drinking and their mental health was better, too. 

Currently, to earn their living, Muoi collects wattle tree bark while her husband collects coffee beans in the Central Highlands. 

“I feel better since I stopped drinking. So does my husband. We now try to work to make a living,” Muoi said with a smile. 

Like the couple, Dinh Thi Vum’s husband used to be an alcoholic. When he got drunk, he beat his wife Vum.

She could not stand him and even walked 20 kilometers in a forest to return to her parent’s home with her kids. 

Hang and her team had to advise Vum and her husband. Fortunately, the husband realized his mistake and apologized to Vum. He also promised to stop drinking. 

“My family got better thanks to Hang. We now have enough money to build a new house,” said Vum. 

The family of Dinh Thi Nhieu also got a good result when giving up drinking.

“I feel happy since I stopped drinking. My kids now study better,” Nhieu said.

Dak Pao currently has only 15 poor households. Many local students have passed the university entrance exams.

The fight against alcohol further expanded

After three years, Hang’s plan to fight against drinking in Dak Pao has been successful.

Ca Dong ethnic people cannot totally stop drinking, but at least there is no scene of people drinking and falling on the streets. 

According to Dinh Van Lia, chairman of Son Mau Commune People’s Committee, the plan helps raise awareness about drinking and it is going to be conducted in the other three villages in the commune. 

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HCM City to host ASEAN food festival



SOUTHEAST ASIAN SPECIALTIES: Vietnamese cuisine will be presented at the ASEAN Food Festival held in HCM City from November 24-27. VNA/VNS Photo Mỹ Phương

HCM CITY HCM City is hosting a food festival featuring traditional cuisine from Southeast Asian countries in the downtown area from November 24-27.

The event is organised by the HCM City Union of Friendship Organisations (HUFO) and its partners, the Việt Nam–ASEAN Friendship Organisation, to mark the 55th anniversary of the South-East Asian block.

Hồ Xuân Lâm, HUFO’s vice chairman, said the event aimed to promote friendship and cooperation among people in Việt Nam and other ASEAN countries.

The festival includes 46 stalls showcasing food, tea, coffee and specialities from restaurants and businesses from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Việt Nam, as well as universities and colleges in the city.

There will be performances of traditional music and dance from ASEAN countries, street art performances and cooking shows.

The festival takes place on Lê Lợi Street on District 1, and is expected to attract a large number of visitors. — VNS


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