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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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Your Vietnam

Art club members showcase new ceramic sculptures



LOCAL ART: A corner of the exhibition titled ‘Gốm Mỹ Thuật Sài Gòn 2023’ (Sài Gòn Artistic Ceramics 2023) which is opening at the HCM City Fine Arts Association. Photo courtesy of the association

HCM CITY Members of the Sài Gòn Ceramic Art Club are presenting their latest works at a sculpture exhibition at the HCM City Fine Arts Association.

The exhibition titled “Gốm Mỹ Thuật Sài Gòn 2023” (Sài Gòn Artistic Ceramics 2023) displays 135 sculptures created by 58 artists, featuring various styles, topics and languages.

The artists’ works tell different stories about Vietnamese culture, heritage, religion and environment. Themes of life, love, and motherhood are also included. 

The exhibition’s highlight is a group of sculptures named Tiếng Vọng (The Echo) by 80-year-old painter-sculptor Lê Triều Điển.

The self-taught artist is known for paintings and ceramic sculptures about the people, culture, and lands of his homeland, the south-western region. He has participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad — Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, China, and France.  

The showcase also includes works by sculptors such as Huỳnh Thanh Phú and Nguyễn Văn Trung.

Phú brought to the exhibition a sculpture named Sinh (Childbirth), reflecting his sense of the world and life.

BUDDHIST INSPIRATION: Sculptor Nguyễn Văn Trung presents statues of Bodhidharma at the exhibition. Photo courtesy of the association

Meanwhile, Trung introduced his statues of Bodhidharma in different sizes and styles. 

Trung said he has a strong passion for Buddhist art, particularly sculpting Buddhist statues. He spent six years researching and making the Bodhidharma statues.

According to Nguyễn Xuân Tiên, chairman of the city’s Fine Arts Association, all the works in the exhibition were created during the sculpture symposium held in Bình Dương Province in June. The symposium is the association’s annual activity to encourage artists to find inspiration, meet and share their experiences, as well as to promote ceramic art in HCM City and neighbouring provinces.

The exhibition remains open until August 5 at 218A Pasteur Street in District 3. — VNS


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Young artists honour traditional crafts of Mekong Delta on YouTube show



Miss Grand International 2021 Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên collects ‘cỏ bàng’ (Lepironia), a kind of sedge, in the first episode of the YouTube show called ‘Nông Dân’ (The Apprentice Farmer) to honour the traditional crafts and culture of the Mekong River Delta. Photo courtesy of the producer

HCM CITY — Young Vietnamese artists are presenting a YouTube show highlighting the culture and traditional crafts of the Mekong River Delta.

The show, entitled Nông Dân (The Apprentice Farmer), consists of six episodes, featuring the journey of Miss Grand International 2021 Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên, singer Đức Phúc, and streamer MisThy as they discover the daily life of people in the region and how they preserve local traditional crafts.

The show also highlights the beauty of the region with green rice paddles, beautiful lotus ponds, and peaceful rivers, along with specialties such as bánh xèo (sizzling rice pancakes), and bánh tráng sữa (milk rice paper).

According to Tiên, Nông Dân reflects their love of the agricultural culture, the beauty of work, and the magnificence of nature. It is also a bridge to connect young people like them to the traditional cultural values of the country.

In the first episode released on July 27, the artists travelled to Tân Phước, a rural district of Tiền Giang Province, to learn about turning cỏ bàng (Lepironia), a kind of sedge, into beautiful traditional handicraft products such as bags, hats, and sleeping mats.

They spent two days collecting and processing sedge, and learning weaving with skilled craftswomen in Phú Mỹ Village, one of the oldest cỏ bàng weaving villages in the region.

Tiên said, “The job is really too hard. It requires strength, patience, sharp eyes, and caution.”

The first episode has received good comments from audiences, earning more than 307,000 views in the two days after its release.

Trần Hoài Anh of Đồng Nai Province said that “the show is funny and meaningful. It provides useful information on Vietnamese traditional crafts and life in the Mekong Delta to the community, particularly young people like me. It also reminds us of our responsibility in preserving and promoting the country’s culture.”

The show is broadcast at 8pm every Thursday on Nong Tiên Official’s YouTube channel. – VNS


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Morocco & Việt Nam: Strengthening Bonds and Fostering Collaboration



Moroccan ambassador Jamale Chouaibi wrote to Việt Nam News on Moroccan Throne Day (July 30)

The annual celebration of Throne Day in the Kingdom of Morocco on July 30 is a commemoration of the enthronement of His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 1999.

It serves as an opportunity for Moroccans to express their loyalty and devotion to the monarchy, as the King is revered as the Commander of the Faithful and a symbol of unity in the country.

During his reign of 24 years, Morocco has undergone significant political, economic, and social reforms under the guidance of His Majesty. These reforms have been carried out through an inclusive and participative approach, leading to impressive achievements that have positioned Morocco as a leading country in its region in terms of stability, poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, and investment inflow.

One notable accomplishment is the country’s transformation into a manufacturing hub, attracting international companies in the automotive and aircraft industries. Morocco has also been recognised, alongside Việt Nam, as one of the 25 countries that successfully halved multidimensional poverty in the past 15 years, as reported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Presentation to King Mohammed VI of the first Moroccan consumer car brand and the prototype of a Moroccan-initiated hydrogen vehicle. Photo Maghreb Arab Press

Furthermore, Morocco is making significant progress in meeting its target of increasing the share of renewables in its electricity mix to 52 per cent by 2030.

The country currently ranks as the first African country and 24th worldwide in terms of maritime connectivity.

In recent years, Morocco has also undertaken mega infrastructure projects, solidifying its position as the top country in Africa in terms of infrastructure quality.

Additionally, it boasts the best financial centre on the continent.

Morocco continues to fulfill its role as a committed and responsible actor on the international, continental, and regional stages. The country has hosted numerous high-level international and regional meetings, showcasing its unwavering commitment to multilateralism, South-South cooperation, and addressing common challenges such as peace and security, migration, counterterrorism, and climate change.

The celebration of the 24th anniversary of His Majesty’s enthronement coincides with the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Việt Nam.

I would like to extend my congratulations to Việt Nam for its exceptional economic performance and resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has garnered global acclaim.

I am pleased to note that the two countries maintain close coordination and mutual support in international organisations and multilateral forums. Despite virtual interactions over the past two years due to the pandemic, the first meeting of the subcommittee on trade and industrial cooperation was held in Rabat in June 2022. During this meeting, both sides identified strategic cooperation areas in trade of agricultural products, energy, textiles, chemicals, fertilizer production, mining, and mineral processing.

The visit of the Prosecutor General of the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Việt Nam to Morocco has further enhanced our cooperation, expanding it into new fields.

The appointment of an Honorary Consul in Hồ Chí Minh City by the Kingdom of Morocco exemplifies the commitment of both countries to further enhance and expand their bilateral partnership.

In the coming years, our Embassy, together with the Honorary Consul, will focus on facilitating direct interaction between Vietnamese and Moroccan economic stakeholders.

Port of Tanger Med, North Morocco. Photo Maghreb Arab Press

This approach aims to achieve more substantial results in terms of trade exchange and the consolidation of our economic partnership. It is also a priority to encourage the establishment of joint ventures between leading corporations in each country, such as the OCP Group and Petro Vietnam Fertilizers and Chemical Corporation.

Another priority is to enhance cooperation, partnership, and the exchange of experiences and expertise in areas where each country holds comparative advantages, such as manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, and renewable energy.

Given Việt Nam’s emphasis on developing economic cooperation with Africa, Morocco can serve as a bridge between Việt Nam and the continent.

Morocco has a substantial presence in Africa in sectors like banking, insurance, energy, and telecommunications, making it the top investor in West Africa and the second investor at the continental level.

Morocco seeks to further develop ties with ASEAN and has already acceded to the TAC treaty, MRC as a partner, and AIPA observer status.

In this pursuit, Morocco counts on the invaluable support of Việt Nam to gain more access to the promising regional market where Việt Nam plays a pivotal role. Morocco’s aspiration is to obtain SDP status, and it hopes for Việt Nam’s support during the next ASEAN Summit in September to confirm the agreement in principle given to its candidacy.

With our shared strong political will, I am confident that the partnership between Morocco and Việt Nam will continue to strengthen and gain momentum in the coming years. VNS


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