Korea’s Vietnam War and the Fall of Saigon: Reconstructing the War Memories of Detained Diplomats



This chapter reconstructs the memories of detained Korean diplomats in Saigon during 1975 and 1976. It interprets the experiences of detainees by analyzing oral history documents. Whilst the existing studies focus on the inter-governmental negotiations for their repatriation, this research looks at the lived experiences and internalized memories of Korean detainees. It allows the revelation of hidden transcripts under the dominant discourse on Korea’s Vietnam War participation. The former detainees articulate the detainment and exit in terms of trauma, frustration, failure in life, nightmares, and grievances toward the government. The detainees’ experiences in Saigon are still very vivid in their minds and bodies to this day. The reasons of this “living memory” lie not only with the power of memory, but also with their internalization of “Cold War ethics.” The former detainees juxtapose enemies with death and allies with survival in the perceptual modality of binary opposition. This essay concludes that Korea’s Vietnam War cannot be reduced only as a “holy war of anti-communism” or “acquisition of foreign currencies.” The memories of detainment reveal the state of battlefield reincarnation in Viet Nam’s Saigon in 1975.


Detained diplomats Fall of Saigon in 1975 South Korean embassy in South Vietnam Korean residents abroad Withdrawal from South Vietnam Northern cross plan Assembly point Repatriation to North Korea Memory Trauma Revival of Cold War 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Won Kim
    • 1
  1. 1.The Academy of Korean StudiesSeongnamSouth Korea

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