Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Experimental Art and Body Painting in South Korea, 1968-1971

My latest Korea Encounters article in the Korea Times focuses on avant-garde art, particularly body-painting, in the late 1960s and 1970. Since an article on the 2018 Daegu International Bodypainting Festival was to be published on the same page, I was encouraged to write about an aspect of 1960s youth culture that might otherwise raise editorial eyebrows. For more information on avant-garde art in Korea at that time, do read  Kim Mi Kyung's article "Expressions without Freedom: Korean Experimental Art in the 1960s and 1970s."

Below are some of the images from Sunday Seoul and Weekly Kyonghyang referred to in my article. As those weekly magazines tended to publish nude photos before mid-1970, I'm not posting everything I referred to, just some of the more subdued photos.

Though first, above is the Kyonghyang Shinmun article "Body painting enters Korea," August 12, 1968.

A spread of black and white photos of Jeong Gang-ja having her body painted highlighted her nudity, which is covered (mostly) by a partly see-through dress in this colour photo. From Sunday Seoul, November 17, 1968.

TV actress Kim Yun-hui apparently topless and covered in body paint on the cover of the Weekly Kyunghyang, October 29, 1969.

 Part of a photo spread of a body painter at work, from Sunday Seoul, July 5, 1970.

Jeong Gang-ja and her compatriots entangled while nude amid fog and coloured lights at a rehearsal only Sunday Seoul was present for, and which was never repeated, which left the reporter wondering whether the term "experimental" was "just a prank." The inclusion of "bodypainting nude shows, avant-garde drama which shows sexual acts performed in the streets, and avant-garde clothing involving excessive exposure" being included in the list of targets in a crackdown on youth culture in late August 1970 may well have resulted from this article, published in Sunday Seoul on August 23, 1970.


 As a result of the crackdown photos of nude women being body-painted disappeared from the magazines, though nude mannequins were apparently okay. From Sunday Seoul, November 22, 1970.


These more subdued photos of women in body paint with a limited amount of body paint reflected the less-permissive post-crackdown era. From Sunday Seoul, April 14, 1971.

To make up for the disappearance of nude centerfolds and photos by May 1970, Sunday Seoul must have begun its "Sunday Gallery" feature when it realized nude paintings of women were not banned. Most were by Korean painters, some who were famous, such as this colonial era painting by Na Hye-seok.

 From Sunday Seoul, October 18, 1970.

 A painting by Goya also made the cut. From Sunday Seoul, November 15, 1970.

When I first read about the different aspects of avant-garde art being targeted in the 1970 crackdown, I assumed the government was exaggerating, especially considering how few artists were arrested (perhaps one or two). It wasn't until I discovered these newspaper weeklies that I realized what had set the government off in this regard (though almost all of the 4000+ people detained were men caught for wearing their hair long).

Friday, August 10, 2018

Hidden camera images in Sunday Seoul magazine in 1971

AFP correspondent Hawon Jung, who has been covering the large anti-molka (hidden camera porn) protests by women, wrote today:
The incident which prompted the protests involved police zealously hunting down a woman who posted an image of a male nude model online, in comparison with their lax pursuit of men who do the same to women.

I've been organizing my research taken from weekly magazines from 1968-1971 like Sunday Seoul and, oddly enough, today I came across the following photos from the March 21, 1971 issue of Sunday Seoul. The text reads:
When women are alone…
Men are presented with magic in moments of defenselessness when women are not concealed or unadorned. Women with childish cuteness and sincerity are charming, and in those women-only times and places they slightly turn their heads.
What are the impressions of women who see photos of moments like these?


The photos presented are of a reclining co-ed in her rented room reading on a Sunday, a woman doing calisthenics, and "'Oh my oh my' screams the friend behind [the woman] who absent-mindedly ties her shoes."

Sunday Seoul (and Weekly Kyonghyang) began in the fall of 1968 and for over a year featured nude photo spreads (of mostly Western women in WK and Korean women in SS). By mid-1970 the nude centerfolds had disappeared from Sunday Seoul and were replaced with nude paintings of women, both Korean and Western, modern and classic.

Even Matisse. Sunday Seoul, May 31, 1970.

This is the context in which the photo spread above appeared. As I noted here, even Korean newspapers reprinted photos (from AP) of Western women in swimsuits (though I incorrectly suggest Koreans did not wear bikinis like in the West; my research has found that bikinis were much more common in Korea in the 1970s). While Sunday Seoul is quite important for its documenting and even sponsoring of youth culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it's quite clear that men were the target audience. A friend once told me that he got a Sunday Seoul magazine from friends for his birthday when he was in his teens in the 1980s, and that it was used for "masturbation purposes."

While the photo spread above is clearly shot with models and does not suggest that (male) readers photograph women in the same way, what is one to make of this photo spread highlighting women's legs from the August 15, 1971 issue of Sunday Seoul?


This is merely the first of four pages of similar photos. I have my doubts that these photos were shot openly, making them, essentially, molka photos.

I really don't know if such photo spreads would have been in mainstream Western magazines at that time, though it certainly wouldn't surprise me. The Weekly Kyonghyang regularly reprinted Western cartoons, including many like this:

From the January 21, 1970 Weekly Kyonghyang 

The fact that women have breasts was fodder for many cartoons. That images like these no longer appear in mainstream media is a reminder that some progress has been made in the last 50 years, even if it might not always feel that way.

Update:

It slipped my mind that the police have been concerned with at least some men taking hidden camera photos, as this July 29, 2013 Munhwa Ilbo article, titled "'Foreigners [caught for] hidden cameras' increase sixfold over four years - concern videos may be leaked overseas," reveals (see here for a similar story in English). It mentions a foreign teacher who took upskirt photos (but not at a beach, which was the focus of the story) and illustrates the article with an image of an English teacher behaving deviously (though not as deviously as the teacher in the image here, illustrated by the same artist).


Note the difference between how he is illustrated and how the naughty Korean man is illustrated in the offending police poster (which does not appear with the tweet linked above for some reason):


Tuesday, August 07, 2018

From 2006 - There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

Inside Story's 2006 articles on the evils of foreign English teachers

Part 1: Foreign instructors earn money, are 'absorbed in decadence,' women and drugs
Part 2: Low-quality native speaking instructors: 'Korean women give us money and are sex partners'
Part 3: English Instructors 'Treated like kings and get full service including women’
Part 4: Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet
Part 5: Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees.
Part 6:Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS
Part 7: There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

On November 1, 2006 BreakNews published another story about foreign English teachers. This marked the last such story written by Sin Yeon-hui with contributions by and interviews with Anti-English Spectrum's leader, "Mr. Kim" (Lee Eun-ung), and so this is the final entry in this series.

---------------------------

"There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!"

[Exclusive report] A former gangsters who committed murders sneaks into Korea and works at a well-known language hagwon and school

Reporter Sin Yeon-hui

[Exclusive confirmation] Native speaker blacklist "caught by NIS information network"

'Inside Story' has published 7 in-depth reports on the shocking realities of unqualified and low-quality native speaking instructors. This paper has reported on such shocking facts as foreign instructors' drug parties, their sexual denigration of Korean women, diploma forgery of diplomacy, and spreading nude photos of female pupils on the internet.

After this paper's exclusive report (in issue 432) on the blacklist of native speaking English instructors in particular, this story was reported by domestic broadcasters and media, causing a huge stir.

Among the native speaking instructors included on the blacklist was one who had committed murder in his home country and had fled to Korea, where he worked as an English instructor and a criminal. Amid this, the stir [over foreign instructors] expanded when on October 23 a large number of English hagwon native speaking instructors were caught for taking drugs.

It was shocking that included among them was an instructor from A English Hagwon, which is affiliated with a top school, which this paper confirmed came as a result of its news gathering.

"This case of the English instructors caught for drugs is just the tip of the iceberg," said Mr. K, who is leading a movement to track down unqualified and low quality native speaking instructors in Korea and expel them. "The ongoing investigation by police should proceed. Since there are a lot of native speaking instructors with criminal records, you can't rule out the possibility of a murder happening," he said, pointing out the serious situation of native speaker instructors who have lost all morality.

Police: "There are 80 people listed in a book belonging to an illegal employment broker"

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Department drug trafficking team arrested 15 people, including 12 who had taken drugs and taught English in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do area elementary and middle schools, neighbourhood offices, and well-known English hagwons, among whom were foreign instructors and a Korean American criminal who had been deported, as well as 3 other people including broker Mr. Kim and his wife and a hagwon owner who had hired the instructors. 7 were booked for drug use.

The number of foreigner [typo - 'foreign language'] hagwons has been steadily increasing, from 5.232 in 2004, to 5,689 in 2005, to 6,058 this year [2006].

As the number of English language institutes increases like this, hagwons are competing to recruit native speaking instructors. Amid this, unqualified native speaking language instructors who are not properly verified pose as instructors and professors at large-scale hagwons and schools.

Now 12 native speaking instructors have been caught by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Drug Investigation Team for taking drugs. It has been disclosed that they habitually took drugs in Seoul and the Gyeonggi-do area.

Police arrested 15 people, including an unregistered employment agency which introduced the instructors to hagwons and the owner of a hagwon which hired them, and booked seven of them.

Investigation into drug use and illegal employment expanded

Police arrested five others, including naturalized citizens and American and Canadian foreign instructors, who habitually took methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

The police said, "Due to differences in culture and law, foreign English instructors and those deported from the US [hereafter "the deportees"] staying in Korea can easily be exposed to drugs, so we will expand our investigation into whether they are taking drugs."

Police are investigating the ledger, bank accounts and computers seized from Kim in order to determine the role of the broker and the deportees. Police said that Kim played a lead role in the illegal employment of the deportees as English teachers, and that there is a list of about 80 English instructors in the ledger seized from Kim.

In addition, the police are trying to secure additional suspects by comparing the ledger and bank accounts in relation to statements that Kim interacted with the deportees, and will request that Kim's deleted computer be restored for use in the investigation.

In general, in the case of Korean drug offenders, drug trafficking routes are carefully traced starting from the suspect's phone call history, but in the case of foreigners they are vague and form in places where foreigners gather, drug squad officials explained.

For example, suppose that drugs could be bought from an obscure dealer with a common name like Brian in an area with lots of clubs where mainly foreigners gather, like Hongdae or Itaewon. During close questioning, when police ask people who have been caught with drugs "Where is the dealer?" they can answer "He left the country, I don't know him." In other words, this means it is difficult to find a supply route with such obscure dealers.

The seven deportees and five foreign instructors who were arrested for drug taking all obtained and used at home marijuana or meth on their own. Because they were not all in the same group, they were separately arrested over two months, and each of them bought drugs through different sources, police said they have yet to find where they got the drugs or the supply route.

Among the 15 arrested, those who are not involved in drug abuse are three such as the president of c and the husband and wife of broker Kim. To summarize the suspects in this case, the brokers are divided into nine illegal immigrants who are working illegally through a couple of brothers, namely, Koreans and foreigners.

Top class English language instructor, belonging to Korean gang
Many of the native English speakers 'Drug · Sex · Theft addict'


The starting point of the case was the group of deportees, centering on the broker Kim and his wife and branching out to Mr. K and his live-in girlfriend, Mr. Han and Mr. A, Mr. N, and Mr. C. Each of these people was illegally found a job by Kim and his wife, and Mr. K and his live-in girlfriend, Mr. Han and his hagwon coworker Mr. A took drugs. They were all arrested in September and October due to persistent tracking by the police.

Hagwon owners who hire an unqualified English instructor are subject to criminal or administrative penalties. Police explained that hagwon owner C was arrested in this case because he hired a tourist visa-holder, rather than a work visa-holder, as an instructor, while other hagwon owners who hired the deportees or foreigners who did drugs were not subject to police criminal penalties.

A violent offender with a gang background

According to police, the arrested native speaking instructors had obtained green cards as children but were deported from the United States for gang activity, possession of firearms, theft and robbery, or the manufacture and sale of narcotics.

The broker, Mr. Kim (44), who was also deported for illegal gun possession in May 2000, set up an employment agency to find English instructors jobs in Korea for other deportees, and after forging US college diplomas arranged instructor jobs for unqualified people.

It was discovered that those who became instructors with counterfeit diplomas were habitually taking drugs and then teaching students. As well, it turned out that the middle schools, academies, and district offices that hired them did not properly confirm whether or not they had qualifications due to the lack of instructors caused by the English learning craze.

Police are planning to expand investigations into whether or not those deported from the US and native speaking English instructors at hagwons in Korea have done drugs.

The past criminal history of those arrested is truly serious.

The suspect K belonged to the notorious ethnic Korean gang 'K.P.B.' in the United States and was convicted of violent crime such as robbery and deported, while Mr. Han, A, N, and C were part of the L.A. gang L.G.K.K. and were deported for producing and selling drugs, use of illegal firearms, and first degree burglary. It was also discovered that Mr. Lee, an American citizen, was a member of the Korean gang 'cys.'

The suspect Mr. K was arrested for violating the Narcotics Control Act in 2004 and he left work as a public service worker at a district office and the broker Mr. Kim forged a diploma and used his illegal job-finding company to get him and his live-in girlfriend, who was an American citizen, jobs as instructors together at C English hagwon. They were arrested on charges of smoking marijuana in their home.

Ex-cons and high school dropouts worked as hagwon and school instructors
Immigration: "Attaching a foreign criminal record infringes on personal information"


The suspect Mr. K was the starting point for the 15 people arrested. According to the police, in March of this year, after receiving intelligence about K from the NIS, they started an investigation and found the district office where K had worked as a public servant, but he had already left that workplace.

At the end of the police investigation, K was arrested in September, but in the process of investigating his background police wondered how K, who had dropped out of high school in the US, was able to work as an English instructor, which ultimately revealed the truth about the brokers Kim and his wife and the other deportees.

The police investigation found that K's girlfriend was also a US citizen and like K had been able to illegally find work as an instructor at A English hagwon with the help of the broker Mr. Kim. However, Mr. K's wife was working as an instructor on a tourist visa rather than a work visa, and as a result, the owner of A English hagwon's Anyang branch, Mr. J, was arrested for violating the Immigration Control Act.

A English hagwon is considered one of the leading foreign language academies in Gangnam, represented by well-known Korean English instructors. K was working at Anyang branch of this institute. A English hagwon Anyang branch director J hired K's girlfriend as an instructor even though he knew she was in Korea on a tourist visa. In addition, he hired K without even checking his identity despite him submitting to the hagwon a fake diploma with a third party's name on it, and he did not register them as instructors at the education office.

Another suspect, Mr. Han, was deported in 1998 due to possession of an illegal gun, and after coming to Korea was arrested for violating the Narcotics Control Law in 2006 and served a sentence, but he was working as an instructor at a well-known hagwon.

Mr. Han was arrested for habitually smoking marijuana at a his lodgings, which were provided by B English hagwon in Ansan, with fellow deportee and co-worker Mr. A. In Mr. Han's case in particular, at the time of his arrest, the homepage of the hagwon's head office showed that he had been selected as "Excellent Instructor of the Month" from among instructors nationwide. This is shocking in that it proves there is a serious hole in the management of the English instructor by English hagwons.

B English hagwon in particular is operated by famous broadcaster Mr. L. Mr. L is a famous English instructor who is active on TV and radio.

The broker Mr. Kim and his wife were also deported on charges of using an illegal firearm in 2000.
From July 9, 2003 to October this year, Kim operated an unregistered employment agency called "one and one English" in Namyangju City.

He advertised on a foreign English instructor job site and recruited unqualified English instructors. Most of them had been in gangs in the US or deported on charges of violent crime, and by recruiting them and placing them and foreigners in places like hagwons they earned through fees the sizeable income of 300 million won.

Kim forged college diplomas for himself and the other deportees and submitted them to schools, academies, and ward offices, and Kim himself taught students at two middle schools in Seoul's Yangjae-dong and Seongsu-dong neighbourhoods, as well as at a district office.

According to the police, the middle schools and ward offices that hired them did not even confirm the authenticity of the diplomas that had been submitted to and registered at Kim's employment agency, and Kim took part in widespread exchanges with the deportees and arranged regular meetings with them, constantly managing them.

In other words, as a group the deportees and those illegally hired as English instructors kept up the act. In an incident in May when arrests were made by Mapo police for manufacturing methamphetamine using cold medicine, Kim also provided funds and the main culprits of the incident were found to be deportees working as English hagwon instructors.

syh@breaknews.com

[Shocking testimony] Low quality native speaking instructor expulsion site manager Mr. K
"The only thing left [to encounter among foreign instructors] is a murderer."

The informant Mr. K, who has contributed detailed reports on the realities of unqualified and low quality foreign instructors to this paper, pointed out that it is the natural result of the worrying things that have been revealed one by one.

Kim said, "There are many native speaker instructors who have faked their diplomas and habitually molested women while taking drugs and having stoned parties," and criticized [the authorities], saying "I've requested that the E-2 visa be strengthened and that criminal records [be required] but things haven't improved."

Kim said, "The things that we were concerned about are actually appearing in society. Sexual molester instructors and drug [taking] instructors have been caught by police. All that is left is a foreign instructor with a murder record or one with a criminal past who may commit murder. The suspect in the [JonBenét] Ramsey case had actually been an instructor in Korea, so who can guarantee that there won't be a second Ramsey incident?" he said, and demanded thorough government-level supervision follow upon the English craze.

Kim is currently conducting a campaign at agencies relevant to drug [taking] native speaking instructors to attach medical certificates and criminal record checks. In addition, he is preparing materials and is in contact with policy makers and lawmakers so as to strongly urge the inclusion of medical certificates and criminal record checks for native speaking instructors.

Kim has also made this recommendation to the Ministry of Justice's Immigration Office. The following is the full content of Kim's October 6 petition:

"Please include a medical examination certificate and a criminal record check with the E-2 visa. Even if you would rather not bring up the qualification problem of native speaking English instructors, you will know enough about it from the authorities. Looking at the Ramsay incident now, the problem with native speaking English instructors is becoming more and more serious. E-2 visa applicant countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa must include a medical certificate for an employment visa. Whether or not they committed an offense is also an issue so it must be included. Only in Korea do we not include them due to issues with human rights or instructor supply and demands. This means many disqualified people will not be blocked. However, these documents are included for native speaking assistant teachers [hired by] the Ministry of Education. As the E-2 visa is a visa related to English language education, it should be administered more strictly. If a second Ramsay incident occurs in Korea, who will assume the responsibility? A medical check can block an influx of native speaking instructors who use drugs and have sexually transmitted diseases, and a criminal record check can block instructors with criminal records. Children are being exposed to great danger. Please add medical examination certificates and criminal record checks to the documents [needed] for E-2 visas. Once something happens it will be too late."

In response to Kim's complaint, the Immigration Inspection Division sent a response on Oct. 17 saying it could not enforce this for reasons of protecting personal information and privacy violations"

"As there are many problems to consider such as personal information protection, invasion of privacy and the principle of reciprocity, requesting a foreign criminal record and medical certificate prior to entering the country and blocking entry beforehand cannot be implemented. However, we will continue to strengthen the conversation instruction (E-2) visa issuance screening and establish continuous measures through consultation with institutions related to [foreigners] sojourns."

In regard to this, Kim emphasized that, "This is directly related to the safety of students and our children, and even though criminals and unqualified people are openly with children even in schools due to lax management of them, and more than saying preposterous things like checking into foreign instructors' criminal past at the time of entry goes against protection of personal information, it's urgent to prepare more concrete measures."

Thursday, August 02, 2018

UN Human Rights Committee rules against E-2 HIV and drug testing

Benjamin Wagner reports that the UN Human Rights Committee has decided that, in trying to force a foreign university teacher on an E-2 visa to submit to HIV tests, South Korea has violated article 17 (right to privacy) and article 26 (nondiscrimination) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This case at the UN Human Rights Committee goes back five years, but in fact it reaches back further to events in 2009 that led Andrea Vandom, who refused to take an HIV test when teaching English at a university in Korea, to bring her case before the Constitutional Court, which ultimately rejected her petition in 2011 (but did not rule whether the testing was constitutional or not). More on that Court's decision and the background going back to 2009 can be found here.

This is a separate case from the CERD case, more about which can be found here.

Additionally, the "UN Human Rights Committee has found ROK’s current mandatory drug testing policy for foreign teachers in S. Korea is a violation of international law." The Committee's report is available here. Below are pertinent paragraphs from the report:
10. In accordance with article 2(3) (a) of the Covenant, the State party is under an obligation to provide the author with an effective remedy. This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to provide the author with adequate compensation. Additionally, the State party is under the obligation to take steps to avoid similar violations in the future, including reviewing its legislation to ensure that it is in compliance with the Covenant, and that mandatory and other coercive forms of HIV/AIDS and drug testing is abolished, and if already abolished, not reintroduced.  
11. Bearing in mind that, by becoming a party to the Optional Protocol, the State party has recognized the competence of the Committee to determine whether there has been a violation of the Covenant and that, pursuant to article 2 of the Covenant, the State party has undertaken to ensure to all individuals within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the Covenant and to provide an effective and enforceable remedy when it has been determined that a violation has occurred, the Committee wishes to receive from the State party, within 180 days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s Views. The State party is also requested to publish the present Views and disseminate them broadly in the official language of the State party.
While this is good news, we'll have to see what happens. It took two years for the government to react to the CERD ruling, and that was only after the National Human Rights Commission recommended the government stop its mandatory HIV testing of foreign English teachers.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Spring 1980: The Yongsan Golf Course incident

An article in the Korea Times written for Yongsan Legacy discusses the Yongsan golf course that was once located where the National Museum now stands. It reminds me of a story I did not include in my series "The 1980 Kwangju Uprising and the United States," but is worth sharing, revealing as it does another example of the antipathy between Chun Doo-hwan and U.S. General John Wickham. This is from James V. Young's book Eye on Korea: An Insider Account of Korean-American Relations, page 92:
This relationship [between Chun Doo-hwan and General Wickham] grew worse after an incident on the Yongsan Golf Course in early spring [1980]. Chun, by now a three-star general. had arrived at Yongsan for lunch and a round of golf. In those days, since he was concerned about his own safety. Chun traveled with an impressive number of body- guards.When the minister of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, or other senior Korean officers used this facility, they arrived with a single aide and driver. Chun, in contrast, had an entourage fit for a king. At one point he had a security detail and personal staff of almost twenty people, and several cars were necessary to transport them all. General Wickham either saw or was told of the size of this group and apparently was upset by the ostentatious display. He directed that Chun’s large detail not be allowed to use the clubhouse and other facilities until such time as they were reduced to a level consistent with other officers of his rank and position. Wickham made it clear that Chun himself was welcome, though with a reduced staff. This was a reasonable request, but either through misunderstanding or an unwillingness to comply, Chun was infuriated. He and his group left in a big huff, never to return. The feelings between Wickham and Chun had reached a new low point.
And on the topic of Yongsan Legacy, I rather enjoyed Nam Sang-so's story about the mural US soldiers left behind in a Gyeongsangbuk-do town during the war and its enduring influence.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Arrival of South Vietnamese Refugees in Korea in 1975

Last Wednesday the Korea Times published my latest article, about the arrival of Vietnamese refugees in Busan after the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. The article opens with a quotation from a July 2, 1975 Korea Times article by Pham Thudung commenting on her appreciation for the Korean Red Cross and the way it helped the refugees. The rest of the article, however, was about the college junior's memory of leaving Vietnam, of how they did not have enough passes for their entire family, and her anguish at having to leave her brother behind.

From the Korea Times, July 2, 1975. 

The refugees were carried from Vietnam by two ROK Navy LSTs on April 26, days before South Vietnam surrendered.

Photo by a crew member of one of the LSTs of Vietnamese at Newport Terminal, near Saigon, preparing to board the LSTs. From the Donga Ilbo, May 22, 1975.

Over a hundred Koreans were left behind, and they gathered in the compound of the Korean Embassy at 107 Nguyen Du Street, where the flag was lowered on April 29, 19 years after the embassy opened. The remaining 148 Koreans were evacuated by the US to Guam, including Korea Times/Hankook Ilbo correspondent Ahn Byung-chan:

From the Korea Times, May 6, 1975.

Before the refugees arrived in Busan, authorities converted a former girls' high school into a refugee camp:


"The former high school where refugees from Vietnam will be accommodated. Water tanks and tents have been prepared." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 12, 1975.

On May 13, the two LSTs arrived in Busan.


From the Korea Times, July 2, 1975.


 "In the land of her father: First steps into a new life of freedom - A baby held by her mother stares with wide eyes at her father's country [followed by] happy children." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 13, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 14, 1975.

As an aside, their arrival came on a busy day in South Korea:


Park Chung-hee had used the fall of South Vietnam as an opportunity to claim in a speech that Korea's situation was so precarious that urgent measures were needed. This came after Emergency Measure 7 closed Korea University due to protests there (many other universities were soon also closed), and Park urged students to pay attention to the fate of South Vietnam's dissidents. After a million-person rally for total national security at Yeouido, Park issued Emergency Measure 9, which banned all criticism of the government, among other things.

Returning to the refugees, according to a May 14 Korea Times article, Capt. Kwon Sang-ho, who was in charge of the ships, said they had originally left Busan April 9 with relief supplies for Vietnam and arrived April 22. When the war turned for the worst suddenly on April 25, Korean ambassador Kim Yong-hwan asked the ships to load refugees. The LSTs first carried 1,908 refugees, but 567 Vietnamese were unloaded at Phu Quoc Island (near Cambodia) at the request of the Saigon government.

On May 13, 3,000 friends, relatives, and others awaited the LST’s arrival at Busan port, including Busan’s mayor, former Korean ambassador to Vietnam Yu Yang-su, and South Vietnam ambassador to Korea Pham Xuan Chieu.

From the Korea Times, May 14, 1975.

After 17 days at sea, LSTs No. 810 and 815 landed in Busan at 8:35 am on the 13th and began unloading the refugees shortly after 9:00. The refugees were made up of 355 men, 425 women, and 562 children. They included 392 South Vietnamese nationals who had no relatives or any other connection in Korea. They were all ushered into 31 buses and taken to the refugee camp. There was no welcoming ceremony on the pier due to security concerns, and no relatives or friends were allowed into the site of disembarkation.

"At the refugee camp, the evacuees were accommodated in 43 rooms. Some 162 officials and workers are assigned to the refugee camp for treatment of the refugees. They include 25 officials of the relief center, four doctors, 11 nurses, 21 guards, two security officers, 15 Red Cross volunteers, two interpreters, 43 guides and 25 cooks." The Korean government was to spend 107 million won for the initial accommodation of the refugees, who were housed in the former Busan Girls' High School building in Seodaesin-dong. Those refugees with relatives or sponsors in Korea were to start leaving the camp on May 28.

"Rediscovered smiles: After 17 days, Vietnamese refugees embraced by free Korea arrive at a medical relief station and seem to sigh in relief, unsure of what to do next." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 13, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 14, 1975.

"First breakfast in Daihan [Korea]." From the Donga Ilbo, May 14, 1975.

This little girl seems prepared for Korea. From the Donga Ilbo, June 7, 1975.

Laundry hanging at the refugee camp. From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 14, 1975.

Refugees exchange money at a bank counter (which appears to be in a bus). From the Maeil Gyeongje, May 15, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 25, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 15, 1975.

From the Korea Times, June 6, 1975.

On May 23, 215 more refugees arrived on the cargo ship Twin Dragon, which had rescued them from four sinking South Vietnamese naval ships and brought them to Busan after Thailand and the US refused to accept them. Below is the route of the Twin Dragon, which left Incheon on April 23, picked up the refugees on May 2, arrived in Bangkok on May 5, left Bangkok May 12, and arrived in Busan on May 23.


The Twin Dragon. From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 22, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 24, 1975.

From the Korea Times, May 24, 1975.

"Vietnamese refugees arriving at the medical relief station. Embraced by the free land of Daihan [Korea], the refugees sigh in relief." From the Kyonghyang Sinmun, May 24, 1975.

One reason I did not spend much time on numbers in my article is that they vary from article to article. The following information is from the Korea Times, unless stated otherwise:

June 14, 1975
  • 1,341 total; 988 Vietnamese, 33 Chinese, 1 Filipino, 319 Koreans.
June 15, 1975
  • 1335 total (revised after arrival at the refugee camp)
May 24, 1975
  • The Twin Dragon carried 215 refugees – 175 men, 40 women
June 4, 1975
  • 1040 total – 820 on LSTs [and so 220 on the Twin Dragon]
December 17, 1975, Korea Herald
  • 546 Vietnamese were still in Korea: 473 who already settled with Korean relatives, and 73 without relatives to be settled in Korea the next day. 1004 already left. 1004 + 546 = 1,550 total. This corresponds with the revised number above of 1335 arrivals on the LSTs and 215 on the Twin Dragon.
January 1, 1976
  • 584 Vietnamese settled in Korea out of a total 1,562, and 978 settled abroad. 78 (rather than 73) on settled in Korea on December 19.
Needless to say, there is quite a bit of variation there.

According to a December 9, 1975 Kyunghyang Sinmun article, the refugees received from the first day enough clothes, bedding, and three meals a day with often changing nutritious menus, and so had been warmly treated by the Korean government and citizens. The refugees had become so used to Korean food, one said, that it was hard to eat rice without kimchi.

Beyond such self-congratulatory material, the article is full of information. As mentioned before, those with ties to Korea were able to leave the refugee camp from May 28, and by June many had expressed a desire to leave Korea. (According to this page, ultimately 697 settled in the US, 506 in Korea, 167 in Canada, 53 in France, 45 in Taiwan, and 14 elsewhere.) After so many refugees emigrated to other countries between May and September, the remaining 118 refugees were moved from the refugee camp at the school to a new one located in 12 classrooms of the former Police School in Goejeong-dong on September 23.

Those without relatives or friends in Korea or overseas to provide money had been given pocket money by the Korean Red Cross, and guides had taken them around the city. Many learned the streets well enough to go shopping in markets or department stores by themselves. At Chuseok, 63 Busan households invited the refugees into their homes to familiarize them with Korean customs and serve them delicious food.

From October 1, a Korean teacher came and taught the refugees Korean from 9am to 12pm every morning. The authorities also took seven young men to the Korean-German vocational training center where they were taught electronic technology every afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00. 23 young women were likewise taken to a women's center every afternoon to learn dressmaking and knitting so as to help them to be able to make a living when they settled in Korea.

According to Son Jeong, head of the refugee camp, he had received around 150 letters thanking the Korean government for its support, including 4 from Din, who had moved to Australia to work as a high school English teacher, and who said he thought of Korea as his second home. Seven children were born in the camp; two were named Busan, after the city that took them in.

The remaining 73 (or 78?) refugees left in the camp moved to homes throughout the nation (except Jeju). As explained in my article, the Office of Labor Affairs arranged jobs for 56 of those refugees who settled in Korea at a variety of companies, including at factories, and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs provided a subsidy to cover six months of living expenses. Many found adjusting to the cold winter weather to be a challenge.

From the Korea Herald, December 17, 1975.

A few articles discussed their first Tet holiday in January 1976.

From the Korea Times, February 1, 1976.

And I always found this article about first Vietnamese restaurant in Seoul to be interesting.

From the Korea Times, August 13, 1976.

What happened to these Vietnamese refugees in Korea is a question that has crossed my mind more than once. One article in early 1976 suggested they were just going to "become Korean" and blend in. Did their children face prejudice? One would imagine those who married into Korean families might have had an easier time, but it's hard to know for sure.

I was contacted by one of the refugees who ultimately settled in the US, and he wondered where the refugee camp in Busan was. It has taken some searching but I seem to have found the answer.

There is little information about the camp other than that it was at the former location of Busan Girls' High School. What proved helpful in tracking down its location was this page, which alerted me to the fact that the school also served another function with an international connection in the 1950s. In the mid-1950s West Germany sent medical support and the school became the German Red Cross Hospital. Images of it appear in this brief clip:



This blog post provides some interesting historical photos, such as this one:


A larger view of the former school can be seen in the previously-posted photo below:


The building with its portico can also be made out in the background of this photo:


The aforementioned blog post also provided a photo of a stone monument erected in 1997 commemorating the German Red Cross Hospital. More information about the hospital can be found at this blog post, which includes directions to the monument. It can be reached from exit 8 of Dongdaesin station on Busan line 1.


According to Busan Girls' High School's website, it was established in 1945 under the US military government and in April 1946 it moved to Seodaesin-dong 1 ga 53 beonji (서대신동1가 53번지). A US military map from 1946 shows Sunch'i Hospital (부산순치병원) at that location.


Because aspects of this 1946 map are based in part on a 1937 Japanese map, some parts of it could be almost a decade out of date. According to this page, the Japanese-established Busan City Hospital (부산부립병원) moved to a new location in 1936 (currently the location of Busan University Hospital) and at that time it merged with Sunchi Hospital, which was established in 1879 as Busan Isolation Hospital (부산피병원) in response to a cholera outbreak. This merging with Busan City Hospital would have left the building open for use as a school in 1946. In early May 1975 Busan Girls' High School moved west to its current location in Hadan-dong, just in time for it to be converted into a refugee camp. Based on the above clues, this is the likely location of the former school / refugee camp today.


(It should be noted that Goejeong-dong, the location of the former Police School where the remaining refugees were moved on September 23, was further to the west.) Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the school has disappeared and newer development has taken its place, with only the German Hospital monument located a block away there to remind people of its existence. That there is no monument to the refugee camp is not surprising; considering the growing importance of the relationship between Vietnam and South Korea today, a monument to the people who fled the current government would likely not be received with much enthusiasm by Vietnam.

There are some odd connections to be made with the various institutions on the site of the refugee camp. It seems to have first been established as an isolation hospital in the late 1800s, only to become a place to 'isolate' refugees. More positively, it was the site of the German Red Cross Hospital in the mid-1950s, and the Korean Red Cross played a prominent role in operating the refugee camp for Vietnamese two decades later.

Korea's willingness to accept Vietnamese refugees was short-lived, however. As I mentioned here, after "boat people" began trying to escape Vietnam and Cambodia from 1977, South Korea reacted rather differently:
The ROK went out of its way to stop its ships from picking up Indochinese "boat people," firing a captain who did so and confining those boat people who did arrive to a newly built 'Vietnamese people’s relief center'. "Although criticized for such an approach (Koh 2011), officials pressed hard for third-country resettlement, and as a result, not a single Indochinese refugee who arrived between 1977 and 1989 was permitted to settle in South Korea."
That Captain was Jeon Je-yong (전제용), about whom more can be read here (and here and here).

[Update, July 31]

According to this recent Yonhap article, the Vietnamese Refugee Center opened in 1977 at 1008 beonji, Jaesong-dong, Haeundae-gu (해운대구 재송동 1008번지), which at the time was near "Suyeong Airport, the former airport of Busan," which has since been developed into Centum City.


The Refugee Center was closed January 29, 1993 after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the ROK and Vietnam a month previous. "Around 150 refugees who were unable to find a place to settle abroad were able to establish a new home in New Zealand due to the devoted efforts of American businessman John Manor [? 존 매너], then director of the shoe company, and his wife."

Commenter Will found this video about the closure of the Refugee Center, which also includes black and white footage of the Vietnamese refugees arriving in May 1975:



[Back to the original post.]

South Korea's involvement in the Vietnam War highlighted ties going back centuries, helped kick start South Korea's economic development, left a legacy of brutality (which President Moon recently made a statement of regret for), and contributed to the establishment of the Yushin regime (see Tae-yang Kwak's work). It also provided a number of human interest stories, such as the young woman who came to Korea in 1967 looking for the father she'd never seen, who met her mother when he was serving in the Japanese Army in Vietnam during WWII (and who married a Korean, the head of the Vietnam branch of Korean Optics, in Saigon the next year). Other stories refer to Koreans who had served in Vietnam during WWII in the Japanese army and who had stayed on and lived in South Vietnam for decades.

Beyond that, the Vietnamese refugees, especially those who stayed in Korea, were among the first foreigners in modern South Korea to be prepared to adapt to life in Korea by Korean authorities. One wonders if any of that educational material remains, and how it might compare to more recent cultural adaptation programs.