NATIONAL

Park's 'Vietnam' analogy causes diplomatic unease

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 28, 2016 - 16:46
  • Updated : Jun 28, 2016 - 18:03

President Park Geun-hye’s repeated reference to Vietnam’s forceful unification as a negative political analogy has come into dispute for lacking diplomatic courtesy toward a longstanding trade partner.

“When (South) Vietnam was defeated and collapsed, the main reasons were internal splits and (public) apathy, the two most threatening elements of state crisis,” said the president on Monday in a meeting with chief secretaries.

Park’s remarks came amid her calls for public unity in the face of North Korea’s increasing military provocations.

This was not the first time that the president has spoken of Vietnam’s “defeat and collapse” in an official speech. In mid-January, the week following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test, she had taken the Southeast Asian country as a historic example of political feuding and social division.

“When (South) Vietnam fell, intellectuals closed their ears, politicians spared themselves and the people were indifferent to politics,” Park said in her New Year’s statement to the people, urging South Korea to learn a lesson from history and break free from political strife.
President Park Geun-hye speaks during a meeting with chief secretaries on Monday. (Yonhap)
The term “Vietnam” usually refers to the current Socialist Republic of Vietnam, but Park’s speeches indicated South Vietnam or the Republic of Vietnam which governed the southern half of the country in 1955-1975, until unified by force by communist North Vietnam.

But the president’s repeated citation of Vietnam as a negative historic precedent, according to political observers, may kindle unnecessary diplomatic unease in the amicable partnership of the two countries.

“Regardless of the president’s intention, the given remarks may create diplomatic friction with Vietnam,” said Choi Chang-ryol, a professor of politics at Yongin University.

Also, the expression “collapse,” implying an accusing tone against the conqueror -- the political root of the incumbent socialist administration -- fails to properly reflect the current political reality, he added.

Since establishing diplomatic ties in 1992, South Korea and Vietnam have been in a stable political and economic partnership.

As of the end of last year, Vietnam was Korea’s fourth-largest bilateral partner in trade and third-largest investment destination, as well as a counterpart in a recently effectuated bilateral free trade agreement.

President Park, too, made a state visit to the country in her first year in office and paid respects at the grave of deceased socialist leader Ho Chi Minh, making a gesture of amity to the socialist government.

The Vietnamese Embassy in Seoul was not available for comments when reached by The Korea Herald.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)