National Interest on April 25, 2020, reviewed Charles M. Hernández, ”Mercenaries in the Vietnam War: Washington’s Hiring of South Korean Soldiers” (Washington DC: Amazon Publishing, 2020), 75 pp., $5.99.

South Korea during the Vietnam War provided over 300,000 troops. They suffered around 5,000 deaths. Other U.S. allies sent smaller contingents: Australia 60,000 (521 deaths), Thailand 40,000 (321 deaths) and New Zealand over 3,000 (37 deaths). The Philippines and Taiwan also contributed.

For excerpts from the review see below:

[The author is] a captain in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. …he has written a short work entitled Mercenaries in the Vietnam War: Washington’s Hiring of South Korean Soldiers, which covers a part of that particular conflict’s history that is usually omitted from most discussions.

…ROK soldiers were deployed perhaps more productively than their American counterparts: their favored small-unit operations were better fit for the Vietnamese context…“[the north Vietnamese] only engaged Korean forces in open field when victory was certain, which rarely occurred.”

Hernández devotes more attention to the political and economic reasons of why South Korea (ROK) joined the Vietnam War.

…the United States offered to cover essentially all the costs of equipping and deploying South Korean soldiers in Vietnam… President Park’s administration [of South Korea], in turn, offered some rather advantageous inducements in order to attract a capable volunteer force: “[Each] recruit would receive credit for three years of military duty for each year served in Vietnam as well as additional monetary entitlements.” This was a rather attractive proposition…

The result, Hernández notes, was heavily in Seoul’s favor…revenues from the conflict “totaled 40 [percent] of Korea’s foreign exchange earnings, and from 1965 to 1972, the country earned $1 billion in hard US currency and received $2.7 billion in foreign loans,” among other benefits. The country’s GDP increased four-fold over the same time period as the war, and South Vietnam provided a ready market for South Korean goods. In Hernández’s view, it is “reasonable to conclude that ROK participation in the conflict contributed to the nation’s rapid economic development.”

Hernández…writes in the acknowledgements section that he intends to follow this book up with an examination of “the contemporary portrayal of South Korean involvement in the conflict within mainstream Korean literature and cinema,”

”Mercenaries in the Vietnam War” provides informative insight into South Korea’s role in Indochina.

Comment: The use of the term ”mercenaries” for the South Korean troops in Vietnam in the book title is not entirely correct. The United States and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) are allies and partners. A mercenary only fights for economic reasons. South Korean soldiers in Vietnam were ideological anticommunists and probably also fought because the United States saved ROK from communism during the war.


  1. Båtflyktning Says:

    Reblogged this on Vietnamkrigen and commented:
    Blogginnlegget gir litt informasjon om Sør-Koreas engasjement som Sør-Vietnams allierte i Vietnamkrigen.

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