In mid-November, Moon Jae-in visited Ho Chi Minh City and delivered an address. In it, he briefly mentioned that “South Korea holds a debt in its heart to Vietnam,” without elaborating further. Notable South Korean media outlets are spinning this statement, saying that this is an apology for South Korean atrocities during the war.Actually, late president Roh Moo-hyun also said during his 2004 visit to Vietnam, “Our people hold a debt in our heart.” And before that, in 2001, president Kim Dae-jung told the then-Vietnamese leader, “I feel sorry that we participated in an unfortunate war and unintentionally caused the Vietnamese people pain.”
But are these complete and meaningful apologies if we are to go by the standards South Koreans apply in demanding full apologies from Japan over the latter’s own war crimes against Korea?
Speaking to Korea Exposé, a Blue House spokesperson declined to comment on whether Moon was apologizing, and if he was even alluding specifically to Korean crimes in the Vietnam War.