North Korean Psychological Warfare Operations in South Vietnam

South Korean troops, pictured here landing in Vietnam, were the target of North Korean psychological warfare operations carried out in South Vietnam.

A Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security publication offers more clues of North Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War

In the late 1990s, both the Vietnamese and North Korean governments began making very limited public disclosures regarding the participation of North Korean military personnel in combat operations against US and allied forces during the Vietnam War.

Most of these disclosures involved the activities of North Korean pilots flying MiG aircraft in combat against US aircraft over North Vietnam during the years 1968-1969.  Little information has been revealed about North Korean psychological warfare activities targeted against the large South Korean Army contingent that fought alongside US forces in Vietnam from 1965 through 1972, and all of the public disclosures have covered only the period 1966-1967. The 1968 volume of a Vietnamese Ministry of Defense history of the Vietnam War, published for the general public, revealed that:

“Our enemy proselyting service coordinated with an operational cell [to cong tac] from the Central Committee of the Korean Workers [Communist] Party to launch an ideological offensive aimed at South Korean troops. (Footnote:  During the period 1966-67, in accordance with an agreement between the Central Committee of our Party and the Central Committee of the Korean Labor Party, our [North Korean] allies sent a cadre team to Region V to proselytize South Korean soldiers.)”[1]

Another official Vietnamese military history repeated this information word-for-word:

“Our enemy proselyting service coordinated with an operational cell [tổ công tác] from the Central Committee of the Korean Workers  [Communist] Party to launch an ideological offensive aimed at South Korean troops. (Footnote:  During the period 1966-67, in accordance with an agreement between the Central Committee of our Party and the Central Committee of the Korean Workers Party, our [North Korean] allies sent a cadre team to Region V to proselytize South Korean soldiers.).”[2]

In addition, a 2010 article published in People’s Army (Quân Đội Nhân Dân), the official journal of the People’s Army of Vietnam, mentioned the presence in North Vietnam of a team of North Korean “specialists” who helped to produce North Vietnamese Korean-language propaganda broadcasts directed against South Korean troops fighting in South Vietnam.[3]

A 1967 cable sent to Bucharest by the Rumanian Embassy in Hanoi, posted on the North Korean International Documentation Project website, described a relevant conversation with a representative of the National Liberation Front (NLF). The NLF official revealed that a number of North Korean personnel had been sent to South Vietnam to collect intelligence on South Korean forces and to conduct psychological warfare activities targeted on South Korean soldiers.

The North Korean Air Force unit that battled American aircraft in the skies over North Vietnam returned to North Korea in 1969. The following entry from a Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security publication (intended primarily for internal distribution) reveals that North Korean intelligence/psychological warfare “specialists” (advisors) were still operating in South Vietnam as late as 1971. At that time, a three-man team of North Koreans were caught in the middle of a battle between Vietnamese communist forces and South Korean troops in Binh Dinh Province, Central Vietnam, where the South Korean “Tiger” Division was based. 

It is very possible that the North Korean intelligence/psychological warfare specialists were directly in contact with the small number of (four to five) South Korean troops who defected or were taken prisoner by Vietnamese communist forces during the Vietnam War.

24 April to 5 May 1971

Binh Dinh Province Security Crushes Enemy Sweep Operation into the Province Party Committee’s Base Area

On 24 April 1971 the US and their puppets used aircraft [helicopters] to land one regiment of South Korean troops from the South Korean Tiger Division on Hon Che Hill (Hill 829) in the western part of Phu Cat District, Binh Dinh Province, to try to surround and destroy the province’s headquarters staff.  We were holding a study session for key senior province cadres at that location [Hon Che Hill] and three North Korean comrades where working at that location. The Province Party Committee ordered our armed security forces to join other forces in fighting to ensure the safety of the Province Party Committees headquarters and staff agencies as well as the safety of our foreign friends and of those attending the study session.               

When the enemy troops attacked the province’s base, the armed public security assigned to protect the Province Party Committee divided up into many cells that coordinated with other forces and friendly units in the fight. Our forces fought stalwartly, shattering many enemy attack waves and inflicting many losses on the enemy.

After fighting continuously for eleven days our forces had completely defeated the enemy’s sweep operation and had ensured the safety of the Province Party Committee headquarters, of the study session participants, and of our foreign guests.  During this fight against the enemy sweep operation our forces annihilated more than one hundred South Korean soldiers. Armed Security personnel alone killed 45 enemy soldiers, wounded many others, and captured large quantities of the enemy’s weapons and equipment.               

After this battle the Armed Security unit that protected the Province Party Committee was awarded the “Stalwart Unit” title.

Source: Colonel Nguyen Trong Khue [Nguyễn Trọng Khuê], ed., Công An Nhân Dân Việt Nam: Lịch Sử Biên Niên (1954-1975), Quyển II (Vietnam’s People’s Public Security: Chronology of Events [1954-1975], Vol. II) (Hanoi: People’s Public Security Publishing House, 2000), 288-289.




[1] Colonel Nguyễn Văn Minh, ed.,  Lịch Sử Kháng Chiến Chống Mỹ Cứu Nước, Tập V, Tổng Tiến Công và Nổi Dậy Năm 1968 (History of the Resistance War Against the Americans to Save the Nation, 1954-1975, Volume V: The 1968 General Offensive and Uprisings) (Hanoi: National Political Publishing House, 2001), 271.

[2] Nguyễn Phùng Minh, ed., Nam Trung Bộ Kháng Chiến (Southern Central Vietnam's War of Resistance, 1945-1975) (Hanoi: National Political Publishing House, 1995), 351.

[3] “Nhớ ngày “tác chiến” trên làn song” (“Remembering the Time of “Battles” Over the Airwaves”), Quân Đội Nhân Dân, 28 April 2010, accessed 28 April 2010 at http://www.qdnd.vn/QDNDSite/vi-VN/61/43/247/247/247/110485/Default.aspx

 

 

Merle Pribbenow is a former CIA officer who served in Vietnam from April 1970 to April 1975, and is the translator of Volume 2 of the history of the People’s Army of Vietnam, which was published by the University of Kansas Press as Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975 (2002).
More posts by Merle Pribbenow