Vietnamese Ambassador Forges Ties with Former Foe

    September 06, 2002 17:38


    Lee Dae-yong, then ambassador to South Vietnam was detained by the North Vietnamese military in an apartment building in Saigon on October 3, 1975 after failing to flee the defeated country. Some 27 years later in the Shilla Hotel, Seoul on a Friday morning, prior to the general assembly of the Southwestern Seoul Rotary Club, member Lee shook hands with Vietnam's ambassador to Korea Duong chinh Thuc, attending as an invited speaker. Duong was the official responsible to arrest Lee at that time.


    A graduate from Kim Il Sung University and Kimchaek Institute of Technology in North Korea, the Vietnamese ambassador worked for the country's Foreign Ministry before being dispatched to North Korea from 1992 to 1996 and appointed as an ambassador to South Korea in July 2001.


    “Even though we had a bad meeting, I hope to make good relations as we face each other again together today,” Lee said with a smile, “that’s the way things go when working for the country. We don’t have to have a personal feelings about it.”


    However, it was unforgettable pain for Lee at Chiwha Prison Camp near Saigon for five years.


    “I refused to change allegiance and though I was not tortured as a diplomat I prepared for death. I had to endure an underground life in a prison cell without any sunshine for 297 days. I lost weight from 78 kg to 40kg,” Lee recalled.


    Duong said he was particularly impressed by Lee’s resistance. At that time, he told other people around him about Lee’s patriotic sentiment.


    Right after taking the office last year, he called Lee and told him he was the best patriot and respectable diplomat. “South Korea at the time was called a puppet government for the United States, but now the world has changed and we could become a friend with the South Korean people as a whole, including Lee.” Grasping hands with Lee, Duong said, adding there was no permanent enemy in the world and he hopes to see him from time to time.


    He also said in the speech that he would do his best to develop friendly relations between Seoul and Vietnam, which is using South Korea as a good development example with the miracle of the Han River.

    (Choi Won-seok, yuwhan29@chosun.com)
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