This week’s Canvas reading discusses a Forgotten War, where the United States paid South Korea to utilize their army in South Vietnam. The overall depictions of Korea in the war followed a recurring theme where the United States was painted as a big, bolstering giant, while Vietnam or, in this case, Korea, was shown as a companion that could share U.S. uniforms and eat U.S. food, but was unable to hold U.S. weapons. No matter what, they still had to be weaker and smaller in comparison to the U.S so they could not pose a threat.
At one point, Koreans were the model for failures at the American Dream. But, after the Korean craze (a spread of Korean products, movies, and TV shows, amongst other cultural artifacts) humanized South Koreans (note that North Koreans were still alienated).
In Vietnam, Korea went through a reputation transformation from the unrelatable, unreachable nation of people to a hero of freedom during the Korean War. Korean products were imported and spread across Vietnam as expensive products. Post-war, Korea represented an ideal contemporary land. This notion contrasts the wartime reality of ruthless Korean soldiers, terrorizing the Vietnamese countryside and its people. After the war, it seems Korea had picked up a few propaganda tricks from the U.S. and made sure to erase most of the ugly history that made Korea out to be a monster. Such aesthetics are understandable from the viewpoint of a kid on the playground who just wants to be liked. They will twist anything, even the truth, to get what they want. What are the positives and negatives of post war censorship? What is the value in dredging history that has been purposefully erased?