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Translation to Teach Peace Through War
[Interview] Professor aims to reach Korean youth with a translation of a Vietnamese soldier's diary
Nguyen Ngoc Trung (ngoctrung)     Print Article 
Published 2005-09-09 16:13 (KST)   
Prof. Ahn Kyong Hwan
©2005 VNA
Prof. Ahn Kyong Hwan of the Vietnamese department at Korea's Youngsan University recently announced that he will translate Nhat ky Dang Thuy Tram (Dang Thuy Tram's Diary), a best-selling diary of a fallen soldier of the Vietnam War, into Korean, calling the book "very valuable" for both Vietnamese and Koreans.

The following is an edited version of OhmyNews' email interview with Professor Ahn. -- Ed.

Why did you decide to translate Dang Thuy Tram's diary into Korean?

After the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries -- the Republic of Korea and Vietnam -- in 1992, many Koreans have shown an interest in Vietnam. But actually we do not have enough information on Vietnam, especially on Vietnamese customs, culture, literature, et cetera. That's why I would like to try to introduce Vietnam to Koreans. After having translated late Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh's prison diary and Nguyen Du's Kieu story, I want to introduce Dang Thuy Tram's diary to the young generation of Korea, as I think it will be very useful in understanding Vietnam. Also, the diary is the best-selling book in Vietnam.

Dang Thuy Tram's diary is now a best seller in Vietnam but it may seem foreign to Korean readers. Do you think the book will have any success in Korea?

I am sure that this diary will receive keen attention from Korean readers because many Koreans are eager to understand more and more about Vietnam.

How do you feel when reading the diary of a fallen soldier in the war against the Americans, in which the Korean government took part?

In 1960 to 1970 many Koreans, as you know, participated in the Vietnam War against their will, because they were soldiers who should do according to and by the order of the nation. Now Korean veterans regret their participation but it is too late. Thus, we are now holding a calligraphy exhibition on late President Ho's prison diary in several major cities in Korea. It means we would like to express and convey our heartfelt regret to Vietnamese through the exhibition.

I am also really impressed by this prison diary and Dang Thuy Tram's diary. Vietnam, historically, has produced so many heroes, martyrs for their fatherland, such as the two Trung sisters, Ly Thuong Kiet, Tran Hung Dao, Nguyen Hue, Le Loi, Hoang Hoa Tham, Hoang Van Thu, et cetera. Also, General Vo Nguyen Giap, whom I very much respect, still gives hope to Vietnamese. I am sure martyrs like Dang Thuy Tram and Nguyen Van Thac are also two of their heroes.

Nhat ky Dang Thuy Trang (Dang Thuy Tram's Diary)
©2005 Tuoitre
How do you view the "best-seller phenomenon" of two wartime diaries, "Mai Mai Tuoi 20" and "Nhat ky Dang Thuy Tram" in Vietnam?

I found that the Vietnamese are very proud of their nation and their heroes. The young generation in the world should know what war is and why we should avoid it. Through reading the two diaries, readers can bear in mind how precious peace is!

What are the lessons that the young in Vietnam and Korea can learn from "Nhat ky Dang Thuy Tram" and "Mai Mai Tuoi 20"?

Through the two diaries, "Nhat ky Dang Thuy Tram" and "Mai Mai Tuoi 20," the young generation in Vietnam can learn humanism and patriotism. So, I would like to recommend that the young generation in Korea read these books, which, I think, will be most useful to them.

You translated late President Ho Chi Minh's prison diary into Korean. How do you feel about Ho Chi Minh in particular and Vietnamese in general?

The late President Ho Chi Minh is a symbol for the Vietnamese. All of the leaders in the world would do well to understand his inductive philosophy and learn how he struggled to achieve independence and finally brought generative power to unify the nation. Vietnamese also can be proud of him. Vietnamese are very tenacious in their defense against foreign invasion. I highly praise the Vietnamese national character.

How many times have you been to Vietnam and what was your first impression?

I lived in Vietnam for five years from July 1989 to January 1994. When I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in 1989, I felt the weather was too hot for me. But several days later I familiarized myself because all my neighbors and Vietnamese friends received me well. Also, I found that Vietnamese customs are very similar to Korean customs because Vietnam and Korea were deeply influenced by Chinese Confucian culture. Understanding each other is one of conditions that easily makes us friends.

Could you please tell me one of your most memorable experiences in Vietnam?

I still remember one teacher named Miss Thanh, whose hometown is Vinh City and was working at a middle school in Hanoi. I arrived in Vinh City just one day before Tet in 2002 to visit Lang Sen, late President Ho's hometown.

At that time so many people got off the train to visit their hometown to celebrate lunar New Year and it was so crowded. I was very confused and unable to catch a taxi in time. Furthermore, it was raining. Fortunately, Miss Thanh caught a taxi for me and helped me buy a return ticket to Hanoi. After that time, whenever I visited Hanoi I would call her to express my sincere gratitude, but it was in vain. Maybe she moved to another place and changed her telephone number. Even now, I cannot forget her kindness.

Prof. Ahn with his Vietnamese friends.
©2005 VNA
You are a professor specializing in Vietnamese. How is Vietnam and its culture received in Korea?

I think many Koreans should understand Vietnamese history, literature, and culture to strengthen the good relationship between Korea and Vietnam. Now, around 20,000 Koreans are living in Vietnam and many businesses plan to invest in Vietnam. So the demand for the Vietnamese language is increasing accordingly in Korea. Thus, I always think about how to provide a high-quality education to my students and give useful information to Koreans who want to cooperate with Vietnamese partners.

What do you think about the recent rejection of a lawsuit filed by Vietnamese Agent Orange victims against the U.S. government in March 2005?

This is a very sensitive question. In my personal opinion, even though this matter is very difficult to solve at this moment, somebody should be responsible. I think the American court made its decision after deep consideration. In this matter we have to cooperate with each other and exchange many opinions to find out an amicable solution. As you know, in Korea there are also many victims of the defoliant. We have to know that war is no way to heal scars. At any rate, for a bright future, we have to try our best to avoid war, which is one of human beings' wicked sins.

Related Articles
Fallen Soldiers' Diaries Stir Up Vietnam
Grasping a Daughter's Last Testament
Vietcong Doctor's Diary of War, Sacrifice
Soothing Vietnam War Trauma with Photos

©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nguyen Ngoc Trung

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