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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Kimchi and helpful Koreans. Tan Dinh, Saigon, Vietnam

Kimchi and helpful Koreans. Tan Dinh, Saigon, Vietnam

We had a few Koreans living in a small hotel a couple of streets away. South Korea had a division operating in the central part of South Vietnam. One never heard much about them as journalists were discouraged from accompanying their troops. A very tough reputation. Very little filtred out. Many came back to Vietnam to work under contract for the US army at much higher salaries than they were getting in their own army.

I was most surprised one day to come across this Korean in the street. A can of beer in one hand and an ice cream in the other. Strange tastes. There was a restaurant that served Korean food. I wish we'd had kimchi when I was in the army. It was said that the Koreans wouldn't come to Vietnam without a regular supply of kimchi. I find it destroys the taste of good cooking but is a cure all for institutional grub. GI's had their tabasco. I wish I'd had that at boarding school as well.

I remember seeing a photo of the first Korean soldiers arriving. They marched ashore from their landing craft, perhaps near Danang or somewhere, flags flying, including that of the United Nations.
Apart from the usual continuous noise of traffic in the day time which one more or less got used to, in the evening when this died down the hondas took over. These were the Japanese motor scooters of course that everyone rode. However, what were called cowboys used to make a thorough nuisance of themselves riding up and down the street where I lived, doubtless everywhere else too, and destroying the delightful calm of the cool evening.

These Korean near neighbours were a no nonsense people and employed an old guerrilla trick to put an end to it. They strung a piece of wire across the street one night just after one of these cowboys had passed. When he returned, roaring down the street at full throttle, the wire nearly took his head off. I don't know if he survived the hospital or not but that gave us some peace for a while.

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