Journey to Equality: The Establishment of the Relationship Between the United States and Republic of Korea Forces in the Vietnam War

In: Journal of American-East Asian Relations
Hosub ShimProfessor of History, Faculty of Military History, Korea Military Academy, Seoul, Republic of Korea

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This article examines the problem of Operational Control (opcon) in the relationship the Republic of Korea Forces in Vietnam (rokfv) built with the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. When the rokfv deployed in Vietnam, they faced the dilemma of pursuing their own interests while maintaining a good relationship with U.S. forces. Therefore, the rokfv refused to fight under the opcon of U.S. forces, even though all rok troops remaining in South Korea were under U.S. opcon. Instead of arguing who would have opcon over the rokfv, the United States and the rok negotiated the establishment of a cooperative relationship. Although their opcon was not perfect at first, the rokfv nevertheless proved their military professionalism and achievements through securing areas and building company bases in their Vietnamese territories, rather than search-and-destroy operations, to achieve pacification. As a result, the rokfv built a parallel command in which the South Vietnamese, Americans, and South Koreans cooperated, which allowed them to carry out a Korean style of war under a more equal relationship with U.S. forces.

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