News / Asia

Chinese Veterans Recall Korean War

Chinese Veterans Recall Korean Wari
X
July 25, 2013 12:00 PM
Sixty years after the end of the Korean War, China is still North Korea’s biggest ally, although the relationship under the cover of shared political ideals has not always been smooth.
VOA News
Sixty years after the end of the Korean War, China is still North Korea’s biggest ally, although the relationship under the cover of shared political ideals has not always been smooth.
 
Today, Chinese veterans of the war recall that they made all efforts to help Korea, while protecting their own country from perceived threats of American imperialism.
 
Zhang Kuiyuan joined the war when he was 18 years old. As a member of the first group of Chinese volunteer soldiers sent to the front lines at the end of 1950, he drove a supply truck delivering food, gasoline and equipment.
 
Zhang said conditions were harsh and Chinese soldiers had few encounters with their Korean allies. “We didn’t have many contacts with the North Koreans unless we were cooperating in the same hills,” he recalled. “In general, we would head to one direction and they would go another way.”
 
More than one million Chinese soldiers crossed the Yalu River into North Korea to help Pyongyang fight against the Americans. They also brought relief to local people by building houses, erecting bridges and engineering roads to improve communications.

Limited access
 
However, the Chinese had little access to the locals. Zhang Yuzeng, a war veteran, said Chinese ethnic Koreans were brought along to help deal with their brothers-in-arms. “We had only a few translators with us, mainly we didn’t understand each other,” he explained.
 
When time came to join forces, “the North Korean army would go first and we followed; we stopped where they stopped,” added Zhang.
 
Zhang Yuzeng recalled that on the front line the Chinese would mainly fight alone, under command of their marshal, Peng Dehuai. North Koreans, he said, “were few and badly equipped and were not as good at fighting.”
 
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Kim Il Sung gathered troops in the north-east to go and fight in Korea. But, for as much as he fought it, "it all ended up in a stalemate and the country was divided into two parts,” said Zhang Yuzeng.
 
Chinese troops remained in North Korea long after the end of the conflict, marked by the signing of a ceasefire on July 27, 1953. Until five years after, China helped with reconstruction and technical aid.
 
Zhang Kuiyuan, however, did not leave any friends behind. Chinese volunteers were told to avoid any close connection with North Koreans. “There was such a strict discipline that we were forbidden to have contact with the locals," he said.  "Ordinary communication was allowed but not mingling and having Korean friends.  We were worried it would create problems.”

Mistrust
 
Even though China and North Korea were on the front lines of the global socialist movement and their relation was as close as “lips and teeth,” there was a strong mistrust between their two leaders.
 
Mao Zedong, who ruled over China since 1949, and Kim Il Sung, who was leading the North Korean army, argued often.
 
Shen Zhihua, Korean War historian, said Soviet leader Joseph Stalin intervened several times to solve disputes. “During the war the Chinese army and the North Korean army, Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung had opposite and conflicting views on all basic strategic questions,” he said.
 
Conflicts arose about who should lead forces in battle, where the front line should be established, and who should be in command of the railways.  
 
Despite those differences, the war cemented a relationship that has lasted for decades. During the years of strained relations with the Soviet Union, China was keen on playing a fatherly role in helping neighboring North Korea.
 
New course

It all changed when Beijing and Washington normalized diplomatic ties, in the late 1970s. Shen Zhihua said North Korea started to feel frustrated at the new common strategic views shared by China and the United States.
 
In the years since, Pyongyang has at times escalated provocations toward South Korea, Japan and the United States. More recently, Beijing appears to be experimenting with a tougher stance toward its historical ally.

This year China joined the United Nations in implementing a Security Council resolution against North Korea. A Chinese state bank has frozen transactions with Pyongyang, and high level contacts have slowed down. “North Korea is pushing it too far. They make China lose face. They make a nuclear test and tell China only twenty minutes in advance, all the others know beforehand. How can we still call this a special relationship?” said Shen Zhihua.
 
Today, for many Chinese, North Korea is more of a weird tourist attraction than a close national ally. Grandchildren of those who fought to liberate Korea, Shen said, would rather see China freed from its historical bond with Pyongyang.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid