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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs