Chae Myung-shin

Chae Myung-shin (채명신, 蔡命新; November 27, 1926 – November 25, 2013) was a South Korean army officer who commanded South Korean military forces in the Vietnam War. He was also the co-founder of the Korean Taekwondo Association.

Chae Myung-shin
Lieutenant General Chae Myung Shin.jpg
Chae in Saigon, South Vietnam in 1969
Born(1926-11-27)27 November 1926
Kokuzan, Kōkai Prefecture, Japanese Korea
(now Koksan County, North Hwanghae Province, North Korea)
Died25 November 2013(2013-11-25) (aged 86)
Seoul, South Korea
Allegiance South Korea
Service/branch Republic of Korea Army
Years of service1948-1972
RankLieutenant general
Commands held38th Infantry Division
5th Infantry Division
Capital Mechanized Infantry Division
South Korean forces in South Vietnam
2nd Field Army Command
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
RelationsMoon Jeong-in (wife)
Chae Myung-shin
Revised RomanizationChae Myeongsin
McCune–ReischauerCh'ae Myŏngsin

Early lifeEdit

Chae Myung-shin was born on November 27, 1926 in Koksan County, to a father who was an anti-Japanese activist and a devout Christian mother, he grew up as a native believer. His father was imprisoned and was released shortly after independence of Korea in 1945, but died in early December 1945 due to the aftereffects of torture, and his mother worked as a member of the church.[1]


In 1944, at the age of 19, Chae was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army and participated in training. After training, he was stationed at South Pyongan Province. Following the independence of Korea in 1945, he attended and graduated from Pyongyang Normal School. Chae was appointed as a teacher to Deokhae Elementary School in Yonggang, South Pyongan Province. Afterwards, he taught at Jinnampo Elementary School, but following the Soviet occupation of the northern part of Korean Peninsula, Chae met Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder, at the opening ceremony of the Pyongyang Institute, a military and political academy. Kim proposed that he and Chae work together, though Chae managed to decline his offer.

Chae moved to the southern part of Korean Peninsula in 1947, to escape communism. After breaking up with his mother and family who were in the church at the time, Chae moved alone and arrived in Seoul.[2]

In 1948, he applied for the 5th cadet recruitment of the Chosun Defense Academy and passed. In his nine months in the Defense Academy, he was the top performer in his class, and scored the 26th position out of the 400 students, at the time of graduation. After graduating from the 5th term of the Military Academy, he was appointed as second lieutenant. On the same year, Chae and other eight soldiers were sent to Jeju Island in order to suppress the uprising by Workers' Party of South Korea and Jeju Provincial Party. In 1949, he took part in battles against communist forces near the city of Kaesong. In 1949, he was stationed at Mount Taebaeksan, where he was tasked to subdue the communist guerrillas in South Korea. At that time, the communist partisans were engaged in guerrilla warfare in the mountainous regions of Gangwon-do and Gyeongbuk. In Gangwon-do, Chae reunited with his mother since leaving North Korea in 1947. After being reunited with her, he broke up with her three weeks later. [3]

Korean WarEdit

Chae Myung-shin as captain

Following the start of Korean War in 1950, Chae commanded Skeleton Unit (백골병단), guerrilla unit. Chae's Skeleton Unit infiltrated into North Korea to accomplish a special mission and rendered distinguished military services. In 1951, Chae led his unit deep into north of the 38th parallel. They were isolated twice because of the encirclement of the Korean People’s Army, but they managed to escape.[4]

On May 1951, the Korean People's Army laid siege on Chae's unit and had them surrounded. However, he led a successful breakthrough but suffered heavy casualties due to cold and hunger. Regardless, the combat experiences of the unit during this period has not only become the actual combat model and the subject of war history research in the South Korean Army, but has even been applied to the tactics against the Viet Cong, during the Vietnam War. Chae also served as the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion of the 21st Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division in the Korean War, and led the troops in the expedition in North. In 1951, the 11th Regiment was formed and he served as its head. He became the authority on guerrilla tactics of the South Korean Army.[5]

Post warEdit

Members of May 16 Coup; Chae is second from the right and Park Chung-hee is second from left.

On 1953, following the signing of Korean Armistice Agreement, Chae was promoted to colonel. He served as the chief of the 5th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, the Chief of Staff of the 3rd Infantry Division, and the leader of the 60th Regiment of the 20th Infantry Division. When he was the staff officer of the 3rd Infantry Division, he was under the command of the same division of future President of South Korea Park Chung-hee. In 1954, he served as the 3rd Army Combat Staff and Chief of the Combat Planning Division of the Army Headquarters. From October 1955, he served at the No.2 Training Center in Nonsan, where he worked as a director to improve the habits and remove irregularities within the Nonsan Recruit Training Center. During his time he served with the 9th Infantry Division.[6]

After he was promoted to brigadier general in August 1958, he served as the combat staff of the First Field Army, commander of the 38th Infantry Division, and the commander of the 5th Infantry Division. He led the 5th Infantry Division and participated in the May 16 Coup in 1961, which led to installing a reformist military Supreme Council for National Reconstruction effectively led by Park Chung-hee and led to end of the Second Republic of Korea.[7]

In 1962, he co-founded the Korean Taekwondo Association and served as the founding chairman until 1964. During his tenure, he promoted the connection between Taekwondo and the military, unified the various schools, formulated common regulations and organized the first taekwondo promotion and review within South Korea. But because he concurrently serves as the chairman and important positions in the military government, many conference affairs of the association are entrusted to the deputy chairman.[8]

After being promoted to major general in 1963, he served as deputy chief of the combat staff in the army headquarters. In 1964, he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After returning to South Korea, he served as the commander of the 3rd district.

Vietnam WarEdit

Soldiers of the South Korean White Horse Division in Vietnam

On April 1965, Chae was summoned to the Blue House to meet with Park Chung-hee, in order to discuss opinions regarding the dispatch of combat troops to Vietnam. Chae initially expressed opposition in sending South Korean troops to Vietnam due to his belief that the South Korean Army are not adapted to the environmental conditions of the Viet Cong and the jungles of Vietnam, but also might affect South Korea’s defense and economy. In addition, Chae predicted that guerrilla warfare would be difficult, and that if the ROK forces participated in the Vietnam War, they would face a tough fight against the jungle warfare adapted Viet Cong.[9]

At that time, the United States was being criticized from all over the world for participating in a war without justification, and even in the United States, it faced a voluntary anti-war movement. President Park Chung-hee was under pressure from the United States to send troops to Vietnam. The United States threatened to withdraw the 2nd Infantry Division and 7th Infantry Division from the United States Forces Korea, if South Korea refused to dispatch troops. The departure of the two US divisions would have burdened the defense power to South Korea, which was still inferior to North Korea at that time.[10]

Gen. Chae pays tribute to fallen soldiers at Seoul National Cemetery (1966)

With the need for diplomacy, Park Chung-hee decided to use the South Korean military forces to enter Vietnam to participate in the war. Chae finally agreed and went to Saigon, South Vietnam to command the South Korean troops in Vietnam. At that time in Vietnam, General William Westmoreland, the commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, wanted to create a command system headed by the U.S. military, and incorporating the Australian Army and the South Korean Army within it. However, the South Korean troops under the Korean command in Vietnam did not want to even look like mercenaries under the U.S. military in the system. In the end, Chae and Westmoreland reached a 'gentleman agreement', which led to setting up a three-nation committee, so that Chae and the U.S. military staff officer in Vietnam would have positions within it. U.S. Army Major General Stanley R. Larsen essentially mastered the command of South Korean forces to develop South Korean Army's missions, operational and regional roles. Chae used his guerrilla warfare experience during the Korean War to implement tough tactics within the South Korean Army to deal with the Viet Cong.[11]

Investigation report by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Army on the Phong Nhị and Phong Nhất massacre

Chae adopted strong tactics for the Vietnamese as an authority on guerrilla tactics, which involved the routine practice of hostage taking and reprisals, while laying blame on the Viet Cong for purported atrocities.[12] Chae's harsh policy caused a serious disagreement with William Westmoreland, the chief of staff of the United States Forces.[13] On 1968, the Phong Nhị and Phong Nhất massacre occurred. Westmoreland several times demanded Chae should investigate. But Chae replied the criminals were Viet Cong.[14] However, an investigation conducted by Colonel Robert Morehead Cook of the U.S. Army Inspector General's office, published a report that pointed out that the culprits were the Blue Dragon Division of the South Korean Marine Corps. [14][15]

During his time in Vietnam, Chae also engaged in the popularization of taekwondo during the war. In 1965, he founded the Vietnam Taekwondo Association (월남태권도협회). At the same time, Chae concurrently served as the chief of staff of the South Korean Army, and subsequently wrote a Vietnam War memoir titled The Vietnam War and I.[16]

For his military services in Vietnam, he was decorated by U.S. President Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.

Post warEdit

On May 3, 1969, Chae was relieved of the position of commander of the South Korean military forces in Vietnam. He flew back to Seoul by a military plane from South Vietnam, to serve as the commander of the 2nd Field Army Command in South Korea. Park Chung-hee also met him in 1972 and appreciated Chae's military services in Vietnam.[17]

But at that time, Park Chung-hee was busy consolidating power for the third time and was preparing to establish a Fourth Republic of Korea. After that, Chae disagreed with Park regarding his attempts to consolidate his power further and expressed his opposition several times, especially after the approval of the Yushin Constitution, to expand the president’s term and control. In the end, Chae was removed from the list of promoted generals when the military personnel changed. On June 1, 1972, he left from his final position as commander of the 2nd Field Army, and retired from military service at the rank of lieutenant general.[18]

Later lifeEdit

General Chae and his family

Following his retirement from military on the same year, Chae was sent to Stockholm, to serve as South Korea's ambassador to Sweden. On 1973, he was appointed as the South Korea's ambassador to Greece and was sent to Athens. His final diplomatic position was as South Korean ambassador to Brazil in 1977, before completely retiring in 1981.[19]

In 2000, Chae was newly appointed as the chairman of the Vietnam War Companionship Association ( 베트남참전전우회 ). In 2004, he was appointed as the chairman of the Vietnam War Compatriots' Association ( 6.25참전유공자회 ), and the president of Vietnam War Companionship Association (유트남참전전우회 ).[20]

On November 25, 2013, he died at the age of 88 from gallbladder cancer, while admitted at Severance Hospital in Seoul. In accordance to his wishes, he was buried next to the soldiers who died during the Vietnam War at Seoul National Cemetery.[21][22]

Personal lifeEdit

Chae was married to Moon Jeong-in, who was born to a wealthy family in North Gyeongsang Province and a graduate of Ewha Women's University. They had two daughters and one son.[23]

Chae was a Protestant.

Awards and DecorationsEdit

His awards include:[24]

  Order of Military Merit, Taegeuk Cordon Medal
  Order of Military Merit, Hwarang Cordon Medal
  Order of Military Merit, Chungmu Cordon Medal (thrice)
  Order of Military Merit, Eulji Cordon Medal (twice)
  Order of National Security Merit, Gukseon Medal
  Unidentified South Korean decoration
  Unidentified South Vietnamese decoration
  Legion of Merit (United States)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "11월 25일 소천 前 주월사령관 채명신 장로 "전장의 불길 속에서 하나님은 나의 방패"". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  2. ^ "[Why] 베트남戰의 영웅 채명신 장군, 그는 왜 사병 묘역에 잠들어있나". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  3. ^ "[Why] 베트남戰의 영웅 채명신 장군, 그는 왜 사병 묘역에 잠들어있나". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  4. ^ "[Why] 베트남戰의 영웅 채명신 장군, 그는 왜 사병 묘역에 잠들어있나". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  5. ^ "서울에서 베트콩 적장 만난 채명신 장군 영원한 적도 영원한 친구도 없었다". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  6. ^ ""공산당 한복판에 내던져졌다고 느꼈다"". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  7. ^ "[빛과 소금] 채명신 장군의 기도 [출처] - 국민일보". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  8. ^ "박정희와 불화 故 채명신 장군 "사병묘역에 묻어달라". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  9. ^ "'베트남전 영웅' 채명신 장군, 사병묘역에 묻히다(종합)". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  10. ^ "[이 아침의 인물] '베트남전 영웅' 채명신 장군". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  11. ^ "Lt. Gen. Chae remembered for military prowess, heroism". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  12. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-06-24. Retrieved 2018-05-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "The Cold Warrior". Newsweek. April 10, 2000. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  14. ^ a b Kim Chang-seok (2000-11-15). "한국군도 많이 당했다" 채명신 전 주월한국군총사령관 인터뷰… 남베트남군 사령관 만나 사과한 적도". The Hankyoreh. Retrieved 2011-07-17.
  15. ^

    문서 가운데 '쿠앙남성의 퐁니·퐁넛마을 민간인 학살사건'(1968년 2월12일)과 관련해 그와 웨스트몰랜드 주월미군사령관 사이에서 오갔던 서신들을 제시했다.그는 처음에는 이 서신 교환이 단순한 정보교류 차원에서 이뤄진 것이라고 했으나, 곧 미군쪽 조사요청이 여러 번 있었고 그 요청에 따라 한국군사령부가 자체적으로 조사를 벌인 사실이 있다고 인정했다.민간인 학살 의혹과 관련해 미군쪽의 정식 조사 요청은 몇번이나 있었나.글쎄, 여러 차례 있었을 것이다.

  16. ^ Chae, Myung-shin (24 April 2014). 베트남전쟁과 나 Vietnam War and I. 팔복원. p. 541. ISBN 9788985840187. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Ex-commander of Korean forces in Vietnam dies". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  18. ^ "故 채명신 장군, 유언대로 파월 사병 묘역에 잠든다". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  19. ^ "[표지이야기] "한국군도 많이 당 다"". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  20. ^ Jen Choi. "South Korean Memorial Day — Remembering My Grandfather, General Chae Myung Shin". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  21. ^ Vietnam war commander to be buried among fallen comrades
  22. ^ "Chae Myung Shin". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  23. ^ "군인의 아내로 살아온 60년 인생 고백". Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  24. ^ "[최보식이 만난 사람] "그의 리더십은 '骨肉之情(골육지정)'… 부하를 친혈육처럼, 책임은 자신이 져"". Retrieved November 17, 2020.