Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


War and Society

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory Daddis

Second Advisor

Dr. Alexander Bay

Third Advisor

Dr. Mateo Jarquin


The fact that approximately 300,000 South Korean soldiers participated in the Vietnam War is little known to many Americans. The impact of this on the the U.S.-South Korean bilateral alliance is even less known. This thesis examines how, during the period from 1969 until the end of the Vietnam War, the Richard Nixon administration and the South Korean Park Chung-hee administration, balanced their own priorities with those of their bilateral allies. For President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, the foreign policy priority centered on improving relations with the superpowers, particularly the Soviet Union and China. The United States thus sought South Korea’s cooperation in helping it extricate itself from the Vietnam War so it could focus on détente with the USSR and the opening to China. The Park administration, already disillusioned with the United States since early 1968, found its participation in the Vietnam War was valued less by the Nixon administration than the Johnson administration. After the United States reduced its military presence on the Korean peninsula and failed to closely consult with Park regarding the opening to China, South Korea began to find its own way, increasingly independent from the United States, and with growing dictatorial powers for Park. This was possible as South Korea had reaped enormous financial benefits from the Vietnam War and was able to evolve away from its client status vis-à-vis the United States. A study of the bilateral relations during this period provides perspective on how we can avoid alienating allies, while at the same time showing that in any bilateral relationship, each side will continue to weigh the costs and benefits of continuing the alliance.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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