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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 4. April 27, 1959

Parallel 17 North

Parallel 17 North

North Vietnam has an area rather larger than that of the South Island and a population of 13 millions. It came into being after a savage and protracted colonial war, of which I saw glimpses in a Vietnamese film in Hanoi.

This war for colonial freedom became involved in the cold war politics of the great powers and brought the West to the brink of atomic intervention when the campaign began to swing decisively against the French.

It was terminated by the Geneva Agreement which shattered, temporarily at least, the unity of the Annamese or Vietnamese lands along the arbitrary line of the 17th parallel.

The Agreement provided for elections in 1956; these might have restored the unity of North and South but, largely owing to the opposition of the American-supported Diem regime in South Vietnam, they were never held.

Today, the 17th parallel is one of the most absolute barriers in the world; trade or movement across it is nonexistent and even postal contact between members of families divided by the boundary is restricted to prisoner-of-war type postcards.

Photo of (probably) K. M. Buchanan

The division shattered the economy of Vietnam leaving a food-deficit, mineral-rich North cut off from a food surplus mineral deficient South. The South subsequently evolved under American! control; the North aligned itself with the socialist camp and followed the Chinese pattern of agrarian reform and social transformation.