South Vietnam - Demographics


About 90% of population was Kinh, and 10% was Hoa, Montagnard, French, Khmer, Cham, Eurasians and others. (1970).

The Vietnamese language was the primary official language and was spoken by the majority of the population. Despite the end of French colonial rule, the French language still maintained a strong presence in South Vietnam where it was used in administration, education (especially at the secondary and higher levels), trade and diplomacy. The ruling elite population of South Vietnam was known to speak French as its primary language. With U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, the English language was also later introduced to the military and became a secondary diplomatic language. Languages spoken by minority groups included Chinese, Khmer, and other languages spoken by Montagnard groups.

The religion of the majority of the population was Buddhism influenced by Confucian philosophy, which was practiced by about 80% of the population. A significant Roman Catholic minority included many ruling members of the state and during the Ngo administration, the government was often biased towards Catholics in public service and military promotions, as well as in the allocation of land, business favors and tax concessions. Many civilians also converted to Catholicism to avoid discrimination by the government or to receive special government benefits. Tensions between the Buddhist majority and pro-Catholic administration and the Catholic population escalated into the Buddhist Crisis in which civil unrest severely weakened the government and led to U.S. opposition of the Ngo administration. The crisis ended with the arrest and assassination of President Ngô Đình Diệm in November 1963. The Catholic population was then discriminated in turn by the Buddhist majority in following administrations and declined as many converted to Buddhism. Other minority religions included Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and animism practiced by hill tribes.

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