Friday, September 30, 2005

January 19, 1953 archives

Foreign News: Visiting Tiger

In 1897 the Korean monarchy jailed and tortured a young radical of royal lineage who warned that the Japanese were trying to take over his country. He spent from his 22nd to his 29th year in prison. In 1912, two years after Japan openly annexed his country, the radical fled from Korea and from the Japanese police, who quite correctly suspected him of plotting against their regime. In the next 33 years the world's diplomats came to know stubborn Syngman Rhee as a tiresome, zealous exile, vainly pleading the cause of Korean independence, frantically warning that Japan was a menace to peace. Even after the defeat of Japan in World War II, Syngman Rhee still blew on the fingers his torturers had mashed, still recklessly declared his hatred for the Japanese. If Tokyo sent troops to help win the Korean war, said Rhee last fall, "we would turn around and fight the Japanese before the Communists."

Largely because of Rhee's attitude, Korean and Japanese negotiators have failed to solve the postwar problems of Japan Sea fishing rights, Japanese property claims growing out of the 35-year occupation of Korea, and the standing of Koreans in Japan. The two countries have continued to feud, without benefit of diplomatic ties. Last fall General Mark Clark audaciously invited Rhee to call on him in Tokyo, and last week, 77-year-old Syngman Rhee flew to Tokyo with his forceful, Austrian-born wife, who is 20 years his junior. He was, he said, "willing to meet Japan halfway."

In Tokyo, he reviewed an honor guard, lunched at the big white U.S. embassy, then motored to General Clark's mansion for the main event of his trip: tea and cakes with Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.

Rhee, Yoshida and Clark talked guardedly about Korea-Japan relations. At one point, Yoshida recalled hunting in Korea early in the century, asked Rhee: "Are there still many tigers in Korea?" "No," replied Syngman Rhee, "there are not many tigers left."
Next day Rhee, one of Korea's few remaining tigers, took off for Seoul, proclaiming enigmatically that his visit had "achieved more than I had anticipated."
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Whose responsibility?

Whose problem are the North Koreans? Whose responsibility is it to clean up the mess? Who should be taking in the refugees? Is it wrong to assume that South Korea should be taking in most of them? If it is not wrong, what is the basis for putting this onus on South Korea's shoulders, a South Korea which has already taken in thousands when other countries have taken in virtually none?

This comment over at
Oranckay's, in reference to the purported beating by North Korean border guards of a North Korean woman, made me think:
Kind of makes you wonder why so many people in SK think the NK should be considered blood brothers worthy of camaraderie.
“Worthy of camaraderie”? I’ve never heard it put that way. I’ve heard people express ideas that North Koreans deserve concern, help, assistance, a way out of their misery, etc., because they are “brothers” (which is an ethnic connection, not an ideological one; on the other hand, I have frequently heard “blood brothers” or “blood ties” used to characterize the US-ROK relationship). It seems to me that there is a quite a bit of inaccurate supposition in the interpretation of the "brothers" statement, and no small measure of disingenuousness.

It seems Western critics of Korea have put Korea in a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" situation. Most everyone is suggesting—by their inaction if not by direction statemetn—that South Korea should be the country most concerned and most responsible about North Korean refugees. But on what justification? Ethnic and historic ties? Is this not acknowledgement by non-Koreans that there is in fact a "brotherly" connection between the two?

But when South Koreans talk about being “brothers” with North Koreans—the very same concept their critics are tacitly making—they are derided for a whole host of sins, from racism against non-Koreans, to abandonment of the US-ROK alliance, to not caring about North Koreans.

The onus on South Korea is not a legal one, not with US legislation now calling for taking in North Korean refugees. But where are the towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin full of former DPRK citizens now seeking a new life?


The North-South relationship is murky, complex, and highly dysfunctional—the death of millions of innocents has that effect, especially when the circumstances remain completely unresolved. It cannot be compared with the relationship between, say, the US and Vietnam. You're not just dealing with a murderous neighbor, but a murderous neighbor holding your relatives hostage, and half of the hostages have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and not only don't want to be rescued, but they are now pointing guns and knives at the other hostages.

To keep at arm's length and in the gun sights, to try to reach out and see if a friendly hand is received in a friendly way or if it can be used to convince a distrustful enemy of desire for friendship—or a combination of everything. It's murky enough, but when your real-life aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, are up there, it's all the more complex. And when you consider that the people in charge up there killed your real-life aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, etc., down here, it's even more complex.

Who your brother is, that "racist" concept Western critics of Korea (or East Asia in general) like to deride, is inextricably caught up in any calculation about what to do about North Korea. It's inescapable. That's the first thing the Western critics must realize.

The second thing they must acknowledge is that anything other than a much more equal sharing of the refugee mess among the powers-that-be in this region (and this might extend beyond South Korea, Japan, the US, China, and Russia), is a tacit acknowlegement of the validity of the "brothers" concept.

Unless you want North Korean refugees living in Anoka, Minnesota, or La Crosse, Wisconsin, give the self-righteous criticism a rest.

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Tragedy of the kirŏgi appa

Space Nakji got me thinking again about the concept of the kirŏgi father, or "wild goose" parent, who sends their spouse and children off to live in another country, usually for education. It is one of a number of family archeyptes where a married Korean couple ends up living for a long period of time, typically several years, separated by hundreds or usually thousands of miles of land and ocean. (In the past, it was not uncommon for a husband to go off to another country for work or study while the wife and kids stay in Korea.)

I have some definite opinions about these long-common family situations, and this may offend some people. I think there are a lot of married couples willing to be split apart for work-related reasons, arising from back when marriages were set up or between two people who otherwise really didn't know each other WELL before they got married (despite dating in a coffee shop once a week for six whole months!), and afterward they really find that they don't share much in common, including a deep, longing love for the other.

For such couples, living apart is not that hard, and it's even a welcome relief, a respite from the routine grind of being with someone with whom you share little more than a bed, a house, and an occasional romp in the sack.

And so many people end up in these trans-oceanic marriages that Koreans in general end up thinking it's "normal" or "okay" to subject one's marriage to this. The dysfunctional becoming normative.

So even people who DO have that deep, longing love for their spouse end up thinking, "Yeah, maybe I should live in Dallas for three years to help my career," thinking that if others can endure time apart from their spouse, so can I.

But they can't. It only works for people who lack true love in their marriage. People who do have that true love of their spouse find out they have subjected themselves to years of hell! "Why didn't anyone warn me this was going to be so hard?" they scream inside themselves. Because for so many other people doing this, it's not.

Those others have a heart that is frost-bitten—toward their spouse, at least—and they hand you a poker and say, "Look, hit me there!" to show you they don't feel a thing, and you think to yourself, "Hey, am I the same way?" but when you get stabbed with a sharp poker, it hurts like a muther fu¢ker because your heart is not frost-bitten.

Pity those in Korea in love with their spouse, because they are in a world where marriage is a sham—romantically at least—that is just designed to further the aims of the in-laws, surrounded by people who got married out of familial or social obligation.

They live in a world where so many marriages exist just to exist, not to be an expression of love, and their loving relationship is under constant assault by frost-bitten married people who give them bad advice about what is acceptable in marriage, or worse, people who would undermine their marriage with thoughts that cheating is okay, sex outside of your marriage is okay as long as you're not unfaithful with thoughts of love for someone else.

Pity the people who truly love their spouse, but were convinced by others' words and actions that it's okay to subject your marriage to one of the worst traumas imaginable for a happy life together. It is like poisoning with arsenic. It is a blow to the marriage, and it often ends up being one that, if it doesn't kill it, leaves the once-happy marriage permanently maimed when the two kirŏgi are finally reunited.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Beating in North Korea

Oranckay posted about some extremely disturbing pictures that have appeared on Free North Korea Broadcasting (FNK, 자유북한방송). The accompanying audio link is distressing. The Chosun Ilbo has a few of the stills in much better quality, along with English captions.

Whoever took these, by hidden camera apparently, must be very brave and ballsy. A Japanese broadcaster is planning to broadcast the 25-minute video in mid-October, but the stills that are available now paint an extreming troubling scene.

It is a brutal scene. In some sense, it is not "news" because it is not new nor is it special information: we know that this happens routinely in North Korea. But it is noteworthy because such scenes, usually just told first- or second-hand, are usually not filmed and shown in free South Korea (or Japan, the US, etc.).

Right now the current government is working hard to engage Korea. If the US and Japan proceed as planned, they will be engaging North Korea more and more as well. That's all good and well, but it is of the utmost importance that we NOT forget who is in charge there and the tactics that they use to maintain control. We have already forgotten that with the People's Republic of China, and many South Koreans are dangerously close to forgetting that about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

It is for that reason that stories like this one MUST be shown in the Chosun Ilbo. It is for that reason that stories like this one at Marmot's must be told. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 26, 2005

May 10, 1926 archives: Aigo!

Foreign News: "Aigo"

Throughout Japan the local police vainly attempted to suppress "loud-wailing parties" (Aigo) indulged in by friends of the late (TIME, April 19, MILESTONES) Emperor Yi of Korea (deposed 1910). The Japanese Cabinet voted to expend 100,000 yen ($47,000) upon a stupendous funeral, to be held over his remains.

Japanese pridefully recalled that the onetime great Empire of Korea is now administered by a Japanese Governor General. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Huge anti-war rally in Washington

CNN reports that up to 100,000 people have converged on Washington in protest of the Iraq War (just what is the official name for this?).

The rally, which passed by the White House, stretched through the day and into the night. CNN called it "a marathon of music, speechmaking, and dissent on the National Mall." It was the largest anti-war protest in the U.S. capital since the US-led invasion of Iraq.

According to CNN, the rally included young activists, nuns whose anti-war activism dates to Vietnam, parents mourning their children in uniform lost in Iraq, and uncountable families motivated for the first time to protest.

One Republican, who claims he still supports Bush except for the war, told CNN: "President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let's move on."


His wife called the removal of Saddam Hussein "a noble mission" but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

"Bush Lied, Thousands Died," said one sign. "End the Occupation," said another. More than 1,900 members of the U.S. armed forces have died since the beginning of the war in March 2003.

A few hundred people in a counter demonstration in support of Bush's Iraq policy lined the protest route near the FBI building. The two groups shouted at each other, a police line keeping them apart. Organizers of a pro-military rally Sunday hoped for 10,000 people.

Guess which side of this issue I'm on.
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Can you pass the citizenship test?

I can! Yay! In your face, all you silly people (mostly non-American, go figure) who call me anti-American!
[hat tip: reluctant OCer ispork]

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!
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October 6, 1924 archives

Religion: Mote

The mote-and-beam doctrine had its reiteration in a letter addressed by Tokutomi Kenjiro, famed Japanese littérateur, to U. S. missionaries, on the conclusion of the fourth decade of his Christian life. The Living Age republished from the Japan Weekly Chronicle :

DEAR AMERICAN MISSIONARIES IN JAPAN AND KOREA: It is high time that you went home, where you are urgently needed. Gardeners sent to work in neighbors' yards will find their own gardens covered with weeds upon returning.

Dear America! What a naughty boy you are growing to be! Prosperity has spoiled you; you have grown too fat to retain your tender sensibilities. You are too active, and have got out of control. ... You don't mean to be bad, after all, and you were born a good child. I love you all the same. But nevertheless you are too arrogant. . . . You are giving military drill to your girls. Shame! You are making military preparations day and night. Against whom? Whom are you afraid of? Of Japan? . . .

We want our American missionaries to return home and there to melt up all the heavy cannon to cast a statue of peace, to be erected, say, at the entrance to the Golden Gate. (Signed) TOKUTOMI KENJIRO.
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Saturday, September 24, 2005

December 3, 1923 archives

Foreign News: A Serious Accusation

Dr. Floyd Williams Tomkins, President of the Friends of Korea in America and a leading clergyman of Philadelphia, filed a protest with U. S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, against Japanese inhumanity in killing Koreans in Japan during the earthquake.

The charges made by Dr. Tomkins were based upon written evidence, supplied by a Captain Hedstrom, U. S. citizen and assistant dock superintendent at Yokohama, which is backed up by other American observers. The virtual indictment says "that the official order went out to kill as many Koreans as possible that on Sunday, Sept. 2, 1923, 250 Koreans were bound hand and foot, in groups of five, placed in an old junk, covered with oil, burned alive"; that soldiers, ordered to shoot eight Koreans, apparently enjoyed the horror of a party of Americans, who were forced to witness the preparations for the executions, and " instead of shooting the Koreans they bayonetted them "; that hundreds of Koreans were massacred and " thousands interned with insufficient supplies."

The report then goes on to say that the territorial integrity and independence of Korea* was guaranteed in 1882 by 14 nations, among them Japan, who followed " the example of the U. S." "The U. S. agreed that if Korea should be unjustly or oppressively dealt with it would exert its ' good offices.' Yet we find Korea absorbed by the very power which guaranteed its independence, and a people once proud to call themselves Korean citizens now reduced to ' people without a country,' with no one to speak in their behalf."

The Japanese Embassy at Washington stated that fighting " between Koreans and Japanese, and between Japanese and Socialists and Anarchists," did take place at the time of the great quake. The number of Japanese and Koreans killed was placed between 200 and 300. It was denied that 250 Koreans were burned in oil. The Koreans, said an Embassy official, were interned for their own protection and "2,700 free railway tickets were provided for such Koreans as desired to go to their homes outside the earthquake zone."


* On Aug. 22, 1910, Korea was formally annexed to Japan and the name changed to Chosen. By an Imperial Rescript of 1919, Chosen became an integral part of the Japanese Empire, and the equality of Koreans with Japanese was declared.
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Did a category-5 hurricane blow Bush off the wagon?

The National Enquirer says it did (the same National Enquirer that broke stories on Clinton's infidelity).

More on this later.


ADDENDUM:
Here's the more. I have no tolerance for drunk driving. None. I have twice been hit by drunk drivers (in Korea) and one of those times was in a residential area near a school and, had the driver not hit me, there's a very good chance he would have plowed into a child. No tolerance at all.

To me, drunk driving represents an utter failure of good reason. It represents one person doing what he (or she) wants to do while displaying TOTAL DISREGARD for how his/her actions affect other people's lives.

And such an utter lack of judgement makes a person, in my opinion, absolutely unfit to be leader of a nation, particularly in the role of commander-in-chief.

I said that in November 2000 when Bush was running for president: his drunk-driving conviction made him, in my opinion, unqualified to be president.

This is not a partisan thing: with God as my Witness, had it been revealed that Al Gore had been convicted of drunk driving, I would not have voted for him. I would have left that slot blank, voted for Nader, or written in Bill Clinton. At the time I did not know if or when this lack of appreciation of the consequences of one's actions on the lives of others would come into play, but now I think I've seen it.

Being an alcoholic is another thing. Yes, I do believe George W. Bush is a recovering alcoholic (I don't think he is a former cokehead or anything like that; those rumors came about because it was believed, prior to November 2000, that Bush had done something, but the press didn't know what. It turned out that the something was probably the covered-up drunk-driving arrest).

A recovering alcoholic, in particular, is one who has realized the wrong direction his life has gone, and he has done something about it. A recovering alcoholic may be one who has done nothing to endanger the lives of others, but he/she still has a problem. It's not the same lack of responsibility as being a drunk driver.

Nevertheless, if Bush really is off the wagon, that concerns me. People like my mother decided to vote for him because "he has gotten his life together." If he is sipping the sauce again, then that is no longer true. Again, the question of suitability to be president is at issue.

I hope this is one of those things that the National Enquirer got wrong. If they're right, I really hope Laura Bush can get her husband, our nation's leader, back on track. For real, not just for show.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

February 4, 1946 archives

The Unknown Ally

On one of Manila's main streets, a serious, spectacled G.I. politely asked a Filipino for directions. His only answer: "Shut up! We don't talk to Japs. We don't like you around here." Staff Sergeant Masami Hayashi, of the Army of the United States, shrugged and walked on. Like a hundred other Nisei in the Philippines, he Was rubbed raw almost daily by Filipinos' hostility. All he could do was to wish desperately that somebody in authority would tell the Filipinos what Americans of Japanese ancestry had achieved in the war, how they had proved their once-questioned loyalty.

The Nisei could well be proud of their record. Many had distinguished themselves in combat—most notably in Italy.* But more important to victory in the Pacific had been the work of Japanese-Americans who had translated and analyzed thousands of captured Jap documents, crossed no man's land to talk Japs out of their caves, interviewed prisoners to get information. As their worth was proved, they had gradually advanced from rear-area assignments to the front lines, where they were in double jeopardy—from the enemy, and from fellow G.I.s who mistook them for the enemy. The Army Command is convinced that Japan could not have been defeated so quickly without the Nisei.

Most of the combat veterans were back in the U.S. or had gone to Tokyo. But those with fewer points were still needed in Manila, especially as interpreters at the war-crimes trials. Ironically, they had brought this on themselves—they had dug up a great part of the evidence. Said their sympathetic commanding officer, Marine Major Harly D. Pratt: "If it were not for the Nisei interpreters, there would be no war-crimes trials." Pratt was now doing his best to let the Filipinos know how much they owed their Nisei friends.

Until the word got around, the Nisei soldiers would live like Masami Hayashi, 22, Denver-born former student at the Colorado School of Mines, who spends his working day at the War Crimes Commission, his evenings at his barracks, studying. He and his buddies had been refused service at a post exchange, ordered out of movies by usherettes, insulted, threatened with knives. Said Staff Sergeant Hayashi: "I just don't try to mix any more. I guess these people don't know who we are."


*The 100th Infantry Battalion won more awards than any other unit of its size: two presidential unit citations, three Legion of Merit awards, 9 D.S.C.s, 44 Silver Stars, 31 Bronze Stars, more than 1,000 Purple Hearts. This battalion and the 442nd Infantry Regiment, also a Nisei outfit, had more than 9,000 casualties, no AWOLs but six men who jumped hospital to return to the front.
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May 2, 1988 archives

In response to a post on Fred Korematsu over at AsiaPages, I'm digging up something more recent from the Time archives.

Ethics: An Apology to Japanese Americans
The Senate says they were wrongly interned during World War II

Like many historic mistakes, Executive Order 9066 won approval almost offhandedly. On Feb. 11, 1942, preoccupied by a two-front war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided not to bother with a meeting on the subject and simply said yes in a phone call to his Secretary of War, adding the bland advice, "Be as reasonable as you can." Signed a week later, the order led to the roundup and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans for the duration of World War II, an action that Hawaii Senator Spark Matsunaga calls the "one great blot on the Constitution." Last week the nation moved a step closer to expunging that stain. The Senate voted to give an apology and a tax-free payment of $20,000 to each of the 60,000 surviving internees. The bill must now go to the House, which has already passed a similar measure.

Most Americans feel obvious satisfaction at the expression of sorrow and the payment of what amounts to reparations for a woeful chapter in national history. Still, a number of ethical questions swirl around the issue. Chief among them: Was the internment justified in the context of its time? Is it necessary or right to apologize for a difficult decision made under unprecedented wartime pressure?

Certainly the hysteria that swept the West Coast after Pearl Harbor set the stage for some kind of drastic action. No rumor about Japanese Americans was too wild to be believed. Treasonous farmers were said to be growing tomatoes in arrow-shaped patches that pointed the way for enemy pilots to California defense plants. Nisei students were reported to be pouring into German- language classes at UCLA, presumably to help the Nazis. One story said wily Japanese saboteurs had quietly bought up land around West Coast military installations.

Government officials and opinion leaders played a large role in fanning the flames. For some reason, Navy Secretary Frank Knox said secret agents in Hawaii had effectively helped Japan, though he knew the statement was untrue. A Treasury Department official announced that 20,000 members of the Japanese- American community were "ready for organized action" to cripple the war effort. Earl Warren, then California attorney general, and Columnist Walter Lippmann echoed that theme with some remarkably paranoid reasoning: the lack of sabotage was an eerie sign, indicating that tightly disciplined Japanese Americans must be quietly planning some sort of massive, coordinated strike.

One reason apologies are due is that the U.S. acted against its own best information. The FBI had been watching the Japanese-American community for five years without noticing anything alarming. There is also evidence that the Justice Department did not tell the Supreme Court all it knew about the loyalty of Japanese Americans.

Columnist James J. Kilpatrick argues that fears of a Japanese invasion were not absurd at the time. But the Japanese military turned its attention far to the east immediately after Pearl Harbor. By the end of December 1941, Lieut. General John L. DeWitt, who commanded West Coast defenses, concluded that no invasion was likely. By the time F.D.R. signed the Executive Order, top Army and Navy commanders agreed that an invasion was almost impossible. Nonetheless the evacuation policy proceeded, partly to show that the Government was busy doing something. There simply was no military need to uproot Japanese-American families. U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle's later assessment should have been made at the time: "The program was ill advised, unnecessary and unnecessarily cruel."

"Hindsight has proven us wrong," said one of the naysayers, Nevada Senator Chic Hecht, as if the nation were punishing itself today simply for guessing wrong long ago. Bad guesses are not moral failings, but the sweeping suspension of rights for one racial group certainly is. People were interned if they were only one-eighth Japanese by blood. There were no camps for German Americans, despite real support for Germany and Hitler in the German-American Bund. And no camps were set up for Japanese Americans in Hawaii, where there were plenty of ethnic Japanese but no strong tradition of anti-Japanese resentments.

If the wrong is obvious, the ways to right it are not. Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming, among others, strongly objected to the $20,000 payments: "Honor doesn't come with a dollar sign on it, and you don't buy it back." The objection is disingenuous, since Wallop thinks there is nothing to apologize for. It is also wrongheaded. Under the American system of tort law, wrongful harm is routinely acknowledged with cash payments. But to those interned, the formal apology and the removal of the stigma of disloyalty may count for far more than the cash. The country is also apologizing to itself for trampling its own core values. As the Senate bill says unflinchingly, the internment policy "was caused by racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."
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Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Simpsons are going to Pyongyang!

Well, not the Simpsons (that's a common line from the long-running animated series), but anyone with an American passport. In time for North Korea's biggest-ever mass games, which are to involve some 100,000 people (and why not? It's not as if they've got jobs to go to), U.S. citizens are being allowed into the Worker's Paradise.

According to Reuters, the tours got the green light after last week's surprise end to the latest round of six-party talks in Beijing, when North Korea and the United States signed a landmark deal in which Pyongyang agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

Nick Bonner, the British founder and organizer of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, says the rare opening to U.S. travelers was a clear sign of an easing of tensions between the two sides:
With the six-party talks going better than a lot of people forecast, there is a general good feeling at the moment, a more friendly feeling.
Now that he has official approval to lead three groups of Americans to North Korea next month, Bonner said he expects about 100 people to sign up. Americans were last admitted in 1995 and 2002, when the Arirang Mass Games were held before. Reuters describes the games as "the world's biggest choreographed extravaganza, part circus act, part rhythmic gymnastics floor, with plenty of reverence for 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il."

Americans will also get to see the USS Pueblo, while talking up the benefits of world-wide Juche with two guides (two are needed to keep an eye on each other).

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Arrivederci, Iraq?

Staunch US political ally Italy, where my own personal experience tells me anti-Bush sentiment among the hoi polloi is very high, perhaps higher than in Korea, is considering pulling more of its troops out of Iraq. This according to Time Magazine.

Berlusconi, who is trying to show that his country is still a strong ally by stationing thousands of troops in Iraq, is finding himself in the same gondola as Roh Moohyun, who also is torn between political realities and popular sentiment. Sphere: Related Content

The Hill goes to Mohammed

AFP quotes a Chosun Ilbo report that Christopher Hill, the US's negotiator in the six-way talks, is exploring the possibility of a visit to North Korea next month. He may even hold direct talks with Kim Jong-il. Hill is pushing for a trip before the next round of six-nation talks in early November, which he reportedly told South Korea's unification minister Chung Dong-young, who passed along the request when he visited Pyongyang.

Direct talks with Kim Jong-il may be the kind of respect-showing display that will make him comfortable enough to decide to play ball. Let's just hope Hill doesn't tell Kim Jong-il we're very, very angry with him. Even worse if he says we will write Kim a letter telling him how angry we are.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the aptly named Moody's has decided to freeze South Korea's credit rating, in response to North Korea's recently diplomatic hijinks. Sphere: Related Content

April 19, 1926 archives

Milestones
Died. The abdicated Emperor Chok of Korea, 52, known since the annexation of Korea to Japan (1910) as Prince Yi, head of a dynasty which reigned in Korea from 1392, detested and unrecognized by Koreans for having signed the annexation treaty and permitted his son, "Prince Yi Jr." to marry the Japanese Princess Nashimoto; at Tokyo. The baby son of the Princess died inexplicably, last year, while she was visiting in Korea. It was suspected that Korean patriots poisoned him. Sphere: Related Content

April 28, 1923 archives

Foreign News: Tidal Wave

The Japanese Naval Department at Tokyo reported that 400 persons are missing as the result of a storm and an ensuing tidal wave which swept the east coast of Korea—that part of Japan situated on the mainland. The total number of lives lost is unknown, but it is feared that it is large.

Korea, with an area twice the size of the State of Minnesota, was annexed by the Japanese in 1910 after a military occupation extending from 1904. In 1919 by an Imperial Rescript Korea was made an integral part of the Japanese Empire with Koreans on the same footing as Japanese.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rumpled raincoat and a beat-up newspaper

I live within walking distance of Myŏngdong (loooong walking distance, but it's good exercise), so I go there a lot to shop, hang out, or practice my measly Japanese with real-live Japanese tourists. I look for Japanese tourists (usually women, but sometimes men who really look like they need my help) who have a map out and are looking forlornly at the 안내도 maps or at the buildings around them. Then I ask them—in Japanese—where they are going and if they need my help. Usually they are happy someone can speak with them, except if the conversation gets too detailed too quickly, I end up asking them, "英語をはなしますか?" (Do you speak English?).

Today there was a trio of young women from Kyūshū trying to figure out how to get from Myŏngdong Station to Lotte. I walked them out of the station and was about to show them where to go, but all of a sudden they seemed to be in a panic about me showing them the way, like I was going to kidnap them or something. They said they remembered where they were and thank you very much and they quickly shuffled off. There I stood, suddenly realizing how disheveled I looked in my rumpled raincoat I hadn't worn since last spring, carrying around yesterday's beat-up International Herald Tribune. I would have thought I was kidnapping me.

This post is devoid of humor or point, except to see if the Japanese characters appear as they should.

By the way, today is the autumnal equinox, unless you're in the southern hemisphere (the only hemisphere I've never been to) where it is the vernal equinox. So happy fall to everyone!

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July 3, 1950 archives

International News: Not Too Late?
It was 4 a.m. Sunday in Korea; it was still only 3 p.m. Saturday in Washington. Just before a grey dawn came up over the peninsula, North Korea's Communist army started to roll south. Past terraced hills, green with newly transplanted rice, rumbled tanks. In the rain-heavy sky roared an occasional fighter plane. Then the heavy artillery started to boom.

All along the 38th parallel—the boundary between North and South Korea—the invaders met little resistance.

In a six-pronged drive the Communist troops swept south. One North Korean force seized the isolated, virtually indefensible Ongjin Peninsula in the northwest corner of the republic. Another, spearheaded by tanks, drove down the Uijongbu Valley toward the Southern capital of Seoul, which lies on the western side of the peninsula, only about 40 miles south of the 38th parallel. A full Northern division surrounded the central Korean railway terminus of Chunchon, just south of the border.

Still another drive headed down South Korea's east coast, with the objective of joining forces with four amphibious groups which had been landed behind South Korean lines.

"Countermeasures." The North Korean radio broadcast war whoops. According to the Communist version of events, the Southerners had invaded the North and were being "repulsed." Cried a North Korean communiqué: "The People's Republic will be obliged to resort to decisive countermeasures."

Nobody should have been particularly surprised by the "countermeasures." For months the Northern army had limbered up in small-scale raids across the border. The South Korean Defense Minister Sihn Sung Mo had warned last month that an invasion from the north must be expected. Nevertheless, the slender organization and uneasy morale of the young Korean Republic suffered badly under the first blow.

In South Korea's bustling capital of Seoul, surrounded by sawtooth granite hills, army jeeps carrying loudspeakers roared through the streets, urging soldiers: "Go and join your units immediately." Buses and trucks were commandeered by the army to transport troops to the front. No one was quite sure where the front was; it seemed to be moving rapidly toward the capital. Seoul's jails, which contain many political prisoners suspected of plotting against the Southern regime, were heavily guarded by jittery police.

U.S. Ambassador John Muccio made a reassuring broadcast; at the same time he ordered some 1,800 American civilians in Korea evacuated forthwith.

Guiding Hand. The South Korean army made a valiant effort to overcome its initial confusion. Within 24 hours after the invasion's start, the Southerners had succeeded in halting temporarily the most dangerous Northern drive, even managed to counterattack across the border and captured the Northern town of Haeju.

Brigadier General William L. Roberts, until recently head of the 500-man U.S. military mission in Korea, had called the Korean army "the best doggoned shooting army outside the United States." There was some question whether the army had enough to shoot with. In the South, Koreans made a frantic plea to the U.S. for more ammunition; they were believed to have only a ten-day supply.

The Korean navy (consisting of small patrol craft) announced that it had sunk a Russian gunboat in Korean territorial waters. A government spokesman claimed that some North Korean tanks were manned by Russians, and it was reported that behind each North Korean pilot sat a Russian observer to give aid & comfort. No one was quite sure just how heavy a role Russian personnel played in the North Korean army, but there could be no doubt that Moscow's guiding hand was present.

"Hard Up." The South Korea cabinet declared: "The Republican army is fervently counterattacking. . . We will persevere." On the second day, the Southern army's crack 7th and 2nd Divisions mounted a counterattack in the vital Uijongbu Valley. Northern artillery fire sent them reeling back. Then Northern tanks ripped into the 20,000 Southern troops in the valley. An estimated 10,000 Northern troops and 50 tanks drove closer & closer to the capital. (In Washington's Pentagon, where U.S. staff officers were following the fighting in Korea on the basis of intelligence reports, a wall map showed a long, narrow red finger stabbing at Seoul—like the "deadman" in a lobster.)

All night long, Seoul was kept awake by convoys rumbling through the streets. Next morning Northern planes machine-gunned the city streets.

American military advisers spoke worriedly of the collapse and utter confusion of Korean troops under artillery fire. Korean government officials spoke bitterly of inadequate U.S. aid. A spokesman issued a statement from President Syngman Rhee: "The President is greatly disappointed with American aid. . . It is very difficult to save anything. We have nothing to stop those tanks [with]. Our soldiers are very brave. They sacrifice themselves against the tanks . . . Korea is very hard up because aid was so slow. It is too little and too late."

For two sickening days, it looked as if Rhee might be right. Most discouraging was the situation in the air. The Southern "air force," consisting of 70 trained pilots with ten AT6 training planes (seven of which were shot down almost immediately) and a handful of Cub liaison planes, faced the North's estimated 175 fighters and bombers. On the invasion's first day, General MacArthur had dispatched ten F51 Mustang fighters from Tokyo to help the hard-pressed South Koreans. It was dishearteningly little. Meanwhile U.S. fighter planes, covering the air evacuation of U.S. citizens from Korea, were attacked by North Korean Russian-built fighters, shot down four Red planes.

At the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, clerks burned secret papers. President Rhee and his cabinet moved to Taejon, 90 miles to the south. Communist tanks were reported entering Seoul. It looked as if South Korea were just about finished. The Northern radio broadcast a triumphant appeal to the South to surrender.

Hope in Balance. But the Communist mood of triumph was premature. Slowly, the anxiously watching world saw sign after sign that there was still plenty of fight left in the South Koreans—and in the U.S. First, General Mac Arthur's Far Eastern headquarters in Tokyo called reports that Seoul had fallen a result of "war hysteria," announced that only "isolated forays" of the enemy had reached the suburbs of the South Korean capital. Then came encouraging reports that the Southern army had rallied, had hurled a furious counterattack at the invaders and turned them back from Seoul. Several towns to the north of the capital were reported recaptured.

The South Korean government had hopefully warned the population not to be frightened by "strange-looking" aircraft, i.e., American planes. South Koreans anxiously waited for the strange-looking planes to appear in the sky. For hours, hope teetered in precarious balance with despair. Then came the electrifying news from Washington: the Yanks were coming.

To the people and to the Army of South Korea it meant that there would be American planes overhead to help them; that there would be American warships, American weapons and matériel of all kinds. To them it meant that the world's most powerful nation had clearly sided with the distant, strange little republic of Korea.

To the world—and particularly to Communism—it meant far more.

Moscow was widely believed to have launched the Korea attack as a "reconnaissance in force," as a test of American determination. If that was Moscow's purpose, it had succeeded. By this week, Moscow ought to be well-informed on the subject of American determination. The U.S. had dawdled, temporized, compromised in Asia. But the Red attack in Korea had at last shocked it into action—long overdue action not only on Korea but also on strategically crucial Formosa and the Philippines.

It was late, all right, for Korea, which was still in serious danger of being overrun by the Communists; it was late for all of Asia. But there was a good chance that it was not too late.
Sphere: Related Content

October 23, 1950 archives

War news: Death Cave at Wonsan

Han Jun Myung, 44, is a minister of the Jesus Church of Korea in Wonsan. A few days after the war began, he suggested in a sermon that the problem of unifying Korea should be turned over to the U.N. Three days later Han was thrown into a Wonsan prison along with 500 other political suspects.

Early one morning last week, as the Communists were being driven out of Wonsan by South Korean troops, Han Jun Myung and about 300 other prisoners were called out of their cells, marched up a nearby hill and pushed into a large cave. As soon as the prisoners were all in the cave, the Communists began firing. Bullets killed the men on the right & left of Han, tore through his clothing, but did not touch him. The Communists blasted the entrance to the cave, but failed to close it entirely. For two days Han remained in the cave, then crawled out to meet South Korean liberators.

Han's story was one among thousands collected last week by U.N. observers investigating Communist atrocities in Korea. To back up the stories, there were bullet-riddled bodies: in Wonsan, 500.
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Murphy's Law: the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train

Just yesterday I reported on the deal worked out in Beijing to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs and its "civilian" nuclear programs. I was about to present an article on Bush's wise comments that this is just the beginning of a long road ahead, and it will not be an easy task keeping Pyongyang to its promise.

Instead, the big news is that Pyongyang is undercutting the deal,
demanding NOW the light-water reactor that the U.S. thought it was promising to discuss later. Does this mean the deal is dead? Or, as Unification Minister Chung Dong-young is now suggesting, is Pyongyang just jockeying for a face-saving position?

A number of possibilities: the hardliners in Pyongyang are trying to undermine the pragmatists who made the deal; Pyongyang is making some noise to gain a little post-agreement leverage, but if they get some attention, they'll be back to the deal (which China would hold them to); Pyongyang wants to hasten the discussion of the light-water reactor, which Washington had hoped to delay until some real action was made; Pyongyang just wanted to save face by having the last word, and they'll come around in a few days; or the deal is dead (as Marmot's Hole has already declared, blaming Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow for the death, since they provide so much aid; I guess Tokyo's aid is the special non-Pyongyang-supporting kind).

An agreement has been made that has incentives (especially normalization with Tokyo and Washington and free electricity from Seoul) for Pyongyang to keep. That makes me think this is mostly about Pyongyang trying to get the details as front-loaded as possible. With Beijing a major backer of this agreement, however, they will have little choice but to follow along eventually.

ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL POST:
While the Flying Yangban flies off the handle in his
speedy dismissal of the agreement, Oranckay presents some convincing linguistic evidence that the English-language translation of North Korea's post-agreement statement is wrong or misleading, and that the original Korean-language statement does not quite violate the agreement. Sphere: Related Content

Exhibit of GIs helping orphans cancelled

By now many of my readers are probably aware that this exhibit has been cancelled. Marmot's Hole covers the cancellation and, true to form, his commenters quickly jumped on this being a blatant act of anti-Americanism. Never mind that there could be a dozen other logical reasons (not all of them necessarily good reasons but logical nonetheless) for the cancellation, it must be anti-Americanism, and Roh is probably behind it. Pull our troops out now!

I think it's also very telling that no one in the Korea-related blogosphere except me (according to technorati.com) paid any attention to this exhibit until it was cancelled.

I don't know why the general in charge pulled the plug at the last minute, but I really can't see a general giving in to a Pyongyang-hugging touchy-feely executive, no. I suspect, as Oranckay suggested, the idea of digging up the painful memory of war orphans was seen as a bit much for the general public. And that is not an anti-American viewpoint. But it's no more informed than any of the other wild theories.

Still, I would like to see this exhibit go through. I think a religious organizations, like Myŏngdong Cathedral or the International Lutheran Church, would be a good venue, especially if such religious organizations were involved with efforts to help the GIs help the orphans.
Sphere: Related Content

Just how much anti-Americanism? (Part 1A)

The Korea-related blogosphere loves to talk about how anti-American (or anti-Japanese or pro-North) Korea is at heart, but a lot of fortuitous evidence runs counter to that.

Exhibit 241 is GM-Daewoo's advertisement for the Lacetti, a Korean-made medium-to-small car that is sold by parent company GM around the world. The advertisement emphasizes that this car is sold in Europe as a Chevrolet.

Setting aside momentarily that GM is openly promoting that they are stripping the Korean identity off their "World car," at least in Europe, they are pointing out to the Korean audience that this Korean-made car is good enough to be labeled with an American brand. (Incidentally, the same car is sold in North America as a Suzuki Reno.)

To many Koreans, American brands (or Japanese brands, and some European brands like Philips) represent quality that Korean companies can/should aspire to, but that isn't enough to explain Daewoo using this in their Korean ads. Clearly, there has to be an understood acceptance that it's good to be associated with an American company.

So if anti-Americanism, visceral knee-jerk sentiment despising the U.S., were really as high in Korea as it is made out to be, a company like Daewoo would consider it marketing suicide to deliberately associate its product with a major American brand. If anything, Daewoo would be downplaying the GM side of GM-Daewoo. [To be fair, in the wake of the 1997-98 economic crisis, there was a good measure of xenophobia due to the impression (a not entirely fair one) that foreign companies were taking advantage of Korea's weakened status to buy up Korean assets; GM itself was seen as a culprit when it bought out Daewoo, although a lot of people saw that Daewoo was a basket case that needed to be saved by someone.]

My own opinion is that so-called "anti-Americanism" among the general population is not as visceral or mindless as it is made out to be by the press (which feeds on sensationalism) or the blogosphere (which tends to magnify things until the cockroach's head looks as big as a baby's), and certainly not as widespread. If it really were that dominant, Korea would look very different from how it actually does, starting with its ads. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 19, 2005

The light at the end of the tunnel?

Significant news comging from Beijing after signals that the six-way talks were close to breaking down over the issue of North Korea keeping its "peaceful" nuclear programs. According to AP, North Korea has promised to drop both its nuclear weapons development AND its supposedly peaceful, non-weapons-related nuclear programs. It will rejoin international arms treaties in what is a unanimous agreement today in the six-party arms talks:
The North "committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date" to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, according to the agreement.
In exchange, the North would receive energy assistance and a pledge from the United States that it won't attack. Pyongyang and Washington pledged in the agreement to respect each other's sovereignty and right to peaceful coexistence, and also to take steps to normalize relations.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said, "It's a good agreement for all of us." But he added: "We have to see what comes in the days and weeks ahead. We have to seize the momentum of this."

According to AP, negotiators will hold more talks in November, where they were expected to move on to concrete discussions about implementing the broad principles outlined in Monday's agreement. Hill has warned that could still be a long process.

North Korea has also refused to totally disarm without getting concessions along the way, while Washington has said it wants to see the weapons programs totally dismantled before granting rewards. The statement, however, says the sides agreed to take steps to implement the agreement "in a phased manner in line with the principle of 'commitment for commitment, action for action.'"

Japan and North Korea also said in the statement they would move to normalize relations regarding "the outstanding issues of concern," which most likely refers to the issue of North Korea having kidnapped Japanese citizens.
Sphere: Related Content

July 3, 1950 archives

NORTH & SOUTH OF THE PARALLEL

"The 38th parallel was picked up by a tired meeting on a hot night in Potsdam," said a State Department official last week. "It's a line that makes no political, geographical, economic or military sense. But the Russians and Americans at the meeting simply couldn't agree on who should occupy what. Finally a general suggested the 38th parallel. And that was that."

After Japan surrendered, U.S. Lieut. General John R. Hodge moved into South Korea with 72,000 troops while Colonel General I. M. Chistyakov occupied North Korea with 100,000 troops. The two generals were supposed to set up an all-Korean government, but the Russians stalled all negotiations. The Russians demanded that every Korean who opposed Communism be barred from the proposed government. After a two-year stalemate, the U.S. raised the Korea question in the United Nations. Russia refused to let any U.N. observers into North Korea. In May 1948 a U.N. commission supervised free elections in South Korea, and the Republic of Korea was proclaimed. The firmly riveted Red regime in the Russian-held north claimed sovereignty over all Korea.

Both the U.S. and Russia withdrew their troops. Both proceeded to train local armies. The Communist army in the north was known to be at least 95,000 strong to be equipped with heavy artillery, tanks and planes. The U.S.-trained army in the south, numerically about equal to the Northern force, had lately begun to look good to its U.S. advisers (TIME, June 5). But it had virtually no military planes or tanks. Presumably somebody had thought that none would be needed.
Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Putting the "suck" in Ch'usŏk

As I mentioned over on AsiaPages, today is my birthday. Almost every year, it seems, my birthday falls on or near Ch'usŏk [also spelled as diacritic-less Chusok or (yech!) Chuseok]. In the West, it would be like being born on Christmas or a couple days before: No one is ever around for a party, since they're off to their hometowns somewhere south. Everyone is preoccupied with the holiday.

Even back in California, my birthday was ill-timed. Growing up, I had to deal with my mother's birthday AND my parents' anniversary being five days before mine, which meant mine was often forgotten or "consolidated" with my mother's (some years there would be one cake for the two of us, which really sucks as a kid). My grandmother (who lived with us half the time) had her birthday a week before mine, and to top it off, my birthday was always during the busy first or second week of school. People simply forgot it.

That was annoying enough, but then, while I was still in my teens, my older sister decided to get married the day before my birthday, forever making my birthday a secondary affair to their anniversary celebration.

My little brother, who got married before my older brother or I (I'm still not married, of course), decided to get married on 9/11/99, the week before my birthday, which just made things worse. 9 x 11 = 99, so they thought it was a neat day. Who knew that two years later 9/11 would symbolize something so horrible? [In 2002 or 2003, I asked my brother if he and his wife ever considered just "officially" celebrating their anniversary on a different day, like March 11 (exactly six months before/after their actual anniversary) or November 9 (thus keeping the 11 x 9 = 99 theme). Apparently a lot of other people had asked him the same thing, but he and his wife decided no: they figured there should be at least ONE happy thing associated with that date.]

My mother, bless her heart, wanted to make sure she wished me a happy birthday while it was actually my birthday (she's missed a few times, thanks to the time difference, and one year she forgot altogether), so she called me at 3 p.m. California time, which is 7 a.m. here. She always has a problem with this, mixing up a.m./p.m. or subtracting a day when she should be adding. Sheesh. It's not like I'm the first one of our relatives to be living in Korea or Japan!

At 7 a.m., after talking with my mom, I finally got back to bed, but then every time I started to doze off, I would get a text message from a friend, relative, alumni association, or corporate entity wishing me a Happy Birthday! or Eat a lot of songpyŏng for Ch'usŏk! I never did manage to fall back to sleep in any useful way.

As I told Jodi, sucky birthdays get a mulligan. I will be re-celebrating my birthday as long as it's still September 18 in Hawaii, which is well into September 19 here in Korea. And again on 음력 9월18일, sometime in October. Presents are welcome. There may be a party.

ADDENDUM TO ORIGINAL POST:
I forgot to add that, like
Space Nakji, I get people who feel sorry for me or ask me if I'm lonely this holiday because my immediate family is all back in California (but unlike Space Nakji, I rarely get anyone asking me if I know what Ch'usŏk is). We would never do that kind of thing in America; just ask all the Jewish people who are never asked during Christmas if they feel empty inside. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Hill says talks "still in business" on Friday

"Talks with North Korea "Still in Business," U.S. Negotiator Says
Pyongyang more interested in nuclear reactors than electricity, Hill says.

Multilateral talks aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs seem to have stalled, but they are "still in business," top U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill says.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing at midday on September 16, Hill said: "(T)hese are pretty tough negotiations. There are some real, very difficult problems among the parties. We have to see by the end of the day where we are. I'd say we're still in business here."

The primary sticking point for the current session of the Six-Party Talks -- which include North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- is North Korea's demands for a light-water nuclear reactor to meet its pressing needs for electrical power.

But North Korea has "been engaged in nuclear power now for some 25 or more years," said Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. "They have no electricity to show for it, and indeed, in their nuclear power sector … they have produced more plutonium than they have electricity."

Plutonium is used in the production of nuclear weapons, a concern for the region, as is Pyongyang's decision to leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. According to Hill, "nobody -- I can assure you, nobody -- is interested in funding a two-to-three billion dollar light water reactor [for North Korea]."

Given North Korea's crushing economic problems, he said, "it seems to us that they should focus on some of those economic problems and not focus on such trophy projects as a light water reactor."

The package being offered Pyongyang in exchange for ending its nuclear weapons programs involves security guarantees, economic assistance, energy assistance using conventional means and a path toward normalization, Hill said. Pyongyang has had weeks to consider it, he observed, but "it's been fairly obvious to us that they're not so much interested in the electricity. They're not interested in economic assistance. They seem to be interested in the light water reactor as a sort of trophy."

China, which also hosted the previous session of talks in August, should play a prominent role in bringing Pyongyang to an agreement, Hill said.

The assistant secretary noted that China has had "a long history with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]…. I hope that China will feel a certain responsibility to try to convince the DPRK that the deal is there on the table, and it only awaits the decision of the DPRK to take that deal."

The parties have not set a definite deadline for the conclusion of the current round of talks.

Following are the transcripts of Hill's two briefings on September 16, as provided by the State Department:

Assistant Secretary [of State] Christopher Hill
Six Party Talks
Morning Transit -- China World Hotel
Beijing, China
Friday, September 16, 2005

A/S [Assistant Secretary] Hill: Well good morning, everyone. I'm going to go off and see the Chinese delegation in about an hour. I'll see the Korean -- South Korean and Japanese at lunchtime, and we'll take it from there. I don't have any plans right now to see the DPRK delegation, but I know that the Chinese have meet with them, and I think we'll have an opportunity to compare notes in about an hour.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, as you said, the Six Party Talks seem to be back where you started...

A/S Hill: I didn't say that, but go ahead.

Question: What do you think is needed to break the stalemate, and are you hopeful that the stalemate...?

A/S Hill: Well, I think what's needed to break the stalemate is that, for some weeks now -- indeed now for some months -- we've been working on a package. The package of proposals involves security guarantees, economic assistance, energy assistance, and a path toward normalization. This is the package that's on the table. The DPRK has had a lot of time to look at this. Indeed, after the first session, they took another 37 days to look at this, and they've come back and asked for something else -- that is, a light water reactor. In discussing that, it's been fairly obvious to us that they're not so much interested in the electricity. They're not interested in economic assistance. They seem to be interested in the light water reactor as a sort of trophy.

At the same time, they have been engaged in nuclear power now for some 25 or more years. They have no electricity to show for it, and indeed, in their nuclear power sector -- which they inform us involves thousands and thousands of people, upwards of 200,000 people in the sector -- they have produced more plutonium than they have electricity. So, we have a real problem with the idea that they need to somehow continue on this nuclear power. This is a country that is having trouble paying its bills. It's a country that is truly having profound economic problems, and it seems to us that they should focus on some of those economic problems and not focus on such trophy projects as a light water reactor. So, we'll have to see where they are on this, but I think the onus for the problem right now rests squarely with them, and I hope they're -- in addition to the 37 days -- I hope they've taken last night as well to think about where they've put themselves.

Question: Sir, what do you plan to do if they refuse to back off their plans for a light water reactor?

A/S Hill: Well, we have a proposal on the table. We think it's a very fair proposal. We think it's a proposal that addresses their needs, needs as defined by various experts and by themselves. These were the needs that they identified. They said they needed 2,000 megawatts of electricity, and so this proposal, in fact, addresses that very precisely with a conventional energy feature. Now they've said they don't care about the megawatts. Now they've said they need a light water reactor. So, I think at some point they have to understand that they've put themselves in a very isolated position, I might add not for the first time. This is a country that has, over the course of the decades, taken some pride in making themselves isolated. But I think at some point they have to really look very hard and try to honestly evaluate the situation they've put themselves in.

Question: Mr. Hill, are you confident that the other parties negotiating with the North Koreans will stand by the United States when the deals get tough like this?

A/S Hill: I am confident of that. People have different attitudes to how to put together an agreement, or how to put together a set of principles. For example, I think it's very important that when you put something in the set of principles that you're really honest about whether you could deliver what it is you've put in the set of principles. So, I think if you say you're going to give a country X, you should be in a position to give them X. I think it's important to understand that when we put something there, we have to stand by it. So, nobody -- I can assure you, nobody -- is interested in funding a two-to-three billion dollar light water reactor.

Moreover, there's another problem caused by the fact that the DPRK -- for the first time in history, of any country -- pulled itself out of the non-proliferation treaty. So, the DPRK, put themselves in this position, and has put themselves in a position where people cannot provide them with a reactor or such nuclear parts. So, the DPRK has put themselves in this position. I think all of the partners understand that there's just real limits to what we can do in a real sense to address this. So, in answer to your question, I think there is real unanimity on what the situation is, and what we in fact can really do.

Question: Do you think there will be no deal if the DPRK insists on a light water reactor?

A/S Hill: Well, you're obviously writing a story, and I'm not going to give you your quote coming from my mouth, so you can quote yourself but you can't quote me on that. [laughter]

Question: Mr. Hill, a State Department official says that Friday was the correct day, whether the negotiations should continue. Is it possible that the parties could announce, I mean, announce the recess...?

A/S Hill: Well, you know, we had a recess of 37 days. We planned for it to be 21 days. As far as I was concerned, it could have been 21 minutes. We were continuing, ready to go, ready to continue but the DPRK wanted time. We gave them 37 days, and they used the time, not to figure out how to get to yes, but they used the time to come up with still another idea, which had nothing to do with the ideas that were on the table. One must understand the negotiating history of these things. Just in that last session we had four drafts -- four drafts -- that the Chinese hosts took a lot of time to put together. It was not an easy process. It involved compromises on all of our parts, and I can assure you not every element in that fourth draft, or in any of those drafts, was entirely to my liking, but I worked very hard on getting what we felt we needed in those elements. So, instead, the DPRK took the drafts, did not respond to them, and in fact just in the last couple of days have come back with a wholly new concept -- that is, having a light water reactor. So, indeed, we have a problem. I'm not willing at this point -- it's early Friday morning, the sun is up, let's see what the day brings -- so I'm not willing to say that this is going to be an unsuccessful Friday, but obviously we have some real difficulties ahead of us.

Question: Are you saying another session is useless?

A/S Hill: Again, you -- you're making a nice sentence, and you can go ahead and quote yourself, but I'm not going to help you with that. [laughter] All right?

Question: Mr. Ambassador will meet with South Korea and Japanese for bilateral meeting this afternoon...

A/S Hill: That's correct, yes.

Question. And what is the purpose of the bilateral meeting at this point?

A/S Hill: Well, I think the purpose is to discuss where we are and what the way forward is. We have very, very similar interests in this matter. All three of our countries -- indeed I would say all five of the countries -- have very similar interests. We want this problem solved. We want this problem solved through diplomatic means. I know both Japan and the ROK would really like to solve this problem. So, it's a real opportunity to sit down together. We had hoped to do it earlier, but I think we were having trouble making the schedules work, so I think we'll succeed today at lunch.

Question: [inaudible] back to the Diaoyutai area...

A/S Hill: I'm sorry?

Question: Would you hold the trilateral meeting at a...

A/S Hill: Well, I don't want to give the address because I don't want to have to talk to you all during lunch, but, no, it'll be somewhere else.

Question: Are you -- at this point, are you counting on the Chinese to convince the North Koreans?

A/S Hill: Well, I think the Chinese have a role -- and indeed a responsibility. They are hosts of this process. They have also -- and I've said this before -- they have had a long history with the DPRK, a very long history. I hope that China will feel a certain responsibility to try to convince the DPRK that the deal is there on the table, and it only awaits the decision of the DPRK to take that deal. If you look through the deal, it's very comprehensive. It gives the DPRK much of what they want, but it does not include a light water reactor.

So, thank you very much. Have a pleasant day.

(end transcript)

(begin transcript)

Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill
Six Party Talks
Midday Transit South Beauty Restaurant
Beijing, China
September 16, 2005

A/S Hill: Well, we just had a good meeting with our Republic of Korea colleague, Song Min-soon, and we were staying behind just to have some little extra conversation but we've got to get back out to the site. The negotiating process is still going on. We had some good discussions this morning with the Chinese. Also, there were some good discussions with the DPRK delegation, but at this point I don't know where those will lead, and so we're going back right now to have an afternoon session, which will be chaired by the Chinese hosts. We will have a better idea after we have that meeting where the state of the six party talks are.

Ambassador Sasae (of Japan): Well, I think we had good discussions about the assessment of the situation. And last night, I think we are totally deadlocked, but today I think there was some discussion to be initiated, to try to work out something better. But we are still, for the moment, trying to work the finalized text, and we hope that we can reach agreement.

QUESTION: What's the major difference between yesterday and today?

A/S Hill: Well, both of us had discussions with the Chinese hosts. The Chinese hosts tried to put forward some ideas. We gather the Chinese had had some lengthy discussions with the DPRK. I also saw the head of the DPRK delegation very briefly. So, I would say the discussions are ongoing, but we'll know better later on whether we've really made any progress. These are just some general ideas at this point. We have to see later in the day where we really are.

QUESTION: Have you found any room for compromise? Have you found any indications of compromise?

A/S Hill: Well, I think it's really too early to speculate on that. I always try to maintain the same tone here, don't get too optimistic or too pessimistic. As you know, these are pretty tough negotiations. There are some real, very difficult problems among the parties. We have to see by the end of the day where we are. I'd say we're still in business here.

QUESTION: (Japanese)

Ambassador Sasae: (Japanese)

QUESTION: The meetings with the DPRK, were they set this morning? Were they an approach from the United States or an approach from the DPRK?

A/S Hill: The head of the DPRK delegation asked to see me for a few minutes, so I went over and had a discussion with him. It must have been about fifteen or twenty minutes thereabouts. It was not a meeting with the delegation, nor, I should say, was it a negotiation. He was essentially telling me about his conversation from the Chinese. I had already talked to the Chinese, so I had some idea of what was being discussed, and I asked if I could get some more information about that. We'll get a better understanding of it this afternoon.

QUESTION: Is Japan also going to meet DPRK today?

Ambassador Sasae: I don't know. I had a brief conversation with Mr. Kim Gye-gwan this morning on this issue. And if there is a chance we will continue to discuss.

A/S Hill: OK, talk to you later.
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I can't watch!

I am a jinx when it comes to sports: if a local team (e.g., Anaheim Angels) or a favorite team (e.g., the ROK or USA soccer teams in the World Cup) is doing well and I start paying more attention, that team will eventually choke.

And this is why I can't pay any attention to the Anaheim Angels (like most other OCers, I refuse to call them the "Los Angeles Angels"), who are now tied for first but finding their lead is in doubt. If I do, they will lose. It's an immutable fact.

I first discovered this jinx in 1986, when the Angels looked close to winning the American League Championship, but then choked toward the end.

It has been reinforced from time to time, so when the World Cup came to Korea and Japan, I actively avoided watching Korea's soccer games. Whenever I stayed away, they won. If I started to watch, they started to lose, and when I turned off the TV, they would start to do better again (I knew this from the text-message updates I was receiving from LG Telecom).

At the urging of a couple friends, I gave in to temptation and went to a Shinchon dive to watch the USA-Germany game, and naturally the USA team lost (in the ROK-USA game, though, I was hoping for a ROK win simply because I have long felt that most Americans didn't give a rat's ass about any soccer that wasn't little league; when the 1994 World Cup was in the U.S., most Americans had no idea it was even there! I have a different feeling about women's soccer, though.).

Sure enough, the USA team lost. I felt responsible. I stayed away from USA and ROK games from then on, except that I inadvertently caught a glimpse of the first few seconds of the ROK-Turkey game that would determine third and fourth place. That was the moment when Turkey scored the fastest goal in World Cup history, some twelve seconds.

Even when the Angels made it to the World Series for the first time in 2002, when I caught part of the game, the Angels lost.

No mas! I won't be watching. Hopefully the Orange County home team will be winning. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 16, 2005

October 16, 1950 archives



Father of His Country?

After three months as a refugee in his own country, Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea, had come home to Seoul. He found his official residence littered with the midden of the routed Communist army, including back copies of the Soviet newspaper Izvestia. When the litter had been cleared away, a close inspection of the presidential mansion showed that the Russian civilians billeted there during the Communist occupation had left behind all of Rhee's most valuable and showy possessions. Mrs. Rhee had not fared so well; the Russians, headed north into the winter, had made off with her warmest clothes, including her winter underwear.

Almost as though the war had never been, Syngman Rhee's days last week had returned to their orderly pattern. Up each morning at 6:30, he puttered briefly in his garden before eating a Western-style breakfast—coffee, fruit juice, cereal and eggs. Rhee's guests were offered cigars (Phillies) or Korean cigarettes. Rhee himself seldom smoked, explaining that cigars made him sick; he only smokes them in the privacy of a bathroom. A visitor who had American candy to present was sure of warm thanks. Toward the end of a day, Rhee was visibly weary. The night would not greatly restore him; he has insomnia.

On the tired shoulders of Syngman Rhee rests the hope of a revived and unified Korea. Rhee's strongly anti-Soviet stand had made him a natural propaganda target for the Cominform. Agitation against him had become strong in liberal and labor circles, particularly in France, Australia, Great Britain and India. In the U.S. he had been subjected to the same kind of smear campaign that had turned many an honest but unsuspecting man away from China's Chiang Kaishek. It was true that Syngman Rhee was arbitrary and that he sometimes ran roughshod over the civil rights of his opponents. But he was also

1) a thoroughgoing antiCommunist,

2) Korea's most respected figure, and

3) Korea's fairly elected President and the only man who would stand a chance of being elected to that office again if another vote were taken today. No matter what their opinion of his manners & methods, the U.S. and other U.N. members would have to work with Syngman Rhee.

A Shovel & a Broom.
Last week the citizens of Seoul, like their President, were busy appraising the damage, restoring things to their familiar order. Amid the honking, clattering confusion of U.S. jeeps, tanks and trucks, numberless Korean labor gangs placidly sorted out useful items from the rubble of war, hauled away debris on little sledges fashioned from sandbags abandoned by the retreating Reds. In front of the U.S. Embassy, beggar children pestered G.I.s for candy and adults approached U.S. officers with a hopeful plea: "I speak little English, want job with Americans. Interpreter, please. No broom, no shovel." Most of the would-be interpreters got jobs as "engineers," a title which seemed to remove the sting from the fact that they usually got both a shovel and a broom and instructions to go to work on Seoul's rubble. Busiest of all was the jam-packed black-market district where Koreans with enough won dickered energetically for soap, fur coats, G.I. pork & beans, streptomycin. The Communists had made a successful effort to stamp out the black market, but in so doing had stamped out the white market, too.

Seoul still had a long way to go before its revival was complete. More than 60% of the city had been destroyed and housing was desperately scarce. There was no water in the mains. There was no electric power. Trolleys stood idle on their tracks. In the railroad yards lay hundreds of bombed and burnt-out freight cars.

Most of Korea shared Seoul's troubles. The former Pusan bridgehead, which had a peacetime population of 4,000,000, last week was supporting an additional 2,000,000 refugees, all dependent on the state and the U.S. Army for food, clothing and shelter. In North Korea, as the war rolled toward the Manchurian border, the Republic would be saddled with the unwholesome works of bulky, red-faced General Terenty Shtykov, the U.S.S.R.'s proconsul, and fat, sleepy-eyed Kim Il Sung, the Korean Communist chieftain. The land the Communists had confiscated for "distribution to the peasants" and the industries they had nationalized would raise endless questions of ownership and compensation. The punishment or re-indoctrination of Communist leaders would demand much time and effort, although Rhee had announced a policy of no vengeance against North Korean soldiers.

A Gentleman & a Scholar. Half a dozen agencies, both U.S. and U.N., were prepared to help Korea. ECA was already taking a survey to determine how its funds could best be used for reconstruction. But in the eyes of Koreans, the first responsibility for solving their problems lay squarely upon slight, white-haired Syngman Rhee (rhymes with bee). Under circumstances that his scholar ancestors could not have imagined, Rhee was following, an old family tradition.

For the Korean aristocracy into which Rhee was born 75 years ago it was an immutable law that a gentleman should be a scholar and that scholars should govern the people. Rhee's father, a descendant of the Yi family* which ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910, saw to it that his son got a Korean gentleman's education in the Chinese language and Confucian classics. Rhee took to the traditional learning eagerly (he still writes classical Chinese poetry). He placed first in the Korean national examinations where young scholars won admittance to the bureaucracy.

Despite his scholastic success, Rhee did not enter the government immediately. By this time (1895), Korea, though still independent, was under heavy pressure from both the Russian and Japanese empires. Shrewdly concluding that a Western education and knowledge of English would be useful to a future Korean official, Rhee became a student at Pai Chai College, a Methodist mission school in Seoul. At Pai Chai he was exposed not only to English but to Christianity and Western political thought.

Privy Council & Prison.
All three influences took hold. Rhee joined the Independence Club, a nationalist organization which demanded reform of the Korean monarchy and a constitutional government. He also helped found Korea's first daily newspaper, which fought bitterly against the growth of Japanese influence in Korea. Hoping to draw the fangs of the Independence Club, the bedeviled Korean Emperor Kojong appointed Rhee to the Privy Council, clapped 17 more of the club's leaders into prison. (Rhee later got them released.) In 1897 Rhee overstepped the bounds permitted a Privy Councilor by leading a student demonstration against the government. He was promptly clapped into jail himself.

In prison Rhee got the treatment considered fitting for top-rank political offenders. He was subjected to daily torture —finger mashing, beating with three-cornered rods, burning of oil paper around the arms. He wore a 20-lb. weight around his neck, was kept handcuffed and locked in stocks.

After six months he was sentenced to life imprisonment and that improved his lot considerably. The torture stopped. He was transferred to another prison, found that he could smuggle out editorials for his newspaper. In the long prison years he also wrote The Spirit of Independence, a book which seized the imagination of Korean patriots, helped establish Rhee as spiritual leader of the nationalist movement. By this time Rhee had become a Methodist—like China's Chiang Kaishek.

Harvard & Hunting Dogs. In 1904, after Rhee had been behind bars for seven years, the Russo-Japanese War began and in the confusion which gripped Korea a nationalist group temporarily seized control of the Korean government. Rhee was released from prison, headed for the U.S. as a special envoy of the new government. He tried to persuade President Theodore Roosevelt that Korea should not be handed over to Japan in the Russo-Japanese peace conference which Roosevelt had arranged. Roosevelt, Rhee remembers, "received me cordially" at Oyster Bay; but Rhee's request to attend the peace conference was refused. In the Treaty of Portsmouth, victorious Japan won a virtual protectorate over Korea.

After his mission failed, Rhee stayed in the U.S., went on with his Western education. He got an A.B. from George Washington University and an M.A. from Harvard, then went to Princeton to get his Ph.D. When the dean of Princeton's Graduate School questioned his academic qualifications, Rhee stated that he had studied Latin for one year, which seemed to him to be enough, asked to be excused from the usually required study of German and Greek. Wrote Rhee with ill-concealed annoyance, "Beside my own tongue, in which I am known to be a good writer ... I have a knowledge of Chinese literature, classics, history, philosophy and religion . . . Japanese, English and French are also to be counted as my foreign languages." Rhee was admitted, earned his degree with a thesis on "Neutrality as Influenced by the United States."

In 1910, the year that Japan deposed the Korean Emperor and openly annexed his kingdom, Syngman Rhee returned to Korea as a Y.M.C.A. worker, doing a bit of political agitation on the side. The Japanese, who distrusted all Christians, were doubly distrustful of Syngman Rhee. They assigned as his permanent shadow a police agent named Yoon Piung-hi, one of the most notorious of the "hunting dogs," i.e., Koreans in the Japanese secret service. A specialist in a kind of primitive psychological warfare, Yoon Piung-hi assiduously spread rumors about Rhee. On one occasion Rhee spent the night away from home, sleeping in a small room he had rented at the Y.M.C.A. "The next . morning," Rhee relates, "my father came to the [Y.M.C.A.] building with tears in his eyes and asked everybody he met, 'Do you know what happened to my son? They have tortured him and broken his legs. Yoon Piung-hi told me.' "

Yoon Piung-hi's activities made it clear that it was only a matter of time before the Japanese would decide to imprison Rhee, perhaps to dispose of him permanently. In 1912, with the help of missionary friends, Rhee got permission to leave Korea for six months. He sailed for Hawaii, settled down as a leader of the territory's small Korean colony.

Confucianism & a Coffin.
Though gone from Korea, Rhee was not forgotten. Many years later he wrote, "Raised in a Confucian family, I was naturally a man of peace." With the coming of World War I, Rhee's Confucian pacifism, reinforced by Christianity, led him to subscribe wholeheartedly to Woodrow Wilson's idealistic visions of a world without violence. Rhee became convinced that a passive uprising in Korea would win his people recognition both from America and from the League of Nations. In 1919 resistance leaders who had remained in Korea met secretly in Seoul to plot a revolt. Swayed by secondhand reports of Rhee's views, the conspirators distributed to every village in Korea a copy of a Korean Declaration of Independence and a set of orders:

"Whatever you do

"Do not insult the Japanese

"Do not throw stones

"Do not hit with your fists

"For these are the acts of barbarians."

On March 1, 1919, people gathered throughout Korea to hear the Declaration of Independence read, to wave their forbidden Korean flags and to shout "Mansei." Then they were supposed to disperse quietly and go home. In many places they never got a chance to disperse quietly. Japanese troops charged into crowds, shooting, swinging swords and mutilating their victims with firemen's hooks. In the bloody week of Japanese "mopping up" operations, it was estimated that 200,000 Koreans had been arrested, 7,000 killed.

The "Passive Revolution" earned Koreans little foreign sympathy; but it strengthened the determination of Korean patriots. Late in 1919 independence leaders from Korea and from Korean communities in exile gathered in Shanghai. Rhee, who feared that Chinese police might collar him to earn the $300,000 price placed by the Japanese on his head, was smuggled into Shanghai's International Settlement in a coffin. There he helped establish the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, became its first President.

Conferences & Croquet.
In the next 20 years Syngman Rhee's life fell into the dreary, frustrating round of most exiled politicians. He attended international conferences vainly trying to win recognition for Korea. (The U.S. Government blocked his attendance at Versailles Treaty meetings and at later disarmament conferences, because his presence might have embarrassed the Japanese.) He quarreled with other exiled Korean politicians. (Rhee was for continued passive resistance; other leaders favored violent action.) By World War II, the Provisional Government was almost defunct and Rhee turned over the Korean central agency in China to Kim Koo, Korea's master political assassin.*

In 1934 Rhee married Franziska Donner, an Austrian whom he had met while attending a League of Nations meeting in Geneva. Twenty years younger than Rhee, Franziska was attractive and chirrupy. She managed efficiently her impractical husband's finances. Said Rhee in 1941, "When I married a foreign lady, my family was very displeased, but they found out it was a perfect marriage." At parties, however, Rhee has been heard to tell Mrs. Rhee, "Now hush. You have talked enough."

In 1939 Rhee and Franziska moved to Washington, where Rhee acted as U.S. representative of the Provisional Government and arbiter of all Korean activities in the U.S. They lived simply, bought a twelve-room stucco house on 16th Street only after advisers suggested that it would be a good idea to have a reasonably impressive establishment. Rhee, who drank no Western liquors and smoked only an occasional cigarette, avoided Washington's cocktail party set. Most of his time was spent in attempts to interest the State Department in the Provisional Government and Korean independence. Even after World War II began, the U.S. remained stonily indifferent. When Rhee mailed his credentials to the State Department shortly after Pearl Harbor, he was asked to come and take them away again.

While he lived in Washington, Rhee spent most of his leisure time outdoors. He took great pleasure in mowing his lawn, spent many a Sunday afternoon in a rented rowboat fishing the Potomac. Aside from an occasional game of tennis with his wife, his only active sport was croquet, also a favorite game of former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who had so stubbornly ignored the claims of Rhee's government. One afternoon in 1943 Rhee interrupted a croquet game with some friends to tune in a broadcast of the Cairo Conference communique. He listened quietly to the communique, in which a promise that "Korea shall become free" was marred, he felt, by the weasel words "in due course." Said Rhee to his host when the broadcast was over: "What a pity I have not been playing croquet with Cordell Hull."

U.S. indifference changed Rhee's character, left him bitter and disillusioned. Convinced that most of the world was hostile to his cause, he fell back upon a small circle of friends and advisers. Chief among them was Washington Lawyer John W. Staggers, who had for many years acted as an agent of the Korean government. Staggers handled Rhee's income, which consisted largely of contributions from Koreans in the U.S. When the contributions were small, many Washingtonians believe, Staggers added to them from his own pocket.

Bitterness & the Boy Scouts.
By the end of World War II, Syngman Rhee had little left of the pacifist idealism which had motivated him in 1919, had acquired a bitter and intimate understanding of the Korean proverb "When whales fight, the shrimp are eaten." Bypassing the Secretary of State, he persuaded the War Department to return him to liberated Korea simply "as a private person." General John Hodge, who commanded U.S. occupation forces, saw in Rhee a possible rallying point, a focus which might bring order out of South Korea's chaos. When Hodge led Rhee onto a platform in Seoul, 50,000 Koreans burst into tears and cheers at the sight of their legendary leader.

In the next few months Rhee proved far more of a catalyst than Hodge had bargained for, and not at all what the general had wanted. At the time of Rhee's return, 205 Korean political parties were registered with U.S. Military Government. Among them were the Forlorn Hope Society, the Supporters' Union for All Korean Political Actors, the Getting Ready Committee for the Return of the Provisional Korean Government and the Korean National Youth Movement, which called itself "the new Boy Scouts." ("The new Boy Scouts" soon had to be curbed as a menace to law & order.)

Because most Koreans despise political parties, Rhee refused to become affiliated with any group, although the National Party follows his guidance and supports his policies. But he stubbornly insisted on two points: 1) Korea must be independent, i.e., free of both Russian and U.S. interference; 2) Korea must be united, i.e., the North Korean Communists must be thrown out and the whole country united behind Syngman Rhee. Rhee's obdurate stand in effect divided South Koreans into two parties, one made up of people who agreed with Syngman Rhee, the other of people who, along with General Hodge and the U.S. State Department, hoped that Korea could be united by a compromise with the Communists.

It soon became clear that no compromise was possible. With Rhee's agreement, both the U.S. and U.N. urged that North Korea take part in a nationwide general election. North Korea's Communist leaders refused. Fearing the results of a free election, they turned the 38th parallel into an impassable frontier, thereby economically crippling both halves of Korea.

In 1948 South Korea finally went ahead without the north, held an honest, carefully supervised election under U.N. sponsorship. (On the basis of the relative populations of North and South Korea, it was decided to leave 100 of the 310 seats in the National Assembly vacant—to be filled by North Korean representatives if Korea should be unified.) In the elections a majority of South Koreans voted their support of Syngman Rhee. The Republic of Korea was established and Rhee became its first President.

Woodpiles & War.
Almost at once the new President ran into trouble. There were murmurs carefully heated up by the Communists that his 35-year exile had made him a foreigner. Some of his opponents said that he thought in English, not Korean. Others seized on the fact that he wore Korean clothes only for public appearances, preferred to wear Western clothes at home. Audiences at public affairs were irritated by the invariable presence of Rhee's Austrian wife, who speaks only halting Korean. Said one left-winger: "He may be the father of our country, but she can never be its mother."

More serious were Rhee's troubles with the National Assembly. When the Assembly refused to appropriate funds for some of Rhee's government projects, the President lambasted them with a vigor that outdid Truman's gibes at the 80th Congress. Then Rhee unconstitutionally appropriated the funds by executive order. "Why should there be anything between a President and his people," he trumpeted. Occasionally during a conference with rebellious assemblymen, rising anger would drive Rhee out of the presidential mansion to a handy woodpile. Only after he had chopped the woodpile down to size would Rhee come back to the conference, his equanimity temporarily restored.

Some observers believe that the prestige of Rhee's government sank in the months before the North Korean invasion. They cite the result of last May's U.N.-observed election, which had filled the National Assembly with an assortment of independents, many of whom were hostile to Rhee. Both in Korea and abroad, Rhee's opponents called him a lame-duck President, declared that his government was discredited. Other observers believe that Rhee's government was just beginning to hit its stride last June and that the Reds attacked when they did because they could not afford to tolerate the example of an effective, popular anti-Communist government in Asia.

Under the test of war, the Rhee government showed surprising strength. Many of Rhee's cabinet members displayed administrative talent of a high order. Outstanding among them was Defense Minister Shin Sung Mo, who likes to be called "Captain," a rank he held in the British merchant marine during World War II. ("It's the title I worked hardest to earn.") It was Shin Sung Mo who masterminded the rapid reorganization of the R.O.K. army after its staggering initial defeats. Outstanding, too, was another Shin. Though not a Rhee supporter, able, eloquent Shin Ikhui, Speaker of the National Assembly, worked closely with the cabinet, helped make the Assembly a wartime asset.

The wartime conduct of the South Korean people as well as of their leaders reflected favorably on Rhee's government. The R.O.K. army, which suffered few desertions, proved itself the most determined and effective of Asia's anti-Communist armies. And, contrary to all expectations, there was little true guerrilla activity in South Korea. There were innumerable attacks by North Korean irregular troops, but few proved instances of South Korean peasants or workers attacking U.N. forces.

To Syngman Rhee the North Korean invasion was both a vindication and an opportunity. In his eyes the war justified the uncompromising anti-Communist stand which had earned him so many enemies. And the war offered a chance to unify Korea. Rhee was determined that when the war was won, North Korea would be absorbed by the Republic. "We have not despaired," Rhee said recently. "We must not be disappointed."

For 55 years, Rhee had been running for the job of "father of his country." Last week, old, tired, crabbed, but still determined and still a symbol of Korean independence, he was closer to it than ever before.

*
Rhee's Korean name is Yi Sung-man. Transliterated into English, the Chinese character for Rhee's family name is commonly written "Yi" by Chinese and Koreans, "Ri" by Japanese. Like many Koreans, Rhee Westernized his name for convenience in dealing with Westerners.

* Kim Koo first won the favorable attention of the Korean public in 1899, when he strangled a Japanese captain. Beside the captain's body Kim left a note setting forth his name, address and the reason for the murder. (The captain had engineered the murder of a Korean queen.) The authorities threw Kim into jail, but in 1901 he escaped, disguised as a Buddhist priest. In 1917 Kim decided that periodic prison stretches were interfering with his efficiency as an assassin, transferred his base of operations to Shanghai. There he organized a bombing which killed a Japanese general, mutilated a Japanese admiral and blew a leg off Mamoru Shigemitsu, who later signed Japan's World War II surrender aboard the Missouri. This made Kim a topflight Korean hero, a position which he reinforced by marrying the daughter of An Chung-kuen, another Korean hero who had assassinated Prince Ito, Japan's first constitutional Premier. In 1949 a young Korean army officer, who suspected that Kim had ordered the murder of one of his relatives, assassinated Korea's master terrorist.
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