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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