Lot 122, Box 53

Memorandum Prepared by the Inter-Divisional Area Committee on the Far East


Korea: Occupation and Military Government: Composition of Forces

I. The Problem

The problem is to determine what countries should participate in the occupation of Korea, whether “civil affairs responsibility will [Page 1225] be shared with the British, the Chinese and/or the Russians (if they join the Far East War) and to what extent will the United States Army and/or Navy have administrative civil affairs responsibility?” (Questions 8b and c).20

II. Basic Factors

Korea has been under Japanese sovereignty for nearly thirty-five years. As early as 1905 Japan established a protectorate over Korea by which Japan assumed control of Korean foreign affairs. This control was gradually increased until formal annexation was consummated in 1910. Since that time Japanese domination has been directed towards making Korea an integral part of Japan. For an entire generation Koreans have lived as subjugated people; the various exiled Korean political groups have questionable influence within Korea and the leaders have never governed at home. In spite of this domination by Japan, Korea has remained as a definite ethnic, cultural and geographic unit. Out of a population of over 24 million (1940), there were less than a million Japanese. The Korean language, dress and other cultural habits are still prevalent, and the Koreans still consider the old traditional northern border—the Yalu and Tumen Rivers—as their present frontier.

Korea is contiguous to both China and Russia and the rivalry for control of Korea between those countries and Japan was one of the chief causes of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–5 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5.

It is impossible to anticipate at this time the precise circumstances under which Korea will be liberated from Japanese domination by the United Nations forces. It might be the result of combat operations in Korea itself, or of unconditional surrender by Japan without actual fighting in Korea.

If Korea is occupied in the course of combat operations, it would be desirable for the military authorities to give the fullest consideration to political factors which may call for representation, in so far as compatible with military necessity, in the combat forces of units from those allied countries which have a substantial interest in the future political status of Korea. Among those countries is China. It has territory contiguous to Korea and has had a long history of close political relations with that country. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek has pledged, on behalf of China, Korean independence. It would seem likely that China would expect to participate in the combat forces in Korea.

The United States is also interested in Korea’s future status. This country is pledged both to the unconditional surrender of Japan and to the establishment of a free and independent Korea. The assumption [Page 1226] by the United States of a major part in civil affairs and in international supervision of an interim government would be facilitated by the participation of the United States in such military operations as take place in and around Korea.

Great Britain has made similar pledges and even though it might not insist on direct representation in the combat forces in Korea, it might at least wish indirect representation through one of the Dominions, such as Canada. Finally, the Soviet Union, if it entered the war against Japan, would in all probability attack the Japanese through northern Korea and, if so, Soviet forces would be in occupation of considerable portions of Korea.

The various groups of trained Korean soldiers outside of Korea will doubtless be anxious to participate in combat operations in Korea and in the occupation of the country. The units supported by the “Korean Provisional Government”, now located in Chungking, probably contain less than 1,000 trained troops. At present they are directly under the control of the Chinese. It is reported that there are other Korean units with the Chinese Communist armies in and around Shensi but their actual numbers are unknown. There is also a large group of Korean settlers in Manchuria, some of whom may become soldiers. In 1939 they totalled over a million and were concentrated in the regions just north of the Korean border. The most significant group of Korean troops is doubtless that trained by the Soviet Far Eastern Army. It is believed that this group has been thoroughly indoctrinated with Soviet ideology and methods of Government, is well trained and equipped, and may total 35,000, of whom 20,000 are believed to be in actual military service. These Koreans may participate in the operations in Korea as soon as the military situation warrants it and may operate independently and separately from a Soviet command.

Whether the liberation of Korea is the result of a military campaign or of the general capitulation of Japan, the profound interest of several of the United Nations in the future political status of Korea would indicate the desirability that the military government of Korea should be inter-allied in character and that the participating states be China, the United States, Great Britain or one of the British Dominions, and, if it enters the war in the Pacific, the Soviet Union. The possibility that allied forces rather than those of a single power may be used for the occupation and military government of Korea, and the prospect that military operations in Korea may be carried on simultaneously in separate areas under the direction of commanders of different nationalities, raises the question of whether occupation should be by zones, either with or without a military council composed of representatives of the allies or according to other principles. However, if the basic principles for military government [Page 1227] of Korea are to be uniform, and if this military government is to facilitate the preparation of Korea for its future independence, it would seem highly desirable that a zonal system of military government should be avoided, and that a combined civil affairs administration be established as early as possible with all the participating countries bearing a joint responsibility.

The question of the composition of the forces for the occupation and military government of Korea will be considered anew in the event that prior to its occupation by a substantial number of troops of any of the other United Nations, the Soviet Union occupies a portion of Korea.

III. Recommendations

It is recommended that:

It would be politically advisable that the forces to be used for combat purposes in Korea should include, if not prejudicial to the effectiveness of military operations, contingents from China, the United States, Great Britain or one of the British Dominions and, if it had entered the war in the Pacific, the Soviet Union, with the United States having a substantial representation. If the forces from the several participating states carry on military operations in separate zones, the administration of civil affairs will be the responsibility of the commanders of each combat zone and to the extent that such commanders may be American, the United States military authorities must be prepared for such responsibility. If military operations are under a combined command, civil affairs during the combat period should also be combined.
With the completion of military operations in Korea, there should be, so far as practicable, allied representation in the army of occupation and in military government. Such representation should be by those countries which have a real interest in the future political status of Korea. If military operations have been organized by separate combat zones, it may be necessary for the early stages of military government to be organized on the same basis.
The occupation of Korea should be organized on the principle of centralized administration. If zonal operations have resulted in zonal military government, this type of civil affairs administration should be changed as soon as practicable into a centralized administration, composed of representatives from those same countries which have participated in the military operations in and around Korea. Such representation of these forces might be provided, in addition to regular staff representation, through a council made up of the ranking officers of the respective forces. Such a council might have supervisory powers and be responsible for the coordination of the operation of military government throughout Korea. It is assumed that the [Page 1228] representation of other states will not be so large as to prejudice the effectiveness of American participation in CAA.
The final form of a supervisory authority or trusteeship for Korea following military government and prior to the establishment of an independent Korea has not yet been determined. It seems likely that this supervisory authority will be inter-allied with the United States as a participant. Consequently, American military and naval authorities should be prepared to continue occupation and to assume their share of the-administration of civil affairs until the organization of such an authority is effected. It is to be hoped that the military government in Korea will be of short duration, but the difficulties inherent in the establishment of a satisfactory interim supervisory authority may necessitate a military government of considerable duration. Korean personnel, however, should be utilized to the fullest extent possible and care should be taken to train them for future usefulness in their own government.
If an effective force of Korean troops, such as that which may now exist within the Soviet Far East, should enter Korea as a separate command, or as irregulars, the Department of State will inform the military authorities as to the political status of these Koreans and the attitude to be taken toward them by the American military authorities.

Prepared and reviewed by the Inter-Divisional Area Committee on the Far East.

TS: HBorton (drafting officer) JA: ERDickover
GHBlakeslee CA: OEClubb
PRJosselyn LA: ALMoffat
RAFearey ME: MBHall
FE: JWBallantine FMA: CFRemer
AHiss LRD: JRFriedman
ISO: DCBlaisdell FSO: EHDooman
  1. Ante, p. 1194.