The Chairman of the Korean Commission in the United States (Rhee) to the Acting Chief of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (Lockhart)40

My Dear Mr. Lockhart: I sincerely appreciate your kind letter of June 8 [5] and also the statement made public by the Under Secretary of State, Honorable Joseph C. Grew, regarding the reported secret agreement of Yalta. The denial of the existence of such an agreement affecting the future status of Korea should be considered sufficient under ordinary circumstances. At the same time, I have to confess that our doubts are not entirely dispelled in the light of the following points:

The authenticity of the secret agreement is vouched for by an American of unimpeachable reputation and he will reveal the source of his information.
The Soviet authorities have so far remained ominously silent. We have asked the Soviet Ambassador41 for clarification but as yet have received no reply.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared that there were many topics discussed at Yalta but they could not be revealed at present. He did not say that the Korean question was not among them.
Korea, the country that has fought Japan for the last forty years, offered its tremendous manpower in the service of the United Nations and presented many programs of war efforts that would reduce the number of Allied casualties, if accepted but the United States persistently refused to grant any of our requests. This indicates there was an agreement of a similar nature, either oral or written, long before the Yalta Conference.
Korea was made a victim of secret diplomacy in 1905. It was revealed many years later, too late for the Koreans to protest. Can anyone blame them if they desire some assurances more substantial than diplomatic protestations and denials?

It has been stated more than once that the Korean people are grateful to the late President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek for the Cairo Declaration pledging the freedom and independence of Korea. We also appreciate the reassurances given us by the officers of the State Department and rely upon those reassurances made in good faith.

Referring to the recent radio statement made by Assistant Secretary of State, Archibald MacLeish, that the Koreans will get their independence, “in due course,” as stated in the Cairo Declaration and further, “which presumably means as span as they are in a position to govern themselves.” We desire to know more definitely than presumably.

The statement in your letter, “the United Nations which are represented at the San Francisco Conference all have legally constituted government authorities, whereas the Korean Provisional Government and other Korean organizations do not possess the qualifications requisite for obtaining recognition by the United States as a governing authority,” denotes that the Korean Provisional Government is lacking something fundamental. There is no qualification which we know of that the Korean Provisional Government fails to possess for recognition by the United States. Stability, which has been in international law as one of the first prerequisites for recognition, has been proven by it. It has weathered all sorts of storms over a quarter of a century and still stands as the only Korean government.

Another condition required by international law is the support of that government by the people themselves. This condition has also been met by the Korean people. We do not claim a unanimity of [Page 1034] opinion. But an overwhelming majority of our people, in and out of Korea, are solidly behind us.

And besides, the Korean Government was established at Seoul in 1919 by the representatives of the thirteen Provinces of Korea, not in Shanghai or anywhere else. Enclosed is a copy of the original Seoul Proclamation.42 While this government was being organized in Korea, one in Shanghai and another in Siberia came into being simultaneously. However, when the Seoul announcement was received, the other two voluntarily dropped their programs and joined the Seoul Government which was brought into existence at the sacrifice of thousands of Korean lives.

The Chinese Government and the Provisional Government of France have recognized its de facto status, at least. The former has been giving us, in addition, all the financial aid it could.

Our coalition cabinet organized in April, 1944, including the Nationalists, Communists and even an “Anarchist,” accomplished the unity among all the Korean people in Free China. Yet “the Korean disunity” story has been so widely propagandized, first by the pro-Japanese and later by the pro-Communist elements everywhere in this country, that it has created entirely a false impression on the general public regarding the Korean people. In fact, the “disunity” among the Koreans is no more than the disunity existing in all the democratic nations between the Communist minority and the Nationalist majority. “The other Korean groups” and “the other organizations” which the State Department has been mentioning repeatedly and which the officers of the State Department have been placing on the same level as the Korean Provisional Government are none other than a handful of Korean Communist agitators and pro-Communist groups, whose tendency is to work toward a Lublin Committee43 for Korea. These groups have been and still are receiving the cooperation of some of the officers of the State Department. They are secretly creating the impression that a majority of the Koreans are against the Provisional Government. But among the Korean people they dare not stand openly against it.

If the Korean Nationalist Party, whose declared principle of government is based on that of the United States, has to yield their Provisional Government to the demands of the few Communists in order to meet the qualifications required as “requisite for obtaining recognition” we might as well admit that there would be no unanimity among the Koreans just as there is no unanimity among all other democratic [Page 1035] nations. At the same time, we assure you that all the Koreans in Korea are united with one objective—the independence of their country.

We are particularly grateful to you for revealing at last the fact that “the policy of this Government in dealing with groups such as the ‘Korean Provisional Government’ is to avoid taking action which might when the victory of the United Nations is achieved tend to compromise the right of the Korean people to choose the ultimate form and personnel of the government which they may wish to establish.” This seems to confirm our belief that the State Department has been delaying the recognition of the Korean Provisional Government in order to give the Korean Communists a chance to form a Lublin government. If it is so, this is just what we have been endeavoring to avoid in order to make Korea safe for democracy.

As a matter of fact, there is no Communist problem in Korea. All the problem we have relating to the Korean Communists is only a handful of Communists and pro-Communist agitators in America and Free China. A large number of the Korean population in Siberia are, as we believe, mostly Nationalistic in their sentiment. If, therefore, the United Nations had given their support and cooperation to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, which represents the will of the people, after the Pearl Harbor disaster, it would have been in a position to unify all the dissident elements including the Communists with the result that even the Koreans in Siberia would have become loyal friends of both the Korean and Soviet governments. The delay of action by the State Department has made the situation quite complicated but it is still not too late.

If, on the other hand, the State Department is determined to leave the question undecided until the Korean Communists are in a position to form a government in opposition to the Korean Provisional Government, the inevitable result would be a bloodshed between the Korean Nationalist majority and the Communist minority in Korea. The Soviet Government disbanded some 80,000 Koreans from the Korean Red Banner Army and has been sending them into Korea in civilian garb. The poisonous propaganda will surely create a serious problem in Korea as in China and many of the European countries. In the light of the events which took place in most of the liberated countries in Europe, we assure you the Korean people would have very little chance to have their own choice, if the United States should permit to happen in Asia what has happened in Europe. The good intentions of the United States Government to give the Korean people a fair chance to establish a government of their choice would be impossible under Soviet domination.

In the long run, this policy will place the United States at a disadvantage, to reiterate once more what we have said to the officers of [Page 1036] the State Department. Just as the policy of appeasing Japan since 1905, at the expense of Korea, led to the Pearl Harbor disaster, the policy of appeasing the Soviet Union at the sacrifice of justice to Korea, is bound to result in disaster.

Therefore, we plead with you and other officers of the State Department to take immediate action in support of the Korean Provisional Government, not only for the sake of Korea but for that of the United States as well.

Respectfully yours,

Syngman Rhee
  1. There is no indication in Department files of any reply to this document.
  2. Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko, Soviet Ambassador to the United States.
  3. Not printed.
  4. The Polish Committee of National Liberation whose establishment was announced in Moscow in July 1944. The Committee, which was to take over the civil administration of liberated Poland, was recognized by the Soviet Union and established its seat at Lublin. On December 31, 1944, the Committee proclaimed itself the Provisional Government of Poland. For documentation on this subject, see vol. v, pp. 110 ff., passim.