The Acting Political Adviser in Korea (Langdon) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Today this Command received the Department’s telegram of November 21,46 summarizing an article by [Page 1135] Gordon Walker in the Observer of the 20th [18th] critical of United States policy in the Far East in which is revived the story current at the time of our landing here, September 8, that the American commander labelled Koreans the same breed of cats as the Japanese and charges made that Military Government is partial to rich conservatives in the selection of Korean personnel.

I have looked up the origin of the “breed of cats” story. From the press conference record, it seems that the subject discussed at that moment was the Korean police in Japanese service. General Hodge remarked that “Koreans consider them the same breed of cats as Jap policemen”. There were other damaging stories in the American news at the same time: that General Hodge “praised” and “thanked” General Abe, the Japanese commander,47 “for a good job” that General Hodge intended to “knock together” the heads of certain self-seeking Koreans, that we somehow were to blame for the killing by Japanese of some Korean youths who assembled against orders close to our disembarkation area, that our commanders were “fascist”, et cetera. These stories came largely from a group of correspondents who paid a flying visit (from 4 p.m. on September 9 to noon the following day) to Seoul as guests of the Strategic Air Forces and did not attend any press conference. It is not known how or where they got these stories. They also carped over the retention of Japanese personnel and wondered why Abe was not “fired” right away and pooh-poohed the reasons given for this momentary procedure. Assuming that there was some ground for the charge at the time, now resuscitated by Walker, that our officers were ill-prepared for occupation, it would have been more logical to have blamed Washington rather than the officers. But in any event, if there were fumbles at the beginning of military occupation in this new and unknown land, they are now water over the dam and anyhow were of no importance to the Koreans.

As for favoring plutocracy in, and excluding popular left wingers from, Military Government, it is quite probable that at the beginning we may have picked out a disproportionate number of rich and conservative persons. But how were we to know who was who among this unfamiliar people? For practical purposes we had to hire persons who spoke English, and it so happened that these persons and their friends came largely from moneyed classes because English had been a luxury among Koreans. But Military Government long ago realized the unrepresentative character of its Korean structure and is fast broadening the social base of that structure. As for the charge that Military Government is impatient and intolerant of liberal or left wing Korean groups, it is not in accord with the facts. General [Page 1136] Hodge and General Arnold, the Military Governor, spend hours each week earnestly discussing national problems with the leaders of the radical “People’s Republic” mentioned by Walker and of the Communist party, as they do with leaders of other groups, and the other day General Arnold addressed the national congress of the Central Committee of the “People’s Republic”.

I am not writing to defend our commanders here. They need no defence. But this captious press they have had may have left you and the President under the impression that the United States is represented here by men of few parts, colonial-minded and contemptuous of the Koreans. This is not the case at all. They have their hearts in their job, treat as equals and with respect and friendliness the leaders of all groups, study the psychology and aspirations of these people with sympathy and understanding, and are well liked and 100% trusted by all Korean leaders. Indeed, I can assure you that America is fortunate in its representation.

Incidentally, it seems to me that Walker reflected a parti pris in this situation here. He never attended any of Dr. Rhee’s press conferences and never asked for an interview with him—Dr. Rhee is the leader of the elements Walker lumps together as the minority. He also was credited by the local Korean press with saying at an interview with the leader of the Radical-Communist groups “the Military Government is not America”.

Respectfully yours,

Wm. R. Langdon
  1. No. 7, not printed.
  2. Gen. Nobuyuki Abe, Governor General of Korea until September 1945.