895.01/12–1445: Telegram

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

Tfgcg 189. 1. First steps completed in Korean independence. This includes repatriation of all Japanese troops. Repatriation is set to operate immediately. The administrative machinery to carry out this work is operating smoothly. Through our efforts the police and judiciary have been reestablished and order prevails. Exiled Korean leaders have been brought back. The Korean people have been told that the present division of Korea is a temporary measure. Now the Korean people wait for the next stage, which is independence. No practical steps have been taken along this line.

2. There is little apparent enthusiasm for either Kim Koo or Syngman Rhee, and likewise for the People’s Republic which, for awhile, actively pretended to be a government. The people expect[ed] a government of their own when Kim and Rhee return[ed]. Through the operation of the People’s Republic, the people were given a taste of local independence and free Japanese property.

3. The leaders, though friendly, are losing faith as they see the 38th parallel assume a permanent character which prohibits them from being useful or active. The masses themselves are impatient of legalistic and orderly procedures toward Japanese property and landlordism. Communistic agitators could find them good material to work as preachers of division of Japanese property and big estates and as critics of our occupation forces.

4. Entry into our Zone of an additional 1,600,000 refugees including some ½ million from the Russian Zones and Korean-Manchuria, [Page 1143]are making living conditions increasingly hard. Three-quarters of the population of Korea is now in our hands and the Koreans are looking to us for a solution of their troubles. The responsibility is ours primarily.

5. Unless we raise the curtain for the next act permitting the fulfillment of Korean aspirations as they feel them and not as we think they should be our mission here is faced with difficulties and possible failure.

6. USAFIK stresses the importance of an early settlement of the Korean difficulties and hopes that Mr. Byrnes will place it on the agenda at Moscow.59 The Department is already familiar with the question of the exchange of specific goods and merchandise between the two Zones. However, it is hoped that the more fundamental questions will also be answered; to wit:

We have already submitted a plan to cover the transition to full independence (I refer to my telegram dated 20 November). Will this be in accord with Russian policy?
Would Russian policy concur in an exclusive trusteeship in our respective Zones for a 5–year maximum, followed by complete reciprocal withdrawal; free travel and the exchange of goods in the interim.
If neither recommendation is agreeable to Russians, we are interested in knowing just what the Russian program is so that it can be studied and perhaps our own program adapted to fit it.

7. It is desired that the following additional specific questions be taken up at this time with Moscow:

One-half million Koreans have been admitted to our Zone from the Russian half without question on the assumption that they belonged to our Zone originally. We would wish the Russians to place no obstacles on the return to North Korea of those Koreans among the 600,000 that we have already repatriated from Japan whose original homes were in North Korea.
Already 77,000 Japanese civilians including 1,000 soldier stragglers have come into our Zone from the Russian. Our own burden of repatriation of Japanese civilians is heavy. We wish the Russians would send Japanese in their Zone directly to Japan.
It is not understood why the Russians are fortifying the 38th parallel as no Koreans are allowed to have arms and no Japanese soldiers remain in their Zone. The purpose of these fortifications may be misinterpreted and prejudice our relations.
The refusal of the Russians to have liaison with us on local administrative and military levels is not understood, nor their refusal to allow visits to the Russian Zone of our correspondents and officials.
If the USSR intends to maintain its large consular establishment in Seoul, what are the reasons therefor? In the absence of any questions between it and the Military Government of the Korean people, [Page 1144]and the lack of important Russian interest in South Korea, we can see no need for it.

8. We hope the Moscow conference will result in either a concrete Russian agreement to any of our proposals for Korea or a concrete Russian counter-proposal in harmony with our responsibilities. If such agreements do not develop, it is imperative that the US act as the situation requires on its own, even though these actions may sound national in character. If we cannot agree with Russia on some definite procedure toward independence which we can publicize, it is only by our own definite actions that we can convince the Korean leaders that our intentions of their independence are genuine and in this way we can win their support in fighting Communism, unrest, and hostility of the masses toward us.

9. The Government should make a clear-cut statement very soon that all Japanese private and movable property in our Zone is being held in trust by us for the future Korean government to dispose of in any way it cares to. In the Russian Zone, this type of property has been disposed of without consulting us and, unless the British, Chinese or ourselves are entitled to any Japanese plant in Korea for reparations purposes, no reason is seen why such a statement cannot be made at an early date. Due to the indeterminate status of this matter, the Korean people are kept uneasy and suspicious.

  1. Reference is to the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers which was held from December 16 to December 26. For documentation on the Conference, see vol. ii, pp. 560 ff.