740.00119 Control (Korea)/1–2346: Telegram
The Political Adviser in Korea (Benninghoff) to the Secretary of State
13. Summary of conditions in Korea January 6 through 15.
1. Internal situation: General unrest over trusteeship proposal has somewhat quieted although considerable newspaper discussion continues, both pro and con, and several further orderly parades and demonstrations have taken place [by?] People’s Public [Republic?] Party and Communists, possibly due to direct Soviet influence, in contradistinction to Nationalist and Democratic Parties who continue to express strong opposition but no longer publicly advocate active non-cooperation against military government. At meeting of four principal parties on January 8 resolutions were passed supporting Moscow decisions and disavowing violence as a legitimate political weapon. Kim Koo group later withdrew support of first resolution. On January 12 the National Mobilization Committee against trusteeship staged a large demonstration in Seoul against trusteeship and demanded that a Korean Government be immediately established to take over without further outside interference. The Communists have denounced the antitrusteeship movement. Civil disturbances and terroristic activities increased during the period, a number of bomb explosions and mob attacks have occurred against both right and left wing newspaper offices. Police stations both in Seoul and outlying [Page 616] towns were also object of similar attacks and political kidnappings occurred. Though political leaders appear to be genuinely opposed to such tactics it is thought that rougher elements are now out of control as result of having been stimulated to a strong arm methods during the recent upheaval over trusteeship.
Several meetings have been held by delegates from principal political groups in an effort to secure national unity in preparation for naming of a provisional government by Soviet American Joint Commission. These efforts have resulted in little concrete headway being made, due to the intransigeance particularly of right wing elements. Much interest has been invoked [evoked?] by the initial meetings of the Soviet American Economic Conference and the period was characterized by a jockeying for position by all political elements. Visit of Secretary of War, Patterson, on January 12 and 13 was greeted with respect and enthusiasm but produced no political outbursts.
2. Principal administrative problem now confronting military government is distribution of rice, little headway having been made during period towards getting rice into hands of consumers at ceiling prices of 750 yen per koku. Government now contemplates seizing hoarded stocks at official prices and enforcing redistribution through Korea Commodities Company, an official agency. Shortage of qualified police and military personnel to enforce program is major difficulty. Government petroleum committee is now commencing active distribution of kerosene and gasoline products to civilians throughout southern zone fixed prices. Electric power rates have been raised 159% throughout southern Korea. Basic cost of living index continued to rise during period. Taxes are now being levied on former Japanese owned properties now vested in Military Government and on property and accounts of blocked Nationals. Magistrate Courts for minor offenses have been established throughout our zone and procedures standardized.
3. External situation: Much interest in Southern Korea has been evoked over prospective meetings of Soviet American Commission. Public has been informed initial conference will deal only with administrative and economic matters and that political issues will not be discussed at this time. In North Korea Soviets are reported to have organized popular demonstrations supporting trusteeship, which they call “Guardianship”, and to have placed Cho, Man Sik, leader of the Northern Wing of the Korean Democratic Party, in protective custody under Russian guard and forced his resignation from party because of his refusal publicly to support Moscow proposals.
As result of correspondence between CG USAFIK and Soviet Commander Chistiakov, January 16 was set as date for first meeting of Soviet American conference in Seoul.
- Text printed from corrected copy received February 3, 6:38 p.m.↩