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123 Jessup, Philip C.

The Ambassador in Korea (Muccio) to the Secretary of State

confidential
No. 103

Subject: Ambassador Jessup’s Visit to Korea1

The Embassy herewith encloses available material bearing on the visit to Korea of Ambassador Philip C. Jessup from January 11th to January 14, 1950 and offers comment on this visit.

The visit of Ambassador Jessup, though brief, was one of the most successful of the visits paid to Korea by American officials in recent months. Ambassador Jessup was well-prepared for his visit; he was quick to absorb the various aspects of the Korean situation and deft [Page 19]and forceful in responding to it in the various addresses he made during his visit. Considering the brevity of his stay, Dr. Jessup left Korea with an impression of problems faced that was, to an unusual degree, extensive and balanced.

Ambassador Jessup arrived from Tokyo on the afternoon of January 11th accompanied by Mrs. Jessup; Miss Anderson, his secretary; Mr. William J. Sebald, Acting Political Adviser to SCAP; Mr. William M. Gibson, a Foreign Service officer who is traveling with Dr. Jessup. On his arrival at Kimpo, where he was greeted by numerous Korean and American officials, Dr. Jessup was immediately taken to the Embassy Building for a briefing on various aspects of the Korean situation.

In the course of the briefing, the Ambassador reviewed American policy and outlined recent significant developments—political, military, economic and cultural. The Ambassador was followed by General Roberts, Chief, KMAG, who succinctly described the organization, status and functions of KMAG and went on to paint a generally optimistic picture of the developments of the Korean security forces, especially of the Army. General Roberts expressed the view that the Korean Army had the capability of containing the North Korean forces in being. However, he pointed to the need for additional U.S. aid for the Korean security forces, especially the air force and the coast guard. The Chief of the ECA Mission to Korea reviewed the ECA program, pointing out that much progress had been made in the past year, especially in the field of production. Dr. Bunce also adverted to shortcomings, particularly to the inflationary spiral which threatens the Korean economic well-being and to the reform measures ECA is pressing on a reluctant Korean Government. Mr. Stewart the Public Affairs officer gave a concise account of the USIE program, while the Director of Joint Administrative Services pointed up some of the major functions of his organization. Dr. Jessup listened attentively, taking notes and from time to time directing relevant inquiries to the speakers.

After the briefing, Dr. Jessup, the Ambassador and Mr. Sebald paid a courtesy call on President Rhee where they also had dinner that evening. There was general discussion of Korean problems on these occasions. Following dinner, Dr. Jessup and the President had an extensive private conversation together. No member of the Embassy participated in the conversation.

On Thursday morning, January 12, various officers of the Embassy were introduced to Dr. Jessup and chatted with him. Dr. Jessup then paid a brief call on the Prime Minister followed by a call on the President’s office with Ambassador Muccio and Mr. Sebald. On this occasion, the subjects covered in the memoranda given to Dr. Jessup [Page 20]by the President were discussed (see enclosure 2).2 The first of these—on American aid to Korea—asked not only that U.S. aid be continued but assurances either that “the United States will not permit the conquest of Southern Korea by the communists” or “that the United States will not support the Republic of Korea against communist invasion.” The second memorandum advocated a Pacific Pact on the model of the Atlantic Pact “with definite features of military alliance”, welcomed Philippine leadership in the pact, but stated that the Government of Korea “does not believe that such a program can be expected to succeed without early American participation.” The statement also looked to the eventual partnership of Japan in the Pacific Pact. The third memorandum envisaged closer future relations with Japan under adequate safeguards, hoping that any possible United States efforts to build up Japan or enter into a treaty of alliance with her would involve proportionate and similar concern with Korea. Dr. Jessup gave the President a detailed exposition of U.S. thinking on the subject of a Pacific association. Discussion with the President covered certain aspects of these problems.

Immediately following this discussion, the party left for a visit to Chairman Shin of the National Assembly. Chairman Shin escorted the group to the Assembly floor. Mrs. Jessup, who had been sightseeing and shopping, joined the group on this occasion and was presented with her husband to the Assembly. Chairman Shin then made a dignified and forthright address (enclosure 3).2 In it he stressed that the United States should give to democratic nations fighting against communism help equivalent to that given by Soviet Russia to her satellites and ventured the opinion that U.S. help “though sincere, seems rather scattered and weak” compared to “the definite and determined help of Soviet Russia”. Dr. Jessup replied in an excellent extemporaneous speech2 (enclosure 3) which began with a short review of United States policy toward Korea and ended with well-pointed quotations from President Truman’s State of the Union message3 which Dr. Jessup then summarized and applied to Korea: “I believe that if the Republic of Korea and the United States of America each are equally successful in holding and maintaining the fundamental institutions of personal freedom, that the two nations can go forward hand in hand towards a better life if it is a cooperative and bilateral progress along the road which I have described. It is not sufficient that either one of us should make these advances.” The speech was well received. Copies of the enclosed text translated by the Embassy’s translation section were distributed subsequently to all Assemblymen by the Assembly Secretary General and have since been quoted on the Assembly floor.

[Page 21]

Following a lunch at Dr. Bunce’s residence with certain American and Korean officials concerned with ECA, Dr. Jessup met and had a discussion lasting nearly two hours with over twenty prominent Korean educators: the presidents of the principal universities in Seoul, the deans of the colleges of Seoul National University, the principals of two women’s middle schools, several prominent religious leaders, the publisher of the Tong-A Daily and a bureau chief in the Ministry of Education. Those participating brought out the many unfortunate financial difficulties faced by educational institutions in Korea, especially stressing the burdens placed on Korean families by the contributions asked of virtually all students’ parents by the School’s Patrons Association. It was believed, however, that such contributions would be necessary until the Ministry of Education received adequate funds to support education—which it was unlikely to be in a position to do in the foreseeable future. Difficulties in teaching English were also stressed. Dr. Jessup inquired particularly of the law college which proved to be more similar to European than American law colleges. Dr. Jessup was exceedingly pleased with this conference and remarked that the group was unusually articulate and that he had been able to get far more frank information from the participants than he had in a similar conference in Japan. He further remarked that the Korean discussion group was as candid in discussion as any American group.

Thursday ended with a visit by Dr. Jessup to the U.N. delegates and Principal Secretary4 at the Duk Soo Palace and a buffet dinner at the Ambassador’s residence at which large numbers of the principal Korean Government officials, U.N. officials, members of the diplomatic corps, et cetera, were present.

On Friday morning, Dr. Jessup and his party went by train to the town of Uijongbu, 10 miles north of Seoul. At Uijongbu they witnessed an artillery demonstration and visited divisions headquarters where they were briefed on terrain, operations, et cetera. From there they drove to the 38th parallel near Ch’ungsan myun. Numbers of Korean military and Home Affairs officials, including the Minister of National Defense, accompanied the party. The Jessups approached the parallel closely enough to be able to see many installations on either side of the border. Well conducted troop deployments were also observed. A prisoner captured recently by the South Korean Army in that vicinity was hurried up from Seoul to be interviewed by the Minister of National Defense in front of Dr. Jessup. On the [Page 22]trip back, Dr. Jessup had a talk with Vice Minister Chang of Home Affairs on the subject of National Security Act and the current trials of the members of the Korean National Assembly. During this talk, he stressed that these Assemblymen should not be tried for holding opinions opposed to those held by the Korean Government. Dr. Jessup subsequently reported that Vice Minister Chang, who has been in the United States, had claimed to “find my English rather difficult”.

At 1:30, Friday, Dr. Jessup attended a lunch given by the Korean Chamber of Commerce. On this occasion, the President of the Chamber, Mr. Chun Yong Soon, gave an address (enclosure 5)5 in which he stressed the necessity of solving the problem of the 38th parallel and expressed hope that the United States would direct its attention to this. He also begged Dr. Jessup to “exert your influence to correct the negative policy of your Government” in the Far East. Dr. Jessup rose to make a “frank” speech;5 it was also perhaps the most candid speech made by an American official in Korea since the end of the occupation. In it he pointed out that the United States helped countries which helped themselves and in this connection said “you in Korea have made extraordinary progress along certain lines, but there are other things which are within your power which you have not achieved.” He emphasized that Korea’s problems, like those of the United States, could be solved only with patient and cooperative effort and that the United States did not “believe that war is the only solution to the international problem.” Dr. Jessup then flatly disagreed with Mr. Chun’s belief that American policy was less affirmative in the Far East than in Europe and urged the Koreans not to “sit back and hope that the United States will cope with the situation alone. The strength of your defense against communism will be based on the strength of your economy and of a fundamental policy of political freedom.” The speech ended with a nettle: “In closing, I want to say that I will take with me from Korea many fond memories of Korean hospitality but also memories of those aspects of the situation which you have not conquered.”

On Friday afternoon, Dr. Jessup was presented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Law by Seoul National University in a well-conducted ceremony. On this occasion, Foreign Minister Limb delivered a light and graceful speech (enclosure 6)5 and Dr. Jessup replied in another fluent extemporaneous speech5 of acceptance stressing the importance of the position of educational institutions in modern society. In them, he pointed out, the urge both for students and for [Page 23]the faculty to seek the truth was fundamental. In order to do this freedom to seek the truth was essential. Dr. Jessup also pointed out the responsibilities which freedom brought with it. On this occasion, the Minister of Education and the Dean of the Graduate School of Seoul National University also delivered brief speeches.5

At 5 p. m. the Jessups went to the Chosun Hotel for a tea given them by the numerous Korean alumni of Columbia. Dr. Jessup did not speak at this time but he was visibly pleased with the occasion and was presented with a handsome silver bowl by former Ambassador at the United Nations (and Columbia Ph. D.) Dr. Chough Pyung Ok.

After the gift presentation, Dr. Jessup held a press interview at which he distributed the statement of policy transmitted in this Embassy’s telegram 46, January 13 (enclosure 7).6 He also answered certain questions from the Korean press. Following this interview, the Jessups, their party and many members of the Embassy attended a dinner at Seoul’s largest restaurant given by the Foreign Minister. At 9 a.m. Saturday, January 14th, the Jessups emplaned for Formosa.7

Ambassador Jessup’s arrival had been heralded with high hopes by Koreans and their Government. It had been a signal for a flurry of editorials calling for more aggressive U.S. policy in the Far East and for more aid to Korea in particular (enclosure 8).6 Koreans did not, of course, get from Dr. Jessup the definite commitments which some had wishfully expected. They were disappointed, however, in no other respect. Koreans everywhere were impressed by the charm and poise of both Dr. and Mrs. Jessup. They could not help noticing the fluency and incisiveness of Dr. Jessup’s speeches, many phrases of which have been since quoted and will be long remembered. His very presence and visible, informed interest in Korean problems gave Koreans the self-confidence of knowing that there are American citizens who have broad knowledge of the situation they face and take an interest in them.

The visit bore for the Embassy and President Rhee a subordinate but most welcome result in the presence of Mr. Sebald who provided sympathetic liaison with the problems Korea faces with Japan—the need for which had been long felt on both sides.

For the Ambassador:
Everett F. Drumright

Counselor of Embassy
  1. See also Ambassador Jessup’s memorandum of January 14, p. 1.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Text in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1950, p. 2.
  6. Reference is to the Principal Secretary, Bertil Renborg, and the members of the U.N. Commission on Korea (UNCOK).
  7. Not printed.
  8. Not printed.
  9. Not printed.
  10. Not printed.
  11. Not printed.
  12. Not printed.
  13. Ambassador Jessup and his party proceeded to Formosa by way of Okinawa; for documentation on his talks with officials of the Republic of China, see vol. vi, pp. 256 ff.
  14. Not printed.