Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1



  • Various Topics Relating to Korea


  • Dr. Pyun Yongtae—Korean Foreign Minister
  • Dr. Yang You Chan—Korean Ambassador, Washington
  • Col. Ben C. Limb—Permanent Korean Observer at the United Nations
  • The Secretary of State
  • Ambassador John J. Muccio
  • Arthur B. Emmons, Officer in Charge, Korean Affairs, Department of State

Dr. Pyun called on me at 4:30 this afternoon by prior appointment. In opening the conversation, Dr. Pyun expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to discuss with me various outstanding problems in relation to Korea. I told the Foreign Minister that I, too, welcomed this opportunity for an exchange of views with him and with his colleagues.


Dr. Pyun then referred to the report of the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK) which had just been issued as a United Nations Document2 and which was scheduled as an item for discussion on the Agenda of the current General Assembly. He stated that he had not had an opportunity to read the report but that he understood it contained material, particularly with respect to the Korean political crisis of last May and June, which was adverse to the Government of the Republic of Korea. He was therefore preoccupied over the possibility that this report might be used by the Communists in the General Assembly to further their propaganda [Page 559] campaign against his Government and against the United Nations effort in support of it. He hoped that when the matter came before the Political Committee the Korean Observers at the United Nations would have an opportunity to defend themselves and to explain the background of the political developments during the period of crisis, since he believed that much misinformation concerning this matter existed in the minds of many of the Members of the United Nations. He sought our assistance in enabling them to do so.

I replied that unfortunately I had not personally had an opportunity to read the report of UNCURK but that I could assure Dr. Pyun of our appreciation of the Korean desire to present their point of view on this matter and that I would instruct the appropriate officers of the United States Delegation to keep in close touch with the Korean group in matters of mutual concern, of which this would be one.

The Korean Ambassador then remarked that his Government, not having a seat of its own in the United Nations, would look to the United States to provide support for its interests in the General Assembly, and to this end would make every effort to cooperate and work closely with the United States Delegation. I again assured the Ambassador that it was our firm intention to work as closely as possible with the Korean group.

Korean Membership in the United Nations

Dr. Pyun then referred to the fact that Korea’s application for membership in the United Nations was, for the present, in abeyance and remarked that it would be most helpful to the morale of his Government and of the Korean people if the United States would again put forward the application of the Republic of Korea for admission. He recalled that in a recent “package proposal” for the admission of a certain bloc of States, Korea had been omitted and that his Government had been disturbed by this.3 I replied that unfortunately under the present circumstances it would be entirely impossible for Korea to gain such membership in view of the absolute veto power of the Soviet Union in the Security Council, and pointed out, furthermore, that it was not the United States which had sponsored the “package proposal.” I added that while no useful purpose would be served in our again putting forward the Korean application under present circumstances it was, nevertheless, the desire of the United States to see the Republic of Korea become a full-fledged Member of the United Nations, and that this would remain our policy. The Foreign Minister then expressed the hope that the North Koreans and the Chinese Communists would not be permitted to come to New York and be heard by the General Assembly.

[Page 560]

Security Treaty with the United States

The Korean Foreign Minister remarked that while the war continued in Korea there was no immediate danger that the United States or the United Nations would abandon their efforts to protect Korea from Communism or from a resurgent Japanese influence in the peninsula. He stressed, however, that the Korean people and their Government feel considerable anxiety as to their future security, caught as they are between Communists on one side and an increasingly powerful Japan on the other. He hoped that the United States would view with favor the early conclusion of a security pact with the Republic of Korea which would insure the future security of his country against aggressive force from any quarter. He stressed that such a pact would have an important effect upon the morale of the Koreans, and would now be particularly significant in view of the fact that the United States had recently concluded a bilateral security pact with Japan.

I replied that the fullest measure of reassurance for the future security of the Korean Republic is to be found in the tremendous sacrifice which the United States and the United Nations had made and are now making in the defense of Korea from Communist aggression, and that nothing could be a more eloquent testimony to our resolve to continue to protect the Republic of Korea from the forces of destruction. I emphasized that such clear evidence of our concern for Korea would not be materially strengthened merely by a paper indication of such resolve, and I pointed out that, as in the case of the Philippines, the strong undercurrent of our great interest in their welfare far transcended the mere conclusion of a formal treaty on the subject; in the last analysis, the principle of collective security is vitally important to the defense of Korea, as it is to the United States, and that this principle is now being effectively demonstrated in our present actions to meet the Communist aggression in Korea.

The Problem of North Korea

Dr. Pyun stated that his Government estimated that the present population of North Korea had been reduced to approximately three million persons who were largely elderly people or youths and who could not effectively farm the available land. He emphasized that the Chinese armies in this area now comprise some one million men who depend to a great extent upon the land for their food supply; there were indications that Chinese were beginning to import farm labor to settle in North Korea, and that the ultimate result of this would be the loss of this area to China for all time. The Foreign Minister believed that this should be a matter of the gravest concern to the United Nations. When I asked him what solution he could offer to this problem, the Foreign Minister replied that he had none, but that he merely wished to call our attention to the most serious situation.

[Page 561]

Food Supply in the Republic of Korea

Dr. Pyun then raised the question of the food supply within the Republic of Korea. He pointed out that many of the outlying areas of his country were suffering very serious food shortages and that in some cases actual starvation existed. He stated that crop forecasts indicated a very profound deficit in the forthcoming harvest and that for the current crop year the production of food might sink to a figure only 40% of normal. The Foreign Minister considered this to be a matter of grave concern and hoped that the United States would take all possible immediate steps to meet the problem.

Ambassador Muccio remarked that it was his understanding joint crop surveys by the United Nations Civil Assistance Command, in co-operation with the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) and with the Republic of Korea authorities are underway; the final crop estimate will not be in until next month but from the more recent information thus acquired, it would appear that the food prospects were not nearly as gloomy as they were painted by the Foreign Minister. Ambassador Muccio also pointed out that machinery had been established for coordination of economic problems through the Combined Economic Board,4 established last May, and that he was certain that both the UNKRA and the United Nations Civil Assistance Command were most alert to the requirements for foodstuffs and were currently making adequate provisions to meet this problem.

Korean-Japanese Relations

The Foreign Minister referred to the anxiety of his Government over the deterioration of its relations with the Japanese and stressed the danger, in their view, that the Japanese Government was intent, in the long range, upon reasserting its influence in Korea. He referred to the deadlock which had been reached in the current negotiations with the Japanese, and stated that increased concern had been caused by the action of the United States in building up Japan, both economically and militarily.

Dr. Pyun then discussed at some length the various points at issue which had arisen in the course of the bilateral negotiations. He said that whereas the Japanese had urged that such difficult questions as fisheries and property claims be put off for consideration until after the conclusion of a treaty, his own Government could not accept this view, since it considered it essential that all outstanding questions between Korea and Japan be solved before a treaty could go into effect. He stressed particularly the necessity for the Japanese to withdraw their property claims in Korea before the Republic of Korea would be willing to [Page 562] resume the negotiations. The Korean Ambassador felt that his Government had been most fair and reasonable in its efforts to negotiate these outstanding problems, but he considered that the Japanese had not been sincere in their profession of willingness to negotiate on a similar basis.

Dr. Pyun pointed out that the fisheries problem was creating a seriously increasing tension with Japan and referred to his Note to me of last August in this regard.5 He remarked that he had recently discussed this problem in Tokyo with General Clark and that General Clark had stated he was having a “difficult time” with the Japanese over the fisheries problem. The Foreign Minister then stated his satisfaction over the action taken by General Clark in the establishment of a military zone in waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula. He claimed, however, that this zone did not coincide with the fishing line proclaimed by President Rhee last February6 and that the area between that line and the military zone still presents a serious problem. He recalled that the Japanese had threatened to send large fleets of fishing boats into Korean waters and were in fact doing so, and that they had also threatened to use patrol vessels to back up this move. He felt that he should call to my attention the unreasonable attitude which the Japanese were exhibiting in this, as in other regards, and reiterated his own Government’s willingness to continue negotiations with them if the Japanese would cooperate.

Ambassador Yang remarked that it had been hoped that the air might be cleared to some extent for the renewal of negotiations following the Japanese elections; however, he could not now be optimistic that this would occur, although he had requested the Korean Mission in Tokyo to keep the negotiations alive if this could be done.

Ambassador Muccio commented that these were problems which, in the nature of things, the Koreans and Japanese must work out for themselves and to their own satisfaction, and that every effort should be made to continue the negotiations in a mutual spirit of conciliation at the earliest possible time; no third party could effectively introduce formulas for a resolution of these problems which could be expected to gain the wholehearted acceptance from both sides to any given solution. The Foreign Minister and the Korean Ambassador both indicated their assent with this view.

In closing the conversation, Dr. Yang stated that he wished to express on behalf of his Government and of the people of Korea their profound gratitude to the United States for the tremendous aid and assistance which we were rendering in holding back Communist aggression. He desired particularly to emphasize the profound impression [Page 563] upon the Koreans created by the courageous decision of President Truman to come to the aid of Korea in June of 1950. The Foreign Minister indicated his complete concurrence with these views.

I thanked Dr. Pyun and his colleagues for having voiced these sentiments, and assured them again of our continued desire to work closely with them in the furtherance of Korea’s welfare.

Dean Acheson
  1. This memorandum was drafted by Emmons.
  2. UN document A/2187.
  3. For documentation on the admission of new members into the United Nations, see vol. iii, pp. 802 ff.
  4. For a summary of the negotiations which led, inter alia, to the creation of the Combined Economic Board, see the letter from Meyer to Acheson, May 24, p. 238.
  5. Not printed.
  6. The proclamation was issued on Jan. 18, 1952, not in February; a text is contained in telegram 709 from Pusan, Jan. 21, 1952, not printed (795.022/1–2152).