795B.02/2–753: Telegram

The Ambassador in Korea (Briggs) to the Department of State


984. Dept pass Tokyo; rptd info Tokyo 244. Regarding Deptel 496, Feb 6.1 While it is gratifying that Department, JCS, CINCUNC and Embassy are all in agreement on unwisdom of return of Korean Government to Seoul, that unanimity lacks significance so long as President Rhee continues unconvinced. He is now fully unconvinced; in fact he is in process of moving his government back to Seoul in spite of us. Neither arguments nor obstacles placed in his way have thus far deterred him to announce shortly “government has returned”. As alternative to our maintaining present type of opposition (which is failing to interrupt process of piecemeal return) or of intensifying it by adopting get tough attitude forbidding return and physically blocking it (with serious implications on general US-Korean relations) I suggest new approach by General Clark to President Rhee, seeking put problem on broader basis and thereby enlist Rhee’s understanding and support.

In such approach to Rhee, following might be considered: [Page 746]

US must accept President’s continuing spend most of his time in Seoul and can agree to his moving limited number specified key offices there, while leaving balance and numerically larger part in Pusan.
In conversation with General Clark on Jan 16 I suggested one way to handle back-to-Seoul movement would be for our government start effective program sanitation, road repairs, etc., in Pusan, so conditions here would be more endurable for Korean Government and people. Offer along that line could be made to Rhee, together with offer immediately rehabilitation one or two buildings in Pusan in which Korean Government now housed. (There are many buildings in Pusan now occupied by various US and UN offices, each one of which is better than any Korean Government Building in Pusan.)
Further step on our part with favorable effect on Korean people including Rhee would be to start transferring civil affairs functions for Korea from Tokyo to Korea and establish them in Taegu (seat of communications zone headquarters—KCOMZ) or in Pusan. By operating from Tokyo with respect to Korean civil affairs, we support suspicions of Rhee and his associates that Korea is incidental to our primary concern which is Japan. If those Korean civil affairs functions could be moved from Tokyo to Korea it would be source of satisfaction to ROK people. If they were established in Taegu or Pusan that might constitute added reason for Korean Government’s deferring return to Seoul.
Present CINCUNC veto on rehabilitation and building repair projects in Seoul appears irritating to President. (Please see memorandum of conversation with Rhee on Jan 31, copy accompanying letter of Feb 1 to Allison.)2 I suggest that instead of talk he offer make joint study through combined economic board for example) of reconstruction plans for Seoul, meanwhile agreeing to approve initiation of work on one or two buildings in which President especially interested.

Since US opposition to re-establishment Korean Government in Seoul has military basis, I doubt whether suggested personal communication to President Rhee from Secretary of State desirable at this juncture. However, should suggested approach by General Clark to Rhee be decided upon and should Department desire to have me participate, I should of course be happy to do so.

Every day lost in settling foregoing matter renders handling it more difficult. For example, Pusan banks are now letting it be known they expect to return to Seoul in April.

  1. In this telegram the Department of State expressed willingness to support the opposition of CINCUNC to the return of the ROK Government to Seoul and instructed the Embassy to continue to support CINCUNC’s position in conversations with ROK Officials. The Department of State also requested Briggs’ views whether a personal communication from the Secretary of State to Rhee regarding this question would be effective and desirable. (795B.02/2–653)
  2. The letter and attached memorandum, both dated Feb. 1, 1953, are not printed. (795B.02/2–153)