795.00/2–954: Telegram

The Chargé in Korea (Bond) to the Department of State


761. Repeated Tokyo 455 (for CINCUNC and CAG), New Delhi 73. Regarding Embtel 757,1 repeated Tokyo 451, New Delhi 71.

During conversation reported Embtel 759,2 Pyun raised question of assurances requested by ROK Government re disposition “neutral” Korea ex-POW’s now en route to India and displayed considerable concern over possibility such assurances might not be forthcoming. He said this would place his government in most difficult position and would oblige it take some action which would demonstrate to Korean people that it was not “abandoning these unfortunates,” whom he said ROK still regards as its citizens. He was obviously nervous about threat he had made earlier that ROK Government might seek to prevent departure Indian contingent scheduled leave February 10, and was seeking way out. He inquired, for example, whether some substantial number of Indians might not be remaining beyond February 10 and whether it might not be possible for them to delay their departure until ROK demands met. Obvious implication of his remarks was that ROK Government might have to hold at least a few Indians as “hostages” until satisfactory assurances obtained.

Without going into question, of capability of ROK Government to enforce such decision, I emphasized to Pyun exceedingly adverse effects which any such intemperate action would have on Indian Government, which was after all, for better or worse, present custodian of those Koreans about whose future ROK Government so concerned. I suggested that if ROK Government really had interests of latter group at heart, it should make every effort establish relationship of mutual [Page 1749] confidence with Indian Government with view to working out mutually satisfactory disposition of ex-POW’s.

Pyun came later to say he had just learned that last contingent of Indians not scheduled leave until February 23, which he said would allow “plenty of time” to obtain necessary assurances. While I have at no time given Pyun reason to believe that assurances which he requested are likely to be forthcoming, and to date I believe he now convinced it not within province of UNC to provide such assurances, he obviously continues to hope that something of sort may be obtained from some source, even if it has to be from Indians themselves. In this situation some useful purpose might be accomplished if Indian Government could see its way clear in some way to reassure ROK Government re ultimate disposition Korean ex-POW’s now in Indian hands.3

Although it is my understanding that it is not in power of ROK Government forcibly to interfere with departure of CFI from demilitarized zone, it undoubtedly does possess capability of instigating troublesome incidents should it so choose.

  1. In this telegram, Feb. 9, Bond reported that Pyun had told him that the Republic of Korea could not allow the departure of the 76 Korean POWs who had chosen to go to a neutral country unless it received assurances in writing that they would go to a non-Communist state other than India, that they would never be financial burdens on the Republic of Korea, and that they would be able to lead “free man’s life” with opportunities for earning a livelihood. (795.00/2–954)
  2. This telegram, Feb. 9, dealt with the plan of the ROK Government to announce the offer of a division of its army for service in Laos. The American Embassy discouraged this announcement as premature and unwise. (795.00/2–954)
  3. In telegram 655 to Seoul, Feb. 10, Bond was instructed to tell Pyun that the men involved freely entrusted themselves into Indian custody and rejected going to the ROK. The U.S. Government was confident that India would treat them well and would facilitate their settlement in neutral nations of their choice. (795.00/2–954)