103. Letter From the Officer in Charge of Economic Affairs, Office of Northeast Asian Affairs (Parsons) to the Chargé in Korea (Strom)1

Dear Carl : Although belated, I want to express my sincere thanks to you and your staff for the tremendous efforts and great help on my behalf during my recent stay in Korea.3 I particularly enjoyed and learned much from the many penetrating and thought provoking conversations which I was able to have with you. I have found that my experience in Korea has been exceedingly helpful since my return to Washington as I participated with our many colleagues in the Department and ICA in many difficult decisions which have been made during the last month.

I have talked to many people, including Mr. Robertson, Bob McClurkin and others, about the difficulties which our longer term position in Korea seems to hold. As a result of these conversations, I am still convinced that thought provoking analyses from the Embassy could serve highly useful purposes within the Department. Of course you know the question of current consideration of any reduction in the arm [armed] strength of the Republic of Korea, even when considered in relation to economic development or economic stabilization objectives, is out of the question at the present time. I know from conversations with Turner Cameron that the Embassy is strongly opposed to such action partly because of the internal political implementations [implications?] that even such a rumor could have. Over and above this, as you are aware, there are overriding factors in the total Far East position of the United States. There is concern here, however, and this has been expressed by almost all the members of Under Secretary Hoover’s party as a result of their visit to Korea, with the question of the success of our current economic program in Korea. Members of the Hoover party, particularly Mr. Hollister and Mr. Prochnow,4 are advocating a “high powered” survey or study team to Korea to appraise and make recommendations for improving the nature and implementation of our economic aid program. Perhaps unfortunately, and certainly unwittingly, I added some fuel to this fire when I reported to Mr. Robertson that I had observed two somewhat disturbing factors in the Korean situation. First, I mentioned an apparent lack of conviction on the part of both Americans and Koreans [Page 192] that it is completely possible to achieve a viable economy in South Korea. My purpose in mentioning this point was to demonstrate the need for increased incentive, particularly among the Koreans, to work harder toward maximizing the benefits that can be derived from our aid program in Korea. Secondly, I alluded to the fear, which I had expressed both to you and Ty Wood, that there is a need for more adequate understanding of the more or less specific project lines which should be followed in further development of the industrial sector in Korea. I, of course, indicated that a large share of responsibility in this field has been assumed by UNKRA and that their performances have not been particularly exemplary. I also indicated that there is a conscious awareness of the need for getting on top of the planning aspects of the industrial sector not only in the Embassy and OEC, but also on the part of several Koreans with whom I talked; I certainly did not talk to the Koreans in these terms, but the questions raised by Chang 5 in the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Chong6 in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, certainly indicated a deep probing on their part. I further indicated that recent high caliber additions to Ty’s staff will expedite the handling of the planning task by OEC. Bob has been arguing with his usual expert-ness that now is not the time for something which the Koreans might think is “just another survey”. Instead, if there is to be a study it should be arranged in such a manner that there is full participation by competent Koreans. This would mean, for the first time, the development of an end-product which the Koreans could feel was their own and should provide an incentive for the Koreans using the product of such a study rather than merely providing another “dust catcher”.

We feared for a while that it would not be possible to get action on Ty’s request for additional funds for Korea for FY 1956 until some survey mission had been able to write a report. Fortunately, it looks as though our fears were unfounded since it is probable that an additional $25 million will be made available in the near future with the consensus that the situation will be further reviewed about March 56 with a view to determining the desirability of extending an additional $25 million at that time. This may be your first knowledge of this possibility. I would suggest that you handle the information very carefully since the decision is still not quite final. I had a letter from George Barbis7 in California which stated, among other things, [Page 193] that Lane8 has arrived in Seoul and Will Brown9 has left. He also indicated that both he and Will will probably arrive in Washington early in February. Needless to say, we are looking forward to the arrival of both of them to get the benefit of their latest information on the situation in Korea. Also, Will Brown’s arrival will be most welcomed since Ed Cronk’s10 departure has increased my burden to a point which could well stand some relief.

Again, I wish to express my thanks and would appreciate your forwarding them to all the members of your staff whose time I consumed during my stay.

With a most heartfelt wish for a happy holiday season, I am,

Sincerely,

Howard L. Parsons 11
  1. Source: Department of State, NA Files: Lot 58 D 643, US–Korea Political 1955-1956. Secret; Official–Informal.
  2. The December 2 date is handwritten on the source text.
  3. Parsons visited Korea, October 27–November 7, to inspect the economic aid programs in Korea.
  4. Herbert V. Prochnow, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs.
  5. Apparent reference to Yoo Wan Chang, Korean Minister of Reconstruction.
  6. Apparent reference to Chong Kyu-man, head of the Machinery Section in the Industry Bureau of the Korean Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  7. George M. Barbis, Third Secretary and Economic Officer in the Embassy in Korea.
  8. Samuel O. Lane, Second Secretary and Economic Officer in the Embassy in Korea.
  9. Willard O. Brown, First Secretary and Economic Officer in the Embassy in Korea.
  10. Edwin M. Cronk, formerly Chief of the Japanese Finance and Trade Section of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs. He took up his new duties as Economic Officer and First Secretary of Embassy in Korea on January 2, 1956.
  11. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.