77. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, United Nations Command (Lemnitzer) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1

KA 70512 KCG (DA IN 159505). References: A. DA 986392;2 B. C 73540;3 C. C 73586;4 D. C 73590.

I called on President Rhee at his residence in Seoul at 1000 Thursday 11 Aug to discuss situation arising from ROK demand for members of NNSC to withdraw from ROK no later than 2400 hours 13 Aug. For reasons indicated in par 3 below I had, in requesting an appointment with President, indicated that I desired to talk with him privately with no one else present. The President’s secretary informed me that meeting had been arranged as I requested.
Upon arrival at Kyung Mu Dai I found President in hallway talking loudly and excitedly to Major Kim of Seoul and two unidentified men. I proceeded to reception room where I waited several minutes while above mentioned conversation took place in Korean just outside door.
To my surprise, and notwithstanding my request for a private meeting, President entered room with acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho. After exchange of greetings I informed President that I had requested private meeting with him in view of experience following our last meeting when others, including Cho, were present. I related that in press conference following this meeting Cho was quoted as saying that General White and I had “agreed in principle” with ROK proposal to regain Kaesong, Ongjin Peninsula and section of Han River estuary south of 38th parallel. I stated that this statement was not based on fact, as every one present at that conference knew, it had been extremely embarrassing to both General White and myself and had provided valuable propaganda material for Communists. (Note: Cho statement appeared only in Korean Times of 8 Aug. No notice of statement was taken by American news services and no inquiries [Page 144] regarding it were received at Hq FEC or AFFE/Eighth Army. Although I considered issuing a denial, the fact that it had received so little attention convinced me that to do so would only do more harm than good by giving it world-wide circulation and generating widespread interest in issue, as ROK probably desired.) Cho said that he had issued a correction but I informed him that it was poorly worded and technical in nature and did not adequately correct the substance of the original release or erroneous impression it has created. I felt that only a clear-cut retraction on his part would solve the problem. Whereupon Rhee turned to Cho and angrily demanded that he take necessary action at once to correct situation. Cho seemed bewildered at nature and intensity of Rhee’s remarks. I then informed President that under the circumstances I would not object to Cho’s presence but hoped there would be no repetition of the previous unfortunate incident. (Note: Following conference I received an apology from President’s secretary for Cho’s presence, and he attributed it to an error by one of his colleagues.)
We then shifted to discussion of substance of my recent letter (see Ref D) which was delivered to him at 0830 10 Aug. I reiterated points covered in my letter, particularly my determination to carry out my assigned responsibilities under the armistice agreement. Rhee said he was surprised at some of things said in that letter, particularly that he was “inspiring” the demonstrations against the NNSC. I corrected him by pointing out that my letter had stated that the demonstrations were “government inspired”. He said this was not so—they were the product of spontaneous popular resentment against having “Czech and Polish spies” in ROK. I told Rhee that I hoped he did not consider that I was so naive as to believe that demonstrations, of the size and intensity of those occurring in five widely scattered places at the same time were results of “spontaneous popular feelings” and furthermore I had concrete evidence that they were not. He then changed the subject.
He next questioned reference in my letter to people being killed. I told him that again he was misquoting from my letter and my statement was that demonstrations were for “declared purpose of killing, injuring or obtaining custody of persons whom this command stands pledged under the Armistice Agreement to protect.” He questioned accuracy of my quote which I verified by showing him a copy of my letter which I had with me. I told him that mobs, particularly at Pusan, by placard and voice, had so indicated such intentions.
He next questioned reference to “injuries to United States military personnel”. He said that his information did not indicate that people were being injured. I told him that he was misinformed because a considerable number of United States personnel had in fact been injured by stones, sticks and bottles thrown by the demonstrators [Page 145] and that reports to that effect have been widely circulated and were common knowledge. He repeated that he did not believe that there had been any violence or destruction of property to date. I then cited the example where two large trucks filled with demonstrators had crashed through gates of Hialeah Compound at Pusan and that some personnel aboard were armed with burp guns.
After persistently denying that there had been any violence, injuries or damage to date he blandly and without warning justified and rationalized everything he had just been denying by the statement “but General, your American soldiers are protecting Communist spies” and that “Koreans also had been injured”. I told him that the Korean demonstrators had only themselves to blame for any injuries they had received since they were aggressors.

I then expressed my concern lest the present demonstrations get further out of control as the “deadline” of 2400 hours 13 Aug approached and more violence occur. Whereupon he shouted that he had given strict orders that there would be no violence. I told him that I was greatly relieved to hear it but that I had not been informed about such an order, and I was certain that it had not reached the local level at places where demonstrations were taking place. I urged that he insure that this be done soonest. He called loudly for his secretaries and asked if his orders for no violence had been published in the press. They told him that information on non-violence orders had already appeared in Korean language press but that there had not been sufficient time for them to appear in Korean English language papers. He directed them to expedite their publication in English.

Note: Korean OPI issued statement this afternoon as follows: “Seoul, Aug 1—(OPI)—President Syngman Rhee today made public through his official spokesman, Dr Hong Kee Karl, that he regards public demonstrations by citizens aroused by the continued presence of Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission members on Korea soil as a normal expression of their spirit of patriotism.

“The President made it clear, however, that he strongly objected to any violence. He said the spirit of 1919, when Korean independence from Japan was declared quietly and without military force, should prevail.”

The President then said he proposed to release to the press my letter to him and Cho’s two letters to me. I told him that I strongly recommended against such action because it would do more harm, particularly to ROK, than good. I pointed out that Cho’s second letter (see Ref C) was extremely unfair and unjustifiably critical of the United States which had stood by ROK for many years and had spent much blood and treasure in its defense.
I then told Rhee that I had not come this morning to argue details but to express my conviction and deep concern that the course of action upon which he had embarked with regard to elimination of NNSC was:
The wrong way of achieving its announced object.
Doomed to failure.
Highly prejudicial to United States-ROK relationships and particularly to ROK interests. I described how, because of recent events, news representatives (including press reporters, broadcasters and photographers) (both still and movie) were converging on ROK to give fullest possible news coverage to present current happenings. I told him that American and free world public would find it difficult indeed to understand such treatment of American troops who were only doing their duty. I stated that I could think of nothing more unfortunate or damaging to ROK interests than for pictures to appear in United States press and on movie and TV screens showing American troops being attacked by ROK mobs. In addition, I told him that such demonstrations could not help but raise a doubt in the minds of the thousands of United States and United Nations troops who were here in Korea on the main battle positions to protect the ROK, the citizens of which were attacking their comrades at NNIT compounds in five ports of entry in ROK. I reviewed in detail what United States had already done for ROK since World War II and particularly since 1950. I reviewed expenditures of thousands of lives and billions of dollars during Korean war and enumerated many programs currently underway, continuation of which was being jeopardized due to feeling being generated by current demonstrations. To my surprise Rhee listened patiently to this review and at the conclusion admitted that America has indeed been Korea’s strongest friend and ally. “But why”, he asked, “do you continue to protect Communist spies in South Korea”.
I reiterated my gratification to Rhee that he was issuing instructions that there should be no violence and urged that his views in this regard be immediately transmitted to responsible persons in areas where demonstrations were taking place. Believing that it was time to conclude the conference I made a move to leave but he asked me to remain and discuss the most important issue of all, i.e., getting the Communists to withdraw from Kaesong, Ongjin Peninsula and Han River area south of 38 parallel. He spent 20 minutes reviewing strategic importance of the area to ROK and reasons why Communists should leave. He urged that UNC and United States support him in his claims to this area.
Conference lasted one hour and 40 minutes. Except for several brief periods Rhee was quite excited and spoke in a much louder tone of voice than usual. At least once every ten minutes throughout entire conference he said he felt that United States was embarking on a course of peaceful coexistence with the Communists (among whom he included Russia, Communist China, North Korea, Japan and [Page 147] India) and that Korea would be forgotten. Several times during the conference he kept repeating “no one understands us”.
I have reported this conference in much more detail than usual because I felt that by so doing it would assist those who read this report and are working on this problem better to appreciate the atmosphere in which it was conducted.
Tomorrow, Friday 12 Aug, I shall visit the NNIT compounds at Inchon, Kunsan, Kangung, Taegu and Pusan to talk to commanders and troops and to inspect the security plans and arrangements at each.
  1. Source: Department of State, NA Files: Lot 59 D 407, Defense Cables Aug–Dec 1955. Secret. Sent by Lemnitzer from Eighth Army headquarters in Seoul. Repeated to Seoul for Ambassador Lacy and to Tokyo for CINCFE.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 73.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 72.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 73.