99. Staff Study Prepared by an Interdepartmental Working Group for the Operations Coordinating Board1


I. Subversive Forces and Their Activities

1. Communist subversion in the ROK is a potential threat rather than an immediate danger. There are no known organized subversive forces or activities. The ROK Government and its people are strongly anti-Communist. Non-Communist opposition to the ROK Administration is weak in number and its capabilities are limited by internal disunity and the strict watchfulness of the Government.

2. However, there are limited potential Communist subversive assets in the ROK which under certain conditions might be exploited and developed. These include: remnants of the former Communist underground in South Korea; other Communists and Communist sympathizers who survived the Korean war in the ROK; relatives and associates of the thousands of Leftist intellectuals who fled to North Korea during the war; approximately 2 million refugees from North Korea now in South Korea who, although mostly non-Communists, are potentially exploitable because of their friends and relatives in North Korea; prisoners-of-war released by the ROK in South Korea; and some dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime and with the economic situation.

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3. The ROK Administration has firm internal control over both civil and military activities, but it is in effect authoritarian and corrupt by Western standards. Because of President Rhee’s dominant role, his death or incapacitation might result, although not necessarily, in a period of confusion and chaos. Furthermore, the ROK economic situation is precarious and the economy is largely dependent upon substantial aid from the U.S. Should this economic situation deteriorate substantially, or should a chaotic political situation develop, the Communists might be able to exploit their potential assets for subversion.

4. Externally, the threat to the ROK Government is the proximity of the north Korean and Chinese Communists and to a lesser extent the Communist-influenced Koreans in Japan. Available evidence indicates that Communist infiltration through the well-guarded Demilitarized Zone is limited at present to low-level espionage and possibly to the smuggling of funds. Agents, funds, supplies and direction may be infiltrated via coastal smuggling and it is also possible that high-level agents, whose mission is political subversion, may come into South Korea through devious routes (via China and Japan). There is, however, little evidence that these channels are being utilized for subversive operations at the present time. Of the 600,000 Koreans in Japan, 400,000 are believed to be sympathetic to the General Federation of Koreans Resident in Japan (Soren), a Korean Communist front group. About 10,000 of these are considered to be hardcore Communists. To some extent the smuggling activities of the members of Soren provide funds for Communist operations and channels for courier use.

[Here follows a three-page analysis of South Korean internal security and military forces.]

III. Evaluation of Internal Security Situation

18. The ROK Government at this time is not imperiled by Communist internal subversion. While the external threat to ROK security is serious, it serves to generate active opposition to Communism internally. Thus unless there is a serious internal deterioration in the ROK for other reasons, this external threat does not add to the danger of subversion.

19. Circumstances could arise in the ROK, however, that might permit the development of a serious internal Communist threat. Such circumstances would include (a) political struggle over the succession to President Rhee, (b) substantial economic deterioration, (c) in the long range, serious deterioration of public confidence in the effectiveness of the administration. Even in these circumstances, however, Communist exploitation could not immediately create a serious internal [Page 184] threat and some time would be required for the Communists to build up their strength and influence.

20. If confronted with a serious internal Communist threat, the internal security agencies could be expected to devote greater attention to the problem. Whether they would be able to cope adequately with a serious threat is questionable in view of their inefficiency and lack of training; in which case the armed forces—which are designed to enable the ROK to resist external aggression as well as maintain internal security—would be more than adequate to maintain internal security.

[Here follows an inventory of existing U.S. assistance programs bearing on the internal security problem.]

V. Political Factors

27. As a consequence of the experience with the Communist aggression of 1950, the ROK Government, political leadership, and populace are intensely anti-Communist. Thus the ROK Government is thoroughly aware of the potential danger of Communist subversion, and would be receptive to aid from the U.S. in the internal security field. However, it would urge that the aid be in form of equipment and possibly financial subsidies for the existing internal security organizations and would insist upon full control of all such aid. Diversion of presently programmed economic and military aid to strengthen the internal security program would surely be opposed strongly by the ROK.

28. Political activity in the ROK is characterized by conspiratorial tactics. This is a consequence of the revolutionary background of the political leaders, the immaturity of the parties and democratic procedures, and police-state practices of the administration. False allegations of secret alliance with the Communists have often been made by one group against another for political reasons.

29. The system of competing internal security organizations is reflected in the conspiratorial character of ROK politics. Competition among the agencies serves to prevent Communist infiltration of any one of them or of political factions identified with any one of them and serves also to restrain the tendency to use false allegations. A case in point is the current “seditious documents” case, in which one group of agencies made public the efforts of the JPMGC to deliver Communist documents to Assembly members, allegedly to test them but possibly to trump up charges against them. Although the ROK has from time to time made moves toward coordinating the internal security agencies, thus far these efforts have not produced significant improvements. It is doubtful that in the present situation the ROK Government will make genuine efforts to reorganize the individual [Page 185] internal security agencies or to unite or coordinate their activities closely.

30. The ROK Government almost certainly will continue to rely on several competing internal security organizations. The police, who now conduct most routine Communist investigations and could serve as the main anti-Communist agency, might be given increased responsibilities if the U.S. pressed for it, but military agencies probably could not be precluded from broad roles in non-military investigations. In time of serious internal emergency, the military investigative agencies almost certainly would exercise greater authority and wider responsibilities than the police.

31. Because of the political considerations, U.S. aid in the internal security field in the ROK probably will have to stress the development of an effective security leadership through training in the existing organizations. It seems unlikely that it could be used as a lever to effect a reorganization for closer coordination of the existing agencies.

VI. Conclusions and Recommendations

A. Conclusions:

32. The threat of Communist subversion in the ROK is at present a potential rather than an actual danger. Unless a chaotic political situation develops, or economic conditions deteriorate, the limited Communist assets (internal and external) are not likely to become effective instruments of subversion.

33. In addition to corruption and maladministration there are the following deficiencies in the ROK internal security forces:

[1–½ lines of source text not declassified]
No coordination between various countersubversive agencies and between various elements within individual agencies.
No central files or registry on subversives.
No understanding of security requirements in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] operations.
Lack of adequate technical equipment.

34. The armed forces since they are designed to be able to defend ROK territory short of attack by a major power are more than adequate to maintain internal security.

B. Recommendation:

35. Seek to develop within the National Police a specific element trained in and responsible for the countersubversive [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] function. To this end:

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Establish a small (approximately 5–10 man) U.S. police advisory group to the NP to replace the present KCAC Army Advisory group. This group would be responsible for developing an NP training program, advising and training Korean personnel responsible for its conduct, including training in [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] techniques for selected personnel. The U.S. advisory group would work to instill the concept of police activities as public service functions; and would assist in developing better national coordination between police and military forces. In addition, it would be available for advice on such matters as police organization, officer development, and the installation of a career police service.
  • Responsible Agency: ICA

    [1 line of source text not declassified]

  • Timing: As soon as practicable.
  • Cost: Approximately $100,000, not presently programmed.
Provide limited technical equipment, particularly those types of equipment associated with CE/CI operations and those types necessary to provide for police communications and mobility.
  • Responsible Agency: ICA

    [1 line of source text not declassified]

  • Timing: Coordinate with needs under recommendation (a) above.
  • Cost: $150,000, not presently programmed.
Offer police training in the U.S. to additional selected members of NP.
  • Responsible Agency: ICA
  • Timing: As soon as possible.
  • Cost: $50,000.
  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Korea—1953 to Date. Top Secret. The working group was chaired by Landreth M. Harrison of the Office of the Under Secretary of State, and included representatives of the Department of Defense, [less than 1 line of text not declassified], ICA, and the OCB.
  2. Regarding the 1290–d exercise by the OCB, see footnote 2, Document 40. On November 16, the OCB considered the study printed here, prepared on the basis of despatch 260 (Document 40); concurred in the analysis and recommendations; and noted that overall responsibility for the implementation of the program rested with the International Cooperation Administration which had coordinating responsibility for the Mutual Security Program. (Covering note attached to the study)

    On November 23, the OCB completed a full “Report to the National Security Council Pursuant to NSC Action 1290–d.” (Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430) The NSC considered the report at its 269th meeting on December 8. (NSC Action No. 1486; ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council) On January 13, 1956, Under Secretary Hoover instructed Carl W. Strom, as Chargé in Korea, to supervise the implementation of the 1290–d program for Korea as outlined in the paper approved by the OCB on November 16. (Ibid., Central Files, 795.5/1–1356)