219. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Korea 0

1321. Handling of current situation by you and General Magruder has our full endorsement. We want to give you maximum latitude within following framework in meeting fast breaking developments which may call for immediate responses on your part. We recognize that tactical moves in this emergency can not be best directed from this distance. We have full confidence in sound judgment yourself and General Magruder.1

If it is your finding that Chang Myon government has disintegrated irretrievably you are authorized to work along lines which you consider best calculated to encourage early emergence of broadly based, responsible non-partisan government of national unity and of predominantly civilian composition with which we can work constructively and cooperatively in atmosphere of mutual trust. While Revolutionary Committee as presently constituted may appear to offer scant promise of developing in this direction, you are authorized in your discretion to work as you deem necessary with that Committee as starting point, seeking to bring to bear all available moderating, balancing and restraining influences. Possible utility of General Lee Han Lim, Commander First ROK Army, in this connection might be considered.

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It is highly important to confer on successor government to maximum attainable extent an aura of legality, continuity and legitimate constitutional succession. Presumably this can best be achieved by continuation in office of Yun Po Sun as President who would use his prestige and office to bring about selection of generally acceptable candidate for Prime Minister.

It our tentative impression here that coup group has no very clear idea exactly where it wants to go after having overthrown Chang government. If this impression correct and Yun Po Sun willing assert leadership inherent in his office at such period of crisis, suggest possibility of Yun calling in coup group leaders together with a few widely respected military and civilian figures of national stature and attempting obtain immediate agreement on selection Prime Minister and full cabinet slate who could reassert governmental authority. Even though such action may not be possible strictly within constitutional framework seems from here some such action within spirit orderly governmental processes might offer best hope of preventing degeneration into chaotic situation which communists might attempt to exploit or into out-and-out military dictatorship. This offered only as suggested line of approach within foregoing framework. There may well be other such lines not apparent to us here.

If in your judgment situation calls for radically different approach, you should outline it soonest for our urgent consideration.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 795B.00/5-1761. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Ottawa for the Presidential visit and Geneva for Rusk.
  2. In JCS 996156 to CINCUNC, May 18, the JCS informed Magruder that in light of telegram 1321 to Seoul and “the currently developing situation, agree you should contact General Chang Do Young and General Pak Chang Hui soonest and emphasize in strongest terms necessity of reestablishing command relationship as soon as possible and the vital importance of maintaining ROK Armed Forces at a high state of combat readiness responsive to the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command.” (Ibid., 795B.00/5 1861)
  3. In telegram 1579 from Seoul, May 19, Green proposed to enter into discussions with ROK President Yun Po-sun supplemented by Magruder’s discussions with the ROK Chief of Staff and “discreet discussions” with General Pak Chung-hui and the Revolutionary Committee. Green hoped to achieve “the emergence soonest of a ROK Government which is broadly based, responsible, non-partisan government of national unity and of predominantly civilian composition determined to defend Korea against communist aggression external or internal.” Green went on to list six suggested expectations of the new ROK Government: “Cooperation with the United States; continued recognition of existing treaties and agreements; restoration of operational control of ROK armed forces to CINCUNC; return of ROK forces to pre-coup roles and positions; release of political prisoners without reprisals; anti-corruption and nepotism policies; and economic stability, development, and efficient use of U.S. aid. (Ibid., 795B.00/5-1961)