14. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State1

1597. Ref: Embtel 1593 rptd Tokyo 688 CINCPAC 665.2

Large student demonstrations with some civilian participation followed by declaration of martial law June 3 pose question what we should do and say.
Martial law may succeed in restoring public order but situation might quickly worsen if students resist, populace joins in, and troops are forced to extreme measures. April 1960 precedent might then be repeated. Govt expects next two or three days will be critical, since all information indicates students intend challenge martial law.
Should situation develop on these lines Pak govt might be able head it off by announcing immediate measures that will impress upon public that govt is serious about dealing with legitimate grievances.
Our effort should be directed to trying to help govt stabilize situation hence Gen Howze and I agreed to release of troops. If govt resorts only to force without remedial measures and is faced with a mass uprising, question will arise whether we can continue to support it in such circumstances. Time therefore has come for us to recommend to ROKG what actions it must take if it expects to weather difficulties and count on our support.
In this situation I recommend US take following position and so inform Pak:
US regards martial law as an emergency step to deal with public disorder.
Pak must take the necessary measures to establish public confidence in govt. These measures would include following:
Martial law should be lifted as soon as possible. Govt must make plain it does not intend substitute martial law for normal processes over extended period of time.
Govt should appeal to responsible leaders of opposition who are willing to cooperate in national crisis. Pak should call meetings with opposition leaders and leaders those elements (press, university, military) of community who command public respect and seek their advice on how to deal with situation. He should also make a personal effort to establish a favorable image [Page 30] of himself before the public, in the process explaining the government’s position on each pressing issue.
Kim Chong-p’il should resign from political offices and leave the country.
Democratic-Republican Party should be reconstituted, its corruption eliminated, its Secretariat vastly reduced, and its unwarranted interference in govt ended.
Govt’s past ineptitude, corrupt practices, and subsequent loss of public confidence have caught up with it. We are no longer confident that Pak able control situation for any length of time. We do not predict that Pak govt cannot survive immediate situation, but indications are that he may try to do so by use of force and suppression opposition press, students, and possibly even national assembly. This would be neither acceptable nor viable solution.
With Dept’s concurrence I intend see Pak at appropriate time and convey sense of foregoing.3 I plan to tell him that unless he takes actions of this sort we foresee that ROKG will soon find itself in situation where it can survive only by repressive and authoritarian measures in which USG will find it difficult continue to support him. By taking recommended measures promptly and vigorously, he will be acting to save his govt and preserve constitutional democracy in ROK.
I do not intend issue any public statements here other than those given Embtel 15914 and suggest Dept follow suit along with indication our concern and watchfulness at this point.
Gen Howze concurs.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–8 KOR S. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD and Tokyo and passed to the White House.
  2. Document 13.
  3. The Department of State, with the concurrence of the Department of Defense, agreed with Berger’s recommendation, adding only general suggestions. The Department of State believed Pak should undertake genuine reform of the DRP, with a solution to the problem of Kim Chong-pil part of the reform process, cautioning, however, that the United States must “avoid overplaying our hand with Pak on KCP.” (Telegram 1110 to Seoul, June 3; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–8 KOR S)
  4. In telegram 1591 from Seoul, June 3, the Embassy reported that it had issued public statements reflecting its position that the “declaration martial law is matter for Korean Government to decide” and acknowledging that General Howze had released two ROK divisions after receiving a request to do so from the Korean Government. (Ibid.)