339. Editorial Note

In March and April 1964 Korean and Japanese Cabinet Ministers met to try to resolve the fisheries question and normalization of relations. Plans for talks were underway when the Embassy in Seoul reported that both sides were “apparently determined to make full effort achieve settlement,” and the Korean Foreign Minister foresaw an agreement being reached by the middle of April. (Telegram 1118 from Seoul, March 5; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 KOR S)

As negotiators wrestled with outstanding issues, student demonstrations erupted in Korea on March 24 to protest the impending settlement and the involvement of Assemblyman and Chairman of the Democratic Republican party Kim Chong-pil in the negotiations. (Telegram 1244 from Seoul, March 30; ibid., POL 23–8 KOR S) The Embassy reported the demonstrations “revealed widespread public fears of subsequent Japanese domination as well as misgivings about terms of settlement and dissatisfaction with way negotiations conducted.” That situation coupled with strengthening political opposition led to speculation that the Pak government could be overthrown. (Telegram 1277 from Seoul, April 10; ibid., POL JAPAN–KOR S)

The combination of circumstances brought negotiations to a standstill. Concomitantly, unabated, escalating student demonstrations against the settlement, government corruption, the belief that Kim Chong-pil would profit financially from an agreement with Japan, and similar issues strained Korean-Japanese relations and resulted in the imposition in Seoul of martial law on June 3. Seoul remained under martial law for 56 days; the order was revoked on July 28. Relevant documents are ibid., POL 2 KOR S;POL 7 KOR S; POL 15 KOR S; POL 33–4 JAPAN–KOR S; and in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Korea, Vol. I.