108. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Contacts Between North and South Korea Augur Well for Improved Political Climate on Peninsula

At Tab A is a State memorandum to you describing the agreement of North and South Korean Red Cross representatives to meet at Panmunjon for talks on the question of divided families.2 The agreement was endorsed by the governments in both Seoul and Pyongyang, and represents the first contacts between North and South since the end of the Korean War (with one minor exception in 1963).

The agreement was reached against a backdrop of the following recent developments:

  • —Recent indications of Peking’s interest in a Seoul–Pyongyang rapprochement and movement toward reunification. Most important in this regard was Chou En-lai’s statement on this question during his August 5 interview with James Reston.
  • —Recent official public expressions in both North and South Korea of interest in moving toward reunification.
  • —Increasing confidence in South Korea resulting from the successful conduct of this summer’s national elections [and from South Korea’s economic progress and continued U.S. backing implicit in our support for the ROK military modernization program].3

Since the State memorandum was drafted, three preliminary meetings have been held between the Red Cross representatives on the question of divided families. The next meeting, scheduled for September 20, is likely to involve a more substantive discussion of the problem.

One of South Korean President Park’s political advisers, Mr. Pyong-choon Hahm, told General Haig and me September 14 that Park was moved to take what he described as this “humanitarian” initiative to offset the domestic unpopularity of his de facto recognition of North Korea implicit in certain actions and statements he has made over the past year. The unpopularity, Hahm explained, resulted because Park’s recognition of the North perpetuated the division of Korea.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 542, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Vol. IV, 1 Jan–31 Dec 1971. Confidential. Sent for information. Froebe initialed the memorandum for Holdridge. Kissinger initialed the memorandum on September 27.
  2. Tab A, a memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger, August 20, is attached but not printed.
  3. Brackets are in the original.
  4. See Document 105.