117. Telegram From the Embassy in Korea to the Department of State 1

7289. 1. CIA Director Yi Hu Rak told me that President Park is planning to make a statement sometime during week of December 5 in which he would declare an emergency situation.2 He added hastily that this would not be an emergency declaration in a legal sense as provided for in the Constitution. There would be nothing legally binding about the emergency statement. Rather it was intended to be an exhortative declaration to “awaken” the people and make them realize there were things that needed to be done to assure the security of Korea.

2. In the course of the statement, President Park would set forth six points as goals or demands upon government and people. Yi could only recall four of them such as: (a) Strengthen security; (b) Each individual is called upon to fulfill his part in the security plan whether Homeland Reserve drills, military training or reserve training; (c) The press should refrain from printing provocative or irresponsible articles; (d) The people should be infused with a new appreciation of the security situation rather than be lulled into a feeling of peace-mindedness and security.

3. I asked Yi if there would be any movement of troops in this scheme. He said there would not be any military movements involved in the declaration although there were plans for improving the defense of Seoul which would go ahead. I asked if it was not likely there would be a strong adverse public reaction to emergency controls when public not convinced of necessity. He repeated again that the declaration was not legally binding therefore none of the automatic restrictive measures that would come into play in the event of a formal declaration of emergency would apply. President Park was concerned over the degree of apathy of the general public and he wished to bring home the need for full alertness in the face of the continuing North Korean threat.

4. I asked Yi if any measures involving the National Assembly were included. He said none whatsoever. I then asked him if he thought [Page 298]that this move on top of previous public discussion of the danger of North Korean attack and the budgetary increase for defense just passed would together appear as provocations to the North and lead to escalatory reactions on the part of Pyongyang. He replied they had taken this possibility into account and the wording of the President’s statement would be carefully designed to counter any such belief. Also they would be making clear their purpose was defensive and had no aggressive intention.

5. I asked him if there was any change in the estimate he had previously given me that there were no indications the North Koreans planned to attack in the near future. He said that he had not changed his estimate and did not believe there was any such intention at present time. He came to this conclusion on the basis of all information available to him including attitude of North Koreans at Panmunjom Red Cross talks.

6. He then said he wished to inform me on highly confidential basis of preliminary secret contact with North Koreans. This was not at high level and on North Korean side involved Kim Tok-Hyon (listed in our files as Deputy Chairman of NK delegation). He said he preferred not to give me name of South Korean involved. These secret contacts were arranged quietly as occasion permitted at Panmunjom in course of informal exchanges. He was hopeful when time came to use this channel for more serious discussion it could be managed easily with participants at higher level. (We then talked a bit about my experience in secret talks at Paris Viet-Nam meetings and he expressed interest in discussing negotiating tactics and techniques on another occasion.)

7. Yi said the Panmunjom talks provided an insight into North Korean political thinking and he was using them in this way. In the long run talks had to move in direction of more significant political questions beyond that envisaged under Red Cross cover. Government on each side was controlling talks and would use them for whatever purposes it had in mind.

8. Yi said he would like to pose hypothetical proposition. If secret talks were to materialize at higher level it might be possible to make progress on certain political matters. Let us assume at some time in future agreement was reached in which each side declared it had no intention to take any measure against other; arrangements were made for some communication between people in North and South; agreement was reached for mutual reduction in military forces; agreement was reached that each side would respect other as an entity with implication that reunification was an ultimate but not immediate goal; and each side would accept great power guarantee of agreement reached between them; would U.S. look with favor upon such agreement?

9. I replied I normally did not respond to hypothetical questions. However, if North and South Korea were to negotiate mutually acceptable [Page 299]agreement involving issues of sort he had mentioned to me, I believed U.S. would generally welcome such development. This was an initial reaction which of course I would hope to discuss with him in more detail some other time in the course of examining possible elements of such an agreement one by one.

10. Yi said we could talk about these matters again but he just wanted to assure himself that they would not be working contrary to U.S. views if they were to seek basis of accommodation with North. I told him that on contrary we would favor their making such efforts.

11. Comment: Yi’s account of Park’s proposed declaration [1 line not declassified] did not divulge all details. We will reserve full comment until we can examine nature of actual statement to be made and background information that will become available. However, at this point we conclude there is general movement toward increasing government controls in Korea. Park seems determined to pursue this course gradually but persistently. In ROKG view these moves are necessitated by entire complex of events which could include Park’s future political plans, concern over general course of events in Asia, desire to be in strong position vis-à-vis the North in anticipation of coming negotiations and international competition, and their general expectation of sooner or later having to depend on their own resources for security.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 KOR S. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Tokyo and CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. As reported in telegram 7318 from Seoul, December 4, Habib was informed by the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Han Sang-Kuk on December 3 of President Park’s intention to declare a “semi-emergency” on December 5 “to alert the people to the dangers to national security.” (Ibid., POL KOR N–KOR S) Telegram 7389 from Seoul, December 7, reported on the December 6 declaration of national emergency by President Park, who exhorted “all people to knuckle down and prepare for worst in name of patriotism and national security.” (Ibid., POL 15–1 KOR S)