Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XIX, Part 1, Korea, 1969–1972
- Daniel J. Lawler
- Erin R. Mahan
- Edward C. Keefer
This volume documents U.S. satisfaction with the Republic of Korea’s increasing confidence as an international actor, a result of the South’s burgeoning economic prosperity and its (uneven) growth in political stability. Park successfully thwarted efforts to improve the relationship between Japan and North Korea. Instead, South Korea made its own contacts with the North Korean Government, an initiative that yielded few tangible results but did promote regional stability. Nonetheless, the Nixon administration was not fully successful at allaying Seoul’s misgivings about two of Nixon’s most important foreign policy initiatives: the improvement in relations between the United States and China, and the U.S. departure from Vietnam. Park’s fears about U.S. reliability added to tensions that resulted from economic competition, especially in the textile trade.
The Republic of Korea’s skepticism of the U.S. security guarantee was used to justify authoritarian domestic policies. In 1970 Park and his party amended the Korean Constitution to permit his election to a third term as the country’s president. The following year, the two titans of late 20th century South Korean politics, Park Chung Hee and Kim Dae Jung, competed for the presidency. Department of State officials endeavored to demonstrate balance by making themselves available to both candidates. When Park, victorious in the 1971 election, declared martial law in October 1972, the U.S. Government expressed frustration with this blow to the Republic of Korea’s political institutions. U.S. officials feared that alliance with South Korea could be seen by some as implicating them in Park’s actions. Given Park’s determination to adopt anti-democratic measures, U.S. efforts to respond by punishing South Korea would likely be either ineffective or create instability there, either outcome potentially damaging the U.S.-Korean relationship.