250. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, February 1, 1974.1 2

February 1, 1974
Intelligence Memorandum

Subject: South Korea: Can Pak Hold On?


For over three months, President Pak Chong-hui has been under attack by domestic critics demanding liberalization of the authoritarian constitutional system he instituted in late 1972. The protests, though narrower in scope and less intense than those of the mid-1960s, represent a more significant threat to Pak’s leadership in three basic ways:

  • — the criticism is focused on the President himself and the type of government he has established, rather than on the particular policies of his regime;
  • — the opposition for the first time under Pak’s rule represents significant numbers of students, intellectuals, clergy and politicians who in various ways are articulating the political and economic grievances of a growing number of South Koreans;
  • — the protests are occurring at a time when the effectiveness of Pak’s traditional devices for diverting or stifling criticism (including perhaps even the use of force) is eroding.

Pak is relying on a combination of coercion and some conciliation to contain and isolate his critics. His efforts will probably be successful in the short term. The opposition, though widespread and determined, is not highly organized.

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Resentment against Pak’s authoritarian policies is sure to grow nonetheless. He is hoping to prevent the students in Seoul from igniting the sparks set elsewhere in East Asia recently. But there is a continuing potential for serious political instabilities in this modernizing society where political safety valves are lacking. And Pak cannot count on maintaining tight control indefinitely.

[Omitted here is the body of the paper.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, OPI 16 (Office of Current Intelligence), Job 79T00863A, Box 31, Folder 22, Intelligence Memorandum [unnumbered]. Secret; No Foreign Dissem. The Office of Current Intelligence at the CIA prepared this report in response to a January 19 request from Scowcroft, on behalf of Kissinger, that “an assessment be made of the current South Korean internal political situation, accompanied by a projection of the prospects for the next two to three months.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 544, Country Files, Far East, Korea, Volume 7, November 1973–)
  2. The authors predicted that Park’s regime would remain in power in the short run, but domestic opposition to it would grow.