275. Information Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs in the Department of Defense (Bergold) to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Washington, March 16, 1976.1 2


In reply refer to: I-2808/76

SUBJECT: Impact of Recent Korean Political Developments - INFORMATION MEMORANDUM

(C) We are deeply concerned by the increasing repression in Korea and its impact on Congressional support for Korea. In the short term, the political arrests of opposition political figures on March 1 may endanger the FY 1976 Security Assistance authorization bill, which is currently under consideration by a House-Senate Conference Committee. It will certainly make our whole Korean effort on the Hill this year more difficult.

(C) The Korean Situation. On March 1, a declaration calling for the restoration of normal democratic rights and the resignation of President Park was issued at an ecumenical prayer service held in Seoul Cathedral. The declaration was signed by prominent opposition political leaders and clerical and intellectual critics of the government’s repressive action. Although reporting is not complete, it is clear that the government reacted to this challenge by detaining and interrogating those associated with the declaration. Eleven, including former opposition presidential candidate Kim Tae Chung, four Catholic priests, three Protestant ministers, and three former university professors, have now been arrested and publicly accused of plotting to overthrow the government. A well publicized trial of some or all of them is highly likely. We understand that Kim Tae Chung has “confessed.”

(C) Congressional React ion. Park’s action has stirred the anti-Park forces on the Hill to greater efforts with the religious element very prominent. Congressman Fraser is preparing a letter to Secretary Kissinger for signature by a small number of Congressmen requesting the Executive Branch to report on the human rights situation in Korea. He is also soliciting signatures in the House and Senate to a letter to the President which will probably ask that the U.S. in some way disassociate its security policies in Korea from President Park’s domestic policies. [Page 2] Congressman Udall has issued a critical statement and called for a re-examination of our assistance programs to Korea. Senators Kennedy and Cranston have issued a joint statement calling for a review of U.S. assistance to Korea. They make clear that they would seek to exercise that provision in the FY 1976 legislation which requires the Executive to justify assistance programs in relation to the human rights practices in a recipient country and permits the Congress by concurrent resolution to modify or terminate security assistance if they choose to reject the Executive Branch report.

(C) Congressional concern threatens our carefully worked out strategy to assure that the Conference Committee reports out an acceptable security assistance bill for FY 1976. Specific testimony on Korea and the human rights question had been promised in connection with the FY 1977 hearings. This testimony is scheduled for 2 April for the Senate and could be requested as early as 29 March for the House. The Conference Committee as a ready acted to satisfy the Executive Branch’s concerns regarding storage of War Reserve Materiel in Korea. It is hoped that a compromise establishing a reasonable ceiling on grant aid for Korea, while not as high as requested, can be worked out. If sentiment mounts high enough, amendments from the floor could be proposed, nullifying our efforts.

(C) Our Posture. While we may get by with our programs in the short term, clearly we will have more trouble in the longer run, over both our security assistance program and the presence of troops. Executive Branch witnesses will have difficulty testifying, since they will perforce have to admit that human rights in Korea are systematically violated while justifying substantial amounts of MAP. In FY 1977, we are seeking $275.0M in FMS credit guarantees and $8.3M to deliver equipment under previous year grant aid programs.

(C) To date the public stance of the Administration has been that we are concerned over the human rights situation in Korea and have made the Korean Government well aware of our concern. We have stressed that the continuation of peace on the Peninsula is our major objective and that MAP is above all related to combined U.S.-South Korean efforts to deter North Korean aggression. Our concern with repression in Korea cannot override or diminish our efforts to preserve the peace.

(C) Park knows well our concern and the dilemma we are in. Scores of U.S. Congressmen have told him so this year. But that has not been sufficient to get him to relax a little. Conceivably, it may become necessary for us to lean heavily on the Park regime in order to mollify U.S. Congressional and public criticism and retain support for our Korean posture. Such pressure could be exerted in a variety of ways, and the Park regime is extremely vulnerable in the area of defense. There are obvious dangers going this way. We could decrease the effectiveness of our readiness, invite misinterpretation of our intentions by the North Koreans, and, by increasing Park’s sense of insecurity, cause imposition of even stricter internal controls. We will have to play the situation by ear. Dr. Kissinger is strongly opposed to any “leaning” on Park.

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(C) You may wish to discuss with Dr. Kissinger our Korean problem. Further, you should take into account domestic turbulence here in our relations with the ROK in making future public statements and in determining to what extent you personally wish to become involved in Korean affairs such as the upcoming Security Consultative Meeting. We will be shortly offering you some options on that meeting.

Harry E. Bergold
Acting Assistant Secretary

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–79–0049, Korea, 092, 1976, 1976 March 16. Confidential; Eyes Only. A notation on the memorandum reads, “22 Mar 1976. Sec Def has seen.” For NSSM 235, see Document 23.
  2. Bergold warned that increasing repression by Park’s government was diminishing Congressional support for South Korea.