THE POLITICAL OUTLOOK IN SOUTH KOREA

Created: 10/26/1972

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THIS ESTIMATE IS SUBMITTED by THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AND CONCURRED IN BY THE UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD.

The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation ai the) animate:

The Control Intelligence Agency ond iheoroonizoliom ol the Deport ond Defense, lha Treasury, and the NSA.

Concurring;

The Deputy Director ot Central

Tha Director ot Intelligence ond Besearch. Oeporlmanl of Srale

The Director. Defense Intelligence Agency

Tha Director. Notional Security Agency

Special AssUtant to the Secretory o( Ihe Treasury

The Director. Division ol International Security Affairs,Energy Commiuton Abstaining;

The Assistant Director, federal lunrau ot Invetrkjcrlion. the sobfect being outside of hb juriecfttton.

NG

Thii material contains infotmalion affectingof the United Statet within the meaning of tho espionage Vows, THIo IB,, theor revelation of which In any manner to an unauthoriied perrotvil prohibited'

COME NTS

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DISCUSSION 2

I, THE CHANGED POLITICAL SITUATION 2

Pale's Recent 2

Pale's Motives *

II. THE POLITICAL OUTLOOK IN SOUTH KOREA13

Short-Terai Consequences13

The Longer Term Outlook17

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s

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

2

SUBJECT: : THE POLITICAL OUTLOOK IN SOUTH KOREA

NOTR

This special estimate assesses the outlook for political stability in South Korea in light of President Pak's decision to restructure the ROK Government along more authoritarian lines andn effectperpetuate himself in office. Related foreign policy implications and certain contingencies are also discussed.

The prospect for South Korean stability over the next year or so is presented in paragraphshile the longer term is assessed in paragraphshe earlier portion of the text isupporting analysis of Pak's motivations.

THE ESTIMATE

I. THE CHANGED POLITICAL SITUATION Pak's Recent Move

ctoberith one-day prior notification to the USPresident Pak Chong-hul declared martial law throughout Southsuspended the application of certain key provisions of the the National Assembly was dissolved and all(and other political activity) suspended; legislativefunctions were assumed by an "Extraordinary Statethe present Cabinet, or State Council). This body,to Pak's public statement, would announce draft amendments to

the constitution byctober, and submit them to national referendum no later thanovember. Public approval of the amendments would be followedeturn to civil government in DecemberInwith the procedure set forth in the constitution as amended."

information makeslear that Pak intendschangeshe political ground rules than might behis public statement. Perhaps most significant, the contemplated

constitutional amendments would substitute indirect election of the president for the system of popular election under which Pak won successive terms The new electoral body would consist of several thousand members, handplcked by thestaff. The presidential term, moreover, would be extended to six yearswith no limitation on the number of terms. (Under the present constitution, amended9 to permit Pak to runhird term, he would have had to step down)

The National Assembly (where Pak's Democratic Republican Party [DRP] has alwaysajority) would become, atebating society. Its membership would be expanded and heavily diluted by presidential appointees. It could be dissolved by the president at any time for any reason. It would lose all powers of executive Whatever responsibilities remained to the Assembly would be shared with certain new governmental organs directly controlled by the president. Political parties and activities would come undersupervision.

At the same time, the constitutional powers of the presidency would be vastly expanded. Important issues could be referred by the president to national referendum, bypassing the Assembly. He would

also gain increased control of the judiciary, which would lose major functions. Finally, the president would be permitted to set aside remain ing constitutional restraints and exert virtually unlimited powers whenever he deemed it necessary. The proposed amendments would also qual many individual rights recognizedhe present constitution.

short,year-old Pak has decided to restructure

the ROK Government along clearly authoritarian lines andin effect

perpetuate himself In office. Pak's pattern of behavior is hardly unique among leaders of underdeveloped states; in East Asia, the pattern has become almost universal in recent years. What is somewhat puzzling in Pak's case is that he has chosen to make this moveime when his control of the country seemed assured, for several years at least; when its economy, if not trouble-free, seemed to be progressing well; and when its positionis

Its Northern rival seemed to be growing stronger. And to acthe face of predictable displeasure from his most Important foreign backer

US.

Pak's Motives

his public declaration onctober, Pak offeredjustifications for his actions: the changing ando him

at leastncreasingly uncertain political environment in East Asia; and the domestic requirements of Seoul's growing dialogue with Pyongyang. In our view, Pak is not wholly Insincere 1nthis rationale, though there are at least two other motives of fundamental significance which he has not chosen to advertise. By far, the more important of these is Pak's deep-seated mistrust of representative forms of government and his pronounced authoritarian bent. The other is Ms belief that, at this point, ROK relations with the US need not be seriously Impaired by his action.

7. Hew Uncertainties in Bast Aeia. In Pak's view, events of recent years have made increasingly uncertain the degree to which South Korea can rely on US support for its security and other interests. Like most antlcommunist leaders in East Asia, Pak had come to accept the probabilityubstantial reduction in the US military presence in the region, though strongly of the belief that South Korea ought to be an exception becauseas he and other South Koreans saw itthe presence of US ground troops on South Korean soil constituted an essential element in the deterrence of North Korean aggression. He accepted the US force reductions0 in South Korea, though exacting certain assurances concerningS troops and securing promises of substantial US assistance for the modernization of his cwn forces. Nonetheless, Pak and his lieutenants

remained concerned over the longer tern validity of the US commitment to South Korea. They noted continuing political and economic pressures in the US for additional drawdowns overseas, and South Korea itself suffered deep Congressional cuts in anticipated US military assistance programs.

Korean concerns were Intensified by thethe US and China which surfaced Pak tendedthe developmentiewpoint more like that of TaipeiWashington. As leaderivided nation, persistently suspiciousIntentions and heavily dependent on continued 'JS support,

Pak could not view with equanimity great-power dealings in which the Interests of snail states like South Korea might be subordinated to the pursuithowever laudableeneralized reduction in regional tensions.

recent Tanaka visit to Peking and the generallyof Slno-Japanese rapprochementecent months has providedmajor source of concern for the South Korean leadership.probably sees it, not only has Tanaka further diminishedthat Japan night back the South Koreans in someway in the eventew crisis on the peninsula, he has made

more dubious the utility to South Korea of the American base structure in Japan and Okinawa in such situations. Contingencies of

this sort may be remotehe new atmosphere of detente in East Asia, but Pak's state of mind may not be too distant from his words in the public statement ofctober"No one can guarantee that there will neveresumption of war in the area."

North-South Halogue. The North-South talks areof many considerations. The North, having failed to makedent In the South's political armoryearvarying forms of hostility, may have adopted its currentwant of any real alternative. Pyongyang may also be encouragedthat as US security policyast Asia evolves, thewill offer the best hope ofomplete US militarySouth Koreand from Japan/Okinawa as well. The North isto improve its reputation abroad, as one way ofparity with the South and terminating UN involvement in

Korean affairs. Finally, Pyongyang seems to have acceptedt least temporarilyPeking's argumentsavor of moderation at this transitional stage in global politics.

there Is another side to this "moderation" coin,Korean leaders tend to focus on it. In the eyes of men like

SETERET

President Pak, Pyongyang's current tactics are designed essentially to exploit the new atmosphere of detente in East Asia to probe for soft spots in the ROK body politic and to weaken Southern resistance to potentially harmful communist "unification" schemes.

Why then has the Pak government moved into this dialogue with the North? There seem to be three main reasons. Domestically, the governmenteed to satisfy growing popular sentiment for demonstrable progressenewing contacts with the rest of the Korean nation. Second, at top policy levels in Seoul, there isof the strength of American sentiment for ROK cooperation In movingeduction of tensions in Northeast Asia. Finally, and perhaps of greatest Importance in the long run, Seoul has come to see advantageirect Ifne of communication with Pyongyang, as one way of forestalling any great-power effort to dictate Korea's future.

This last point was emphasizedhe2 Estimate onut at that time, there was relatively little evidence on which to base much additional speculation along these lines. As the North-South talks have progressed, however. It has become possible to theorize that the Pak government has come to see positive benefit in

* Tne TooECRET; see especially Section IKorea and the Powers.

SE&RET

responding to Pyongyang's persistent pressures for formal "political" talks. Indeed, ft is even possible to speculate that the existing North-South "Coordinating Committee" is about to advance fairly boldly into this realmnot in pursuit of unification certainly, but perhaps toward agreements protective of Korean interestsis the powers.

"evidence" for this constructore interesting Pyongyang's relatively modest propagandactober declaration may indicate that it reads his actionthe stageotentially critical step in the talksthis winter. (Itnown that Pyongyang received atotification of Pak's move.) Bilateral contacts atbeen frequent in recent weeks, and it appears, to us atmore Is going on than has been revealed by our sources in If, indeed, the ROK Government is ready for political talksNorth, Pak's move is more easily explained. Itajor effort

to tighten the reins at home to deny openings for ccflinunlst-insplred mischief while permitting maximum flexibility to Pak's negotiators.

evenhe above "construct" is incorrect, and Pakmove slowlyealings with the North, his movenderstandablecontext of long-standing misgivings in Seoul about any sort of

dialogue with the communists. As they contrast the relatively permissive political environment at home with what they know of the tightly controlled situation in North Korea, ROK leaders have tended to perceive an imbalance requiring some sort of remedy. Pak's prescription, until last week, was to tighten control while remaining within the existing constitutional framework. Now, he has evidently decided to discard virtually all pretense of maintaining representative forms and civil liberties.

It has been evident, too, that those on Pak's staff most directly involved in North-South dealings have been concerned over the possibilityreakdownhe Red Cross and Coordinating Committee talks, with the North placing the blame on Seoul. They were dismayed by Pyongyang's reversion to propaganda invective against Pak in early October, and tend to attributeargely to the government's failure to orchestrate an acceptable South Korean response to the first North Korean delegation to visit Seoul. With tighter control at home, ROK leaders probably feel they can cope with such problems.

other Fundamental Motives. Pak's action could not have been very surprising to those who have followed his career since the ROK military seized power From the outset, Pak exhibited the most profound metruat of civilian politicians, whose intramural squabbling and ineffectual administration hadn the junta's view

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led South Koreahaotic state easily exploitable by the communist North. Initially, Pak spokeecade or more of military rule to strengthen South Korea politically, socially, and econanically before turning it backew generation of leadersoral, disciplined, and untainted by past mistakes. In the view of some observers, his philosophy of government at that time could best be termedn the early Kuomintang model. Only heavy US pressuresaused him to move toward democratic forms.

has never been comfortable with the trappingsgovernment despite an ability to maintain himselfto this day. He has resented the limitations on executivethe necessity of contributing to the corruption all around himensure periodic re-election. Indeed, the prospect of yetof manipulation toourth term5 mayis decision to abandon the present political system.

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The National Assembly hasarticularly severe headache for him; and he has detested the uncertainties inherent in dealing withody. Open dissent in the press and among students has been an additional thorn in his side.

coped with these frustrationselativelythrough. He was restrained mainly by concern over US

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reactions, but also because South Korea seemed to be making genuine progress and he seemed to be getting much of the credit for it. There is reason to believe, however, that Pak had come to feel that his relations with the US would not be seriously impairedove toward greater authoritarianism.

20. The anticipated structural changes in the ROK Government have been explored by Pak's staff forear (since it became apparent that North-South talksome form were likely tot first, planning was focussed on yet another constitutional amendment toourthor Pak. 8ut rising frustrations with the politicians and students apparently led to more ambitious thinking. ROK officials conferred on the subject with Indonesian leaders among others, perhaps intrigued by Suharto's success indisparate political tendencies among civilians and his army's apparent ability to administer national affairs. Pak had also observed the subdued US reactions1 to authoritarian trendsin South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand; and, most recently, the apparent American acceptance of Marcos' actions in the Philippines. Closer to home, he probably felt that he had not met with much US displeasure when he issued his "state of emergency" declaration in*

* In terms of third-country relationships, having just emerged from the Vli debate cm Korea in good style, Pak had little concern over any immediate adverse reaction internationally.

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II. THE POLITICAL OUTLOOK IN SOUTH KOREA Short-Term Consequences

21. Whatever Pak's motives. South Korealmost certainly embarked on the road to more authoritarian government: to putn stark termsne-man rule, rubber-stamp assemblies, controlled press,

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and repression of all dissent. Can Pak bring it off? Can he maintain control for the foreseeable future, say the next year or so? Itrobable, In our view, that Pak can indeed arrange these matters to suit himself over the next few months, and keep the lid on without too much trouble for some time thereafter.

22. Reporting sincectober, though far from complete, indicates that Pak's announcement has evoked little or no overtly hostile response among South Koreans. The prevailing public reaction

seems toompound of acceptance of Pak's premisehat the North-South dialogue requires new domestic politicaleeling of impotencepposing his will. The college students have so far been quiet; most have been sent home and their schools closed, at least temporarily. Opposition Assemblymen have also been urged to stay at home; many are under close surveillance. The media

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have been made subject to prior censorship; (though Pyongyang Radio offered its own unfavorable view of eventshus helping Pak'sak's prime political critic, the opposition presidential candidates in Tokyo and has (wisely) decided to remain there. There have not been many arrests, however, nor has the ROK military felt compelled to do more than show the flag around Seoul.*

23. In sum, Pak and his ruling clique are reaping the reward of their diligence over the past year or more. Most important, the military leadership has been concentrated in the hands of men loyal to Pak and uninterested in political abstractions. The vast majority of politicians, even the DRP leadership, have long since been cowed or reduced to dependence on government handouts. Intellectuals and the press appear similarly resigned, though some will probably try to express their opposition to Pakimited circles as opportunities arise. A few may eventually be able to join in vocal dissent from overseas locations. In Japan or the US. Educators, concerned about their jobs, will probably avoid open comment. All these traditional

It should be noted, of course, that the full dimension of Pak's plan has not yet been made public in South Korea. But it ie evident from foreign news dispatchesreat deal of information has been leakedroad epeatrum of ROK politioans and reporters over the past few days, and the urban elaeoeo at least have probably gotten the message by this time.

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sectors of dissent have been the object of intensive surveillance and pressure by governmental Intelligence organs for years. Even among the general population, since the "emergency declaration" ofhere haseightened consciousness of surveillance by the pervasive security agencies and concomitant restraint in expressing political opinions.

of course, remains inherently unpredictabledecision to close down the colleges. While the schoolsreopened one by oneccordance with the security situation

on each campus, student groups will almost certainly be monitored even more closely than before for evidences of dissent. The government has been determined, particularly since the student demonstrationsear ago, to suppress all such efforts; at that time, campuses throughout Seoul were physically occupied by the military.

should not, of course, underestimate the adverseto develop beneath the surface in South Korea. Almostercent

of the votes cast1 were against Pak, and itenerally acknowledged

that of those who did vote for him, there were many who took at face value

his explicit renunciation of political ambitions Moreover, there will Inevitably be some disappointment in Seoul among political leaders likely to lose status under the new setup. In certain circumstances, therefore, an anti-Pak movement might find both leadershipide following. It's difficult at this point, however, to Identify Individuals who might be willing to challenge Pak at any time soon.

key,he short run, will remain the armyand well-equipped. In general, the army hasthrough all his trials with civilian opponents for over athan ever. Its leadership seems corirltted to him. Below thiswe cannot discover signs of active dissidence. Only inwhere troops are faced with the necessity ofnass dissent (asould weossibility

of military defection from Pak's camp. And it seems to be the job of an impressive number of security agencies to see that such circumstances do not arise.

his part, Pak will wish to proceedanner thatexcite popular resentments or crystallize the Issues toorelatively "light hand" has been one of his real strengthspast. He has been willing, it seems, to avoid harassment of the

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average citizen, and the imposition of police-state methods on the general population. Moreover, so long as Pak is able to combineand order with continuing economicost South Koreans will probably continue to give him the benefit of the doubtssessing his administration and his motives.

The Longer Term Outlook

28. Beyond the next year or so, the outlook is necessarily unclear. Pak may grow Increasingly unpopular, no matter how well the country does, as South Koreans grow bored with his monopolization of power and rule by crony. For many, educated and middle-classutlook, the political give-and-take of, with Itsfor choice and change, may come to appear highly desirable.

The Korean economic boom haa been baaed on foreignlargely us and Japaneseinvestment, and expanding exports. Whether it can be sustained will depend on whether investors perceive the new government as capricious and unreliable, or as stable and predictable. At least in the short run, they are likely toait-and-see attitude that could in iteelf affect economic growth and result in batance-of-paymento stringencies. But Pak's record over the years testifies to hie concern with the importanoe of economic performance, and especially foreign investment. Indeed, he hoe already made an effort to reassure foreign inveetore.

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Indeed, Pak may beerious mistake if he intends toraditionalist order based on an idealized view of Korean societyation whose leaders and technicians have come to see modern Japan as their model.

foreign policy and related interests would also seem to

be poorly served by Pak's new authoritarianism. In certain circumstances, he may findore difficult than before to secure substantial US military and economic assistance. If so, there could be some adverse feedback into the domestic situationesult of discontent among deprived generals and technocrats. Japanese investors, in turn, might become hesitant to put new funds into South Korea if theyanger of internal Instability. Beyond this,s conceivable that Japanese public opinion might turn against South Korea and contributeess favorable atmosphere in official ROK-Japanese relations.

of tfils, of course, is speculation. At thefor continued political stabilityouth Korea, even beyondyear or so, seem good. Any doubts at this stage must center onof problems: those Inherent in turning the political clock back in

a relatively advanced and seemingly dynamic society; and those related to Pak's problemsreal and potentialith the US and Japan.

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Contingency

almost certainly made his recent moves on thethe US would accept them without serious adverse reaction. He

no doubt anticipated official US disappointment, but must have estimated that American displeasure would not seriously jeopardize the US commitment to the ROK or involve such actions as accelerating the reduction of US troop strength, or slowing down or terminating the program of modernization of ROK armed forces.

this calculation should prove wrong, if the US shouldserious moves, Pak would face more difficult problems thanoth In external affairs and at home. On the external side,of the US commitment, presumably accompaniedeneralROK-US relations, would no doubt raise Pyongyang's hopes in variousespecially if US actions Includedrawdown of US forces andof support for ROK military modernization. (Such USalso create some apprehension In Japan about the future US presence

ast Asia generally; and, specifically, that trouble on the Korean Peninsula might present Japan with awkward questions if not actual threats.)

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Domestically, this kind of adverse US reactionspecially if accompanied by crowing or threats from the horthould create misgivings about Pakeader and the soundness of his course. Even some of his present supporters would probably share these feelings and, of course, his opponents would become even more desirous of seeing him out. Whether these reactions would combine to bring him down would depend on many variables, but the chances of trouble for him would increase.

In any event, it seems doubtful thatS course wouldositive result in Korea. While Pak might make minor adjustments in an effort to assuage US sensibilities and to salvage minimum USthere would be little chance that he would abandon the main elements of the constitutional amendments. If Pak stood fast and was eventually brought down, the very process might, by Itself,rave crisis in Korea.

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