SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS IN SOUTH KOREA

Created: 5/31/1961

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SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS IN SOUTH KOREA

THE PROBLEM

To assess the significance of the military coup d'etat ln the Republic of Koreand to estimate probable trends ove: the next few months.

CONCLUSIONS

believe that the present coup group dominated by Major General Pak Chong-hui will retain the principal elements of power in South Korea over the next few months at least, whether or not nominal civilian rule Is re-established. (Faros.

The coup group will probablyew sense of drive and discipline into the ROK Government's economic andefforts, and may make some headway, especially in curbingHowever, in view of the magnitude of the problems the new leaders areand are themselves creating, we believe they will not make much progress, and. because of their inexperiencerobable reluctance to accept outsidemay make matters even worse

I Para. IS)

coup group is composed ofelements and interests. Unlesshis colleagues can generate anda greater unity than appearspolitics will probably follow aof constant factionalperiodic shifts in power within the ruling military group.

4 South Korea's coup leadersew and different breed from the civilian and the more senior military people with whom the US has had most contact. Their authoritarian and nationalistic stamp suggests that they will be lessto US guidance. Furthermore, they will be tough, determined, andto deal with. They will probablySouth Korea's alignment with the US. recognizing their country'son the US. but at the same time will seek to assert South Koreasin military, economic, and political affairs. ROK-UN military commandwill probablyource of continuing difficulty )

he declared position of the regime is anti-Communist, and available evidence does not support allegations of Pale'sties with the Communists.we cannot rule out the possibility that heong-term Communist agent, or that he might redefect. Also,ends in South Korea could be ad-

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in the event of student anduprisings against repressivemeasures and probableeconomic conditions.

he coup leaders have beenwith internal matters and have not yet given clear definition of their intended foreign policies.

DISCUSSION

INTRODUCTION

Sinceew dissident army officers, led by Major General Pak Chong-hui, have established their control over the Republic of Korea and have moved rapidly and effectively to consolidate that control. They have placed under arrest or detention former PrimeChang Myon and the members of hisumber of high ranking military officers and political leaders,ivilians They have forced the cabinet's resignation, dissolved the legislature, banned political parties, andrigid censorship. Full executivehave been taken over by the coupman "Supreme Council for Nationalwhich supervises the activitiesew cabinet composed of military officers. President Yun Po-sun has been forced toIn office as the only link with theconstitutional structure. In seizing power, the coup group ignored the UNand US counsel, and has sincetoenerally tough line with US officials.

The coup took placeackground of ROK inexperience In self-government, after years of stultifying authoritarian rule by the Japanese and then Rhee. and of reaction against the lack of direction, purpose, and governmental force which has characterised ROK political life sincemall,and well-organized minority was able quickly to immobilize all effective opposition by bringing decisive power to bear on the nerve centers of the state. The Primeabandoned his responsibilities and hid in fear of his life: the President ofolitical enemy of the Primeand welcomed almost any development which might hasten the latter's fall. The Chief of Staff of the ROK Army equivocated; other commanding officers In strategicwere unwilling to provoke bloodshed within the military. The public felt so little enthusiasm for the government that itpassive and made no effort to save the representative government It had wonear before in the revolt against Rhee.

II. THE COUP GROUP

moving spirit of the coup appears toGeneral Pak Chong-hui, mostDeputy Commander. Second ROKby court martial9 foractivities. Pak was dismissed fromHe was reinstated0 at thethe Korean War and has since had acareer.eputationand honesty, he has beenagitator against corruption andin the top army commandthe civil government. He hasplotting the coup during much ofyear. We have little firm informationpresent political views or closeand it Is difficult at this time torole personal ambition may havehis designs.

Col. Kim Chong-p'U, Pak'sappears to be Pak's principal adviserbe In charge of Intelligence andactivities and of measures tocoup group's control. Kim has beenthe most Important of the group ofofficers who have long agitatedwithin the army, and whoto constitute the extremist elementcoup group. There isumbersenior officers who, though not active

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participants in the coup, have since joined its ranks and now compose much of the Supreme Council and the cabinet. These men appear loore moderute element. Of these men, Lt Gen. Chang To-yong, Army Chief of StafT. is the nominal head ofOther moderates include Kim Hong-il, current Foreign Minister, and BrigadierKim Yun-kun. commander of the marine unit which spearheaded the seizure of Seoul. Pak himself cannot yet be Identified clearly in one or the other group.

The coup group's official rationale is that drastic action was required to correct theand corruption of the civil government in the face of the ROK's desperate need for economic rehabilitation and cleanThe group was also motivated bythat its members were not receiving proper treatment from lop commanders, and that the militaryhole was beingby political interference from the civil government The coup group displayedunity, care in planning, security/ and skillful execution not usually associated with Korea.

We believe that an intense sense ofand independence also motivates the coup group Their behavior to datethat their views concerning the manner in which Korea should be governed, the role of civil authority, and the nature of US-Korean relations are very different from those of the ROK officials and senior officers with whom the US has previously had most contact. Their self-confidence and their willingness to bypass or Ignore US officials Indicate that they are determined to govern Southheir own style.

III. PROBLEMS ANO PROSPECTS

coup has probably endedgovernment in South Korea for thefuture, and civil authority over the

Pak's coup plolUnj wa* known lo the Korean and US Governments in late April. Tbe actual limine ol ihe coop, however, wu cucceaslullr concealed even frwn ROK Armyurcoer of ker ROK oBlclals did not lakethe coopiliLary will probably not soon beEvenf civilianIs set up, military authority willcontinue lo dominate.

U We believe that the coup group willthe principal elements of power in South Korea over the next few months at least, and that Pak will probably continue to be the dominant figure. This group's unity will probably decline, however, as it faces theproblems of state and an almost certain continuance of the factionalism which has characterized ROK political and military life Thus, unless Pak and his colleagues can generate andreater unity thanlikely. ROK politics will probablyattern of constant factional maneuvering and periodic shifts in power within the ruling military group.

aving virtually destroyed ROKand parliamentary rule, the coup group will have to depend for survival on its own unity and success in achieving its stated objectives While there wtll be feweron the actions which the ruling group can take, the destruction of constitutionalism will at the same time remove restraints on would-be plotters against the ruling group. Political considerations are likely to distract the military from Its primary mission ofthe country against the Communists and to reduce the professional level of the military establishment in general. Theinstability in South Korea may court revolutionary protest from the urbangroups and the poverty-ridden masses.

he coup leaders will probablyew sense of drive and discipline into the ROK Government's economic and administrative efforts. They may make some headway In these endeavors, especially towards stamping outevertheless. South Korea's continuing basic economic weaknesses are enormous: the lack of natural resources.

General Pak and hi* colleagues havetheir capability to take the kind or rulruen and forceful measarei which would be Decenary lo achievend theauelvn haw good reputauoni on thisnotable exception being Oeneral Chanf To-yong. (rontman lor the coup.

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skills, capital, and significant industrialand the corruption whichthe national life. Moreover, the coup was essentially an act of protest, and the new leaders appear to have come to power with neither clear administrative or economic plans nor the skills necessary to deal with theand economic problems they face. No firm conclusions can as yet be drawn as to the degree of overall economic andsuccess the new leaders will achieve Much of their effort thus far has beento consolidating their seizure of power, and their degree of success will depend in part on the extent of foreign aid and technical assistance they receive and the expertthey accept. On balance,iew of the magnitude of the problems the new leaders are inheriting and are themselves creating, we believe they will not make much progress, and. because of their Inexperiencerobable reluctance to accept outside advice, may make matters even worse.

The present coup leaders are unlikely to show the same confidence In the US as the previous ROK Government However. Pak and his colleagues are fully aware of South Korea's military and economic dependence upon the US, and once they feel theirsecured, will probably take moves tothe US. Nevertheless, the new regime will be tough, determined, and difficult to deal with, and its authoritarian and nationalistic stamp suggests that it will not be readilyto US guidance, and will seek toSouth Korea's independence in military, economic, and political affairs.

Moreover. Pak himself probablyumber of grievances against thend

'For example:last July's saltation forwholesale removal of allegedly corrupt or Inefficient senior officers, on Uie part ol many of the neld grade officers of Pak's present group, was resisted by General Mag-ruderhreat to tbe ROK Army's combat<bt Pak apparently believes thai General Magroders Influence was twice brought to bear within top ROK Armyto effect Pak's transfer of duty from the ROKA LonlMIc Command Innd fromn: and <c> Pak has reacted adversely to US statements of support of the Chang Hyon government when the coup occurred unless he gains sufficient confidence In US sympathy and support, will probably regard the US as hostile and will remainPak probably does not intend to push the US to the point of risking continued US support or of provoking domestic opposition among the many strongly pro-US ROKand officers. However, he and his group probably consider that South Korea'simportance to the US is so great that they can be strong-willed and demanding in their relations with the US without undue risk of extreme US retaliation.

UN Command authority over the Korean armed forces hasrucial point ofbetween the US general who is Commander-in-Chief, UN Command, and the coup group which ignored his authority. An agreement has been reached which restores in considerable degree the UN Command'sIt is unlikely, however, that theof this authority will be complete, or that subsequent disputes and difficulties will be avoided.

Interpretation of authority andcould become confused, and US ROK frictions increased, if members of the coup regime exercise both military command and government functions. The coup regime may be expected to insist on prompt concluilonull Status of Forcesthe US had already agreed towill be more Intractable than the previousTo cope with US pressure the coup regime may make use of threats to move in the direction of neutralism.

Available evidence does not supportof Pak's continuing ties with the Coramunists. This question cannot bewith finality, however, and we cannot rule out the possibility that heong-term Communist agent who might, in time, seek to maneuver the ROK into some type of Korean unification which would benefit thecause. Similarly, we cannot exclude the possibility that, even though no longer ahe might redefect and take somein desperation over the course of events in South Korea, designed to ingratiateonce again with the Communists. Even

if he is firmly anil -Communist, his rule could become so oppressive, amid probableeconomic conditions, that students.and various opposition groups might take to the streets against the regime Many might become more susceptible toovertures Lastly, the radical younger cmcers in the coup group might come to see unificationanacea for South Korea's seemingly incurable ills and proceed withschemes of union with the North.

he coup leaders have been preoccupied with internal matters and have not yet given clear definition of their intended foreignThe regime professes to be strongly anti-

Communist, and none of its statements to date give evidence of Interest in accommodation with North Korea. The regime's postureJapan has not yet been clarified. On the one hand, most of the senior leaders of the coup received military and university training in Japan and do not appear to be strongly anU-Japanese. On the other hand, younger coup elements have professed strongly anti-Japanese sentiments. Even if the regime proves willing to move toward settlingissues with Japan, the Japanese Government may itself face increasingpolitical opposition in dealing with aROK regime

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