SHORT-RANGE OUTLOOK IN THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Created: 3/21/1961

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SHORT-RANGE OUTLOOK IN THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

THE PROBLEM

To estimate the likelihoodajor political crisis in the Republic of Korea (ROK) over the next month or so.

CONCLUSION

The April anniversary of the fall of President Rhee will be marked byand. probably, some acts ofin view of present grievances among opposition groups and the public at large, these demonstrations could bedesign ora major political explosion of some kind in the next month or so. However, the odds appear to be against such an explosion, since present grievances are not asor focused as those which gave rise to0 revolution. Nevertheless, the ROK will continue to be plagued byeconomic and political problems, and the long-term outlook for the ROK is bleak.

DISCUSSION

INTRODUCTION

21 will mark the first anniversary of the revolution that felled Syngman Rhee and swept his government and his followers from the political scene. Police terrorism and press censorship have been eliminated, but little real progress has been made in the past year on the basic social and economicwhich conlront the ROK Government and people. Prime Minister Chang Myon has succeeded inum majority in Parliament and some reforms have beenHowever, as the anniversarythere are mounting signs ofand resentment directed at theand. increasingly, at the CS. over the slow pace of reform and progress in South Korea. Public demonstrations, whichsoear ago. have continued to mark the ROK scene, especially in the nerve center of Seoul. Although the tempo ofactivity declined somewhat during the winter, thereossibility that anni versary demonstrations willdesign orconfront the ROKand the USajor crisis in the next month or so. This estimate seeks to assess the chances ofrisis and the conditions which might spark it.

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the possible sources of crisis

a. political weaknesses

the new government has indicated an awareness of basic problems and has taken some steps to cope with them. nevertheless, the seven months of prime minister chang myon's government, formed last autumn, have been expended largely in customary korean politicking, and the government's position is nune too strong. in the0 elections, the ruling democratic party hadfeats in the house ofhowever, the deep divisions within the party showed up almost immediately and ledrolonged struggle for party control. chang was confirmed as prime minister by the house of representatives only after kimellow democrat, had been nominated but rejectedery narrow margin. the faction led by kim finally broke awayformed the new democratic party, and is now the major opposition, with aboutdherents. in the house ofchang's democratic party hasre neededajority) and he can increase the number slightly onissues by scattered support among thendependents in the house. however,schisms exist even within chang's own democratic party, the most significantroupounger men who believe chang's leadership is not sufficientlyor vigorous.

the opposition in parliament is made up of the conservative new democratic party, the independent group,ew members of left-of-center parties. the opposition has en-joyed the full exercise of its constitutional rights of expression and parliamentarythough fragmented and divided, it has been highly vocal and quick to takeof any opportunity to embarrass the government and demand the resignation of individual cabinet members. the opposition in parliament is backedubstantialof the press which has taken advantage of the new freedom from censorship toin generally antigovernment. oftenjournalism. the government has come under increasing criticism from student, labor, veteran, and other groups as well, who feel that the reforms and improvements which should have followed upon rhee's expulsion have been all too slow in coming about.and mass meetings haveharacteristic of korean public life over the past year.

in the past year the communists have increased their efforts to subvert the rok. north korean broadcasts aimed at the south have increased in number and intensity, and there hasreater north korean effort of late to increase the influx of subversive literature and support into the rok, largely by way of japan. some of the presentunrest in the rok is almost certainly attributable to communist efforts. however, we believe that this unrest for the most part would exist without communist instigation.

the national police and security servicesrimary target of the popular revulsion that led to last april's revolution. since that time, purges and reorganizations have gone on repeatedly,erious drop in the capabilities and morale of the police. despite current antiriot training, there is littlethat they could function effectively against organized mass riots of the scalen such circumstances, the army would become the most important element in the maintenance of order. we believe that the government would call on the army in an extreme situation, and that the army would respond to the call but might be reluctant to fire on demonstrators.

public resentment over corrupt practices played an important part in the making of0 revolution. corruption continues toajor problem for the government,by itself it is not likely to causeaction in present circumstances. student groups in particular have continued to lead the outcry against corruption.prime minister chang and thegenerally have thus far escapedattack on this score, petty graft at lower government and military levels and among much of the public is as widespread as ever.

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the exposure ol continuing corruption in the police has caused new public concern over the issue and forced the government to intensify its efforts to stamp it out. solution of the problem will be difficult, especially as long as civil and military pay scales remain at their present low levels.

balance, the chang governmentcertain limited goals but hasany broad degree of publicor support. as the government lnbears responsibility for the absence ofpolitical or economic advances.of increasing nationalist feeling,sought to avoid becoming too closelywith the us. this has beenas the government hasnecessity also of cooperating withon the solution of its economicthe korean public probably doeschangs puppet, lt almostbelieves that, under hisus hasore direct handin the conduct of theaffairs and that the usresponsibility for existing

conomic grievances

the political unrest inis the weak and uncertain state ofpoor in natural resources andfrom the major problems ofby the requirements of one of theestablishments in proportion toin the entire world. although theefforts at economic reformsome long-term benefits, there hasbeen no significant improvementlot of the individual citizen sincetook power last august,problems have become more serious.

annual food shortage, which thenormally experience in april andthe early planting is harvested, hashit many districts. there hasstarvation, but rations in many areassharply reduced. the urbanhas been subjectedeneral risein seoul the wholesale price indexaboutercent in january alone. this rise has slowed somewhat since, but thepublic remains apprehensive overinflationary trends. the situation has already produced strikes, demonstrations, and petitions among the laboring groups. there has been no improvement in the employment situation, and unemployment and seriouscontinue to affect aboutercent of the labor force. this number will soon be swelled by most of this0 college and vocational school graduates. in seeking to fix responsibility, the koreanthrough demonstrations and the press, blames not only the government but also, to an increasing extent, the us. in particular, the upward push of prices is ascribed to us-sponsored measures, namely the recentof exchange rates0 percent increase in utility rates now awaitingby the parliament.

chang government is aware of thecaused by the state of theis making efforts to remedy theimportant government measure is theconstruction service program, apublic works project beingwith the us in an attempt toparticularly in thethe recent increase of usshipments has contributed to anhunger ln the drought-hit districts inchang is hopeful that suchat least tide the government overterm economic reforms begin toalthough these short-termprobably have little practical effect onsituation within the period ofthey may have some beneficialresult.

c. grievances against the us

south koreans have long resentedof the us to conclude anagreement providing for theof us armed forces in korea.public expression on this subjectand controlled. since hispublic interest in such an agreementgreatly. in keeping with the general

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rise of nationalist sentiment. The Koreans hold that whatever reasons excusedtatus of forces agreement in the past, the end of Rhee and the virtualof peacetimelatterin the conclusionS-ROKeconomic aidlonger Justify US reluctance to meet ROK desires on this issue.heunanimouslyesolution urging "the earliest conclusion" of such anand Chang has been urging on the US the Immediate necessity oftep.

controversy developedbilateral economic aid agreement.of the agreement alleged that,the US was "interfering" In thethe government, infringing Koreanand treating South Korea as aIn spite of this charge, thesupportedubstantial majorityNational Assembly. The US and thealso continue to befor being "pro-Japanese."

D. The Unification Issue

Korean unification has nota burning issue, interest In It hasconsiderably over the past year,in partonsequence ofover conditions in the ROK.have been in the forefronte-examination of pastfor new Initiatives to end thethe country. The government Itselfto take the propaganda initiative onfrom North Korea but has putnew action until after the UNof the Korean question this spring.issue will almost certainlyincreasingly serious problem for thethe US.

III. THE PROSPECTSAJOR CRISIS

Combustible materials are present.incident,ombination of accidents could ignite street demonstrations,them into destructive mob actionajor ensu The Communists would, of course, exploit such an event At athere will he considerable noise over the next month or so. Some acts of violence are probableajor explosion of some kind is possible

However, the odds appear to be against such an explosion this spring. Despite the factors present which couldewthe situation in1 is different in many respects from that ofresent frustrations are not as severe as those so long suppressed by Rhee. Moreover,demonstrators may once again take to the streets, there is at present no single, emotion-packed focus for discontentto last year's election frauds and police brutality. Finally, the government is alert to the danger and has publicized itsfor coping with disturbances.

In any event, South Korea's fundamental problems will continue to plague any ROK leadership. Faced with an Impoverisheddrained by defense costs, andby inexperience in self-government. South Korea will remain heavily dependent on outside economic and military assistance for the foreseeable future. There will, moreover, be Increasing political pressures arising out of growing nationalist spirit and incipientsentiment. In short. South Korea is basically so weak economically and unsteady politically that Internal crisis or threat of crisis will be the norm, not tho exception, over the years ahead.

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