Korea surrounded by Big Powers

1. Koreans and Mohicans

written (1992.11.30), converted to webpage (2019.2.11) Mohicans

Koreans and Mohicans

Y.S.Kim (1992.11.30), rewritten (2019.2.5)

This article is about the 1992 film entitled The last of the Mohicans. The story is about the tribe of native Americans (American Indians) squeezed between the French and British forces in the 1750s to control the North American Continent. The title tells this tribe disappears due to this conflict.

I watched the film with the same title in July of 1946 at Koreas's oldest movie house called Dansungsa in Seoul. This old version was produced in 1936, and was imported by Japanese. Since the movie language was English, Japanese had to provide titles vertically written on the right side of the screen. It was very strange for me to see so many American Indians in this movie, and I was too young to see what this movie meant to Koreans.

After watching the 1992 version, I learned that Koreans used to be and may still be the Mohicans. The Mohicans had their own tribe with their own proud history in the eastern part of the north American continent. However, squeezed by the French and English conquers during the 18th century, the tribe got wiped out.

Here is the "Mohican show" staged in the Korean peninsula during the period 1945-50.

  • Do you know how Korea was divided in 1945 along the 38th parallel? Click here for a detailed story.

    On March 5, 1946, North Korean authorities carried out their land reform which eliminated all landlords, and created new one. The name of this new landlord was clearly printed on this Pyongyang newspaper.

  • On May 1, 1946, I watched the first Mayday celebration in the Korean peninsula in the North twelve days before crossing the 38th parallel to the South. Koreans in the North did not understand the meaning of this noisy political holiday of foreign origin.

    Most of the Korean workers were farmers with cozy relations with their landlords for generations. They could not understand the meaning of this Mayday for factory workers. There were virtually no factories in Korea.

    They thought it was a celebration of (Japanese) Emperor Showa's birthday (April 29), because they were so used to this holiday called Dentsio Setz" during the Japanese colonial rule.

    To make things worse, those immature communists in the North borrowed the tune of a Japanese military song entitled

    for their Mayday song. In Korean, the song was saying "Wake up! All the laborers (factory workers). Let us get liberated from the slave status, and so on." These words did not make much sense to Korean farmers who never heard of industrial factories.

    As for the tune of the Japanese song Hohen-ho Honryo, it seems to have an appeal to Koreans. It used be a favorite tune among Park Chung-Hee and his group of ex-Japanese officers. This song seems to be still popular among young Japanese.

    The organizer of this anti-Trusty demonstration (1947.3.1) was a college student named Yi Cheol Seung, supported by Kim Koo.

    The Arisaka-38 rifle was introduced to the Japanese army in 1905, and it was replaced by the Arisaka-99 as the main infantry rifle. They were essentially the same machine except their calibers. They are known to Koreans as Sampal-Shik and Goo-Goo Shik respectively.

    During the period 1941-45, the Arisaka-38 was used primarily for training purposes.

  • On March 1, 1947, I had to run for cover when the communists in Seoul started shooting at the crowd demonstrating against the Shintak Tongchi and demanding immediate independence (perhaps I was the youngest member of this group). The communists were shooting from their party headquarters near Namdaemoon with their Arisaks Type-99 Japanese (called 99-shik in Korean) infantry rifles.

    1. The question is how the communists obtain those combat-capable weapons in Seoul. Here is my explanation.

    2. During the war period of 1937-45, Japanese authorities gave rigorous military trainings to all male high school students in Korea like this. Every student had his own Arisaka-38 (38-shik) rifle.

    3. Kyungbok High School, along with Kyunggi, was one of the two elite high schools in Seoul before 1945. While the infantry rifles given to students were dis-functional with broken firing pins, this high school was given 150 combat-capable Arisaka-99 (99-shik) rifles for target practices (real shooting).

      One night in 1945, those 150 rifles disappeared from the school arsenal. This incident was not reported in the news media controlled by Japanese authorities, nor was mentioned by Koreans after the liberation. Thus, we can conclude that those rifles were stolen by the Korean communist organization controlled by Park Hun-Young.

    4. I heard this story from a Korean medical doctor who attended his Kyungbok High School during those years. In addition, this incident is briefly mentioned in the history of Kyungbok, but no mention was given about who took those rifles.

      Unlike Kyunggi where all the teachers, except some gymnasium teachers, were Japanese, there were a numbers of Korean teachers at Kyungbok. Most of those Korean teachers were anti-Japanese nationalists (including some communists).

  • On August 15, 1948, General Douglas MacArthur visited Seoul to participate in the ceremony marking the beginning of the Republic of Korea. While the ceremony was going on, the Korean army and navy units lined up on the street from Namdaemoon to Yongsan waiting for the military parade. This was their first occasion to present themselves as the armed forces of an independent nation.

    MacArthur with President Rhee on August 15, 1948. They were at the ceremony marking the inauguration of the government of the Republic of Korea.

    1. During this time, the American MPs (military police) were in charge of MacArthur's safety, and they thought the Korean units on the streets might block MacArthur's motorcade to the airport. The MPs could have asked the Korean commanders for cooperation, but they did not. Instead, they were pushing the soldiers as if they were handling a riot-crowd before the eyes of thousands of Korean citizens. Those spectators were very sad to see their army so humiliated, but they were helpless. I was one of those who watched this ugly scene. This incident was not reported in the newspaper.

    2. I also watched General MacArthur passing by. Unlike those MPs, he was showing a very kind face to the Korean troops who were showing their respect to him by lifting up their US-made M1 rifles in a highly disciplined manner (Japanese influence).

    3. MacArthur died in April of 1964. Americans loved him and respected him. They really felt sorry about the way in which he was dismissed from the army. For this reason, his body was laid at the rotunda of the Capitol (U.S. congress building in Washington) for two days (honor given only to their ex-presidents).

      Many Americans had to wait in a long line to pass by his body. I was also in this line, and had a glimpse of his body. He was not wearing his sun glasses, nor his military uniform without necktie. He was in a black suit (sebiro) with a necktie. His hair became all white. His nose was sill very high.

    M1 Garand for the South and
    Mosin-Nagant for the North.
    It was totelly useless to talk about which rifle is superior against Soviet-built T34 tanks.

    Gen. Chang Do-Young became the army chief of staff in 1960. In 1961, he had to weather Park Chung-Hee's 5.16 military revolt. In 1950, he was the chief intelligence officer at the Ministry of Defense.

  • On Sunday, June 26, 1949, Mr. Kim Koo was assassinated by an artillery officer of the Korean Army. We are still debating about who was behind the plot, but it is quite clear that he had to face this tragic fate because he did not have any backings from foreign powers.

    He was bitterly against two separate governments in Korea, one in Seoul supported by the United States and the other in Pyongyang supported by the Soviet Union.

  • On Sunday, June 21, 1950 (three weeks before the 6.25 day), I accompanied my father who as one of the high-ranking officers at the Ministry of Defense who went to Dong-Doo-Chun at the 38th Parallel directly north of Seoul. These officers went there to see what the front-line soldiers need to fight against a possible invasion from the North. The head of this inspection team was Col. Chang Do-Young, who was the chief intelligence officer at that time. Among the conversations the inspectors had with the field commanders, I recall the following two questions.

    1. What do they need most at the front line? The answer was that they need more ammunitions for their M1 rifles. They did not have enough ammo to last more than a few hours in the real combat.

    2. What is happening on the north side of the border? The answer was that not much is going on. Very quiet. Then one of the field officers said "They are building a road toward us." Col. Chang asked "what for?" The field officer said "I do not know sir." That was the end of the conversation. Battle tanks were far beyond their imagination.

    In 1960, Chang Do-Young became the army chief, and had to go through Park Chung-Hee's military revolt. In 1962, he came to the United States for his graduate study at the University of Michigan. I met him three times to talk about things. He knew that he headed the inspection tour of June 21 (1950), but he could not recollect the above-mentioned conversations he had at that time.

    This tells how hopeless the Korean army was. They knew that they were equipped the U.S.-made M1 rifles far superior to the Mosin-Nagant rifles which Russians designed in 1891. However, they did not know their superior M1 rifles were useless without ammos. Furthermore, they those were totally useless against tanks.

    Soviet-built North Korean T-34 tanks crossed the 38th parallel on June 25. They were roaming around in Seoul on June 29.

  • Then June 25, 1950. You know the story, and the Korean version of the Mohicans continues. Let us see this video to recollect our memories of this tragic war. Every Korean has his/own stories about this war. I also have many stories I am the only one who can tell. I am constructing a webpage dedicated to what I know about this war.

    You may click here to see the my website dedicated to this war. This site is still under construction, but it may contain the stories you did not here before.

  • On June 30, one day after the North Korean tanks moved into Seoul, I was at the Suwon railway station waiting for an unscheduled train to Daejon. Suddenly a giant four-engined American plane was flying over, attempting to land at the Suwon airport. Then I heard a machine gun noise from the sky above the airport. There were three planes. I managed to collect photos of those planes.

    I did not know what was happening then, but I later learned from an article by Gen. Kim Jung-Yeol (then the Korean Air Force chief) that the big American plane was MacArthur's own plane called Bataan, and Mac was on this plane coming from Tokyo.

    Apparently, North Korean agencies intercepted American wireless communication and knew Mac's plane was coming. Thus, one of their Yak-9 fighter was waiting at a high altitude above the Suwan airport. When Mac's plane was approaching the runway at a slow speed, the Yak fighter came down fast to shoot down Mac's plane.

    However, one of the American F-80 jets which escorted Mac's plane ascended while starting machine-gun fire. The NK Yak fighter ran away.

    This was a crucial moment in the world history. If MacArthur were hurt on that moment, the United States had to declare a war against the Soviet Union, starting World war III.

    Panmunjom cease-fire agreement (July 1950)

    U.S.- Republic of Korea mutual defense treaty (September 1953)

  • This tragic war continued for three years. The Panmunjom cease-fire agreement was signed without the participation of the Korean government. Koreans were very unhappy with the end of the war without unification. Americans called this as an "honorable end" of the Korean War. Kim Il-Sung of the North called it a great victory and had a big celebration in Pyongyang.

    In September of 1953, Syngman Rhee, the president of (south) Korea, forced the United States to sign a mutual defense treaty against aggression by North Korea and China.

    This treaty allowed Koreans to develop their industry and their democratic form of government. The following figure will illustrate the degree of progress Koreans made since 1953.

    The 1950 photo was taken by an Associated Press reporter on June 28 of 1950,
    before the total destruction of the city during the September battle of 1950.

    These days, almost every house in the United States has at least one Samsung or LG TV set. Korea is now a strong country. Yet, there still is one important question. Yet, is Korea's future really different from that of the Mohicans? We hope not.

2. Poland and Korea

webpage constructed (2012.3.1)

    Poland is a country in eastern Europe surrounded by Sweden (once strong country), Russia, Austria (once strong country), and Germany. The country's environment is very similar to that of Korea. Foreign powers came in and ran the country to satisfy themselves. Yet, the people of Poland took advantage of the those foreign influences in order to maintain their own identity and to develop their own talents. They are like Koreans. How and when I became interested in Poland?

While I was studying in the United Sates (1954-61), there were no Korean newspapers available to Korean students. Yet, I was fortunate enough to receive two copies of the Sasangge magazine (from two different sources) every month.

    The editor of this magazine was Chang Chun-Ha. Chang was drafted to the Japanese army while studying in Tokyo, and was sent to China. He was the leader of a group of Koreans who ran away from their Japanese unit to join the Korean provisional government. Upon hearing this news, the United States decided to supply light arms (carbines and hand grenades) to the guerilla unit organized by the provisional government headed by Kim Koo. However, Japan surrendered before they were deployed to Korea.

    After coming back to Korea, he organized a magazine called Sasangge. This magazine served as the forum for the ideas for Korea's form of government. Park Chung-Hee confessed that he was able to formulate his political ideology based on the articles published in this magazine.

    In 1962, Mr. Chang received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

  • It was 1959. The magazine printed a short novel written by a Polish writer named Marek Hlasko (pronounced as Huwasko). Its title was "The Eighth Day of the Week." He talks about the environment of Warsaw under the Polish communist regime in the 1950s.

    The theme was very simple. A young man and a young women love each other. They are looking for a place to make an active love. They spend one full week to find a suitable place with privacy, but they fail. By writing this simple story, Hlasko visits every corner of Warsaw, and describes vividly how hopeless things are.

    Hlasko wrote this story in 1957 when he was 23 years old. The story became popular in Poland. It then became the best seller in the Western world. Wladyslaw Gomulka was the boss of the Polish communist party then. Thanks to this best seller, Gomulka thought Poland would earn a respect from from the Western world. He then ordered to make a movie based on this story.

    After seeing the movie, he became angry at the author, and Hlasko lost much of his freedom in Poland. He exiled himself to Paris and died in Germany in 1969. He killed himself.

    This story became very popular in Korea because it tells how unhappy people were in the communist world. But it was more so because the situation in Korea was exactly the same as that no-outlet box in Warsaw so vividly described by Hlasko. I think this story served as a catalyst for the 4.19 revolution in 1960.

  • Even before reading the Hlasko story, I was wondering about Poland from my childhood. The story of Maria Curie was fascinating, and Chopin's piano music is popular among all Koreans. Here is my page for Chopin's graves. His body was buried in Paris, while his heart was entombed on the wall of the Church of Holy Cross in Warsaw.

    After reading Hlasko's story from the Sasangge, I became intensely interested in Poland. Here are some of my findings.

    1. Poland had been occupied by three different foreign powers, namely Russia, Prussia, and Austria. It was a divided country for 125 years until the end of World War I. We all hope that the division of Korea would not last this long.

    2. Koreans talk about Woodrow Wilson in connection with Korea's 3.1 independence movement. In his 14-point plan, Wilson mentioned Poland, but Korea. Why did Wilson support Poland while abandoning Korea?

    3. You all have read a Christian-oriented novel entitled Quo Vadis. If not, you must have seen the movie with the same title. Do you know who wrote the story? It was written by Henryk Sienkiewicz of Poland. For this work, he received the 1905 Nobel prize in literature. Sienkiewicz was a very important person to me and could be to many other Koreans. I therefore constructed a webpage for him. Go to

    4. In 1980, I was invited by two Polish ladies to go to a play at one of the theaters in Washington. The play was about two Polish men who immigrated to Paris and share the same room in Paris. During the play, they constantly argue but find no common grounds on any issues. I found it interesting because they were like Koreans.

      One of the ladies asked me whether I learned anything new about Poland from this play. I told her people are the same everywhere. She said there is something unique about Poland. Poland consists of two different classes of people. She was essentially talking about the Yangban-Sangnom (upper and lower classes) separation in Korea. From what I heard from her, I could say again Korea and Poland are the same country.

  • Now, Korea appears to be ahead of Poland, but Koreans still have many things to learn from that country.

    1. Poland is far ahead of Korea in collecting Nobel prizes. Thus, young Koreans should go to Poland to learn how to get Nobels in the Korean environment similar to that of Poland.

    2. Adam Mickiewicz was a Polish poet and he kept writing his poems to stress that Poland is one nation consisting of one people while Poland was divided into three colonies. There is a university in Poznan named after him, and his statues are everywhere in Poland. Korea still needs a national figure like Adam Mickiewicz.

  • You are invited to visit my Poland page.

Why is he with Einstein?
copyright@2019 by Y. S. Kim.
Unless otherwise specified, all photos are from the public domain, the Wikipedia fair-use domain, the North Korean propaganda literature, or from my personal collection.

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