Wisdom of Korea (2005, January -- May )

Eisenhower's visit to Korea

Y.S.Kim (2005.1.31)

In the U.S. presidential election of 1952, Dwight Eisenhower made a campaign pledge to go to Korea in order to stop Harry Truman's war. By that time, American were tired of fighting in Korea, and were eager to end the war. Thus, in order to fulfill the campaign pledge, he had to go to Korea. To make things worse, Harry Truman (incumbent president) offered his own plane to Eisenhower by saying "If you still want to go,"

In January of 1953, two weeks before his inauguration, Eisenhower came to Korea, but his trip was kept secret. His whereabout was announced when his plane was passing through Okinawa after completing his visit to Korea. At that time, Korean students were asked to stage a welcome rally and street parade in Pusan (capital city at that time). I was pro-American at that time (and still is), but I felt quite insulted. How can I welcome a person who does not show his face to us. I was ordered by my high-school teachers to lead my class to the events. We went to the welcome meeting, but refused to march. The school teachers understood my position and decided to keep silent.

Eisenhower of course visited forward U.S. army positions, but did not see any Koreans except one person: President Syngman Rhee. As far as stopping the war is concerned, there was one thing he could do in Korea: to persuade Rhee that the war should be stopped through a negotiation with the Northern side. Rhee's response to Eisenhower was firm NO. Rhee's position was that the United States is responsible for dividing Korea into two, and the U.S. has more than enough resources to complete the war with the unification of Korea. I will tell more about the continuing personal feud between these two characters.

During Eisenhower's visit, Rhee's interpreter was a young Korean boy named Seung Kei-Ho. He was four years ahead of me in my high school. Seung was a freshman at Yonsei University when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Rhee of course spoke fluent English, but was deeply impressed by the performance of this young man. He was consequently sent to Yale University in 1954. He studied there judicial philosophy, wrote a book while he was a graduate student. He is now a distinguished professor at the University of Texas in Austin.

Like every original researcher, Seung had to struggle to find out about himself. He ended up with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. I am mentioning this because I also ended up with the Kantian school of thinking. This is the basic difference I am having with my physics colleagues. On the other hand, Seung and I have the same cultural background. I therefore have every reason to insist that Koreans can become original and productive if they pursue Kantian style of reasoning.

This summer, I will attend a conference in Sweden. My itinerary includes a trip to the city of Kaliningrad (Russia). Kaliningrad used to be Koenigsberg (East Prussia) located in the coastal wedge between Poland and Lithuania. Kant was born there and never left his city. I am eager to find out how Kant was influenced by the geography of that area.

The fact that I am a Kantianist has no meaning to my Korean colleagues. How about Einstein? Einstein is much closer to you than I am. Right? Then, did you know Einstein was able to do his original work because of the Kantian influence on him? If interested, you may visit my Einstein page: http://www.physics.umd.edu/robot/einstein.

Another lonely battle for Rhee

Y.S.Kim (2005.2.16)

After meeting with Dwight Eisenhower in January of 1953, Rhee Seungman became convinced that the United States was going to conclude the cease-fire talk with the communist side and pull of most, if not all, of the U.S. troops from Korea. Those troops would never come back. He knew that he did not have enough means to change the thinking of Washington's policy makers. What would happen then to Korea's security and his own presidency?

The best Rhee can get from the United States were a security guarantee by means of a mutual defense treaty and a strong Korean army equipped and trained by the United States. At that time, it was unthinkable for Americans to have any kind of treaty with an inferior country like Korea. It also would cost huge sums of money to equip and train the Korean army. At that time, the Korean army had about 300,000 men equipped mostly infantry rifles. Rhee had to double the number and equip them with tanks and heavy guns. First of all, he had feed those soldiers. The only solution was to get them from Americans.

For the United States, the only way to pull out the troops from Korea was to reach a "honorable" cease-fire agreement with the communists. In the meantime, the Eisenhower administration was going ahead with a speedy conclusion of the Panmunjom cease-fire negotiation. The stumbling block had been the U.S. insistence that N.Korean and Chinese prisoners of war be given the option of going back to the North or staying in the South, and that no new airfields be constructed on either side. The United States dropped the demand on the airfield issue in order to restart the negotiation.

At the same time, the United States sent a fleet of B-36 strategic bombers to Guam. During World War II, Americans developed a four- engine bomber called B-29. Those B-29 bombers flattened much of Germany and Japan, but they were not designed to carry nuclear bombs, even though they were used to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear bombs were not known when Boeing developed B-29 bombers during WW II. The six-engine B-36 was designed to carry nuclear bombs. By moving them to the Pacific outpost of Guam meant a nuclear threat to China, and Chinese got the message.

While these events were taking place, Rhee did not have any diplomatic leverage to get a deal with the United States. How about political support in Korea? Those Korean politicians were totally ignorant about what American thinking, and were only interested in taking away power from Rhee. Rhee Seungman was once again had to stage a lonely battle for his own survival.

Korean cease-fire Negotiations (1951-53)

Y.S.Kim (2005.2.23)

When the Korean War broke out in June of 1950, there were 500 American military advisors to the Korean army. There were no U.S. combat troops. After the Korean army was totally destroyed and pushed down to the south of the Han River, Americans decided to send ground troops. The 24th Infantry Division was rushed to Korea from Japan. The politicians in Washington thought North Korean troops would run away as soon as they see American flags. Alas, the 24th Division was thoroughly beaten up by Soviet-built N.K. tanks in Daejon.

The United States then had to send its major combat units to Korea, and the Korean conflict became another major war. Douglas MacArthur was able to turn the tide of the war by landing his American and Korean troops in Inchon on September 15, 1950. The North Korean army was totally destroyed. On October 19, Pyongyang was under MacArthur's command. He then promised to send most of his American troops home before Christmas.

Alas, MacArthur did not know Chinese troops were hiding in the mountains. The Chinese army launched the first offensive operation in November, and the the U.S. army became totally disoriented. To make things worse, the the commander of the U.S.army in Korea was killed when the jeep he was driving crashed into a parked truck. Lt.Gen. Matthew Ridgeway came to Korea to reorganize the U.S. army and started hitting back the Chinese army. Ridgeway was able to push back Chinese to the present cease-fire line and was ready to push further.

In June of 1951, Yakob Malik, the Soviet ambassador to the United Nations proposed a cease fire in Korea. At that time, the Soviet Union did not want American troops coming all the way to the Korean-Chinese border. By June of 1951, Americans had been in Korea for one year with more than 50 of their soldiers killed in action every day. They were looking for an excuse to pull out their troops from Korea. The first cease fire meeting was held on July 10 (1951) in the city of Kaesong south of the 38th parallel but occupied by the communists. North Koreans demanded that Americans come to the city with white flags on their motor vehicles. American delegates were headed by Rear Admiral Turner Joy. He was accompanied by three other American officers and one Korean general. The Korean general was Major General Paik Sun-Yup. He was chosen by the American commander named James Van Fleet. Paik was chosen because he was able to speak and understand Chinese.

When Paik reported this to his president, Rhee Seungman, Rhee became angry at the Americans. Rhee told Paik to go with those Americans to monitor what was going on, but made it clear to Paik that the Korean government had nothing to do with the negotiation.

The cease-fire talks did not go well because Americans had to travel in the hostile territory to reach Kaesong. As a consequence, the negotiation site was moved to an obscure spot name Panmunjom. The communist delegates were headed by General Man Il of the N.K. army and two other N.K. officers and two Chinese delegates. They demanded that the cease-fire line be the 38th parallel, but American insisted that the boundary be the existing combat line. The communists conceded.

Americans then insisted that the N.K and Chinese prisoners of war be given the freedom of choice: to go back to the communist side or to stay in the South. There were about 120,000 communist POWs, but one half of them did not want to go back. Americans demanded further that no airfields be constructed on either side. According to Geneva convention, all POWs had to be returned, and they were creating an exception based on ideological and humanitarian considerations. The negotiation did not go anywhere, and it became 1952. It was an election year in the United States, and the cease-fire talks were not getting anywhere.

In the meantime, the North Korean army was reconstructed, and the Chinese army drastically increased its fire power throughout the front line. In the South, new Korean army divisions were created according the U.S. standard. With increased fire power on both sides, combat casualties were mounting at an alarming rate on both sides of the static front line. At the same time, both sides needed a cease fire very badly.

This was what Eisenhower inherited from the previous administration. He could negotiate with the communists, but not with the president of Korea, named Rhee Seungman. Rhee was against the negotiation from the beginning. He would have nothing to do with any of the agreements. He was insisting he had an option of taking military actions as needed.

Prisoners of war

Y.S.Kim (2005.2.28)

By the end of 1952, during the third year of the Korean war, the United States, China, and the Soviet Union all got tired of fighting. Koreans were also tired, but their burning desire for unification of the country remained very strong. Yet, there was another group of people extremely bored of the prolonged no-win/no-lose war. They were the prisoners of war detained in the island of Koejedo.

There were about 120,000 POWs detained in the Keoje Island. They were extremely bored and had to find something to do. Yes, they found. It was an ideological struggle. Among those ex-N.K. troops, about one half of them were loyal to Kim Il-Sung and his communist cause, and the other half were thoroughly against the North Korean regime. They were going to refuse to go back to the North.

Naturally, this struggle developed into violent fights within the POW camps. The only way to solve this problem was to separate those two groups. Thus, the U.N. command (U.S. command) decided to separate those anti-communist POWs and brought them to detention centers not far from the city Busan. Those detention centers were primarily guarded by Korean troops. While doing this, Americans did not know they were creating another problem for them, which I will discuss next time.

For the remaining prisoners in the Keoje island who were loyal to Kim Il-Sung, Americans applied tougher rules. Those prisoners revolted. While suppressing the revolt, the commander of the POW camp was kidnapped by those die-hard communists. The commander was a brigadier (one-star) general of the U.S. army, and his last name was Dodd. I forgot his first name.

It was one of the most agonizing moments for Americans during the Korean war. Americans had to make necessary concessions to seek the release of General Dodd. But, the price was much higher in terms of the embarrassment to the world. Dodd was later brought back to his country and then discharged from the army.

While this was going on, the Panmunjom cease fire negotiation was making a rapid progress. They were working on the procedure of exchanging POWs. The communist side agreed in principle that each prisoner be given freedom to go or not to go back to the North. Then they (communists) insisted on their right to come down to the POW camps in the South to confirm his intention.

After some struggle, both sides agreed to invite representatives from a neutral country to confirm each individual's intention. As a consequence, India was invited to act as the neutral country, and India accepted this invitation. After hearing this news, Rhee Seungman became very angry and threatened to arrest those Indians when they land on the Korean soil.

Indian troops finally came, but they were flown by helicopters to Panmunjom's neutral zone from from their ship in the international water off Inchon. To Koreans, it was really humiliating for Indians to play a role in the Korean affairs.

Another headache for Rhee

Y.S.Kim (2005.3.7)

Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union died in March of 1953, and the Time magazine carried his photo on its cover page. One week earlier, the Time had Korea's Syngman Rhee on the cover page. Why was Rhee so important to Americans. Americans assumed that everybody, including Stalin, wanted to have peace in Korea. To them, Rhee was the only obstacle to this peace effort.

Americans were so upset at him that they even developed a plan to remove him from his presidency noting that he had many political enemies, but the plan was not approved by Eisenhower (U.S.president) who, in spite of sharp policy disagreements, had a respect for Rhee.

When Eisenhower came to Korea, he told Rhee that it is better for Koreans to stop the costly war and solve the unification problem politically. It was quite clear to Rhee that Eisenhower did not know what he was talking about. The American troops were going to go home leaving behind a promise to solve the unification problem politically. Does this make sense to you?

While the cease-fire talks were going on, the U.S. side proposed a peace conference within a year from the cease-fine agreement to deal with unification of Korea under a single government. The American formula calls for a new election throughout the entire peninsula.

This formula contradicts the earlier assertion of the United States that Rhee's government is the only legitimate government for the entire peninsula recognized by the United Nations. Rhee Seungman was violently against this peace formula, but the communists would never agree to recognize Rhee as their president. The proposed peace conference did not make much sense to either side, but it was included in the cease-fire document. The idea was to tell that the purpose of the cease fire was not to divide the country permanently.

In June of 1954, the peace conference took place in Geneva. Rhee originally refused to send delegates to the meeting, but conceded under American pressure. The North Korean delagate was their new foreign minister named Nam Il, who as the head of the North Korean negotiation team at Panmunjom. The South was represented by the foreign minister named Pyun Young-Tae, who had been an English teacher. But the main players were the U.S. and Chinese delegates. The Chinese delegate was Prime Minister Chou Eun-Lai. The United States was represented by it secretary of state named John Foster Dulles.

I hope I could talk about these two interesting characters in my future articles. This was the first and last meeting of the Korean peace conference for unification.

At that meeting, the South's foreign minister did make any meaningful statement. North Korea's Nam Il made violent attacks on American imperialism. The most noticeable event took place when John Foster Dulles refused to shake hands with Chou Eun-Lai. This chilly relation between these two big countries lasted until 1972 when Richard Nixon (U.S. president) visited China. At that time, the main character from the Chinese side was Chou Eun-Lai, who was insulted by Dulles 18 years earlier. Nixon shook hands with Chou.

Rhee releases prisoners.

Y.S.Kim (2005.4.21)

Let us summarize what I said before about what Americans wanted and what Koreans did not want. In 1953, the most pressing issue for the Eisenhower administration was to stop the war in Korea and bring American boys home. However, Koreans did not want an inconclusive end of the war with the country divided. Rhee knew that he could not stop the cease-fire process. The best he could get from Eisenhower was a mutual military treaty which will commit the United States to the security guarantee of Korea. His position was that American troops could go home once the United States signed a paper guaranteeing the security of Korea.

From the American point of view, it is unthinkable to have a formal treaty with an inferior country like Korea. On the other hand, Eisenhower's Republican administration had enough hard-liners against the communist expansion in Asia. Thus, Rhee's insistence started gaining support among those hard-line anti-communists politicians.

In order to make his point known to Americans, Rhee ordered Korean students to stage anti-cease-fire demonstrations throughout the country. On June 25 of 1953 (one month before the cease fire), there was a ceremony in Busan (capital city at that time) marking the third anniversary of the 6.25 day. Rhee said there that Koreans would march northward once Americans leave the country. He introduced General Paik Sun-Yup to the crowd as a man who first reached Pyongyang (before Americans) with his Korean troops in October of 1950.

Still, the Eisenhower administration was silent about the mutual defense treaty. As a last resort, two weeks before the scheduled cease-fire day of July 27, Rhee ordered his Korean POW guards to release all anti-communist North Korean prisoners of war. There were approximately 120,000 POWs. About one half of them were anti- communists and were refusing to go back to the North. They had been separated from the die-hard communists and were kept in minimum security camps near Busan. It was an easy job for the Korean guards to let them go. About 28,000 POWs were released.

Americans and the communists had worked out an elaborate procedure for handling those POWs. Rhee's action created a great shock to them. The communists were accusing Americans of violating the agreement. I will continue the story next time, because there a a more important story to tell.

In 1953, the population of Busan was about one million. The addition of 28,000 more Koreans meant a substantial population shift. Yet, Koreans in Busan did not complain, and those "new" citizens were accommodated comfortably in private houses. They were given jobs. Korean girls did not mind marrying them.

We all say that Korea is much stronger country now because of its industrial production. On the other hand, I would say Korea is much weaker country. Why? There are now more than ten million people in Seoul. There is a possibility of 28,000 North Korean refugees coming to Seoul in one day. The city of Seoul has more than enough economic power to accommodate them. But, do the citizens of Seoul have enough hearts and minds to absorb them? I think I am a stronger Korean because of I am a Korean of 1953. I left Korea in 1954.

Rhee gets what he wants from the United States.

Y.S.Kim (2005.5.17)

By releasing non-communist North Korean POWs, Rhee showed to Americans that he was in a position to seriously disrupt the cease-fire process Americans had worked out with the communist counterparts. The Eisenhower administration had to send a special envoy to Busan (capital city of Korea) to find out what Rhee really wanted. Rhee set out three conditions: (1) to double the size of the Korean army equipped with U.S. arms, (2) financial commitment to construct an industrial base, (3) a written security guarantee in the form of mutual defense treaty.

Americans accepted Rhee's terms and Rhee's promise not to jeopardize the cease-fire process. The cease-fire was signed on July 27, 1953. Rhee's Korean government did not participate in the process and did not sign the cease-fire documents. In the South, the cease-fire was a national disgrace.

North Korean authorities took a different view. There was a big victory celebration at Pyongyang's Moranbong Park (I was once there when I was very young). Kim Il-Sung made a speech thanking all Koreans (in the North) for making great sacrifice for the "National Liberation War" which defeated invading American imperialists. The Pyongyang radio (my favorite station at that time) claimed the great People's army shot down 3,700 American aircrafts.

However, throughout the two-year-long negotiations, Americans got most of what they wanted. The only concession they made was about construction of new airfields. Americans initially insisted that no new airfields be constructed. This demand was not realistic, and was abandoned as a "major concession" to communists.

As for the cease-fire line, the communist side originally insisted on the 38th parallel, but gave in to the American demand that the line be the existing combat line. As for the line on the West Sea, North Korea was aware of their fishermen. They demanded the administrative line between Kyonggi and Hwanghae province. Americans initially agreed, but the Underwood brothers intervened.

Horace Underwood was the first American missionary in Korea. He had his villa near a village called Sorae on the southern coast of Hwanghae Province. As I said many times before, I spent the first eleven years my life there. From the Island of Baeknyun, you can see Sorae's mountains. The communists wanted this island for their fishing purposes, but it was occupied by Korean marines at that time. The island was a spy base during the war.

Americans, tired of negotiations, were ready to give up this island, but two of the Underwood grandsons intervened. Horace Underwood had a son known to Koreans as Won Hankyung Baksa who devoted his entire life to Yonsei University. He had four sons. The eldest son was and still is Horace III, and the youngest son is Richard. These two sons speak fluent Korean and worked as interpreters during the cease-fire negotiations. They wanted to keep the Baeknyun Island on our side, and persuaded the chief American negotiator not to give up. Even on this issue, Americans had their way. These days, we hear often about naval confrontations from that area, and North Koreans say different things about the cease-fire line on the sea.

I am giving my final exam to students today, and I will be making frequent conference trips. While attending a conference in Sweden next month, I will be making an excursion to a Russian city of Kaliningrad. This city used to be a German city called Koenigsburg before 1945. I am going there because I have a great respect for a philosopher named Immanuel Kant who spent his entire life there. After Stalin took over that place in 1945, as he did to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, he kicked out all Germans and sent Russians into that city. I am curious about how effective Stalin was in his human engineering.

Stalin was interested in moving Koreans to Kazkhstan and Uzbechistan, and send Russians into the Korean peninsula. Rhee Seungman and Kim Il-Sung, though sworn enemies, prevented this disaster.

Wisdom of Korea (2005, October -- December )

Stories you like to hear

Y.S.Kim (2005.10.13)

Since last May, I was not able to send out my mails for various reasons. Yet, Korean job ads have been posted in our robot system. Please visit http://www.physics.umd.edu/robot.

You will recall that I have been writing stories about a Korean man named "Rhee Seumgman." He was the first president of Korea and had all the evils politicians should have. Yet, he was extremely skilful in dealing with the United States. This is the reason why I am writing articles about him. These days, especially in the academic world, you should know how to deal with Americans.

I will continue my series on Rhee. In addition, I would like to write other articles which could be interesting to Koreans. Among them is my story about Immanuel Kant. As I will explain later, Kant was a Korean philosopher, or Korean attitude toward academic pursuit is based on Kantian philosophy. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon approach (American approach) to research is quite different. This is the reason why Koreans complain that they cannot do research because of the fundamental cultural difference between Koreans and Americans.

They are right, and they are not the first one to experience this. I would say that I am the first Korean to experience this difference, and I am of course proud to say that I was able to overcome this huddle and still writing interesting papers. Of course, I have troubles with referees, but I have enough skill to put them down, and I intend to write more papers.

In order to make this point more clear to me and to my fellow Koreans, I visited last June the Russian city called Kaliningrad, where Kant was born, studied, taught, and died. The city has a very rich history. I will tell you more about Kaliningrad in my later articles.

How about other stories to tell. I have many more, but I would like to invite you to write. Please write stories, based on your own experience, about the problems other Koreans may face, and send them to me. If you cannot choose the subject, you are welcome to criticize what I say in my articles. Different opinions are always helpful to all.

Kant, Einstein, and Koreans

Y.S.Kim (2005.10.15)

It is not easy to travel to the Russian city of Kaliningrad even these days. I went there last June solely to study its geography. Kantianism is known to be a product of geographic conditions geographic conditions \ of that area.

Before World War II, Kaliningrad region was called East Prussia, and Germans used to live there. This region is located at the Baltic wedge between Poland and Lithuania. The city of Kaliningrad was called Koenigsberg. When the Soviet army was advancing toward Germany in 1945, Hitler ordered a total evacuation of the region. About one million Germans had to flee the area and settle down in the western part of Germany. This evacuation was like our 1.4 retreat from Seoul 1951. Seoul at that time became an empty city.

After Soviets occupied that area, they did not invite back the Germans. Instead, they sent their own citizens to make a Russian city, and even changed the name of the city to Kaliningrad. Kalinin was the president of the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. Russians are now very busy in changing German churches (Lutheran) into their orthodox churches. During the Soviet era, many churches were destroyed.

Yet, Russians did not change anything in the multipurpose city hall built like a church and contains a church with the remains of many important people the city produced throughout the history. One of them was Kant, but he was buried outside the church because he did not believe in Jesus. The Kant grave is well kept. Inside the building, there is a Kant museum. There are many interesting items there.

In the museum, there a room containing many books written about Kant and Kantianism. There are books written in German, Russian, Italian. There are also books written in Japanese, but there are no books written in English. Yes, this was a surprise to me, but a not a surprise. I lived in the Anglo-Saxon world for 50 years and Kant is a very strange person in this world. On the other hand, Japan shares the same cultural base as we do. Indeed, Kantianism came to Korea through Japan.

Then what aspect of Kantianism Koreans enjoy? Japanese, while practicing Kantianism, invented the word "Huen Dato." In Korea, we pronounce this word as "Bopyun Tadang." Among Koreans, this "Bopyun Tadang Sung" is the ultimate goal in academic research. The problem Koreans are having, as I did and I still do, is that Americans do not have this concept. I do not know how to describe this word in English - either in one word or 100 words. When Americans write research papers these days, their purpose is to bring in more contract money.

Yes, it is difficult if there are cultural differences, but the problem can be dealt with if we know the real cause of the difference. Koreans are not alone in having this difficulty. Einstein was not able to communicate with American physicists. He once said that talking with American physicists is like talking to plumbers.

Why did Einstein have this kind of difficulty? Because he was a Kantianist. I wrote an article about this and is stored in my Einstein file: http://www.physics.umd.edu/robot/einstein for the people of the world. You will enjoy reading this article because I boldly talk about my Korean background there.

Rhee's next problem

Y.S.Kim (2005.10.31)

The Panmunjom cease fire was a new beginning of Korean history. The security treaty with the United States allowed Koreans to develop their political, economic, educational, and other social systems, modeled after the Unites States. Seoul became the capital city again, and all major institutions moved back to Seoul from Pusan and Daegue by September of 1953. Koreans returning from Pusan by train were able to see crops growing on the fields promising a good harvest year. Seoul's reconstruction efforts started picking up acceleration. If Korea is now a prosperous democratic country, its history starts in 1953.

However, Rhee Seungman had enough problems. The most pressing problem was to prolong his presidency. His second four-year term was to expire in 1956. The problem was how to extend his term beyond 1956. Of course, an option of taking over the government using armed forces, but he wanted to avoid this option because he might lose his American supports. Then the only option is to revise the constitution again by securing a 2/3 majority vote in the National Assembly.

According to Korea's first constitution, the President was to be elected by a simple majority vote of the National Assembly. In 1952, this version was amended. The President was to be elected directly by popular votes. But the amended constitution restricted the presidential tenure to two four-year terms.

The first constitutional revision in 1952 was not an easy process for Rhee. He had to hire Lee Bum-Suk as the minister of internal affairs (in charge of national police) to threaten the assembly men. Rhee then allowed Lee to organize a new political party called "Chayoo Dang" in preparation for the 1954 assembly election. Rhee of course knew Lee Bum-Suk was looking toward his own presidential position. In order to get rid of him, Rhee encouraged Lee Bum-Suk to make a world tour in order to introduce himself as Korea's second man and next leader. While Lee was away, Rhee replaced him with Lee Ki-Poong as the head of Chayoo Dang.

Lee Ki-Poong was a very gentle person and was kind and polite to everyone, but his brain came from his wife widely known as Park Maria. He proved himself as an able man as a defense minister in 1951. He was able to clean up the corruption mess created at the defense ministry by sending five high-ranking army officers to a firing squad. They were responsible for the infamous National Defense Corp incident. I talked about this incident as Korea's worst tragedy in one of my earlier articles.

The mission of Chayoo Dang, under the leadership of Lee Ki-Poong, was to secure a 2/3 majority in 1954 assembly election which was scheduled for February of 1954. The party's organization, from its beginning, was very strong because its officials were former police officers. There were two ways for police officers to get promoted. One way was a vertical promotion by achieving higher rank, the other was a horizontal system in which officers get transferred to local chapter of Chayoo Dang.

On the other hand, the party had its fundamental weakness. To Koreans, Chayoo Dang was a party of bandits. Its party funding came from the U.S. humanitarian aids consisting mostly food aids. Instead of distributing them to the needy people, the party and government sold them in the black market. This was how the party was funded. Truly Chayoo Dang was a party of bandits, and people knew it.

After completion of the return of the government in September of 1953, Koreans witnessed full-swing election campaigns. At that time, the government did not know how to fix the elections, and a relatively honest election was held in February of 1954. It was the first time for KBS to cover nation-wide election. The coverage was not perfect, but it is remarkable to hear how people voted in the city of Mokpo or Kyungjoo from Seoul.

Because of its strong organization, Chayoo Dang was able to get more than 50% of the assembly seats. Because of its bad reputation, its majority did not reach the 2/3 majority to pass a constitutional revision. The party had approach those assembly men/women without party affiliation with hefty bribes.

The story becomes more interesting, but I will tell you next time.

Rhee goes to the United States.

Y.S.Kim (2005.11.14)

After securing a majority of his Chayoo Dang in the National Assembly, Rhee became comfortable about his position, and decided to visit the United States. In July of 1954, he went to Washington to meet with Dwight D. Eisenhower who was the occupant of the White House. To Rhee's surprise, Eisenhower was still angry at him for releasing non-communist prisoners of war in July of 1953, two weeks before the signing of the cease-fire agreement. Rhee's action almost destroyed Eisenhower's plan to stop the war in Korea and bring American boys home. This was Eisenhower's pledge to Americans during the election campaign of 1952.

Rhee also became angry and stood up, and was about to leave Eisenhower's office, but the foreign ministers of both sides managed to calm them down. They continued talking. Eisenhower told Rhee he would withdraw four infantry divisions from Korea immediately, and most of the U.S. troops eventually, leaving only token forces in Korea. He also told Rhee that the United States would drastically strengthen the Korean armed forces. Rhee had to agree because he had no other choices.

When he went to Washington, Rhee was accompanied by his defense minister, Admiral Sohn Won-Il and his army chief, General Chung Il-Kwon. These two gentleman remained in the United States longer and worked out the detailed plans to strengthen the Korean army, navy, and airforce. They got the commitment from the United States that the Korean troop strength be as many as 720,000 equipped in the U.S. standard. The United States was committed to provide heavy guns, tanks, jet fighters naval ships, as well as necessary training. For all these, Koreans had no money to pay. Rhee's Washington trip was fruitful.

Rhee was invited to give a speech at the joint session of U.S. congress. Rhee's theme was quite different from the prevailing opinion of the congress men/women. They were sick and tired of the war in Korea and thoroughly against further commitment in Asia, while Rhee was advocating further U.S. efforts to eliminate communism in Asia. Yet, the congress people gave an applause to him for his tireless efforts to stop the spread of communism, which, after all, was the ultimate aim of the U.S. foreign-policy at that time.

Before coming back to Korea, Rhee went to a small city called Independence (in Missouri) to pay a courtesy visit to Harry Truman who was the president of the United States from 1945 to 1953. While he was the president, Truman presented the Korean problem to the United Nations in 1947 while ignoring the Moscow agreement for the 5-year trusteeship, which Joseph Stalin had engineered at the Moscow three-party conference held in December of 1945. I have Rhee's photo taken with Truman at his house on one of my webpages.

As we all know, Truman was the one who sent American troops to Korea at the initial stage of the Korean War. From the American point of view, Truman was the one who installed Rhee as the first president of Korea and saved his position by sending troops to Korea in 1950. Rhee of course knew this, and had to go to Truman's house in Independence. In 1968, I went to the same house in Independence, even though I was not invited in. This house has an interesting family history.

Harry Truman's father was not a good business man. He failed in every business he got into. Thus, Truman's house was inherited from his wife's father. Newspaper reporters once asked him whether his father was a failure. He reply was very simple. How could one be a failure if his son became the president of the United States? Harry Truman was indeed a "Hyoja" from the point of view our own traditional value. I hope you will follow Truman's example.

Rhee knew how to kihap Americans

Y.S.Kim (2005.12.8)

During the Pacific War (1941-45), Koreans knew Japan was going to lose the war, and Korea would be under American occupation or influence in one way or another. But the country was divided and the northern half was occupied by Soviet troops. To make things worse, the United States, still under the influence of traditional isolationism, did not have any policy toward the Korean peninsula.

The first policy was dictated by the three-party agreement signed in Moscow in December of 1945. The agreement was based on Stalin's plan for setting up a "democratic" government in Korea. Stalin knew only one kind of democracy: total dictatorship under himself. Korea almost became a communist country when North Korea staged a full-scale invasion in 1950. When Richard Nixon (president of USA) visited China in 1972, he promised Park Chung-Hee that Korea's existence would be guaranteed during his negotiations with Chinese authorities. Park told Koreans that we have no choices except believing in what Nixon said.

Right, until recently, Koreans had no voice in the world in determining their own fate. In my recent articles, I explained how Rhee forced Eisenhower to sign a document guaranteeing the security of Korea against communist invasions. By releasing non-communist POWs, Rhee thoroughly "kihapped" Eisenhower who was so desperate to conclude the Panmunjom cease-fire agreement. Eisenhower was angry at Rhee until Rhee visited him in 1954.

John R. Hodge was the commander of the 24th Corp during the Okinawa operation in April of 1945. In August, he was ordered to go to Korea with two divisions of infantry troops (namely 6th and 7th Divisions of the U.S. army). He knew nothing about Korea, but he did very well in feeding Koreans and providing health care. He did also an OK job on sending back Japanese from Korea to their own country. However, he was a total idiot on political affairs because he was not able to recognize the difference between Stalin's democracy and the democracy practiced in his own country. As a consequence, Korea almost became a communist country. The current wave of anti-Americanism can be traced to those communists who gained their strength during the Hodge era.

It was Rhee Seungman who reversed Hodge's policy in Korea. Rhee went to Washington in December of 1946 and gained a clear picture of what the United States was going to do about Korea. By the end of 1946, American politicians realized that Stalin was an evil person and decided not to honor the agreements they made with him. One of them was the three-party agreement on Korea. The United States was going to present the Korean case to the United Nations. Rhee knew this, and Hodge perhaps did not know what the UN was. After coming back to Korea in March of 1947, Rhee transformed Hodge into ZERO. Hodge was so angry at Rhee that he did not say "good bye" to Rhee when he returned to his country.

During the period of the 1.4 retreat (three months covering the end of 1950 and the beginning of 1951), the U.S. army in Korea lost its organization due to cold weather and the un-expected entry of Chinese army. As you know, Americans were commanding Korean troops as well as their own. When American units withdrew, they left Korean troops behind them in order to reduce their casualty. It makes sense from the American point of view. On the other hand, Korean troops trapped between American Chinese troops also had to work for their own survival. The only method available to them was the 36th plan. When things are hopeless, disappear from the scene as quickly as possible. Koreans ran away faster than Americans did.

This made American commanders very angry. In January of 1951, General Matthew Ridgeway was commander of all American and Korean troops. He was so angry at Koreans that he refused to supply U.S.-made weapons and supplies to Korean troops. This was indeed a crisis for the Korean army: army without rifles and supplies. Rhee had to solve this problem. Instead of begging to Ridgeway, he arranged a news conference and invited American reporters promising that he would make an important announcement in English. When the reporters came with TV cameras, Rhee knew that he was talking to Americans directly. He said "Give us arms. Our boys will fight. Your boys can go home!" This made a big headline in the United States, and it became a political issue. As he says in his own book, Ridgeway was thoroughly kihapped by Rhee. The Korean army then started receiving massive military aid from the United States.

It is difficult to find these days who like Rhee Seungman, but I like him. I like him because I learn many things from him. The most important lesson I learned from him was how to give kihap to Americans. Why do I need this technology? If I live in the United States, I should get along with Americans. Indeed, I get along with Americans. Many of you visited my style page, and saw my photos with friends from different countries. Please see my photos with American friends.

On the other hand, the story becomes quite different when you produce a research result your colleagues become your enemies. They do everything to destroy you, as you read the newspaper stories in Korea these days. Americans are not different, and it is quite natural for them to take turf advantage of being Americans. You cannot handle this problem by being passive. You should know how to kihap them. We are very fortunate to have the word "kihap" and how to use it!

Anatomy of Rhee's kihap techniques

Y.S.Kim (2005.12.9)

I mentioned in the previous mail three prominent Americans, including one U.S. president, who were thoroughly kihapped by Rhee Seungman. The question then is how he could he do it? Of course, he had a deep knowledge of the United States and its citizens, but we should do more research along this direction.

At Rhee's time, Korea did not have anything to influence foreign policies of the United States. In all three cases, it is remarkable that Rhee was able to use the power of the United States to kihap those three Americans. There are many people who like China's Mao Zedong and there are also many who do not. But all of them admire him for staging his revolutionary war with weapons obtained from the enemy side. Mao did not have a single factory to make rifles and ammunition. His troops used American-made weapons supplied to Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist army.

Thus, my advice to my young friends is to use American influence when you are at odd with your American colleagues. You may then ask me whether I could give my own example. I do not wish to tell you the detailed stories about myself at this time, but you are welcome to visit my Princeton wabpage http://ysfine.com/princeton.

to find out what has been and what is still going on.

As far as kihap is concerned, I enjoy giving it to my Japanese friends. I am attaching one of my old articles for your entertainment.

--- Please continue reading.


Y.S.Kim (1995.4.25)

I am getting these days many mails which I would very much like to circulate. But, the authors are telling me not to. Recently, one of my young friends said in his letter that a country's strength should not be judged by cars, but by its "philosophy." His comment is quite consistent with the Japanese saying that it is 100 times or 1,000 times more difficult to make "kokoro" than making cars. His comment is also consistent with my belief, and I have many things to say along this line.

This morning, I had a chat with one of my Japanese friends, and he seems to know about Korea. On my blackboard, he wrote 1392 from his memory as the year Yi dynasty started. He also wrote 1443 as the year the Hangul characters were promulgated, and he also wrote on the board "Un-moon" in Chinese characters. Frankly, I could not do these even though I often bragg about my memory power. He even said that the Mongolian army could not cross the Korean strait because they were on Korean-made ships which were too weak to withstand Taiphoon. He then asked me whether Koreans intentionally built those inferior-quality ships to destroy the Mongolian army.

I told him that those Korean ships had to be inferior because Korea's best wood-crafters had to work on a more important project. They were carving 80,000 wooden plates for the 80,000-page scripture on Buddhism. I often say that this 80,000-page scripture is like Henryk Sienkiewicz's "Quo Vadis." For writing this novel, Poland's Sienkiewicz got the 1905 Nobel prize in literature. We carved 80,000 wooden plates in order to protect our own "philisophy," and Sienkiwwicz wrote Quo Vadis in order to guard Poland's "philosophy." Japan's Kawabata Yasunari killed himself because he could not find Japan's own "philosophy," but he did enough work to receive the 1968 Nobel prize in literature while he was alive.

I explained why this Sienkiewicz issue is important in constructing our own Nobel culture in my 1978 article which was rejected by one of the KPS journals. I hope there will be an occasion for me to discuss this issue in more detail in the future.



Dear Prof. Kim:

How are you? I have been reading your articles and I have found many of them are quite valuable and useful for me. I, first of all, appreciate it. Thanks. I got another letter from you in this morning and I felt like commenting on it. You quoted one of other Korean fellows reading "A country's strength should not be judged by cars, but by its "philosophy," and said it is consistent with your own belief.

I, however, would claim that a country's strength should be judged by both of the philosophy and cars. If you and he meant to put a little more weight on the side of the "philosophy" and meant to encourage us to work together to build and to develop it, I perfectly agree with you and you may forget all the following parts of this letter. If you and he meant to ignore (in any sense) "cars" as a measurement of a country's strength, I want to comment on it because I'm so tired of hearing that kind of argument. I'm sure that we cannot argue in that way unless we do not make any "good cars". We only can claim that "philosophy (or whatever)" should be the real standard for measuring one's strength after we show our ability in other respects to the world. Then, the world community would agree with us. If not, they would think that we claim such and such, just because we never make a good "car". Also, in practical sense, "good cars" are directly related to our daily life and must be important. If we "ignore" this factor, we ourselves are repeating the mistakes our old "Seon-Bee" did a few hundred years ago.

One could argue against me saying "Ones (who make "good cars") themselves agree on the philosophy-standard argument, so you shut up". But that is not acceptable. Those good-car people say so because they already achieved to some extent and felt kind of limit in itself. I mean their pursuit for the "philosophy" is completely "relative" one. We are in different situation. We have to think sitting in our own position. We can't compare our situation with theirs "lineally". We need so-called "normalization" (all of us are familiar with this term). This is why (I think) we still have to work so hard especially as young scientists. Finishing this letter, I want to ask one thing. If we like to insist the philosophy as the most important ruler for a country's strength, do we really have the "philosophy" of our own? My own answer is "we had but we don't have one now".

So I think the strength of a country must be judged by both of the philosophy AND "good cars" and we have to work together to build BOTH of them.


Sangwook Park
Purdue University

Political comedy of 1955

Y.S.Kim (2005.12.15)

Rhee's 1954 visit to the United States was successful. He was able to obtain massive military and economic aids. To Rhee's eyes, he got a strong political backing from Washington. Rhee had a very simple vision of the world. After World War II, there was only one have-yes country, namely the United States. All other countries were have-not countries. Korea was a have-nothing country. This is perhaps the reason why he totally ignored politicians in his own country.

With a U.S. support, Rhee thought he could become a life-time president. Then should he become a king? This is not acceptable if Korea is to remain as a democratic country, as demanded by Americans. The only solution is to go through the inconvenience of conducting presidential election every four-years, and win the election each time. However, there was a term limit in the constitution revised in 1952. According to this constitution, Rhee had to retire after completing his second term in 1956.

The only solution was to revise the constitution again to allow him to run for the third term in 1956. Lee Ki-Boong was charged with the responsibility of securing a 2/3 majority in the National Assembly for the constitutional revision. In the 1954 election, his Chayoo Dang was able to get more than one half of the assembly seats, but not the required 2/3 majority. The Chayoo Dang people were eventually able to get enough number of assembly men by bribing those without party affiliations.

I do not remember the exact numbers, but we can still do hypothetical calculations. If there are 200 assembly seats, you need 134 votes which will provide the 67 percent (more than 2/3). However, if you have 133 votes, it is only is 66.5 percent (less than 2/3). Of course, the leaders of Chayoo Dang were aware of this, and they carefully recruited 134 men who would vote for the revision.

However, one of them did not know how to read Chinese characters saying YES (KA) and NO (BOO), and did not vote properly. As a consequence, the revision did not get the 2/3 majority. Lee Ki-Boong (who was the chairman of the Assembly) initially declared that the revision failed, but other leaders of Chayoo Dang became creative. They put up an argument that 66.5 is closer to 67 and 66 (we call this Sa-Sa O-ip).

This fallacious logic prevailed, because Chayoo Dang was in control of the national police. It is generally agreed that this was the biggest political mistake Rhee made during his 12 years of presidency. It was the worst comedic tragedy in the history of Korea's democracy.

Election of 1956

Y.S.Kim (2005.12.23)

With the revised constitution of 1956, Rhee Seungman ran for the third time in 1956. The major opposition candidate was Shin Ik-Hee from Minju Dang. Shin was the chairman of the National Assembly from 1948 to 1954 and had been widely respected as the man next to Rhee in Korea. Nobody thought he would win the election against Rhee, but he was a formidable candidate. Unfortunately, he died on a train while making campaign trips. Thus, Rhee was elected before the election.

The issue then was who becomes the vice president. Chayoo Dang's candidate was Lee Ki-Boong, and the candidate from the opposition party was Chang Myun. Chang can best be described as the man who was the prime minister (real power) overthrown by Park Chung-Hee in 1961. The vice president did not have any constitutional power. Furthermore, unlike the United States, the Korean vice president could not assume the presidential power when the president dies. Yet, Koreans took this position very seriously as the second man in the country. Who gets elected to this post was a deadly serious issue.

Alas, in the 1956 election, Chang Myun, the candidate from the opposition party, became elected to the vice-president's position. Rhee, the president, never talked to his vice president. This did not affect government affairs because the vice president did not have any power or responsibility. There was once assassination attempt at Chang Myun while he was giving a speech, but the bullet scratched his hand and he was not hurt. Since then Chang Myun never made public appearances. This disappointed many people. As the vice president, with a presidential ambition, he could have made many speeches to build up his political base among the people, but he did not. This lack of support made it easy for Park Chung-Hee to overthrow his government in 1961.

Here is one lesson we can learn. The fact that Chang Myun was elected in 1956 tells us that the Chayoo Dang government had some conscience not to rig the election completely, while 1960 election was a complete fraud. This erosion of ethics was not caused in one year or two. It took eight years (1952-60) for Chayoo Dang to become totally rotten.

I am mentioning this because this has been going on within Seoul National University. As you know, I was once a student at SNU, and I even hold a Gamtu position (I have to pay more money) for a local alumni group. I regard myself very highly, and I have respects for those I met at SNU (my age group). Then why do I have such a low opinion of SNU?

Since 1970, I noticed consistent erosion of ethics among SNU graduates. The erosion took many different forms. Most often they blame others for their own mistakes. There are many other exotic examples. This erosion of course affects their attitude toward research. This is the reason why not many of them survive in the U.S. academic institutions, while our Chinese counterparts do extremely well.

Undoubtedly, this lack of ethics has been taking place within SNU. Like Rhee's Chayoo Dang government in 1960, it is about time to close down SNU.

Chayoo Dang after the election defeat of 1956

Y.S.Kim (2005.12.28)

Even though Rhee Seungman was to continue his presidency after 1956, the leaders of Chayoo Dang became alarmed at their election defeat. Their basic problem was to lose contact with the people. They thought they could solve the problem by bribing university professors. However, those professors were most critical toward the un-ethical conducts of the party. Chayoo Dang thoroughly failed in their initial attempt.

Their immediate problem was the national assembly election of 1958. They needed another 2/3 majority in order to revise the constitution to remove the term limit for the first president. In other words, the life-time presidency for Rhee Seungman. Chayoo Dang did not have any support base from the people. Rhee is the only political asset they had, and the only way to stay in power is to keep Rhee in their camp.

In order to assure this, they had to make Rhee happy. They operated printing facilities to produce phony newspaper editions only for Rhee Seungman. These editions only printed the stories which Rhee would like, and he used to become very happy to read those false stories. It worked. In fact, I learned a lesson from them when I approached Eugene Wigner in his late years. I did not lie to him, but I had to work hard to invent stories he would like to hear. My colleagues used to hate me for my Korean-style of dealing with elderly persons.

The Chayoo Dang people also had to develop a technology of fixing the election ballot boxes, and they did. Korea has a very interesting election history. We talk about not-so-clean elections very often. But the worst case is fixing up the ballot boxes. Chayoo Dang started systematic ballot cheating as late as in 1958. Based on the past experience, they thought they had enough police power to do this, and they became much bolder in 1960. We all know what happened in 1960.

What was Rhee Seungman doing during this period? I will talk more about this next time. While I was a student in the United States from 1954, and while Rhee was the president, he used to send a new year's message every year to all Korean students in the United States. His message was printed at the Korean Mission to the United Nations in New York. I used to get a copy of the message in an envelope with a three-cent first class stamp. He used to write in his own style, in 19th-century Korean. I enjoyed reading his message. I assume he felt close to Koreans in the USA because he spent many years there (here from my point of view). From his messages, I was able to see that he thought he did most important portion of his independent movement while in the United States.

In September of every year, I use this email system to send a welcome message to Korean students who came to the United States. To those young people, I am known as an old professor who tells them not to drive Japanese cars, and attend their departmental Christmas party. As far as the Japanese car is concerned, what I says is that they should refrain from attacking other Koreans as pro-Japanese traitors while they are driving Japanese cars.

This year (2005), I forgot to send my yearly welcome message. The content of my message is very simple. The United States rewards hard-working people, and Koreans are hard-working people. Koreans will be rewarded. There are many Christians in Korea, and we all have the basic knowledge of the Bible. The ethical principles spelled out in the Bible forms the social fabric for Americans. If there is a cultural difference between Koreans and Americans, it is only minimal. If you do not believe in Jesus, it is also OK because Jesus and Confucius say the same thing.

This year, I want to add a new content. Like Rhee Seungman, you should try to achieve the most important thing in your life while in the United States abundant in resources. Happy New Year!!