Full text of "Syngman Rhee The Man Behind The Myth"

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Full text of "Syngman Rhee The Man Behind The Myth"


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Syngman Rhee: The Man Behind the Myth 

Verdict in Korea (1952) 

The Truth About Korea (1951) 

Why War Came in Korea (1950) 

Korea: Forgotten Nation (1944) 

Four Who Spoke Out: Burke, Fox, Sheridan and Pitt (1946) 

Training for Effective Speech (1939) 
Psychology of Persuasive Speech (1942) 

Developing Ideas (1943) 
(With H. L. Robbins) 

Effective Speech Notebook (1945) 

The New Training for Effective Speech (1946, 1951) 
(With Rupert L. Cortright) 

Essentials of Communicative Speech (1949) 
(With H. P. Zelko and D. C. Dickey) 

Persuasive Speaking: Principles and Methods (1950) 
Korea, My Country, by Yung Tai Pyun (1953). Editor 

An "official" photograph distributed by the Republic of Korea 
Office of Public Information in 1952. 


The Man Behind the Myth 



NEW YORK 1954 

Copyright 1954 
By Robert T. Oliver 

All rights reserved 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form 
without permission in writing from the publisher. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 54-7714 

Printed in the United States of America 
by The Cornwall Press, Inc., Cornwall, N. Y. 

For Mary 
Who else could it be? 


JtSiOGRAPHY is a challenge no one should face lightly. A 
life is too sacred to be carelessly reviewed. No one should 
attempt to chronicle the strengths and the weaknesses, the 
character and the temperament, the achievements and the 
failures, the ideals and the ambitions of one of his fellows 
without giving the effort long and careful thought. The 
outwardness of a man worth writing about is a living por- 
tion of the history of the race, and unless he is portrayed 
rightly the blemish is suffered by us all. The outward life 
of Syngman Rhee is built closely into the fabric of the new 
Korea that fell to the imperialism which punctured the old 
civilization of North Asia at the turn of the twentieth century 
but that held onto its integrity through a generation while 
awaiting an opportunity to arise again. In its rising the con- 
flict between the Soviet imperialism and the democratic will 
to live in freedom came to painful focus and Rhee was in 
the center of the whirlwind, unable to control it but success- 
fully surmounting its storms. His life story, then, is a vital 
part of the history of the most colossal struggle of our times. 
He represents a rare stabilizing force in an age and in an 
area of disintegration. If stability in his part of the world 
is to be restored it will develop around the program and 
upon a foundation of the ideals for which he is not alone 
the spokesman but also in essence the architect. 

The inwardness of such a man is especially difficult to 
penetrate. The feelings, the motives, the convictions of a 
public man are so distorted and concealed by the cause he 
represents that few can expect to penetrate behind the veil. 



Since he lives in the center of international controversies, 
all that is written about him in the daily press tends more 
to obscure than to reveal the intrinsic nature of the man 
himself. To only a few can he truly be known and those 
few, in the nature of things, must be his friends. The inti- 
macies which portray the real personality occur only in the 
unguarded relaxation of genuine comradeship. Those who 
understand Syngman Khee best can only be those who have 
known him with affection and admiration across a lengthy 
span of years. 

While the life of Syngman Rhee is complex (like all lives) 
and unique in its essence and achievements (so that his equal 
is not likely to appear in Korea soon, if ever again), the gen- 
eral pattern of his development adheres to a simple and vital 
formula. He is an archtype of that new man who has begun 
to appear in our century: an integration of the cultures of 
the East and the West. one of his greatest values and per- 
haps the chief foundation of his effective leadership is that 
he successfully synthesized his excellent education in the 
ancient culture of the Orient with his advanced studies in 
American and European history and philosophy. At a time 
when the two disparate hemispheres have been united in 
a common destiny, he has stood in the center, able with 
equal ease to see the central meanings of both. one of the 
keys to the nature of the man is that he speaks with equal 
facility in Korean and in English, but with different styles 
and emphases in the two languages. He knows how to talk 
to his own people as well as to ours. And he does not make 
the mistake of thinking that the two audiences have as yet 
become one. The synthesis which he exemplifies is one the 
peoples of the Orient and the Occident are just now begin- 
ning to approach. That is one major reason why we need 
to listen to what he says and to seek to interpret the man- 
ner of his speech. 

It has been my fortunate opportunity to work with him in 


Washington before the liberation of Korea from the Jap- 
anese, frequently in Korea during the years since 1945, and 
in Washington and at the United Nations as a counsellor and 
as manager of the Washington Office of the Korean Pacific 
Press. It has also been my good fortune to have the active 
assistance in the preparation of this book of those who have 
known and worked with him for many years. To make suit- 
able acknowledgement to all of them would be impossible. 
Very special appreciation must be extended, however, to 
Ambassador Ben C. Limb, Pyo Wook and Chungnim Han, 
Yung Tai Pyun, Hugh Cynn, John W. Staggers and Jay Je- 
rome Williams, Walter Jhung, Peter S. Hyun, Sr., Mrs. Ethel 
B. Kamp, Henry Chung DeYoung, Sae Sun Kim, Won Soon 
Lee, Young Han Choo, Maurice William, Frederick Brown 
Harris, M. Preston Goodfellow, Kyung Ho Lee, Louise Yim, 
Ambassador You Chan Yang, Philip Jaisohn, Kimm Kiusic, 
George Paik, Horace Underwood, Merritt Earl, Homer B. 
Hulbert, John Orr, Arthur I. Andrews, CX R. Avison, Won 
Soon Lee, Young-shik Kim, Tayson Jhung, Soon Ju Chey 
and Nod-hi Sohn. Without the living recollections of such 
people as these, this account could not have been rounded 
out or rendered reasonably complete. 

Foremost among those who have been gracious and help- 
ful in assembling this record are President and Mrs. Syng- 
man Rhee. During twelve years of intimate association with 
them, I have been privileged to learn of many of their 
thoughts and plans, both in personal talks and through a 
large accumulation of correspondence. President Rhee has 
also kindly turned over for my use many documents, letters 
and diary notes covering the major portions of his life. 
Without this whole-hearted cooperation the story of his life 
would necessarily have been meager indeed. 

In the actual writing I have benefited much from the pa- 
tient and critical reading of the manuscript by my brother, 
Egbert S. Oliver, and by Raymond T. Bond, Consul General 


Young Han Choo and Philip (Pyo Wook) Han. Far beyond 
these others I owe a tremendous debt of appreciation to the 
devoted assistance of my wife, who has shared fully with 
me the experience of our work together on the Korean ques- 
tion and who has carefully assisted in my reconsideration of 
all the facts and judgments which are interwoven in the at- 
tempt to delineate accurately the life and character of Syng- 
man Rhee. 

Finally, I send this work to press with a full realization 
that much more remains to be said about its subject and 
with the confident expectation that time will clarify some 
of the problems that are now confused in the maze of con- 
temporary disagreements. The real significance of Syngman 
Rhee will emerge only in the future when time will provide 
the perspective on which all ultimate judgments must be 
based. I am confident that in the long view his stature and 
importance will continue to grow. Meanwhile, the facts set 
forth in the following pages will speak for themselves* 

State College, Penna. 
January 11, 1954 

















INDEX 373 

An "official" photograph distributed by the Republic of 
Korea Office of Public Information Frontispiece 


Syngman Rhee in his teens and at Princeton in 1910 14 

Dr. Rhee signing the newly adopted Constitution, July 

17, 1948 145 

President Rhee with Lt. General James A. Van Fleet, 

General Matthew B. Ridgway, Ambassador John J. 

Muccio and Lt. General John B. Coulter 176 

President Rhee at home on his 78th birthday 209 

President Rhee talking with north Korean refugees on 

Koje Island 240 

Mrs. Rhee distributing a gift shipment of sewing ma- 
chines 240 
President and Mrs. Rhee on the grounds of Kyung 

Mu Dai 249 

Dr. Rhee introducing Kim Koo to General Hodge in 

1946 264 

President Rhee visiting American wounded aboard the 

hospital ship Jutlandia 264 

President Rhee with Secretary of State John Foster 

Dulles and Assistant Secretary Walter S. Robertson 273 
Cartoons from INS and the Washington Star 304 

Poem composed, in Chinese, by Dr. Rhee, with his own 

translation 337 

Dr. Rhee in Washington, D.C., in March, 1947 352 



Chapter I 


JL HE ODDS were all against the birth of Syngman Rhee. For 
five preceding generations his paternal family line had pro- 
duced only one surviving son in each generation a slender 
thread on which to hang a chance for Hfe. His own mother 
was forty years of age and had borne two daughters and a 
sickly son who failed to survive boyhood. The period of her 
fertility was drawing to an end when, one night, she dreamed 
that a dragon flew down from heaven and entered into her 
bosom. She awoke in a transport of joy and told the story to 
her husband and daughters, for in the Orient the dragon is 
as much revered as it has been dreaded in the West. Her 
dream was nothing uncommon among pregnant women of 
the East, who are steeped in Buddhist lore and in super- 
natural folk tales. But in this instance the portent proved 
to be well founded. on March 26, 1875, a healthy son was 

When his elder brother died, this new babe was given the 
stately title of Yukdai Dokja, or the last of six successive 
only sons. Because of the dragon dream, his boyhood name 
was Yongi, the Korean term for dragon. He was wept over 



with joy and watched over with care, for in the Yi family * 
he was a precious treasure. All Korean children are given 
an amount of personal attention rare in any other country. 
They are carried about strapped to the back of mother, fa- 
ther, nurse or older brother or sister, with their legs clasped 
around the carrier's thighs. Always they feel the warmth of 
the bodily contact, and always a protective custody is in- 
sured. When they cry, comfort is close at hand. As infants, 
they are shifted around on their mother's hip to feed from 
her breast. Even from the first weeks of life, they are taken 
out on the streets, into the fields for work, or on social calls, 
wherever their bearer may go. Loneliness is something they 
never experience. The sense of belonging is early inbred. 
When, as in the case of this Yukdai Dokja, the child is espe- 
cially valued, he is entertained, played with, babied and 
lionized almost constantly. Not many specific details of 
Rhee's youth have been preserved, but we can be certain 
that his childhood was a happy one. 

The official Rhee family genealogy extends backward for 
seventeen generations, but when the boy Syngman was 
born, nature had played out its game. Neither of his sisters 
lived to marry. His father had no brothers or surviving sis- 
ter, and he has no living relations on his maternal side. For 
six generations the family had barely survived on the doubt- 
ful thread of a single son in each. In the seventh it is dying 
out. Syngman Rhee, too, fathered an only son; but in child- 
hood tiiis boy died, and the ancestral line is drawing to an 

Yi Kyung-sun, the boy's father, was a member of the 

* The baptismal name given to this boy amid suitable ceremonies at the 
Buddhist Temple was Yi Seung-man. Since he is known around the world 
as Syngman Rhee, , this is the name by which he will henceforth be iden- 
tified, although he did not adopt it until 1905, when he was thirty years 
old. During his youth he became known to the missionaries as Yi or Lee 
Seung-man. In Korea (because of the difficulty of transliterating from the 
Korean to the English alphabet) Yi is often spelled Ri, Lee, Li, Rhee, Ryee 
or even ML 


scholarly Yang&an * class. He was reared in wealth, and 
educated for nonproductive scholarship. Although he lost his 
wealth long before Syngman's birth, to the end of his life he 
always dressed in the formal gowns of the scholar, cultivated 
a flowing beard and comported himself with careful dignity. 
Neighbors used to say, "Sain-Nim (an honorific term for 
scholar) is a gentleman to his fingertips." A fine-looking 
man, he was warm-hearted, generous, convivial and im- 
provident. As was common in upper-class Korean families 
(even when they are poor) the father lived a life of restrained 
dignity in his family relationships, and his son had little real 
companionship with him except for a brief period when 
Rhee was in his forties. In his character and temperament 
he belongs to Korea's ancient past separated from Syng- 
man Rhee by a vast gulf. 

Syngman's mother, Kim-Hai Kimsio, who was his closest 
companion through his childhood, used to tell him, "Your 
father has never had any interest in women or gambling, 
but he would give the world for friends and convivial par- 
ties/' In Korean homes of that period, even the poorest had 
one reception room that belonged specifically to the hus- 
band, and there he would entertain male guests, while his 
family remained out of sight. In Yi Kyung-sun's home, this 
room was small probably not more than ten feet square in 
size and, as was the Korean custom, almost completely un- 
furnished. Small black-lacquered tables, about eighteen 
inches high, would be brought in for the guests one in front 
of each who would sit cross-legged on the floor while sip- 
ping their rice wine or tea and telling stories. Such parties 
were the solace of Master Yi's life, and when he was enter- 
taining a party of friends, nothing else seemed important. 

Yi Kyung-sun's very genuine scholarship was largely de- 
voted to genealogy, as was generally true of the intellectual 

* In the Confucian system this was accounted the highest social class, 
followed in order by tihe farmers, industrialists, merchants and soldiers. 


aristocracy of his time. He would spend hours studying 
from twenty-four large volumes which he kept in a beautiful 
bookcase, learning by heart all the main lines and branches 
of the Yi family and of other noted Korean families. Many 
a time he would draw his young son up beside him and re- 
cite stories of their ancestors. When Syngman proved to be 
uninterested in these past glories, his father would sigh with 
exasperation and send him out to play. The old scholar fi- 
nally copied out the main lines of the family ancestry in a 
small notebook and charged Syngman always to keep it safe. 
This advice the son observed, and the old notebook is still 
preserved among his papers. Yi Kyung-sun also used to 
recite many old classical poems, tales and essays to Syng- 
man, and taught many of them to the boy. on occasion he 
would ask Syngman to recite them to him; and when the 
boy forgot a line, he would shake his head disapprovingly 
and then give him a cue. 

Syngman's mother worked very hard at her household 
tasks, but seemed never too busy to teach him or read to 
him. She, too, was distinctly a product of the old, conserv- 
ative Korean culture, and her thinking was devoted to pre- 
serving and passing on the values of the past. His first idea 
of poetry came from a verse she read to him in his early 
childhood. For years it stayed in his mind and became a 
model and inspiration for his own poetry: 

The wind has no hands but it shakes all the trees; 
The moon has no feet, but travels across the sky. 

During Syngman's early boyhood (until he was seven) 
Korea was so tightly closed to the outside world that it was 
known as "The Hermit Kingdom/' Foreigners were not 
permitted in the country, and no Koreans traveled abroad, 
except a few officials who made annual trips to Peking and 
Tokyo. Social life was strictly governed by the Confucian 
codes of behavior, which emphasized courtesy and rigidity 


of conf ormance to prescribed etiquette devised for all man- 
ner of relationships and for all probable situations. Educa- 
tion consisted largely of learning what was right and proper 
to be done. Ideas of change and progress were unthought 
of. Stability and decorum were the ideals. Conformity to 
established standards of thought and behavior demanded 
the learning of extensive and complex rules. Otherwise, life 
at that time in Korea was the essence of simplicity. 

The houses were small, one-storied, and made of easily 
available materials. The great bulk of the homes were straw- 
thatched huts with walls of mud plastered on a woven wil- 
low or bamboo frame, without windows and with only one 
outer door. Typically the houses were shaped like an L or 
a U, with a work-yard surrounded by a high brush fence. 
Except in the entertainment room, the floors were of dirt. 
Cooking was done on a small hearth fire, and the dishes 
were as few as the diet was unvaried consisting of rice gruel 
for breakfast, rice and kim-che (a mixture of pickled vege- 
tables) for lunch and more rice and kim-che, with perhaps a 
bit of meat or fish added, and, on fortunate days, rice-flour 
cakes for dessert, at the evening meal. Furnishings consisted 
chiefly of a few small tables and one or two chests which 
contained clothing and the bedding that was spread on the 
floor at night. 

Toys were almost nonexistent except those the children 
made for themselves. Flying kites was a traditional exercise 
at New Year's and was frequently enjoyed all through the 
spring. Homemade ice skates (consisting of a thin piece of 
wood fastened on each shoe) and sleds were frequently used 
during the cold winters. Most of the games were highly 
social, such as hide-and-seek, hopscotch and contests of 
strength, fleetness or agility. Many kinds of simple and not- 
so-sweet candies were sold by hawkers along the streets. 
The children enjoyed one another and had a good time. 
They learned to get along together, to be self-reliant, and 


to develop their wits. In summer, family picnics or picnic 
groups of youngsters were common, with the abundant hills 
and streams of Korea providing excellent picnic spots. Trav- 
eling storytellers would be sure to arrive in the neighborhood 
at least two or three times each month, and crowds of chil- 
dren would gather around them to hear their dramatized 
song-recitals of old legends. It was a simple but far from 
barren life. 

During his childhood, Syngman observed many of his fa- 
ther's friends fondling their ancestral books and reciting 
genealogies. He noted that few of them did anything to 
support their families or to serve their country, but that they 
took it for granted that respect and subsistence were owed 
by the populace to the twentieth or thirtieth generation of 
some notable line. This same disease of ancestor-reverence 
spread all the way down through the society, even to the 
poorest share-crop rice paddy farmers. The Koreans of sev- 
enty-five years ago spent so much time extolling the glories 
of their forebears that they let their own and their country's 
welfare degenerate into a deplorable state of disorder and 
inefficiency. The boy Syngman hated it! Even though he 
was part and parcel of this social system, somehow at a very 
early age he sensed its weaknesses and understood some of 
its defects. 

While he was a child someone, told him a story which 
made such a deep impress on his imagination that he never 
forgot it. A certain Korean died and his soul followed a 
celestial guide who showed him all through a palace in the 
Great Beyond. (The native Korean religion was based on 
the worship of a single god, Hananim, and a belief in per- 
sonal immortality.) When they reached the richly decorated 
quarters of the aristocratic Yangbans, the newcomer discov- 
ered that all the men therein were so emaciated that there 
seemed hardly any flesh on their bones. These men all 
crowded him and urged him to return to earth to advise 


their descendants to make their own way in the world, in- 
stead of living on the memories of their ancestors. "Our off- 
spring," they cried, "are living on us to such an extent that 
we are eternally consumed." It is interesting and fortunate 
that somehow, in the early, formative years of his childhood, 
Syngman encountered some influences that impelled him to 
look toward the future rather than to the past. 

For many years Syngman Rhee's own ancestry was an 
irritation and in some respects a handicap to him. In the 
seventeenth generation preceding his birth, his paternal an- 
cestor, Prince Yi Yang Yung, who was the grandson of the 
founder of the Yi dynasty, was persuaded by his father to 
renounce his own right of succession to the throne to make 
way for a younger brother. Rhee's ancestral record was well- 
known among educated Koreans, and his political enemies 
long tried to submerge him with the charge that he was try- 
ing to re-establish the monarchy and make himself king. 

Syngman's great-grandfather, Yi Hwang, had moved from 
the ancestral home in Seoul to the Haiju District in Whang- 
Hai Province, among the low mountains on the west coast, 
just above the 38th parallel and at the top of the ongjin 
Peninsula. Before Syngman's birth, his parents were forced 
by their diminishing income to move to a small house in 
Nung-an-gol, in the Pyungsan District, where he was born. 
Still further reduction in the family circumstances forced 
another move, when the boy was three, to Seoul, and later 
to Do-dong (Peach Village), in the southern outskirts of 
Seoul. Here, in a small hut on a barren hillside, Syngman 
lived until 1895. Despite his aristocratic lineage, he grew 
up with Korea's poor and learned to think as they think and 
feel as they feel. Along with his first flickering sparks of 
childhood progressiveness, democracy rooted in the welfare 
of the masses of the people was inbred in his earliest experi- 

one of the stories told to Syngman by his father related 


to an ancestral shrine on a hillside in Do-dong, which was 
watched over by poor descendants of the famous Jangban 
in whose honor it had been erected. The small temple, hous- 
ing ancestral tablets commemorating some of Syngman s 
ancestors, was hidden by the branches of a big juniper tree. 
one freezing morning a mendicant Buddhist priest stopped 
to ask at the door of the caretakers for alms. He was told 
the family was so poor it did not even have firewood with 
which to cook rice. "How, then, can we give alms?" the 
priest was asked. Either his hunger or his theological liber- 
alism provided an answer, and he advised them to cut down 
the tree which sheltered the family shrine. With some re- 
luctance his suggestion was followed, and the family was 
warm again. 

on the opposite side of the valley rose a great temple 
called Kwan Je Myo, where the King himself came at times 
to worship. one day when the King was leaving this tem- 
ple, his eye was caught by the poor shrine across the valley, 
which formerly had been hidden by the tree. He inquired 
and found it housed ancestral tablets of some of the descend- 
ants of Prince Yang Yung. He ordered the building to be 
replaced by a much finer shrine, and appointed another de- 
scendant of Prince Yang to watch over it. His bounty did 
not, however, stretch far enough to result in any benefits 
for Syngman's poor relatives, who for so long had attended 
to this family duty. The point of this story, as Yi Kyung-sun 
carefully pointed out, was not that the King was unjust, but 
that fortune is fickle and may bring good or ill, without sys- 
tem or reason, like the random gusts of the March wind. Do 
not count upon what may never come to pass, Syngman was 
taught, forin the words of an old Korean proverb "What 
looked like blossoms on the dead tree turned out to be only 
the white mold of decay." 

The learning of proverbs, indeed, was an essential part 
of the bo/s education, for every household treasured a store 


of old folk sayings that served as a practical balance for the 
unreality of the classical Chinese volumes that were learned 
by heart. one of the proverbs which Rhee has often quoted 
in later life as an apt description of Korea's plight among 
the surrounding powers warns, "A shrimp is crushed in the 
battles of the whales." Others of these old proverbs illus- 
trate the varied teachings which helped to form the char- 
acters of Syngman and his playmates: 

Pinch yourself and you will know the pain another feels 
when pinched. 

Where there are no tigers, wildcats will be very self-im- 

To make a mountain, you must carry every load of earth. 

Blame yourself, not the stream, when you fall in the water. 

Be shrewd in making a bargain and a gentleman in abid- 
ing by it. 

A virtuous character is necessary even in driving a cow. 

A room easily warmed is also easily cooled. 

A finger prick will demand attention, though the worms 
be eating the heart unknown. 

You cannot carry a stone up the mountain without getting 
red in the face. 

You cannot eat the picture of a loaf of bread. 

The water downstream will not be clear if the water up- 
stream is muddied. 

Don't kill a bullock for a feast when a hen would suffice. 

You cannot sit in the valley and see the new moon set. 

From the vast store of Korean proverbs, from the many 
folk tales which Syngman heard from his mother, from the 
mothers of his comrades and from strolling storytellers, and 
from the lyric poems that through eight hundred years were 
written in Korea in celebration of nature, of yearning and 
striving, and of loyalty and love, the young Syngman gath- 
ered into his own character some of the strands of the sturdy 
optimism and the hardy endurance of his countrymen's tra- 


ditions. The love of his native land became a living part of 
his being and shaped in his mind and in his heart a flaming 
devotion that no hardship has ever been able to dim. 

Another heritage from his youth is a strong body and a 
love of outdoor exercise. The home of Syngman's youth was 
a small shelter that offered him little inducement to stay in- 
side except for eating, studying and sleeping. on the other 
hand, for three months in the spring and another three 
months in the autumn, the climate around Seoul is almost 
ideal. The hot weather and abundant rains of midsummer 
invite swimming in the streams, and winter provides its own 
opportunities for vigorous sport. There is no evidence that 
Syngman's childhood was different from that of his friends, 
and there is ample evidence from his mature tastes that as a 
youth he must have spent a great many hours in vigorous 
outdoor activities. 

When Syngman was nine years old an epidemic of small- 
pox swept through the country and the boy became blinded 
in both eyes. With no idea of what the cause might be, his 
parents were perplexed as well as sadly worried. Syngman 
felt as though red hot irons were being pushed into both 
his eyes. He screamed and jumped until the ondol * floor 
in their home was partly broken through. The old man and 
his wife who served the Yi family took turns carrying him 
on their backs, completely wrapped in thick quilts so no 
light could penetrate. His father and mother prayed every 
day that their Yukdai Dokja might be restored to sight. They 
called upon herb doctors and all their friends, to find every 
possible medicine. At least one hundred different remedies 
were tried. At last a relative advised Syngman's father to 

* The room for entertaining guests in a Korean home has an ondol floor 
covering of oiled paper, somewhat like linoleum. Underneath are flues 
leading from the kitchen stove, or (in better houses) from a special heating 
fireplace, providing a radiant form of heating which has been in use in 
Korea for many centuries. At night during the winter months the family 
spread out quilts on the pleasantly warmed floor and thus remained com- 
fortable with the minimum use of fuel, even in the coldest weather. 


take him to a foreign doctor, Horace Allen, a Presbyterian 
missionary, who had arrived in Seoul in July, 1884, and who 
had accomplished remarkable feats. When Syngman was 
taken from the house in a closed sedan chair, with his eyes 
tightly bound, his mother cried as though he were being 
taken to the burial grounds. To a woman of her devout 
Buddhist convictions, entrusting her son to a foreign doctor 
was degrading as well as dangerous. The fact that she would 
let him go at all was an indication of her desperation. 

After the examination, Dr. Allen gave Yi Kyung-sun some 
liquid medicine, to be dropped into Syngman's eyes three 
times daily. He advised them to watch for effects on the 
third day which, as it happened, was Syngman's tenth birth- 
day. At first the medicine had no more results than had the 
remedies of the herb doctors. But on the third morning, 
while Mrs. Yi was in the kitchen preparing breakfast, Syng- 
man sat on the floor with his back to the window. His father 
sat near the window, writing a letter. Mrs. Yi brought in 
Syngman's breakfast and placed it on a small table in front 
of him. Then she placed a spoon in his hand, showed him 
where to find the plate, and went back to the kitchen. While 
Syngman was eating, he was suddenly startled by the aware- 
ness that he was seeing the lines of the pattern of the straw 
matting upon which he sat. Trembling with eagerness and 
anxiety, he reached out his hand. Sure enough, there were 
the lines! Several times he looked for a line and then traced 
it out to be sure; then he sprawled across the floor toward 
his father, crying, "I can see the lines!" 

His father, who was deeply intent upon his letter, at first 
brushed the boy aside. But as soon as he understood, he 
held up his inkstone and asked, "What have I here?" When 
Syngman replied, "An inkstone," Yi Kyung-sun called husk- 
ily to his wife, "Our son's eyes are opened. He can see!" 
Mrs. Yi came quickly to the door, hesitated a moment, then 
kicked off her shoe and, pointing toward it with her foot, 


asked, "What is that?" When Syngman replied, "Your shoe," 
she ran to embrace him, shaking with sobs. Yi Kyimg-sun 
took Syngman back to Dr. Allen, to thank him, and offered 
a straw bundle of ten eggs as a token of appreciation. This 
Dr. Allen refused, saying, "Your boy needs them more than 
I do/' This was Syngman Rhee's first experience with any 
foreigner. He was to have many more including another, 
much less happy, with Dr. Horace Allen, after another dec- 
ade had passed. 

The turning to a Christian doctor to cure Syngman's blind- 
ness made no lasting ripple in the religious observances of 
the Yi household. Like most other Korean families of the 
period, they devotedly practiced both Buddhism and Con- 
fucianism. There was no conflict between these two faiths, 
for Buddhism pays scant attention to this life and Confucian- 
ism ignores the next. To the parents of Syngman Rhee and 
to the boy as he grew into an awareness of life's intangible 
values these two complementary religions were fully satis- 
fying. Had they desired further religious guidance, or solace, 
or discipline, the world in which they lived had much more 
to offer. The Shamanistic cult of Taoism filled their woods 
and streams and the dark recesses of the night with gods 
evil and good, foreboding and fun-loving. The recently 
founded Chuntokyo Cult promised a heavenly way to im- 
mortality based on the kindly intercession of a personalized 
God. Most housewives and all children of the period were 
believers in auguries, crystal-gazers, sorcery and supersti- 
tion. As a household of unusual educational achievement, 
the Yi family was tolerant of the varied beliefs of the com- 
munity but remained faithful to its own creeds. Syngman's 
mother taught him the elementary Confucian principles and 
sent him each year on his birthday to the Buddhist temple 
to offer sacrifices and prayers. The spiritual atmosphere of 
these early years sank into his temperament and became a 
part of him which has continued to guide his thinking 
through all the years since. 


In later life Syngman Rhee recalled that he had never for- 
gotten his first impression of the beautiful Buddhist mon- 
astery isolated on the high slopes of Pook Han Mountain. 
In the exalted and ascetic environment, everything appeared 
so unearthly to his child's eyes that he felt as though he 
were in the Lotus Heaven with the five hundred La Hans, 
the idols with varying dresses and hats, sitting side by side 
along the walls of an immense hall, with pictures of heaven 
and hell gorgeously painted behind them. In the summer 
of 1946, Dr. and Mrs. Rhee went on a Sunday afternoon for 
a visit to that same Buddhist temple, and he stood in the 
entranceway looking into it while he said softly, again and 
again, "Beautiful! Beautiful!" Many a time in conversation 
he has reflected that if the peacefulness and serene self-for- 
getfulness of Buddhism could effectively be joined to the 
Christian spirit of brotherhood and mutual helpfulness, the 
benefits to millions of troubled and uneasy people would be 

His mother, who was in many ways a remarkable woman- 
far advanced for her time and of far more than average in- 
telligencewas his first teacher. His first book was the Chi- 
nese basic reader, incorporating one thousand ideographic 
characters. By the time he was six, he had them all mem- 
orized. Neighbors were invited to a feast to celebrate this 
triumph, and his parents were the proudest in Peach Village. 
Such a feat as he had mastered might be roughly compared 
to learning to read, write and spell an English vocabulary 
of ten thousand words supplemented by considerable skill 
in artistic drawing. From this beginning he went on to the 
Dong Mong Sun Sup, or Second Reader, consisting of intro- 
ductory Chinese and Korean history and elementary rules 
of conduct. In his seventh year he proceeded to the Tong- 
gam book of history, and before his eighteenth birthday he 
had memorized the remainder of the indispensable seven 
Chinese classics: The Doctrine of Means, the Analects of 


Confucius, The Teachings of M'encius, the Confucian Books 
of History and of Poetry, and The Book of Changes. 

In the Korea of that day there were no schools. A family 
would engage a tutor for its own children and those of rela- 
tives or friends. Syngman studied with Yi Pyung Joo, Choi 
Eul Yong, and the two older brothers of Hugh Heung-woo 
Cynn the man whom he later appointed as ambassador to 
Japan, and who became one of his rivals for the presidency 
in the election of 1952. 

Thus passed Syngman's youth, until, in the late fall of 
1894, when he was nineteen years of age, the Sino- Japanese 
War commenced. Syngman was rereading the Book of Po- 
etry (Si-fan) in an intensive review for the annual civil serv- 
ice examinations. Keung-woo Cynn, one of his classmates 
and closest friends, entered the Pai Jai Middle School, which 
had been established in September of that year by Methodist 
missionaries. He urged Syngman to join him and study the 
modern world (interest in which was greatly stimulated by 
the exciting war between China and Japan) instead of con- 
centrating upon the memorization of ancient classics. one 
day, with several other curious friends, young Rhee slipped 
into a back seat in the Pai Jai chapel, intending to scoff at 
the "foreign devils" who had come to upset the old learning 
and undermine the old religions. After a few days he began 
to think it would be worth while to learn English, and he had 
complete confidence in his ability to listen to whatever was 
said without letting it affect his religious or social beliefs. 

When Keung-woo first talked to him about attending Pai 
Jai, young Rhee replied loftily, "Let them change the order 
of heaven and earth, but I never shall give up my mother's 
religion." It should be noted that here, as in other instances, 
it was his mother rather than his father, whom he regarded 
as his guiding influence. She it was who did more than any 
other individual to mold his evolving personality. To her 
he was the sun and center of her universe, her dragon child, 







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her crowning achievement, her pride, her hope for an earthly 
immortality. Upon him she lavished affection and, as his 
remarkable intellectual powers became evident, near venera- 
tion. From his father he experienced occasional bursts of 
discipline, but his mother wrapped him in a pervasive and 
continuous attention which, without any of the physical 
manifestations of authority, actually shaped and directed 
his thoughts and feelings with the steady pressure of com- 
manding devotion. All his life Syngman Rhee has been more 
intimately influenced by women than by men. From them 
he has acquired something of the yielding toughness and 
soft perseverance which makes of womankind the stronger 
of the sexes while seeming, deceptively, to be the weaker. 
It is not that Rhee became in any way effeminate, but it 
may not be fanciful to see in the succession of female fol- 
lowers and counselors a key to his ability to maintain a 
chosen course of action against all manner of opposition, 
without bluster or apparent strain. It is also probably be- 
cause of this influence that he fostered and led the first sig- 
nificant movement for feminist rights in the Orient. Despite 
all these considerations, his announced determination to re- 
main steadfast in his mother's faith proved to be one of his 
least durable predilections. 

His decision to become a regular student in the Pai Jai 
school was not an easy one to make. His parents' opposition 
would have been so strong that he dared not discuss the 
question with them. Every morning he slipped out of the 
house to attend classes without telling them where he was 
going. He was almost twenty years of age and his mother 
used to sigh as she thought her son was falling into habits 
of idleness and perhaps worse. But his father indulgently 
insisted that the boy be left alone, and not be questioned 
too closely about how he was spending his time, while he 
found his own way across the threshold from youth to man- 


Foreigners had only been allowed in Korea for thirteen 
years. Their number was still few, and all of them (but espe- 
cially the missionaries) were objects of suspicion and con- 
siderable dislike. There was much gossip and many rumors 
about their strange customs. Their dress was queer, and 
they wore their hair ludicrously cropped close to their heads. 
The foreign women walked brazenly out in the streets in 
open daylight without a covering for their faces and even 
apparently without concern for the glances that were openly 
cast at them. What they ate nobody knew, but there were 
many knowing looks and sly remarks about their probable 
diet. Their eyes and complexions were strange, and their 
hairy faces seemed outlandish. Hair also grew on their arms, 
and some spoke of seeing hair on the chests and the legs 
of the men as well. Obviously these strangers were lacking 
in the niceties of good breeding and did many things which 
violated the most lax rules of courtesy. Most of the Koreans 
were at first a little afraid of them, and everyone held them 
in a degree of contempt. But there was no denying that they 
had a kind of cleverness and certain types of startling in- 
genuity. They talked of utterly fascinating (if often unbe- 
lievable) things about the land from which they had come, 
and the Koreans who mingled with them found much in 
their behavior to arouse wonder and a growing admiration. 

The world the missionaries talked about and the world 
the Koreans knew were separated not only by thousands of 
miles but, figuratively, by hundreds of years. When Com- 
modore Robert Schufeldt in 1882 persuaded the wily Korean 
king to accept a treaty of mutual commerce and friendship, 
Korea was a hermit kingdom nestled in the twin protection 
of strict isolationism and regimented reaction. Life in the 
Seoul of Syngman Rhee's childhood was not greatly different 
from life in the Paris of 1400. The streets were narrow lanes, 
wandering almost at random among rows of mud-walled, 
straw-thatched huts. Sanitary practices recalled the old 


medieval European merry madcap custom of dumping the 
contents of chamber pots out of upper windows onto the 
heads of passers-by. An absolute monarchy, flanked by a 
hereditary aristocracy, dealt with the people with an unpre- 
dictable mixture of indolent indifference and uncomprehend- 
ing cruelty. Lines of stakes bounding the bridge across the 
majestic Han River were seldom without fresh adornments 
of the heads of some of His Majesty's subjects who had 
broken one or another of the multiple laws enforced by cap- 
ital punishment. 

In the streets no one was to be seen but Koreans, for the 
hated Japanese were not tolerated, and the Chinese cannily 
wooed Korean friendship by maintaining a buffer strip north 
of the Yalu River, and by executing any Chinese who dared 
to cross it. As a matter of fact, few were seen in the streets 
except Korean men, for by immemorial custom the women 
stayed in their homes until after dark; or, if they had to 
venture out, they were accompanied by a husband, father 
or brother. Not lacking, however, were the solid and chunky 
Korean oxen, pulling their two-wheeled carts, or the small 
but sturdy Korean horses in size and disposition like Amer- 
ican burros, but in appearance a smaller edition of the wild 
Mongolian ponies. 

Few of the Koreans crowding the streets of Seoul in Syng- 
man's youth had ever been outside of Kyonggi Province, and 
scarcely one of them had been outside Korea. Then, into 
their midst, had come the missionaries, miners and business- 
men from some fabulous and splendid land across the end- 
less waters Megooks, the Koreans called them, or "splendid 
people/* They told tales that seemed scarcely believable, of 
wide streets and big houses (some of them with rooms piled 
on top of one another); of steel tracks that ran for thousands 
of miles, with puffing trains rolling along them at speeds 
that carried their passengers more miles in an hour than 
Koreans could traverse in an entire day; of huge factories 


where men went to work for money, and then bought the 
many things made in other factories by other men. 

The missionaries talked of a new religion that seemed 
strangely like Confucianism in some respects, and strangely 
unlike Buddhism in others. Many Koreans were drawn to 
it, however, because of its similarities to their own native 
Chuntokyo Cult, or the "Doctrine of the Heavenly Way"- 
a religion with perhaps two million followers, which pro- 
claimed the existence of one God, of an immortal life, and 
of eternal reward or punishment to be determined by the 
righteousness of an individual's life and the soundness of 
his beliefs. Could this Christianity of the missionaries, some 
Koreans wondered, be a foreign variation of their own faith? 
At least it was worth a hearing. From this foundation Chris- 
tianity spread so widely in Korea that the peninsula came 
to be known among the missionaries as "the most Christian 
land in the Orient." 

Aside from religion, the missionaries talked of schools and 
of printing presses, and of a curious kind of politics called 
democracy-in which people expressed their own ideas, and 
elected their own governors by making marks on paper, and 
decided for themselves what taxes they should pay and what 
laws they should obey. To the Koreans of that time it all 
seemed impractical and, indeed, highly imaginative. But 
they listened to the foreigners with the same attentiveness 
we might accord the tales of a traveler back from a fabulous 
journey of discovery to an unknown civilization cradled in 
the wilds of the Amazon valley. What was said might or 
might not be true, and it surely had little relevance or sig- 
nificance for them, but to listen did no harm and in its own 
way was an interesting method of passing the time. 

Syngman Rhee's first teacher at Pai Jai was Dr, W. A. 
Noble. The first English sentence which Noble taught to 
the boys in the class Syngman joined was, "His father told 
him to go to Pai Jai and study chemistry." Years later, in 


1912, while Rhee was attending an international Methodist 
convention in Minneapolis, he asked Noble why he ever 
thought the boys could profit by starting their study of 
English in such an unusual way. Noble laughed and replied, 
"I was just starting a course in chemistry and wanted to get 
some students!" From Noble Rhee learned the English 
alphabet, and to Noble's gentleness, patience, and strength 
of character he has never ceased to pay tribute. Dr. Noble's 
son Harold was to have a considerable influence in the later 
life of Syngman Rhee and a part in the tangled diplomacy 
which eventuated in the establishment in 1948 of the Re- 
public of Korea. 

The superintendent of Pai Jai was Henry Appenzeller, a 
man of enormous energy, who, in addition to his teaching, 
helped edit the Korean Repository, a primary source for the 
events of that time, published monthly at the Methodist 
Printing and Publishing House adjoining the school. Ap- 
penzeller encouraged the students to start a school news- 
paper, as an aid to their mastery of English, and Rhee 
became the chief editorial writer. Appenzeller edited all the 
text submitted for the paper, both to correct the English and 
to censor any statements that might prove embarrassing to 
the school. Out of this came Syngman's first venture in 

After a time Rhee called a private meeting of the student 
editors and harangued them, saying, "We are cowards to 
publish under the protection of the missionaries!" As a 
result, the boys arranged to secure the use of a printing press 
which had been purchased in Japan ten years earlier by the 
uncle of Kimm Kiusic, whose life was destined to be closely 
intertwined with that of Rhee. Under the purchase agree- 
ment they hired the Japanese printer for a term of ten years. 
Thus Syngman Rhee became the first editor of a daily news- 
paper in Korea, under the auspices of the uncle of a man who 
was to become one of his closest associates and eventually 


his most troublesome opponent, and with the technical 
supervision of a Japanese, whose homeland was to be Rhee s 
lifelong bete noire. 

As the editor of the Maiyil Shinmun, or Daily News, pub- 
lished partly in English and partly in Korean, Syngman 
Rhee commenced what turned out to be a long life devoted 
to reform and agitation. As has proved to be true during his 
entire life, he addressed himself in part to Korean and in 
part to American readers. His theme was an ardent and 
repetitive demand for governmental and social reform. Here 
in this little newspaper was the real birth of the new Korea 
-the true beginning of Rhee's career of statesmanship. 

Even before the start of the Maiyil Shinmun newspaper, 
Rhee found still another outlet for his energies and another 
means of broadening his experience. A new missionary 
teacher, Miss Georgiana Whiting, arrived at Che-joong Won; 
and because Syngman's knowledge of English was greater 
than that of his fellows he was hired to teach her the Korean 
language. His first salary, consisting of twenty silver dollars, 
frightened his mother (who could not imagine he could 
honestly earn so much) when he took it home. By this time 
Syngman had confessed to his parents that he was studying 
at Pai Jai, and they had reluctantly agreed to let him con- 
tinue. Six months after he enrolled in the school he was 
hired to teach English to a new class of boys. 

Other Pai Jai teachers included Mr. D. A. Bunker, Dr. F. 
Ohlinger, who founded the Korean Repository, and Dr. 
Homer B. Hulbert, who managed the Tri-Lingual Press and 
who became the most famous and able American interpreter 
of Korean culture. Because of Rhee's liberal ideas, active 
intelligence, and intense interest in expressing himself in 
English speech and writing, he became friends with these 
men and spent countless hours in their company. Rhee had 
many talks with Hulbert while the latter was writing his 
two-volume History of Korea. Hulbert's later book, The 


Passing of Korea, became for Rhee, as for other Koreans, 
the most valuable record of the last days of the monarchy. 
The friendship between these two continued until, in 1949, 
Hulbert returned to Korea to die in the land that had always 
held his heart. 

During Syngman's enrollment at Pai Jai, his father was 
away from home a great deal, traveling and visiting with 
friends. His mother remained very apprehensive about his 
association with the foreigners, but Syngman comforted her 
with repeated assurances of his loyalty to the Confucian and 
Buddhist doctrines. She gradually came to take pride in his 
mastery of English, as she had in his primacy in the Chinese 
classics. She listened with fascinated interest to his stories 
of the Western world far beyond the seas. Someday, he told 
her, he hoped to visit these strange lands and see some of the 
wonders for himself. When he said that she would weep, 
but she never asked him to abandon his plans. Perhaps she 
thought they were too fantastic ever to come true. 

Rhee became increasingly interested in the ideas of Ameri- 
can democracy and in the theory that all people should have 
equal rights and opportunities. He became an avid reader, 
and a fair selection of Western books and magazines (includ- 
ing McClures, The Nineteenth Century and After, and The 
Outlook) were supplied to him by the missionaries. By this 
time there was considerable travel between Korea and Japan, 
and a number of Koreans of his acquaintance had made 
trips to America. The world outside was becoming more real 
to him, and the medievalism of Korea's political and social 
system became increasingly unbearable. 

Syngman Rhee's involvement in the stirring changes tak- 
ing place in his country was personal and deep-seated. As 
the only son in an ancient and conservative family, he was 
deeply rooted to the Korean past and (through the Chinese 
classics) to Oriental religion, philosophy and traditions. But 
temperamentally he was a rebel and intellectually he was 


becoming firmly convinced that the old society had to be 
remade into a new. Seoul was astir like an anthill disturbed 
by a stick. The king abolished the centuries-old civil service 
examinations, based on the old learning, and instituted new 
ones covering modern foreign languages and Western ad- 
ministrative methods. The life for which Rhee had been so 
successfully educating himself was vanishing. For the first 
time women were beginning to appear on the streets without 
veils. New ideas of every kind were taking form. one of 
them caused a crisis in the Rhee household which can 
scarcely be appreciated at this distance but was very real 
and serious at the time. 

Like all other Korean males, young Rhee wore his hair 
long and gathered into a tightly rolled knot on the top of 
his head. So characteristic was this hair style for men that 
one of the earliest American missionaries, Mrs. L. H. Under- 
wood, entitled her book on Korea, Fifteen Jears among the 
Topknots. Violation of the topknot style was considered as 
much an act of sacrilege as would be neglect or degradation 
of the family ancestor-shrine. Yet Rhee became deeply 
troubled about the topknot and came to regard it as a symbol 
of the old conservative past from which Korea must be 
divorced. He discussed the problem for many hours with 
Dr. O. R. Avison, a medical missionary who remained one 
of his lifelong friends, Finally, one afternoon at home, when 
his father was away, Syngman Rhee walked over to the 
family shrine, took out the ancestral tablets, and holding 
them respectfully before him on the palms of his hands he 
told his mother that in accordance with the changing cus- 
toms of the times he was going to have his topknot cut off. 
He then bowed respectfully to his mother, replaced the 
tablets, and told her he would be away for a few days. His 
mother wept, but without trying to dissuade him she bade 
him good-by. Going to the Avison home, Rhee then had 
his topknot removed by the doctor, in a solemn ceremony 


which they both recognized as a decisive repudiation by 
Rhee of the old classic pattern into which his parents had 
sought so devotedly to mold his life, and for which they had 
made many sacrifices. It was several days before young Rhee 
could gather courage enough to return home. When he did 
so he found that sorrowful as his mother was, she accepted 
better than he had expected the fact that he would have to 
chart for himself the course of his own life. This acceptance 
was in itself a significant indication of how greatly the times 
were changing in Korea. No one should think that either 
the older or the younger generation was having an easy time. 
The oldsters were seeing everything they had treasured 
slipping from them, The youngsters were shyly entering 
into a new world without guidance and with inevitable feel- 
ings of guilt as they turned their backs on the standards of 
their forebears. 

Syngman Rhee was caught in the middle of the first 
decades of this drastic change in Korea's modernization. 
From the serene and untroubled happiness of his youth, his 
normal disturbances of adolescence were intensified and 
sharpened by the revolutionary convulsions which pene- 
trated so deeply into his own life. But the great overriding 
fact is that whatever the problems may have been, he did 
surmount them and arrived at the threshold of maturity 
with at least a significantly successful beginning of an in- 
tegration in his thinking and feeling of the values and 
standards of the East and the West. By the time he was 
twenty Rhee was already becoming a complete man, rounded 
with the civilizing influences of both the world's hemis- 
pheres. Born in medievalism, he had grown into modern 
times. Confined to the city of Seoul, whose environs he had 
never left, he was already becoming a creature of both the 
old world and the new. He was ready for new duties, and 
the opportunities were not delayed. 

Chapter II 

OYNGMAJST RHEE'S transition from childhood to manhood was 
abrupt. Leadership was thrust upon him at an age when he 
should have had time and leisure for study and meditation 
on the vast world of new ideas from the West with which 
he was becoming acquainted. He needed a chance to read 
Locke and Jefferson, Emerson and Carlyle-to study the 
evolution of democracy in England and the American and 
French revolutions to evaluate the growth of the new 
nationalism in Italy and Germany to analyze the nature of 
the Western colonialism in Asia. All of this was to come 
later, but before he had time to acquire such breadth of 
background or to formulate his own philosophy of govern- 
ment, he was thrust pell-mell into the midst of the searing 
problems of a disintegrating society. For Seoul was the 
heart of Korea; Pai Jai was the modernizing yeast in the 
ferment of Seoul politics; and Rhee was early marked among 
the Pai Jai students as a natural leader. In order to under- 
stand the crucial next stages in his development it is neces- 
sary to look first at the situation unfolding in the Pai Jai 
school, and next at the swift succession of crises that were 
hammering down the shaky Korean state. 

At about the end of Rhee's first year at Pai Jai, in 1895, 
there arrived at the school a young Korean named Sola Jai 


Pil, who had been to America to study, and who had already 
had a noted career as a reformer and political radical. Be- 
friended by the powerful Kim Ok-kiun and other strong 
leaders of the court circle, he was made an adviser to the 
king's Privy Council and enjoyed general prestige as the first 
Korean to receive higher education in the United States. 
Early in 1896 he founded a thrice-weekly newspaper called 
Independence and filled its columns with accounts of the 
Western world. Half -jokingly, he asked Rhee to discontinue 
the Maiyil Shinmun, to avoid competing for circulation, but 
Rhee declined with a firm if smiling "No!" Using the 
anglicized name of Philip Jaisohn, he taught a class at Pai 
Jai in Western history, in which Syngman Rhee was one of 
the students. He also founded a debating society, Hyupsung 
Hoi, or "The Mutual Friendship Society," for the purpose of 
studying and practicing parliamentary law. This was some- 
thing entirely new. There were not even words in the 
Korean language for the parliamentary terms. There were 
scarcely even thoughts in the Korean minds for such ideas 
as amending a motion, or referring a disputed point to a 
committee, or rising to a point of personal privilege, or ap- 
pealing from the decision of the chair. Rhee and his friends 
were deeply interested in this new method of developing 
democratic participation in solving problems and in arriving 
at majority-approved agreements. At first the topics dis- 
cussed were carefully noncontroversial, but gradually basic 
questions of the nature and rights of man and the organiza- 
tion of society were introduced. 

Although the society was organized for students, the meet- 
ings were opened to the public and soon were attended by 
many government officials, writers, and publicists. The 
intellectual circles in Seoul were astir with a restive desire 
to burst out of the ancient bonds of reactionary customs, and 
this new society proved to have a catalytic effect. Since the 
school authorities frowned on discussion of any subjects 


which might cause trouble for their work, the society moved 
to quarters away from Pax Jai and was renamed The Inde- 
pendence Club. This event took place on June 7, 1896-a 
notable day in Korean history. The first president was Mr. 
Ahn Kyong Soo, a large and portly man, who was Minister 
of War in the king s Privy Council, and whose interest in 
modern weapons (which were displayed so impressively in 
the Sinojapanese War) led him on to further inquiries con- 
cerning other innovations of the Western nations. The 
government of Korea had entered a near hiatus, for the weak 
king, fearful of Japanese intrigue, had fled to the Russian 
Embassy, where he remained under the close influence and 
surveillance of Ambassador Waeber for a year. As a result of 
this situation, the discussions in the club centered largely 
upon the dangers to Korean independence from Russia and 
Japan. Although the club members did not then know it, 
Japanese and Russian representatives were at that very time 
attempting to work out an agreement for a division of Korea 
between their two countries along the 38th parallel. Their 
failure to do so was not from fear of Korea but from concern 
about the effects of such a move upon the British and 
Americans, who were much interested in the potential 
mineral, railway and industrial resources of Manchuria. 

Meanwhile, an ambitious and able American named 
Horace Allen (who had cured Rhee's blindness ten years 
earlier) was laboring almost alone to interest his government 
and also American businessmen in the resources and strategic 
importance of Korea. A missionary turned business agent, 
diplomat and court politician, Allen was determined to help 
modernize Korea. When he found the United States did not 
intend to burden itself with this responsibility he turned to 
the Japanese and helped actively in placing control of the 
Korean government in their hands. Rhee knew him only 
from a distance, for Allen was far too discreet to get involved 
personally with a young man who was showing distinct 


evidence of rebellion. When Eh.ee did finally approach 
Allen to discuss his reform movement, he got a cold rebuff. 
Like Philip Jaisohn, Allen was too much concentrated upon 
his own approach to the problems of Korea to permit himself 
to be diverted by any other program. 

Unlike these two men, Rhee had not a program but only 
an attitude, an urge toward improvement of social and 
political conditions. From earliest days he was by nature a 
politician. That is to say, he saw the problems of people 
around him as something more than merely personal to them- 
selves. With an alert mind, a retentive memory and a re- 
markably sympathetic nature, he could not avoid noting 
inequalities and injustices on every side, nor could he abstain 
from identifying himself with the victims of oppression. A 
man in trouble was a man to be helped; many men in trouble 
meant a society diseased and in urgent need of remedial 
care. Thus, on the one hand, Rhee would turn from the 
suffering or struggling individual to look at the nature of his 
problem in the broad social context and to look for a gener- 
alized solution that would not only serve him but would also 
help others in a like state. However, on the other hand, Rhee 
has always tended to personalize politics intensely and 
vividly often to his sorrow and sometimes to the detriment 
of the ends he has sought to serve. When social ills are 
present, he cannot forbear to look for villains who cause 
them in order to profit by them. When crises arise, he is 
liable to see in them the scheming hand of some genie of 

To a large degree this personalization of politics has de- 
rived from the nature of the Seoul in which he grew to 
manhood. A small and closely knit political community 
which subsisted upon the favors and waxed or waned ac- 
cording to the whims of the king, every participant knew 
(and hated or loved) all the others. Even in the midst of the 
zealousness of the reformers, personalities counted fully as 


much as principles. Tea houses were the caucus rooms. 
Sociability was inseparable from political maneuvering. 
Seated on the floor around low tea tables, with heads bent 
together while the young men discussed plans or listened 
to the counsels of the elders, the political gatherings took on 
the characteristics of clannish meetings. Disagreements 
among the members of the group were few and minor, for 
the very nature of the Independence Club brought together 
only those of like mind. on the other hand, the constant 
intrigues of the court encouraged a certain amount of spying 
and the betrayal of some of the king s ministers by others or 
by the agents of other ministers. Loyalty became the cardi- 
nal test of worthiness and suspicion became a normal mark 
of reasonable astuteness. Revolution was in the air, and as 
Rhee breathed deep of its heady fumes he became addicted 
to its mannerisms and characteristics. Many times after his 
election to the presidency of the Korean Republic he has 
remarked, "I know I should be more careful of what I say in 
public, but you know I have been an agitator all my life and 
I cannot change now/* 

The early twenties are a time of exhilaration for all spirited 
youths, and Rhee and his associates, for all their seriousness 
of purpose, were having the time of their lives. They could 
not fail to know that their education had unveiled before 
their eyes a higher vision than any of their forebears had ever 
known. Their minds were bursting with ideas for the im- 
provement of the state, and they were idealists enough and 
impatient enough to want to rush immediately to the task of 
reform. If they were troubled from time to time, as Syngman 
was when he faced his mother with the news that he was 
cutting his topknot, their predominant mood was one of 
enthusiasm and unquestioning certainty. Like Hamlet, they 
were born in a time that was out of joint, but unlike Hamlet, 
the youthful Rhee was thrilled and stimulated by the as- 


surance that he would play a leading role in setting condi- 
tions aright. 

The placid contentment and acceptance which., in retro- 
spect, we ascribe to the Victorian Age in England, was 
completely lacking in the Korea in which Syngman Rhee 
grew to manhood. The Korean-American Treaty of 1882 
ushered Korea into the modern world at a time when the 
imperialistic nations were all scrambling for positions of 
privilege and power in North Asia. Russia had pushed to 
the Pacific a generation earlier and was eagerly reaching 
southward, toward warm water ports. Japan's Emperor 
Meiji was skillfully guiding his nation into a robust indus- 
trialism and was ambitious to secure bases and resources on 
the continent. Germany, England, France, and some Ameri- 
cans were casting greedy eyes at the coal and iron of 
Manchuria and were trying to insure primacy in the expected 
huge revenues that could be derived from developing favor- 
able trade relations with the masses of China. Among all 
these rivals, only the Russians and the Japanese realized 
the primary value of securing Korea, as the heart of the stra- 
tegic triangle of North Asia, but they made up in the 
intensity of their rivalry for the relative quiescence of the 
others. And in the midst of this struggle, the Korean mon- 
archy had degenerated into slothfulness, intrigue, corrup- 
tion, and almost moronic inefficiency. To understand what 
next befell Syngman Rhee, it is necessary to consider the 
main outlines of Korea's situation at that time. 

When King Chul-Jong had died in 1864, he had no sons 
and his widow, Queen Cho, violently seized the seals of 
office and nominated for the kingship the twelve-year-old 
son of Prince Heung-sung, who is much better known by his 
later title, Taiwunkun. Taiwunkun was the last strong man 
in Korea's monarchial tradition, and the strongest and most 
ruthless who had appeared in Korean public life for many 
generations. In an effort to consolidate his power, he had 


himself named as regent until his son should come of age, 
and he married the boy to a daughter of the Min family, 
who was several years older than her child-husband. This 
proved to be his great mistake, for Queen Min was a woman 
of great intellect and of even stronger will. The next thirty 
years of Korean history were marked by the struggle be- 
tween the regent and the young queen, with the king simply 
a weak pawn between them. 

At first, of course, Taiwunkun was in complete control, 
He at once set about destroying the foreign influences which 
were beginning to penetrate into the fringes of Korean life. 
In this effort he was only following the tradition of isola- 
tionism which had been handed down ever since the virtual 
destruction of the country by the Hideyoshi-led Japanese 
invasion of 1592-98. In January, 1866, a Russian gunboat 
had dropped anchor briefly in Wonsan harbor and sent a 
message to the king asking the right of trade with Korea. 
The Koreans were alarmed by the steady pressures exerted 
by the West upon China and Japan, and Taiwunkun took 
advantage of the uneasiness caused by the Russian mission 
to order the arrest and execution of eleven French Catholic 
priests who several years earlier had entered Korea from 
China. Eight of them were killed, three went into hiding, 
and one of them (Father Ridel) later escaped into China to 
tell the story of what happened. Thousands of Korean con- 
verts were put to death in as bloody a pogrom as recent 
history had witnessed. The savagery of the attacks on the 
Christians stemmed from the fact that Japan had sent into 
Korea large numbers of Buddhist priests, who had been 
discovered to be spies preparing for a renewed Japanese 
invasion. The Catholics were confidently believed by the 
Koreans to be preparing the way in Korea for the same kind 
of inroads which had become familiar in China. The anti- 
foreignism of the massacre of 1866 was a Korean forerunner 
of the later Boxer uprisings in China. 


Meanwhile, while this antiforeign agitation was at white 
heat, an American sailing vessel, The Surprise, was wrecked 
off the coast of Whang-hai Province. The crew was treated 
kindly, for even that early the Koreans distinguished the 
Americans from the European imperialists,, and were es- 
corted across the Yalu River into China. Several months 
later, in September, 1866, another American vessel, The 
General Sherman, defied warnings and sailed up the Taidong 
River to Pyengyang. Reports spread through Korea that this 
ship had come to break up the burial mounds of the Silla 
dynasty and to seize the buried treasures. Unfamiliar with 
the tides, the vessel ran aground, and when a boatload of 
Korean officials approached the ship, a sailor on The General 
Sherman fired a pistol at them. The Koreans organized an 
attack with fire-rafts, with the result that the ship was 
destroyed and the sailors killed. 

In October of that same year seven French men-of-war 
attacked Inchon harbor (then called Chemulpo) and besieged 
Kang-wha Island. Taiwunkun ordered Korean vessels to be 
sunk in the mouth of the Han River, to protect the ap- 
proaches to Seoul, and sent a force of 5,000 men tiger 
hunters and other sturdy fighters, armed with flintlocks and 
bows and arrows to hold off the invasion. They established 
themselves in a strongly fortified Buddhist monastery on the 
south side of the island, some twelve miles from where the 
French fleet was anchored. The French admiral sent a 
strongly armed force of 160 men to attack this fortress. The 
Korean defenders felled almost half of them in the first 
volley, and the French fled in confusion, with the Koreans 
in close pursuit. The French admiral hastily sailed away, 
confessing failure. 

Taiwunkun and the Korean populace were intoxicated 
with victory. They had defeated the great Western power 
which had invested Peking, humbled the mighty emperor 
of China, and with two gunboats in Yokohama harbor had 


bullied the Japanese. From this time until 1870 the persecu- 
tion of the Catholic converts in Korea persisted unrelent- 
ingly, until as many as twenty thousand were slain and this 
foreign sect seemed to be completely eliminated. 

In 1871 a force of five American gunboats entered Inchon 
harbor, commanded by Admiral Rogers and accompanied by 
Frederick F. Low, the American minister to Peking. While 
a mission was en route to Seoul with a message to the king, 
Admiral Rogers sent two small vessels up the Han River to 
take soundings. They were fired upon from a small Korean 
fort on an island in the estuary of the Han, and, to protect 
the honor of the American flag, the vessels attacked the fort. 
The Korean garrison fought till their ammunition and arrows 
were exhausted, and then threw gravel in the faces of the 
attackers. None surrendered, and at last the defenders were 
all killed. However, Rogers and Low realized they could 
not conquer Korea and, having lost any chance of a peaceful 
agreement, they withdrew. 

By 1875 the king had come of age, the regency was dis- 
solved, and Taiwunkun found himself outmaneuvered in 
court politics by Queen Min. He grandiloquently resigned 
all his appointments and retired in disgust to a rural estate. 
Queen Min was approached by the Japanese, who were 
flushed with the wondrous success of the modernization of 
their country. The queen stood solidly for what she con- 
ceived as progress, and worked to turn the destiny of Korea 
toward the new day that seemed to be dawning in the 
Orient. Followers of Taiwunkun murdered her father and 
sought to intimidate her, but to no avail. In 1876 she spon- 
sored a treaty with Japanthe first in Korean history with a 
foreign powerand Japanese traders were admitted under 
carefully restricted conditions to Pusan harbor. 

The year 1880 (when Syngman Rhee was five years old) 
proved to be crucial in Korean history, for during that year 
Queen Min became embittered against the Japanese, who 


were intriguing to gain control of Korea. At this time a 
small group of genuinely patriotic and far-seeing liberals 
were striving earnestly to find some means of modernizing 
Korea without surrendering it to Japanese overlordship. 
When it appeared they could not succeed through political 
means, Queen Min organized a reactionary movement of 
gradual withdrawal from Japanese and Western contacts. 

In 1882 a scandalous mistreatment of Korean troops by 
their corrupt and inefficient officers led to a revolt against 
Queen Min and the Japanese advisers who still clustered 
about her court. The Japanese legation in Seoul was burned 
and the Japanese were driven to Inchon, from where they 
withdrew to Japan. Taiwunkun was briefly brought back 
into power by the rebellious troops. The Chinese emperor 
sent to Korea his outstanding diplomat and politician, Yuan 
Shih-kai, and with his astute assistance Queen Min was 
restored to a dominant position. Chinese soldiers were 
brought in to maintain order and Yuan Shih-kai set about 
reorienting Korea away from Japan and toward China. 

In May, 1882, Commodore R. W. Schufeldt of the Ameri- 
can navy sailed into Inchon harbor with messages from the 
court of Peking. With the help of the politician Yuan, he 
accomplished through diplomacy what others had failed to 
achieve by force. He proposed a treaty between the United 
States and Korea which provided in its first article: "If other 
powers deal unjustly or oppressively with either government, 
the other will exert their good offices, on being informed of 
the case, to bring about an amicable arrangement, thus 
showing their friendly feelings." The king's advisers can- 
didly told Schufeldt of their mistrust of the Western im- 
perialist powers, but said their chief fear was encroachment 
by the Japanese. They insisted they could never undertake 
to allow foreigners to enter Korea unless the treaty would 
serve as an absolute bar to aggression. Schufeldt assured 
them that was the purpose of die treaty, and his sentiments 


were reaffirmed during the subsequent debate on it in the 
United States Senate. Following ratification of this treaty 
in 1883, similar treaties were signed by Korea with England, 
France, and other nations. Korea thus entered into a new 
era in its long history, and although many had misgivings 
none could foresee how utterly disastrous the results would 


In December, 1894, while Syngman Rhee was first being 
teased by some of his friends to enter the Pai Jai mission 
school, the Japanese launched an undeclared war against 
China and within a few months completely defeated the 
unorganized and dispirited Chinese. on June 6, 1895, under 
the guidance of Japanese advisers who had replaced the 
Chinese lately established in the court by Yuan Shih-kai, a 
great celebration was held in Korea, on the occasion of the 
renewed pledges made by Japan and other powers guaran- 
teeing Korea's complete independence. A prominent Korean 
named Yun Chi-ho had recently returned from many years 
of sojourn abroad, alive with new ideas of reform and 
modernization, and the intellectuals in Seoul genuinely ex- 
pected that a new era was beginning. Under the leadership 
of Philip Jaisohn the Independence Club solicited funds and 
erected in Seoul an Independence Arch which still stands, 
though now surrounded by scores of acres of war-devastated 

Syngman Rhee had already begun to exercise leadership 
within the Independence Club and was in frequent demand 
as a speaker before groups interested in liberalism. Despite 
all the difficulties of the time, he, along with his associates, 
was hopeful that real progress was being made. 

Then, in October, 1895, occurred one of the most horrible 
events in modern Korean history an event which set back 
the cause of progress and foreshadowed evil times to corne. 
Viscount Miura had arrived in Seoul on September 1, as the 
new Japanese envoy, specifically charged to create condi- 


tions which would be more favorable to the advancement of 
Japanese interests in Korea. He entered into an alliance with 
the aged Taiwunkun and was soon deeply involved in the 
intrigues of the court. Min Yong-whan, the queen's most 
powerful friend, was dispatched as minister to the United 
States. With the queen's personal status thus weakened, the 
plot was ready to unfold. Viscount Miura prepared plans 
to capture the palace, murder the queen, and hold the king 
under Japanese control. 

At 3:00 A.M. on October 8, a large party of Japanese gath- 
ered at the home of Taiwunkun near the Han River, then 
proceeded with him to the king's palace. About dawn they 
entered the palace through the Kwang-wha Gate and went 
at once to the royal apartments. All of these facts were later 
certified by the Japanese Court of Preliminary Inquiry, which 
sat at Hiroshima in January, 1896, to examine the case. The 
court then concluded that what happened thereafter was so 
confused that it felt unable to establish further facts or to 
adjudge anyone's guilt. What the Japanese court discreetly 
sought to veil from view and to preserve from punishment 
was this: 

The invading rabble rushed into the king's quarters and 
brandished weapons around him and the crown prince, but 
did them no physical harm. Another portion of the attacking 
crowd went into the queen's apartments, seized the palace 
women, and demanded of them the whereabouts of the 
queen. When they came upon Yi Kyung-jik, the Minister 
of the Household, they slashed him down. He managed to 
crawl into the presence of the king, where the Japanese 
murdered him. Finally Queen Min was located in one of the 
rooms of her suite and was stabbed several times with 
swords. Then her bleeding body was wrapped in quilts, 
saturated with petroleum, and burned at the edge of a grove 
of pine trees on the eastern edge of the pond in the palace 
grounds. While Queen Min was being murdered, Taiwunkun 


came into the presence of the king and roughly assumed 
direction of affairs. 

Later that same day Mr. Waeber, the Russian charge 
d'affaires, and Dr. Horace Allen, who was then serving as the 
king's personal physician, insisted upon seeing the king. 
They were not, however, successful in releasing him from 
his captors. Through the following months the court was in 
chaos. Taiwunkun had an order issued reducing the 
murdered queen to the rank of the lowest order of citizens. 
Japanese officials assumed virtual control, though they were 
careful to remain behind the scene. The amount of intrigue 
that went on within the court and political circles can 
scarcely be imagined. An ambitious and capable yangban, 
Yi Choong-ku, plotted to overthrow the pro-Japanese gov- 
ernment and liberate the king, but his coup d'etat failed and 
he was arrested and tortured to death. Since Syngman Rhee 
had also taken part in this plot, he, too, was marked for 
arrest. However, when Yi Choong-ku was seized, Rhee's 
body servant, Bok Ney, came running to inform him of the 
failure of the plan, and Rhee escaped to a hiding place in 
Pyongsan, on the outskirts of Seoul. Finally, on the night 
of February 11, 1896, with the assistance of Waeber and Dr. 
Allen, the king and the crown prince, disguised as court 
ladies, were taken out of the palace in sedan chairs and 
hurried to the Russian legation. From this refuge, the king 
announced the formation of a new cabinet which resumed 
control of the government. At this time, some three months 
after the failure of the coup, Rhee was enabled to return to 
Seoul to resume his studies and political activities. 

It was in the midst of these conditions that the Inde- 
pendence Club was formed and undertook the arduous task 
of preserving Korea for Koreans. Philip Jaisohn's newspaper 
angered the king, who sent him the remainder of his three 
years' salary, under his contract as adviser to the Privy 
Council, and, through the American minister, commanded 


him to leave the country. This he did, returning to the 
United States, where he took part in the Spanish-American 
War as a physician, and then settled down in Philadelphia, 
determined to live as an American citizen and to forget 
Korea. In 1919-1920, following the Mansei Revolution, 
Jaisohn once again for a brief time entered into agitation for 
the restoration of Korean independence. When he became 
convinced that the cause was hopeless, he washed his hands 
of it completely. 

When Jaisohn left Korea for the United States, and Rhee 
returned to Seoul from his hideout at Pyongsan, the Inde- 
pendence Club was confronted with a crisis. The departure 
of its founder and moving spirit led many of the members 
to feel that the club had best be dissolved. The aroused 
anger of the king, in that land of autocracy, was not to be 
lightly ignored. Rhee himself had come near to being 
captured and was certain to be closely watched. The tempta- 
tion confronting all the reformers was strong to drop their 
program and drift with the current. on the other hand, the 
current obviously was washing Korea toward the falls of 
oblivion as a nation and unless the Independence Club con- 
tinued its own efforts there was no force in Korea that would 
even attempt to check the trend. 

Rhee didn't even hesitate. Immediately upon his return 
to Seoul he called a meeting of the Independence Club 
members in their headquarters near the West Gate and 
proposed that their work be intensified and expanded. His 
newspaper, the Maiyil Sinmun, had suspended publication 
while Rhee was in hiding in Pyongsan and its resumption 
under the circumstances would be difficult. Hence the group 
decided to turn their major attention toward organization of 
street meetings, in which Rhee was a popular and dynamic 
speaker. Marching demonstrations were organized, and 
many of these dissolved into mobs and riots. As in London 
around 1780, Seoul for a time was characterized if not 


dominated by mobs. The king was helpless either to rescue 
himself from the Russo-Japanese intrigues or from the 
popular pressures arising among his own people. 

Superficially-judging merely from the noise made by the 
surging mobs in the streets of Seoul-the reformist move- 
ment appeared to be rising to a new height of influence. 
However, the ingredients for real success were all absent. 
Neither Rhee nor any of his associates dreamed or planned 
of trying to unseat the king, much less to end the monarchy. 
They had no effective friends in the inner circle of the court 
to help them inject more liberal ideals into the ruling clique. 
With no publication and no organized means of communica- 
tion, they could do little more with public opinion than to 
keep it aroused in the large metropolitan centers. 

When the king, in 1897, attempted to reassert his own 
independence from foreign control and his own mastery over 
the domestic situation by assuming the title of emperor, they 
hoped briefly that this might mark the beginning of a real 
change. However, the new title could not add an iota to the 
king's intelligence nor increase the strength of will which he 
so notably lacked. Caught between the claimant powers of 
Russia and Japan, he could only draw away from one by 
yielding more power to the other. Reform of his own corrupt 
and inefficient government never proved appealing to the 
unhappy monarch, nor does it appear in retrospect that the 
onward rush of events would have left him time to achieve 
much in that direction. Yet his situation was so bad that 
action of some sort to escape from his dilemma was ob- 
viously necessary. Naturally, some of his advisers urged that 
the first thing he should do was to destroy the clamoring 
critics who were threatening to smother orderly government 
beneath a chaotic upsurge of mob rule. 

The emperor soon yielded to the intrigues around him and 
the word went through the court circles that the Inde- 
pendence Club was to be broken up. Its first President, the 


portly Ahn Kyong Soo, escaped to Japan, viciously charged 
with complicity in the murder of Queen Min. Yi Wan Young, 
who replaced him in the presidency, was very soon bought 
off with an appointment as a provincial governor and re- 
signed from the club. Yun Chi Ho, who became the third 
(and last) president of the club was awakened in the middle 
of the night by a police detective who came to arrest him. 
Pleading for a few moments of privacy in which to dress, he 
escaped and fled to Pai Jai school, where he was safe under 
the protection of the American flag. Seventeen of the other 
leaders of the club were arrested. The streets were crowded 
with police and soldiers with drawn bayonets. Edicts were 
posted branding the nationalist-reform leaders as traitors. 

Syngman Rhee went to Dr. Appenzeller's house and there 
found Yun Chi Ho and others of the membership in hiding. 
They begged him to hide with them, but he refused. Instead, 
Rhee went straight to the police headquarters, followed by a 
gathering crowd that soon numbered in the thousands. They 
demanded that the police release the seventeen men who 
had been arrested. Rhee organized a mass meeting before 
the police commissioner's office, which resembled in some 
ways an American sitdown strike. There they remained 
through the rest of that night, all the next day, and through 
the following night. Syngman's father came and pleaded 
with him to come home, reminding him with tears in his 
eyes that he was Yukdai Dokjathe last of the six only-sons 
representing six consecutive generations of the family. To 
refuse his father's request was agony, but young Rhee could 
not desert what he felt was clearly his duty. Dr. Appenzeller 
came to watch, and, though he said nothing, Rhee felt he 
was proud that so many Pai Jai students were taking the lead 
in this great mass movement. 

Rumors swept back and forth through the crowd. one 
was that the emperor had ordered his soldiers to charge upon 
the demonstrators and shoot them down. Another rumor 


was that Rhee was to be bribed with an offer of a high 
government post. In fact, two court favorites, Ko Yung-kun 
and Kim Chong-han, came to Syngman and intimated such 
a position was his for the asking. Of course it never occurred 
to him to abandon his stand or his imprisoned comrades. 
All during the night they kept bonfires burning, and young 
Rhee spoke to the crowd almost continually, holding them 
together, for if the mass dispersed the soldiers could easily 
arrest the leaders. 

The hardest time came at dawn after the second night. 
The ranks of the demonstrators had thinned considerably 
and those who remained were cold, hungry and sleepy. Then 
a band of soldiers appeared, marching toward them, pre- 
ceded by a drum and bugle corps. Some of the demon- 
strators quickly slipped away. Rhee ran to meet the band 
and commenced kicking at the drummers to make them 
turn aside. Apparently they were under orders to use no 
actual violence, for they turned about and the entire band 
marched off, leaving the agitators unmolested. Morning 
editions of the newspapers appeared with stories describing 
the scene, and picturing Rhee as a radical and fire-eater. 

That morning Syngman's father again came out to him, 
weeping, taking him by the hand, and begging him not to 
betray his family by his actions. Finally, word was brought 
by a scowling policeman that the seventeen men had been 
released. Rhee long recalled the event as the proudest and 
happiest in his life. All the club's leaders felt that a great 
victory had been won for democracy and liberalism. 

Disorders continued for several days. The Independence 
Club members organized mass meetings in the great square 
before the ancient Big Bell, which had been erected in 1486 
and which still stands, in a new pagoda built by American 
soldiers to commemorate the recapture of Seoul from the 
communists in 1951. Continuous mass meetings were held, 
day and night, before the Duk Soo Palace Gates. The pro- 


Russian group in the government hastily organized the Po 
Whang Hoi Club (Supporters of the Emperor) and employed 
hoodlums and members of the Peddlers Guild (Pu Sang Paf) 
to attack the Independence Club demonstrators and to break 
up the meetings. Rhee was a particular target of their at- 
tacks. on one occasion he escaped with his life only by 
vaulting the low walls of the German legation, which then 
stood on the present site of the Seoul Courthouse, near the 
Duk Soo Palace, and from there slipped into the grounds of 
Pai Jai school. Syngman long remembered the evil looks of 
the peddlers and the stout clubs they carried, longer and 
thicker than ordinary broomsticks. When the peddlers 
charged into a crowd, they wielded these clubs with a 
savage, unrestrained frenzy. 

The numbers of the demonstrators were so great, and the 
feeling aroused was so genuine and widespread that the 
emperor called in the liberal-minded Prince Min and his 
friend General Hahn and asked them to do all they could 
to quiet the clamor. They appeared at the mass meetings 
and urged the agitators to disperse, promising that the em- 
peror would introduce a real reform program in the govern- 
ment. However, Rhee and his associates were adamant. 
They had been fooled before and now they demanded real 
action, not empty promises. 

After this refusal of the shadow peace, the Peddlers Guild 
again descended on them. At this time their meeting was 
being held before the gates of the improvised royal palace 
in the foreign sector of Seoul, where the emperor was living 
adjacent to the Russian legation, into which he might escape 
in case of danger to his person. Rhee was standing on a 
small keg in the middle of Chungdong Square, before this 
Chungdong palace, exhorting the crowd. As the peddlers 
charged upon them, many of the demonstrators fled for their 
lives. Rhee was doing his best to rally and hold them, when 
he saw Kil Yung-soo, one of the most vociferous royalists, 


advancing in front of the peddlers. In a sudden rush of 
unreasoning rage, Rhee ran toward Kil and began kicking 
at him madly. Suddenly, he felt strong arms reach around 
him from behind, pinioning his arms and squeezing the 
breath from him, while a voice whispered urgently in his 
ear "Yi Seung Man, Sir, calm yourself and get out quick!" 
As Rhee looked about he saw that he was surrounded by 
the peddlers and that all his friends had gone. 

Then he was seized by a strong inspiration. He felt as 
though it were an inner voice speaking to him, as he be- 
lieves it has in other moments of crisis, telling him without 
fail what to do. If he had turned to run from the mobsters, 
he would surely have been killed. Instead, he slipped quickly 
and quietly into their very midst, and began shouldering his 
way carelessly through them back toward the Pai Jai school. 
In all the excitement he was not recognized and walked 
through the mob to the gates of the Pai Jai compound, un- 
harmed. The last thing the peddlers expected was to find 
the leader of the Independence Club calmly pushing his way 
deeper into their gang. When Rhee entered the Pai Jai 
entrance, he found many of his associates pouring into the 
school grounds through a back gate. Kim Won Kun, one of 
his dearest Pai Jai friends, was running into the school yard, 
with tears streaming down his cheeks, shouting that Yi Seung 
M'an had been killed by Kil Yung-soo. When Syngman 
walked up to him, he was transformed into a vision of happi- 
ness. The afternoon newspapers also reported that Rhee had 
attacked Kil Yung-soo and had been killed in the melee. 

Crowds followed Rhee as he left the Pai Jai compound and 
went to Chongno, where the earlier meetings had been held. 
It was already getting dark, and as Rhee rose to address the 
crowd they could not believe it was he. Some yelled out, "It 
is Yi Seung Man coming alive!" Many pressed forward to 
touch him and to see how badly he had been wounded. 

In the clashes of that night and the next day, one of the 


most popular Independence Club members, Kim Duk-ku, 
was killed near Yongsan. A massive funeral procession was 
formed, with thousands marching behind his bier. The 
emperor feared that a national revolution was brewing, and, 
as usual, sought to evade trouble by a weak compromise. He 
called together leaders of the Independence Club and of the 
new Po Whang Hoi for a meeting in the open Wha Moon 
Square, in front of his palace, where an impromptu audience 
hall was erected. In the presence of all the foreign am- 
bassadors and missionaries, the king called Yun Chi Ho and 
Kil Yung-soo, the presidents of the two clubs, before him. 
He promised that he would reform the government and 
would not arrest any of the leaders of the demonstration. 
He called upon the foreigners to be witnesses of his sincerity. 

The heart of the emperor's proposal was the formation of 
a Privy Council, which he declared would have real legisla- 
tive powers. He proposed election to it of twenty-five 
members from each of the opposing clubs. Rhee was one of 
the Independence Club members and Yun Chi Ho was 
chosen Speaker of the Privy Council. once again they hoped 
that through orderly means real reforms could be accom- 

The amount of undercover intrigue in that period passes 
belief. The Japanese were especially active. Using the re- 
formist Korean nationalists who had sought refuge in Japan, 
they undertook to make friends with the Independence Club 
members in the new Privy Council. They posed as the real 
champions of Korean independence, warning that Japanese 
help was needed against Russia, China, and the Western 
imperialists. A number of the expatriates returned from 
Japan to Seoul and commenced spending money freely to 
entertain the Privy Council members. Rhee was too young 
and inexperienced to be wholly aware of their aims or of 
the source of their funds. He had many secret talks with 
these men concerning the formation of a Dai Dong Hap 


Bang a Confederation of all the Peoples of the Great East. 
The program was an early forerunner of Japan's later plan 
for an All-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Gradually the ex- 
patriates revealed that their plans called first for 11 Lo Chun 
Chainga. war between Japan and Russia; and then for II 
Mi Chun Chainga war between Japan and the United 
States. Japan, they argued, was doing all it could to protect 
the Far East against Western encroachment. China and 
Korea must join with them in this holy cause. They showed 
Rhee extensive manuscripts, mapping out detailed plans for 
these two wars. He was deeply impressed by the motives 
they professed, for it was all too clear that the East was 
indeed being inundated by the West. Many years later he 
realized that what he was then shown was an early draft of 
what became the Tanaka Memorial. In his book, Japan In- 
side Out, published in 1941 (months before Pearl Harbor) 
Rhee wrote: "As early as 1895, soon after Japan's victory 
over China, I heard the Japanese talking about Dai Dong 
Hap Bang (The United States of the Great East), under the 
hegemony of Japan, of course. And later I read a book under 
the title of II Mi Chun Chaing Mi Rai Ki (Japanese- American 
War of the Future). I have in my possession now a book 
written in Japanese by a high Japanese naval authority, pre- 
dicting a war between the United States and Japan." 

When the Privy Council held its first meeting, Rhee arose 
and proposed that all the political exiles in Japan be par- 
doned, and that Prince Park Yung-ho be named as chairman 
of the Privy Council. When this proposal was made known 
to the emperor he became furious and instantly dissolved 
the newly formed Privy Council. The instant arrest of its 
Independence Club members was ordered. The members 
scattered and took refuge in foreign compounds. Rhee went 
into the American Methodist Hospital compound, just inside 
the South Gate, where the Methodist School (Joon Ang 
Hokko) and Church are now located, and just across the 


street from the present location of the Bankers Club (which 
was used as an officers' club during the period of American 
Military Government in South Korea, 1945-48). 

Here the American adviser to the police department and 
several missionaries came to see him every day, to make sure 
he was safe, for they felt bound by the promise the emperor 
had made in their names. Rhee resented such a necessity, 
for he felt it violated the spirit of Korean independence. He 
wanted to go out and start the mass movement all over again. 
Choo Sang-ho, one of his Independence Club friends, came 
to tell him that thousands of people were simply waiting for 
a leader to direct and organize them in renewed demonstra- 

one day Dr. Harry C. Sherman, an American Methodist 
doctor, asked Rhee if he would like to go out with him to 
call on a patient who lived near by. Rhee was extremely 
restive under his confinement and eagerly went with him. 
They had walked only as far as the vicinity of the near-by 
Japanese consulate, on the Square of the IBank of Chosen, 
when several plainclothes policemen rushed up, arrested 
Rhee, and took him off to jail. 

Dr. Sherman immediately went to the American legation 
and, together with Dr. Horace Allen, the U.S. minister, 
called at the Korean Foreign Office to protest Rhee's arrest. 
They demanded his release on the grounds that he was 
serving as a temporary interpreter for an American physi- 
cian, and according to existing agreements could not be 
arrested without previous notice being given. Negotiations 
proceeded for several weeks. To make sure that Rhee was 
not tortured in the jail, Mr. Stripling, the American adviser 
to the police department, made frequent visits to see him. 
It is possible that the efforts in his behalf might shortly have 
secured his release, but the Pai Jai students became im- 

Word was smuggled in to Rhee that a vast crowd of his 


foUowers would be assembled in Chongno Square, waiting 
for him to appear to speak to them and resume the planned 
agitation. Rhee communicated this information to Choi 
Chung Sik and Suh Sang Dai, fellow club members who had 
been arrested before him, and who were in the same cell 
with him. 

Choi Chung Sik was a fiery orator, about four years Rhee's 
senior. He was marked by the government for specially 
severe treatment because, at the meeting in Wha Moon 
Square in which the emperor had decreed the re-establish- 
ment of the Privy Council, Choi had cried out in a loud 
voice, "If the emperor does not keep his word, how can we 
enforce it?" 

on one of Mr. Stripling's visits he was accompanied by 
Choo Sang-ho, another club member, who secretly slipped 
a pistol to Rhee. After these visitors left, Rhee and his two 
jail mates soon found an opportunity to break out of their 
cell, and, brandishing his pistol to' intimidate the guards, 
Rhee led them in a rush out into the street. When they 
reached Chongno Square, they were aghast to find no crowd 
assembled. Choi and Suh fled on and entered the safety of 
the Methodist compound, but Rhee simply collapsed with 
disappointment and a sense of betrayal. He later learned 
that the failure resulted from a misunderstanding as to the 
time of escape. No shot was fired from his pistol, and this 
fact, too, he attributed to an inner guidance, for later the 
evidence that his pistol was unused saved his life. 

Choi and Suh, following their escape, took refuge in the 
home of an Englishman named Emberly, who lived in the 
Pai Jai compound. They stayed with him about a month, 
then dressed in Western style women's clothes and, with 
Emberly walking between them, they left his home on a 
dark night and passed out of Seoul through the West Gate. 
Suh escaped to Manchuria. Choi got as far as Chinnampo, 
the port of Pyengyang, where he took refuge in the Japanese 


Inn, expecting to take ship to Japan. The innkeeper, how- 
ever, betrayed him to the police. Choi was brought back to 
the jail where Rhee was held in Seoul, and they were tried 

'The court sentenced Choi to death and he was carried 
from the cell loudly crying Rhee's name, over and over 
again. Wretched though Choi's fate was, in the months and 
the years ahead Syngman Rhee often prayed that he, too, 
might have been meted out that same sentence of death 
which at least was merciful in that the end came quickly. 

Chapter III 


A.S SYNGMAN RHEE collapsed in Chongno Square he was 
surrounded by a body of soldiers with drawn bayonets and 
was marched off in their midst to the army headquarters. 
While he was being held there in the front office, with 
officers buzzing around excitedly waiting for the arrival of 
their chief who would tell them what to do with this key 
prisoner, one of the soldiers quietly and unobtrusively 
brought Rhee a cup of water, accompanying it with encour- 
aging glances. For his own part, Rhee was unable to think 
of his own plight but was lost in disappointment over the 
expected opportunity to resume the demonstrations, which 
somehow had failed to develop. Then an order was brought 
in by a scurrying messenger, and he was led off to Seoul 
Prison, Hahn-sung Gahm-ok, there to be turned over to the 

The first man young Rhee saw when he was ushered into 
the police office was Park Dul Puk, one of the reactionary 
royalists, who was among his bitterest enemies from Po 
Whang Hoi, the Society of Supporters of the Emperor. Park 
was impatiently awaiting his coming and leered at him with 
a mixture of triumph and venomous hatred. At the first word 
of Rhee's capture, he had hurried to the emperor and re- 
ceived permission to put him to the torture. As soon as the 


prisoner was transferred from the soldiery to the police, Park 
had him dragged at once into the dark inner room from 
which screams of the tortured wretches were muffled by 
heavy stone walls. 

What Syngman Rhee endured during the next several days 
at the hands of Park Dul Puk surpasses twentieth-century 
comprehension. It must be recalled that in its penal system 
Korea had not yet advanced far beyond medievalism, and 
it should be remembered that this brash revolutionary had 
gone to extreme lengths in incurring the hatred of the em- 
peror and his servile brood. Park was particularly vindictive, 
for his officiousness was sharpened by the acid of personal 
hatred. Deep behind those heavy stone walls, shut off from 
all his friends, unreported to the public, and beyond the suc- 
cor of the missionaries, who had done so much for him, Syng- 
man Rhee learned to pray for death with a passionate ardor. 
His arms were bound tightly behind his back with ropes of 
silk which cut into the flesh. Two sticks were placed be- 
tween his legs, which were then bound tightly together at 
the knees and ankles, after which two policemen twisted 
the sticks. Triangular pieces of bamboo were tied between 
his fingers, which then were drawn so tightly together that 
the flesh sheared off from the bones. Each day he was pulled 
out flat on the floor, spread-eagled, and beaten with whiplash 
rods of bamboo until his flesh was raw. Were it not for 
Rhee's extraordinary vitality, he never could have survived. 
Each night he was dragged from the torture cell and thrown 
into a dark underground dungeon, and each day he was 
taken out for more tortures. Mercifully his mind became 
dulled with suffering and in retrospect those awful days be- 
came veiled in a deep mist of half-forgetfulness. However, 
in a note written during his seventy-seventh year, he said, 
"Often I find myself in prison in my dreams." on one occa- 
sion, when asked to tell something about those days, he re- 


plied with a look of physical pain, "Won t you let me try to 

After the first few days, Park Dul Puk left the daily tor- 
ture to his agents and the worst extremities were given up. 
Each night Rhee's feet were placed in stocks and his hands 
were handcuffed. A twenty-pound cangue of heavy wood 
was placed around his neck, so that he could neither stand, 
sit, nor lie down, but could only crouch in a half-sitting pos- 
ture. A daze descended over him and his fearful anxiety 
faded into stoic acceptance. Memory fled from him, even 
as hope was dead. one day the Seoul newspapers carried 
word of his death, and his weeping father came to the prison 
to claim his body, only to discover that the rumor was false. 

For seven months he continued in solitary confinement, 
with the cangue, a three-foot-long wooden collar, about his 
neck and with his hands and feet shackled. He was released 
from these manacles for only five minutes each day. Then, 
as he sat dully in his cell, with his chin drooped upon the 
heavy cangue, he commenced dimly to recall the preaching 
he had heard in Pai Jai chapel. With a sudden inrushing 
vision of a new life, he bent his head and prayed, "Oh God, 
save my country and save my soul." A puzzling kind of 
peacefulness descended upon him, when all his reason told 
him he was the most miserable wretch alive. 

All his torture occurred before his trial. Finally, after 
seven months, the shackles were struck from him, and he 
was given a few days of respite to regain some strength, and 
then was led into the courtroom to face trial. There on the 
bench before him sat another implacable political enemy, 
Hong Jong Wo, to serve as his judge. Rhee's servant, Bok 
Nye, stood at the gate of the prison as he was brought out 
and accompanied him to the courtroom. His father, also, was 
present. His mother had died before his arrest and thus 
was spared the knowledge of his suffering. This phase of 


his life is so painful to Syngman Rhee that he has never been 
willing to discuss it.* 

Brought to trial with him was his comrade, Choi Chung 
Sik, who had been returned to Seoul after his capture in the 
Japan Inn at Pyongyang, In the first day of the trial Choi 
amazed Rhee by trying with all his eloquence to ascribe all 
the political crimes to Rhee. Young Syngrnan himself was 
too weak from his ordeal and too battered in spirit to utter 
a word in his own defense. Choi, however, was caught in a 
number of contradictions and discrepancies in his testimony. 
Rhee's pistol was brought into court, and it was shown that 
it had not been fired. When Judge Hong rendered his ver- 
dict, Choi Chung Sik was sentenced to death, and Rhee was 
given a sentence of life imprisonment. 

In addition to the sentence of life imprisonment, Syng- 
man was to receive one hundred blows from a bamboo rod. 
However, Rhee's father appealed to the Ap-noi, or prison 
guard, who was to administer the blows, saying, "Jeung 
Nam (meaning His Honor) in his weakened state cannot sur- 
vive the blows." This Ap-noi was a guard who had been shot 
in the leg eight months previously, during the attempted 
escape of Rhee and his two companions. As it turned out, 
however, he bore them no ill will, and he knew what Rhee 
had already had to endure. The Judge, Hong Jong Wo, as 
was the custom, came to watch the beating being admin- 
istered, but as the first blow was about to fall, he left the 
room, shutting the door behind him. The Ap-noi raised his 
rod and brought it down, time after time, till the hundred 
blows were counted. When it was over, there was not a 
mark on Rhee's body. 

After this merciful reprieve, Rhee was led into the prison 
cell which for the next six and a half years was to be his 
home. It was a huge converted rice storehouse with a 
wooden floor and with the thick, tiled roof supported at in- 

* His mother died on July 26, 1896, after a prolonged and painful illness. 


tervals by heavy wooden pillars. This room was partitioned 
into four large cells, each of about thirty square feet, with 
a narrow aisle down the center. There was no heat in the 
prison, and each inmate had to provide his own bed-cloth- 
ing. on the floor were some thick rice straw mats. A single 
kerosene lamp hung in the aisle, well out of reach of the 
inmates. The families of the prisoners were permitted to 
visit them at long intervals to bring food and other small 

From this time on Syngman Rhee's prison life was marked 
by a succession of kindnesses. Both Kim Yung Sun, the war- 
den, and his deputy, Lee Choong Chin, sympathized with 
his political endeavors, and used to visit with him whenever 
they could-standing in the aisle and talking to him through 
the bars. The hard labor which was supposed to be part of 
Rhee's sentence was remitted or forgotten. Dr. D. A. Bunker, 
one of the Pai Jai teacher-missionaries, sent him a Christmas 
basket. The famous Presbyterian educator, Dr. Horace Un- 
derwood, came to the prison to visit with him and to discuss 
his newfound faith. Dr. O. R Avison, who had removed his 
topknot, sent him medicine. Rhee's family brought him 
more comforts than their circumstances could afford. 

There is another facet to this period of Syngman Rliee's 
life, which is little known and is wrapped in general ob- 
scurity. Some two years before his capture in Chongno 
Square his parents had arranged his marriage (in accordance 
with the Korean custom of that time) to a somewhat older 
woman who was distinguished by unusual strength of intel- 
lect and character. To them was born a son, who survived 
infancy and was about eight years of age when Rhee's im- 
prisonment finally ended in 1904. What happened to his 
wife remains uncertain. She apparently lived on in obscu- 
rity for some years. The son was later sent to America, 
while Syngman Rhee was studying in Washington, D.C., 
and died in Philadelphia in 1908. What is of chief import 


in the biography of Rhee is that he did have a son the 
seventh solitary son in seven successive generations but lost 
him at an early age. Since then he has been childless, and 
when he passes on he will leave no descendants to carry on 
his name or his work. As for Rhee himself, the marriage was 
not of his own choice, and the fate of his wife and his son 
were a part of the general suffering of his prison ordeal. 

In the prison with Rhee were seven of his old Independ- 
ence Club friends, including his childhood study companion, 
Hugh Heung-woo Cynn, and another man, Park Youngman, 
who was to mean much in his later life. A Miss Harroyd, a 
newly-arrived missionary from Nova Scotia, brought a New 
Testament into the prison, and Rhee used to read aloud from 
it, while one of his companions turned the leaves, for it was 
several years before his fingers healed sufficiently to make 
it possible for him to use them without pain. Even in his 
latter years, whenever emotionally upset or agitated, he un- 
consciously blows upon the tips of his fingers, a habit devel- 
oped during the time of pain. 

Gradually, Rhee learned the fate of other leaders of the 
reform movement. Kim Ok Pyun escaped to Shanghai, where 
he was assassinated. Hong Yung Sik, who had become the 
vice-prime minister, was murdered in the presence of the 
emperor. Park Yong Hyo and Suh Kwang Bun escaped with 
Philip Jaisohn to Japan. The former accompanied Jaisohn 
to America and the latter was named Korean minister to 
Washington. All of them followed some path that led them 
from their work as reformist agitators, and Rhee who had 
been one leader among many in the formative years of the 
movement was the one principal leader left. 

Thanks to the friendship of Warden Kim and his deputy, 
Lee, Rhee's prison life became a period of mental and spir- 
itual growth. Books and magazines were brought in and a 
prison library was started. Rhee had a pocket English dic- 
tionary to aid him in his reading, and he tried to memorize 


every word. He also memorized many passages from the 
magazines, and years afterward used to surprise his friends 
by his ability to repeat such passages word for word. 
Through the intensive nature of this study he greatly ex- 
tended his mastery of English and molded his English style. 
Appenzeller and Bunker regularly brought him copies of the 
American periodicals, The Outlook and The Independent. 
Lyman Abbot was editor of The Outlook, in which he con- 
ducted an editorial campaign of support and praise for the 
^liberalism" and modernization of Japan. Rhee read these 
articles with distaste but learned much from the pieces on 
social and political conditions and theories. 

Prison rules forbade any light except the single kerosene 
lamp and it was always turned out early in the evening. 
Each cell, however, was allowed to have an empty kerosene 
can. Tallow candles were smuggled into the cell, and Rhee 
used to place a candle inside the can, which he turned down 
on its side, and with its mouth a few feet from the wall. In 
this way, by lying with his face close to the mouth of the 
can, he could read very well. Fellow prisoners always 
warned him when a guard was approaching, so that he could 
pull the can against the wall, thus concealing the light. 
Doubtless the guards became aware of what he was doing, 
but through the kindness of the warden he was not dis- 

Writing implements, too, were forbidden. However, Rhee 
made ink from dyes that were smuggled in, and practiced 
writing on used copies of the magazines. After a time he 
commenced writing editorials for his daily newspaper, the 
Maiyil Sinmun, which once again was being published. 
These were smuggled out and printed, unsigned, of course, 
but the fact of his authorship gradually became well known. 
one of Rhee's companions in the prison was Lee Yo In, a 
noted poet and scholar. Yu Sung Joon, another prisoner, 
who was a brother of a former prime minister, was also 


proud of his poetry-writing ability. The three of them vied 
in the writing of poetry. one of Rhee's poems, published 
in the newspaper Sarip Bong In Ku Mien So became' well 
known. It read, in part: Chul sa gyul ban shin jung mil; 
sarip bong in ku mien so, which may be translated as, "Tied 
together in chains men develop new intimacies; moving 
about in politics, one finds old friends estranged." In ways 
such as this the tedium of prison life was lightened, and the 
stultifying effects of confinement were partially transmitted 
into intellectual development. 

Yu Sung Joon encouraged Rhee to write a book setting 
forth the principles of the independence movement. All pre- 
vious movements, he urged, had failed because the leaders 
neglected to educate the public and their cause was soon 
forgotten. Yu assured Rhee that his brother, then in exile 
in Japan, would one day return to political favor and would 
then use government funds to have the book printed and 
distributed for the education of the people. With this en- 
couragement, Rhee made notes and gathered ideas for a 
political treatise called, Dong-nip Jung Shin, or The Spirit 
of Independence, which he finally commenced to put into 
final form on February 19, 1904 near the end of his impris- 
onmentand of which 34 chapters were completed before 
his release. It became the political bible of the Korean peo- 
ple. As a matter of fact, during the political reversals which 
preceded the Russo-Japanese War, Yu's brother, Yu Kil Joon, 
did return to office. However, the government was strongly 
influenced by the Japanese, who had no intention of permit- 
ting (let alone assisting) the publication of a book designed 
to arouse the nationalistic zeal of the Korean people. 

The manuscript was smuggled out of the prison and later 
Park Youngman took it out of Korea, concealed in the false 
bottom of his trunk, to evade detection by Japanese customs 
officials. It was taken to Los Angeles where an edition of 
one thousand copies, well bound and illustrated, was printed 


in 1906, through the endeavors of several devoted Korean 
exiles. Upon the liberation of Korea in 1945, many Koreans 
brought out of hiding separated pages of this book, which 
they had torn apart to keep it concealed from the Japanese. 
In 1920 it was reprinted in Honolulu by the Korean com- 
munity there, and following the liberation of Korea in 1945 
it has been reprinted several times. This book has served 
much the same purpose for the Koreans that the writings of 
Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson have served for Americans. 

The Spirit of Independence consists of forty-seven chap- 
ters, in addition to an Appendix on "Essential Conditions of 
Independence." Since the book has never been translated 
into English, and since its contents reveal the consistency 
with which Syngman Ehee has maintained his fundamental 
political views for more than half a century, there may be 
interest in noting its subject matter. Of the thirty-four orig- 
inal, prison-written chapters, five dealt with the necessity of 
individual duty, loyalty and responsibility. Two more 
stressed the value of education. Chapters seven and eight 
were an introduction to Korea's international complications 
and ten chapters discussed the political aspirations of key 
nations. Eleven chapters dealt with democratic government, 
including discussions of the American and French revolu- 
tions, and the American political principles and institutions. 
one brief chapter traced the short and turbulent history of 
the Korean reform movement. 

This much of the book was written in prison; the remain- 
ing thirteen chapters were written afterward and relate to 
the background, development, progress and results of the 
Russo-Japanese War. These first thirty-four chapters show 
clearly the pragmatic character of Syngman Rhee's mind 
the tendency to formulate his thinking around the principles 
and the problems of most genuine importance to his country 
and people. The book sought to serve as a general introduc- 
tion to a new way of life, to the modern world and to the 


democratic ideals which Rhee believed would have to be 
adopted in Korea if his people were to be led from their con- 
dition of backwardness and impotency into a fruitful era of 
individual and national liberty. The latter chapters deal 
with the passionate crusade for liberation from the gathering 
tentacles of Japan, which belongs to the next period of his 

The general tone of the book, the nature of its appeal, and 
the revelation of the sentiments of the writer may best be 
illustrated by a selection of brief excerpts, offered in transla- 
tion. Stressing the need for a sense of personal responsibil- 
ity, he wrote: "My dear Korean friends, regardless of your 
age, sex or position, you all belong to Korea and are part 
of its total population. Upon the shoulders of each of you 
there rests the responsibility for establishing a nation. . . 

'The main reason why the people do not work together 
is that they do not know to whom the nation belongs. Peo- 
ple often think that to work for their country is to work for 
others. They do not realize that what they do for others is 
most truly working for themselves. Hence, they wait for 
others to do what must be done. Will you not hasten to ex- 
tinguish the fire in your own house even if others ignore it? 
Isn't it much better to plunge into the fire to save what you 
can, whether others assist you or not? . . . 

"If your own heart," he wrote, "is without patriotism, your 
heart is your enemy. You must struggle against your own 
feelings if they urge you to forgo the struggle for the com- 
mon cause. Let us examine our hearts now, at this moment. 
If you find within yourself any single thought of abandoning 
the welfare of your country, tear it out. Do not wait for 
others to lead or to do what must be done, but arouse your- 
self. If you do not do it, it will never be done. 

"Let us gather all our powers and make our nation like 
the nations of wealthy, powerful and civilized people. Keep 
independence in your own hearts. The most important part 


is to cast out hopelessness. We must become diligent work- 
ers. Our own individual dedication is the seed from which 
will grow the harvest of a sound nation." 

In a rare passage of personal revelation, he wrote: "For 
my oppressed fellowmen I stood up against the cruel enemy. 
Even though my life can be erased by the evil forces in the 
world, such a death is not destruction but is eternal life. 
May each of you, my fellow countrymen, be enabled to real- 
ize your own responsibility and perform it, whether others 
do or not. Avoid any act of shame or blemish." 

Explaining the nature of democracy a new concept he 
said: "Generally speaking, a nation is analogous to an assem- 
bly in which many gather to discuss various matters. In a 
nation many people unite together to survive. The officials 
of a nation are those charged to carry on the business of its 
organization. The people are the members of the assembly. 
Without the assistance of the people, the officials have no 
source of strength. Where the people are not attentive, vice 
enters in." 

Always, all through the book, he returned again and again 
to the central theme that a nation is what its individual 
citizens make it. 

"As I have indicated before, to live in this nation is com- 
parable to being a passenger on a ship in a cruel sea. How 
can you be so indifferent as not to be concerned with the 
affairs of your own nation, but to insist they are the business 
of high officials? The ship may be wrecked if you try to help 
yourself alone or are concerned only to save the captain of 
the ship. . . 

"No matter how wise a ruler may be, he cannot administer 
the state without the help of the people. Therefore, the re- 
sponsibility of the subject is great. It is dangerous to make 
subjects the slaves of the ruler. Subjects must serve the ruler 
with reverence and according to right principles, and advise 


him with wise words. The ruler must edify the people with 
virtue so the people will obey him from their hearts. 

"In a civilized nation each subject has his own responsi- 
bility, and to carry out this responsibility is his solemn duty. 
When a nation is governed in this manner, the people can- 
not rebel against their ruler, for all of them join in ruling one 

Judged as the prison production of a young man who had 
never been out of the country, and who had received but a 
few glimmerings of elementary education beyond the old 
conservative culture of essential feudalism in which he was 
reared, this book must rank as a remarkable example of lib- 
ertarian inspiration. But, despite its crudities and limitations, 
the insistence upon the responsibility of every individual- 
man, woman, or child to make his own utmost contribution 
to the welfare of the nation, and the concurrent emphasis 
upon the fact that the nation exists for the benefit of its in- 
dividual members, make this book a genuine, if not a strik- 
ingly original, contribution to the philosophy of democratic 
government. There are few countries at any time in which 
it would not be appropriate to address such an appeal as: 
"The relationship between you and your nation may seem 
so remote that you have little reason to love it or to make 
efforts to save it. Therefore, two enemies must be guarded 
against: first, the people who try to destroy the nation; and 
second, those who sit passively by, being without any hope 
or sense of responsibility/' This was the heart of Syngman 
Rhee's Spirit of Independence, as it has proved to be the 
heart of his lifelong endeavors, ever since. 

The fact that Rhee was enabled to write his book in prison, 
while supposedly denied the use of writing materials, was 
due in great part to Lady Urn, consort of the king and 
mother of the Prince Lee who still lives in Tokyo under the 
patronage of the Japanese (raising orchids as a hobby and 
striving to forget the great days of the Yi dynasty, of which 


he is the remnant but no longer heir). Lady Urn was a reg- 
ular reader of Rhee's newspaper editorials and in a languid 
and dilettantish way a supporter of the reform movement. 
She was a friend of Warden Kim and encouraged him to be 
lenient to Rhee and his associates. Enough has already been 
written of the situation then existing in Seoul to indicate 
that everything political in the Korea of that day was de- 
pendent upon favoritism at court. When a man's friends 
were in power, he prospered. When they lost favor, he was 
ruined. But always there were many cross-currents, with 
some political figures at court wielding a measure of influ- 
ence counter to that of the ruling clique. Thus it was that 
Rhee and his fellows of the Independence Club had friends 
powerful enough to lighten their imprisonment, but power- 
less to have them released. 

A different kind of release, however, did come to Rhee 
and that was his conversion in prison to Christianity. In 
1904, with the help of a Presbyterian minister, James S. Gale, 
he wrote out a brief sketch of his early life, as a background 
for his conversion. In it he wrote: 

"The strangest thing to me was the idea that a man who 
died 1900 years ago could save my soul. Is it possible/ I 
asked myself, 'that the people who are doing all these mar- 
velous things we are told about can really believe in such a 
foolish doctrine as this? Perhaps they have come here only 
to induce our ignorant people to believe what they cannot 
believe themselves. No wonder only the poor and ignorant 
are going to Church. An educated scholar who has the 
knowledge of the great Buddha and the wisdom of Con- 
fucius would never be led to believe such a teaching/ 

"Having come to this conclusion, I rested my mind more 
or less at ease, and told my mother all about my attendance 
at Pai Jai. She took me by the hand and said, *My child/ 
(such a loving mother was she that she continued to call me 
Ahgdh or child until I was nineteen years old) 'you are going 


to become a Chunchuhak Koon (God-cult fanatic), are you 
not?' 'No, mother/' I assured her, 1 am too wise to believe 
what they say. Have you ever known a scholar to become a 
believer of that religion?' These remarks relieved her a little, 
but did not entirely free her mind from anxiety. She was 
soon to find that her son was changing rapidly under the 
transforming influence of Western civilization. . . . 

"It must be remembered that the great ambition which 
led me to the mission school was to learn English, and Eng- 
lish only. This ambition I quickly achieved, but I soon dis- 
covered I was learning something of far greater importance 
than the English language. I was imbibing ideas of political 
equality and liberty. Those who know anything about the 
political oppressions to which the masses of the Korean peo- 
ple were subject can imagine what a revolution took place 
in the heart of a young Korean Yangban when he learned 
for the first time that people in Christian lands were pro- 
tected against the tyranny of rulers. I said to myself, It 
would be a great blessing to my downtrodden fellow men 
if only we could adopt such a political principle/ 

"Then I began to understand that political changes do not 
come by themselves and are not only a question of laws and 
regulations. There must also come deep and abiding changes 
within the hearts and minds of the people and particularly 
in the ruling class. I began to listen a little bit to the morn- 
ing services in the chapel and when I listened I heard that 
Jesus was more than a symbol of salvation in afterlife. He 
was also a Great Teacher who brought a gospel of brotherly 
love and service. I began to have more respect for these 
foreign religious teachings and in my own private mind I 
began to consider that maybe Jesus deserved to rank some- 
where near Confucius. But further than this I could not or 
would not go." 

This account probably represents pretty accurately his 
feelings about the Christian religion in the period of his 


political agitation leading up to his imprisonment. In those 
days, because of his spiritual and intellectual immaturity, he 
was far more certain of what he was against than of what 
he was for. The old tyranny must be broken down! Of that 
he was sure. But he might have been very much embar- 
rassed if he had been given responsibility at that time for 
building something new to take its place. 

Through his torturous imprisonment, however, maturity 
was thrust upon him apace. It was in prison that there burst 
upon him an enveloping vision of faith in God and in his 
fellow men as a foundation upon which his philosophy of 
government and of life itself was gradually established. Like 
Thomas Jefferson, he began to see religion and politics as 
inseparable. He felt that the political and social reform ar- 
ticles he was reading in the American magazines did not 
make sense except as they were interpreted in the light of 
the Christian faith. Without such faith he could not envisage 
any effective answer to the doctrine of "every man for him- 
self/ 7 With such a faith, he could see that true believers 
could never rest content while they saw their fellows in mis- 
ery and suffering from injustice. His mind was so rigidly 
trained in logic that he argued himself into the inevitable 
necessity of adopting this line of thinking. 

His conversion to Christianity, however, was much more 
profound than a mere intellectual agreement with its prin- 
ciples. The figure of Jesus became for him a living inspira- 
tion. A feeling of the infinite compassion of Christ entered 
into his soul and gave him a positive and unquestioning as- 
surance that he, too, was under the care of God and that his 
life, however roughly it was ordered, was a part of God's 
plan for humanity. He learned the humility of acceptance 
of whatever might be dealt out to him, and this acceptance 
became integrated with a fierce driving sense of personal 
mission to do and to be more for God than he ever could 
expect to do or be for himself. It was in those days that Rhee 


began to picture himself as an instrument which must be 
always ready and willing to be used as God's will might 
direct. More than ever before in his life, Syngman felt both 
helpless and powerful helpless to guide his own destiny or 
to seek his own ease, but imbued with a power never before 
suspected to help in some manner to carry out God's great 
design. This feeling gave him a sense of release and peace. 
He felt able for the first time to view his own personality 
objectively. He could ask himself what were his own weak- 
nesses and wherein lay his strength. He felt impelled to 
wrestle with his shortcomings and to do his best to improve 
them in every way, the better to carry on whatever respon- 
sibilities should be laid upon him. 

The very fact that this conversion occurred in prison gave 
it an immediate and practical character. Crowded into the 
cell with him were other human beings representing every 
kind of misery. Some of them were really desperate crim- 
inals who had committed all the evil that lay within their 
power. Others were vibrant with idealism and, like himself, 
had been condemned for sincere efforts to erase the bitter 
wrongs of the corrupt monarchy. Very few of them had ever 
learned anything of Christianity and many of the rest had 
only endured a superficial acquaintance with it as the neces- 
sary price of acquiring some Western learning. 

Rhee began to read to as many as would listen while he 
intoned chapters from the Scriptures and since their con- 
finement needed every possible means of lightening the op- 
pressive boredom of the passing months, he found that even 
the most skeptical would listen. Prayer became a natural 
means of communion for him, and he acquired a habit that 
has persisted all his later life of opening and closing the day 
with prayer. He found that this communion with God was 
the most refreshing experience both for his body and for his 
spirit that he had ever known. All through the remainder 
of his life, during the years of painful exile and hopeless 


agitation and under the burdens of the presidency, he has 
found that his troubles would flow away from him and be- 
come a part of the infinite burden of God when he turned 
to Him to seek reassurance that the ordeals of the day were 
but an infinitely small portion of His great plan. 

During his six years in prison more than forty inmates 
were converted as a result of his readings and meditation 
with them. Years later he would occasionally be brought to 
a warm recollection of some of them and would recall vividly 
how their miseries and cares lightened as they, too, accepted 
the Christian faith. Several of the Ap-nois, or prison guards, 
who were charged to prevent the prisoners from holding 
any services or reading any books (let alone to engage in the 
study of a foreign sect) began to gather at the bars of the cell 
to listen to Rhee's stumbling efforts to preach. Some of 
them, too, became converts and the leniency of their super- 
vision derived in part from the fact that the prison cell was 
recast into a kind of sanctuary. 

From the teaching of religion, Rhee and some of his better- 
educated associates gradually commenced to develop a reg- 
ular school in the prison. Mr. Bunker, who, in addition to 
his teaching duties at Pai Jai, was director of the Religious 
Tract Society, sent in to them 150 copies of religious books. 
With these and other secular volumes a circulating library 
was established among the four large cells, with the tacit 
consent of Warden Kim. There were children as well as 
adults in the prison, and the classes were organized at first 
to teach them. Rhee was elected as the spokesman to per- 
suade the jailers to accede to this plan, which, with the ap- 
proval of Lady Um, they did. Soon regular classes were 
organized for adults as well as children. Chinese calligraphy, 
arithmetic, geography, the Japanese language, and history 
were taught by several of the prisoners. Rhee lectured from 
time to time on a variety of subjects, chiefly on political 
democracy as he was learning it from American periodicals 


and expounding it in his Spirit of Independence. There were 
about fifteen boys in the classes, though of course the num- 
ber and personnel varied through the years. Some went out 
of the prison to lives of prominence and usefulness and some 
returned to lives of crime. 

During these prison years (1897-1904) affairs in Korea con- 
tinued their dismal course. The Independence Club was 
completely broken up. Efforts toward reform were sporadic 
and ineffectual. The old Taiwunkun died peacefully in his 
bed in February, 1898, and for all his cruelty and ambition, 
his loss to the nation was keenly felt. There remained no 
single man of stature great enough or purpose strong enough 
to save the nation from the ruin that was hastening upon it. 
Japan continued her efforts to entrench herself ineradtcably 
upon Korean soil. Russia was making similar efforts and for 
a time they appeared to be equally effective. In 1898 and 
again in 1900 envoys of Russia and Japan met secretly and 
agreed to a dividing line on or close to the 38th parallel, in 
order to mark off between themselves their areas of special 
interest in the Orient. only their fear of Great Britain and 
the United States prevented them from formalizing these 
understandings into public pronouncements. Meanwhile the 
Russo-Japanese rivalry for control in Manchuria continued 
and after both the United States and Great Britain withdrew 
from that area, the way was left open for their clash of in- 
terests to develop. Korea, caught squarely in the middle, 
and with corroding corruption and inefficiency in the decay- 
ing monarchy, was helpless. 

The news the prisoners were receiving from the outside 
was matched in tragic gloom by an epidemic of cholera 
which swept through the jail in March, 1903. Forty pris- 
oners were carried off by this dreadful disease in the space 
of two days. In the close confinement and lack of sanitation 
within the cells, there seemed no hope for any of them to 
escape. Rhee sent an urgent appeal to Dr. O. R. Avison, 


who made an attempt to visit them but was refused admit- 
tance. However, he did succeed in sending medicine to 
Rhee, who administered it to the patients according to Avi- 
son's directions. In some manner, the remnants of the pris- 
oners survived. 

In the rapid succession of political changes which accom- 
panied the attack by Japan against Russia, on February 9, 
1904, the political prisoners began to hope for release. Ko- 
rea, as "the shrimp caught between two whales," was des- 
perately seeking for any means of saving herself. At the very 
beginning of that year the emperor sought the favor of the 
Russians by granting them the timber-cutting concession in 
the northeastern mountains, with access to the port of Yong- 
nampo. Although the port was never transferred to their 
jurisdiction, the Russians immediately changed its name to 
Port Nicholas. The emperor then made a quick about-face 
and began to deal with Japan. A treaty was signed granting 
the Japanese the right to land troops in Korea and to cross 
Korean territory as necessitated by the war. This treaty 
strongly reaffirmed Japan's recognition of Korea's complete 
sovereignty and independence and the hapless emperor in- 
terpreted these pledges as being more than mere form and 

With these tumultuous changes occurring in court, Rhee's 
friends made every effort to secure his release. Unfortun- 
ately the breakup of the Independence Club left him with- 
out any powerful friends within the court circle. one 
painful blow came in the form of a letter which he received 
on March 20, 1903. It was signed by George Heber Jones, 
one of Rhee's missionary friends, and read as follows: 

Last Sunday I heard from your father that the emperor 
had not included you in the amnesty recently proclaimed. 
I am more sorry than I can tell you for this. I write to express 
my sorrow to you. However, do not give way to despair. 
Trust God and He will help you. I hope and pray that the 


emperor will grant you a full pardon and you will come out 
to help us in making Korea a Christian land. 

It was hard in that spring and summer of 1904 to see the 
prison doors open and so many of his friends and compan- 
ions walking out to freedom, while he remained behind. It 
was disheartening to think that not all the efforts of his 
friends had succeeded in having his name placed on the 
rolls of an amnesty so sweeping that almost every prisoner 
classified as political was let out. The fear seeped into his 
soul that he might have to remain in that noisome prison 
for the remainder of his days. once again the temptation 
was great to pray for death. This was the hardest blow his 
faith had yet had to endure. 

It was not until almost six months after the discouraging 
letter from Jones that Warden Kim came running to him on 
August 9 to announce that he had an order for his release. 
All Rhee could feel was a great emptiness in his heart as he 
rose tremblingly to his feet, unbelieving, trying to under- 
stand what this news could mean. Then at Warden Kim's 
order an Ap-noi swung open the door of the cell and mo- 
tioned him to come out. For a few moments young Rhee 
stood unsteadily, staring about at the cell walls, at the fa- 
miliar ceiling and the matted floor. Even this place where 
so much misery and degradation had been suffered he could 
not leave quickly, for too many memories would have to be 
left behind. 

As he glanced once more around the gloomy walls he 
seemed to see in the shadows the faces of many companions 
who had been led out to be beheaded in the courtyard be- 
hind the jail. In his ears there rang again the echoes of their 
cries. He could feel with heightened emotion the tremor of 
their bodies when the saber cut down into their flesh. Par- 
ticularly he recalled the great patriot Chang Ho Yik who was 
beheaded behind the jail, crying out "Mansei!" (May Korea 


live ten thousand years!) until the third blow of the saber 
silenced him forever. This and many another experience re- 
mained in his mind to trouble and torture him for many 

It seemed unreal that after having hovered so close to 
death from torture, from privation, from cholera, from ex- 
ecution, and from sheer lethargy, he now at last should be 
free. Free to walk out and leave it all behind! (But how 
could he leave behind experiences that were eaten into his 
sinews and bones and the very fabric of his mind?) 

He gazed deep into Warden Kim's eyes, and these two 
men wept unashamed. Then, staggering with weakness and 
blinking his eyes at unaccustomed daylight, he walked out 
through the prison doors. 

Chapter IV 


JToLLOwiNG SYNGMAN RHEE'S release from prison he had 
little leisure or inclination for rejoicing. His father's happi- 
ness moreover soon changed to pathos, when he discovered 
that his son far from having learned his lesson was all the 
more determined to devote himself to political reform. As 
for Rhee's own feelings, it never occurred to him that he 
had any choice in the matter. Bad as the Korean situation 
had been when he entered prison, it had steadily deteri- 
orated during the seven intervening years. The near-chaos 
of 1897 was succeeded by a pattern, but it was clearly a pat- 
tern of destruction. 

Everywhere, in the streets, in the offices, and in the gov- 
ernment buildings, Rhee saw the busy and officious Japanese 
civil and military officers, scurrying around with the decep- 
tively random purposiveness of ants, gesticulating earnestly, 
staring solemnly through oversized spectacles, and speaking 
(always speaking) with insistent authority. The war between 
Japan and Russia was already clearly nearing an end. And 
equally clearly, Japan was entrenching its own power more 
and more firmly in every cranny of Korean life. 

Rhee's old friends of the liberal movement were widely 
scattered, subdued, confused or converted. The Independ- 
ence Club had fought against the inefficiency and corrup- 


tion of the court; and now Japanese officials were proving 
themselves both efficient and personally honest. (The funda- 
mental dishonesty with which the Japanese government was 
cold-bloodedly planning to undermine Korean independence 
while pledging through treaties to uphold and insure it was 
hidden from all but a few eyes.) Harsh treatment had broken 
the spirit of some of the old reformists. Hopelessness over- 
whelmed others when it became evident that the democratic 
United States, which the Korean liberals had enthusiastically 
adopted as the very model of a modern idealistic state, was 
not going to play the Confucian role of "big brother" to 
Korea. Meanwhile, the Japanese imperialists were buying 
support in every conceivable quarter by granting special 
trading privileges to those Koreans whose motives were gov- 
erned by cupidity, and by openly paying homage to those 
who were moved largely by vanity. Bribery and open venal- 
ity of every sort had become commonplaces of the court 
circle. Yet over this cesspool of intrigue and vice was laid 
a deceptive covering of modernization and progressiveness 
of a new Japan rapidly taking its place among the leading 
nations of the world. 

President Theodore Roosevelt, who admired strength and 
aggressive energy above all else, frankly showed his friendly 
support of Japanese ambitions. His friend D. W. Stevens 
(who had been serving as an employee of the Japanese For- 
eign Office) went to Korea to play the dual role of advisor 
to the Korean Foreign Ministry and critic of Korea in articles 
written for American journals. Another old friend of Roose- 
velt's, Mr. George Kennan, persuaded him that the Koreans 
were unfit for self-government. Roosevelt sent his Secretary 
of War, William Howard Taft, to Tokyo, where on July 29, 
1905 he signed a secret executive agreement with Katsura, 
the Japanese prime minister, agreeing to support Japan's 
claims of a special interest in Korea and Manchuria in re- 
turn for a promise not to attack the Philippine Islands. Some 


years afterward Roosevelt gave his own explanation for this 
agreement, as follows: 

To be sure, by treaty it was solemnly covenanted that Korea 
should remain independent. But Korea itself was helpless to en- 
force the treaty, and it was out of the question to suppose that 
any other nation, with no interests of its own at stake, would do 
for the Koreans what they were utterly unable to do for them- 

England, meanwhile, had signed a treaty with Japan in 
1903, in effect recognizing Japan's preponderant interests in 
northern Asia. The opportunistic ambitions of Russia's Czar 
Nicholas, both in eastern Europe and in Asia, were disturb- 
ing both London and Washington. Anglo-American interests 
alike seemed to require the development of counter-forces 
to oppose the beginnings of a new Russian aggressiveness. 
A practical means to that end appeared to be the establish- 
ment of Japanese power on the mainland of northern Asia 
to wit, on the Korean peninsula. Japan was so firmly com- 
mitted to the development of Westernization and seemed so 
friendly to the United States and Great Britain that such 
an encouragement to Japanese expansion appeared to offer 
dividends in checking Russia without creating any new 
threat. The feelings and the welfare of Korea were belit- 
tled or ignored. 

It was a strange and disheartening world for a Korean 
patriot to re-enter. Of course Rhee did not know all that was 
happening. (The Taft-Katsura agreement was not revealed 
until 1922.) But there was ample evidence on every side of 
the trend of events. A Japanese financier, Megata, had as- 
sumed virtual control over the finance ministry. The en- 
tire Korean telegraph and postal systems were placed under 
Japanese control. Under the pretext of military necessity, 
the Japanese Army (which was in Korea ostensibly only to 
fight Russia) took over large areas surrounding Seoul, dis- 


possessing 15,000 families in the process. Under the same 
excuse, all Korean "waste lands" (more than half of the entire 
national territory, comprising all the undeveloped mineral 
resources) were granted to a Japanese corporation headed 
by Mr. Nagamori. To this the foreign representatives in 
Seoul objected and the grant was rescinded, only to be 
renewed later when the Japanese domination was absolute. 
Japanese agents, posing as representatives of the military, 
went through the country seizing choice properties, with the 
simple explanation that they were needed for maintenance 
of the Japanese military forces. Japanese money-lenders 
were established in every city, lending money freely at a 
monthly interest rate of twelve per cent and taking the 
property of the borrowers when repayment was impossible. 
Koreans were roughly treated by the Japanese soldiery, were 
forbidden access to any areas the Japanese chose to designate 
as "off limits" and were subject to summary judgment by 
Japanese military tribunals. The handwriting on the wall 
was plain. 

Plain as the evidence was, Rhee was disheartened to find 
that there existed little semblance of any effective Korean 
nationalist movement at the time of his release from prison. 
A few months before his pardon, he received a letter from 
Philip Jaisohn, the founder of the Independence Club, who 
was then in America. Dated April 6, 1904, the letter read: 

So far Japan is on the right side and waging war for the prin- 
ciple which every civilized being must uphold and support. I 
sincerely hope God will be with the nation which fights for 
righteousness and civilization . . . Japan or any other nation 
cannot help Korea unless Korea helps herself and is willing 
to be helped by another. If Korea continues to act like a child 
she will surely become a part of some other nation. 

In his first talks after his release from prison with some of 
his earlier friends, Rhee found them enthusiastic over 


Japan's successes in the war against Russia, In part this was 
because it was the first time an Oriental nation had suc- 
ceeded in a war against a Western power. Partly, too, their 
rejoicing was because of the highly publicized feudal back- 
wardness of Russian society. Another cause was the out- 
standing success of the industrialization program in Japan, 
following the Meiji Restoration, which made Japan look like 
the rising star of progress for all Asian peoples. Finally, 
the widespread acquiescence of the old Korean reformist 
group in the strutting assertiveness of the Japanese military 
resulted in part from their recognition of its superiority over 
the obvious incompetence of the decaying Korean monarchy. 
It was clear to Rhee that to his former associates Japan's im- 
perialistic ambitions were hidden beneath a cloak of progres- 

It was not until he began to talk to Prince Min Young 
Whan and General Hahn Kiu-sul the two most influential 
reformers in the court circle that he found kindred souls 
who were as disturbed as he was himself by the course of 
events. These men understood that little if anything could 
be done inside Korea to check the trend of Japanization. 
They and Rhee agreed that an appeal should be made to the 
President of the United States, based upon the Amity Treaty 
of 1882. 

Later Rhee learned of another effort made by the emperor 
of Korea to save his toppling nation. In October, 1905, he 
was induced to send to the United States Homer B. Hulbert, 
the friendly and courageous American who was the editor 
of the Tri-Lingual Press, with a letter from the emperor to 
President Roosevelt. Hulbert informed the American minis- 
ter in Seoul of the nature of his errand and set out promptly. 
When he arrived in Washington, however, he found to his 
amazement that he could not see either the President or 
Secretary of State Elihu Root, to deliver the letter, and he 
received a cold response to all his inquiries in the State 


Department as to the proper means of fulfilling his mission. 
As Hulbert wrote in a statement later presented to the 
Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs: 

I supposed that the President would not only be willing but 
eager to see the letter; but instead of that I received the as- 
tounding answer that the President would not receive it. I cast 
about in my own mind for a possible reason, but could imagine 
none. I went to the State Department with it, but was told that 
they were too busy to see me. Remember that at that very 
moment Korea was in her death throes; that she was in full 
treaty relations with us; that there was a Korean legation in 
Washington and an American legation in Seoul. I determined 
that there was something here that was more than mere care- 
lessness. There was premeditation in the refusal. There was 
no other answer. They said I might come the following day. 
I did so and was told that they were still too busy, but I might 
come the next day. I hurried over to the White House and 
asked to be admitted. A secretary came out and without any 
preliminary whatever told me in the lobby that they knew the 
contents of the letter, but that the State Department was the 
only place to go. I had to wait till the next day. But on that 
same day, the day before I was admitted, the administration, 
without a word to the emperor or government of Korea or to 
the Korean legation, and knowing well the contents of the un- 
delivered letter, accepted Japan's unsupported statement that 
it was all satisfactory to the Korean government and people, 
cabled our legation to remove from Korea, cut off all communi- 
cation with the Korean government, and then admitted me 
with the letter. 

The event in Korea to which Hulbert refers was the sign- 
ing by the emperor of a Japanese-drawn statement declaring 
a Japanese protectorate over Korea. In securing this signa- 
ture, Marquis Ito, a special envoy from Japan, held confer- 
ences with the Korean emperor on two successive days, 
November 16 and 17, urgently pressing for his compliance, 
while Japanese troops surrounded the palace and paraded 


through the streets of Seoul. Memories of the murder of 
Queen Min by the Japanese in 1895 were vividly recalled. 
Prime Minister (General) Hahn Kiu-sul, who urged the cabi- 
net to withstand this protectorate to the death, was arrested 
by Japanese soldiers in a corridor of the palace while on the 
way to confer with the emperor. After a night-long siege of 
the emperor and his cabinet, held incommunicado in sep- 
arate chambers of the palace, the document was brought in 
to the emperor in the early hours of pre-dawn on November 
18. Afterward the Japanese displayed the document with 
the emperor's seal upon it, but he always swore that he had 
never signed it. Meanwhile, over in the United States, Elihu 
Root wrote to Hulbert on November 25 that since "the 
emperor has made a new agreement with Japan disposing 
of the whole question to which the letter relates, it seems 
quite impracticable that any action should be based upon 

The following day, November 26, Hulbert received from 
the emperor a cablegram which had been secreted out of 
Korea and dispatched from Chefoo, to circumvent Japanese 
censorship, reading as follows: "I declare that the so-called 
treaty of protectorate recently concluded between Korea 
and Japan was extorted at the point of the sword and under 
duress and therefore is null and void. I never consented to 
it and never will. Transmit to American government/' How- 
ever, it was too late. President Roosevelt had made his 
decision and the American legation in Korea was already 
ordered to be closed and its functions transferred to Tokyo. 

Rhee urged Prince Min and General Hahn to go to the 
United States to plead for invocation of the mutual defense 
article of the Amity Treaty. The emperor, however, was so 
tightly in the toils of his Japanese captors that he could not 
give them an official appointment. Prince Min and the few 
others who were working together in a last desperate effort 


to save Korean independence decided that Rhee should be 
the one to go. He was provided with a student passport and 
with messages to the Korean legation in Washington, which 
he concealed in the false bottom of his trunk, Then ac- 
companied by Lee Chung Hyuk (who took the anglicized 
name of Howard Leigh) he left Korea ostensibly to study 
in the United States. Their fare was supplied in part by Lee 
Chung Chin, who had been the deputy warden of Seoul 
Prison during their long imprisonment. 

on November 4, 1904, at 1:00 P.M. they left Seoul, after 
a tearful farewell from Rhee's father, who was deeply stirred 
by mingled feelings of wanting him to stay and wanting him 
to go. Upon arrival at Chemulpo harbor (now Inchon) they 
secretly boarded the S.S. Ohio, which lifted anchor the 
following day at 3:00 P.M. Brief stops were made at Mokpo 
and Pusan, at each of which Rhee was fearful lest they be 
taken from the ship. Gradually, however, the coast of Korea 
receded from view, while he leaned moodily on the rail, 
staring at it with combined bitterness and dim hopefulness. 
He never doubted that his departure was well advised. It 
was all too evident that inside Korea nothing effective could 
then be done. But as a youth of twenty-nine, without official 
status, and without even money enough to proceed beyond 
Japan (let alone to live on after arrival in the United States) 
he wrestled with heavy doubts of his ability to counteract the 
heady ambitions of Japan or to overcome the indifference of 
the American government. 

When the Ohio landed at Kobe, Rhee and Leigh were 
greeted by a number of Korean friends and by Mr. Logan, 
an American missionary to whom Rhee carried a letter of 
introduction. on Sunday, November 13, Rhee spoke in 
Logan's chapel to a large congregation, which made a 
contribution toward his passage fare. on the following 
Thursday he sailed for Honolulu on the S.S. Siberia., with a 
ticket purchased for 126 yen, which entitled him to a place 


down in the crowded hold amongst a mass of Korean 
laborers on their way to Hawaii. It was a strange setting 
indeed for a diplomatic mission entrusted with the salvation 
of a dying nation! 

When the ship docked at Honolulu on the morning of 
November 29, Rhee was visited by Mr. Hong Jeung Sup, 
Korean interpreter to the American Immigration Bureau, 
who informed him that the Korean community expected his 
arrival and had arranged to hold a meeting for him. Alone 
among all the steerage passengers, Rhee was allowed to land. 
At dockside he was greeted by the Reverend Pyung Koo 
Yoon and by Dr. John W. Wadman, superintendent of the 
Methodist Mission, along with several others. They took 
Rhee to the Korean Church, near Nuanu Valley, where 
many Koreans were waiting to greet him. That evening they 
went to the Korean Plantation at Ewa, some twelve miles 
from Honolulu, where more than two hundred Koreans were 

Dr. Wadman, in presenting Rhee to the meeting, said: 
"Our work here is growing so wonderfully and the wireless 
telegram of the Holy Spirit has transformed our brother 
Rhee so that he has come a long way from Korea to partake 
of this sacramental service. We would like to keep him with 
us, but as he is on his way to America we will wait until he 
comes back and then we will catch him." After Dr. Wadman 
conducted the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Rhee made 
a long speech, which lasted until 11:00 P.M. The meeting 
was closed by mass singing of the Korean National Anthem 
which at that time was sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. 

After that long meeting was over, Rhee went home with 
the Reverend P. K. Yoon. They had received in Hawaii the 
information that Hulbert's mission had failed. The two 
men talked over the situation until dawn. They agreed that 
Japan, while professing to be a friend of Korean independ- 
ence, really had already undertaken to undermine it. They 


also agreed it was essential to have Korea represented at the 
forthcoming Portsmouth Peace Conference. Since Japanese 
influence at the Korean court was sufficient to prevent any 
official representation, it was plain that Korea would not be 
represented at all unless steps to that end should be taken 
by Koreans outside the country. There in the early hours 
when dawn was graying the Hawaiian skies, Rhee and Yoon 
laid preliminary plans to do what they could to save the 
independence of their nation. Yoon was to remain for a 
time in Hawaii, raising funds and securing the full support 
of the entire Korean community, and Rhee was to proceed 
directly to Washington to do whatever he could. 

At 6:30 in the morning, after virtually no sleep at all, they 
went back to Honolulu. There Rhee addressed another 
meeting, in which was taken up a collection of $30 to pay 
his steerage fare on the Siberia for the rest of his trip to San 
Francisco. The ship sailed at 11:30 A.M., while Rhee looked 
out over the rail at the waving hats and handkerchiefs of the 
people who had come to see him off. 

Mr. Chung Soo Ahn was waiting at the San Francisco pier 
for Rhee and Howard Leigh, his companion who had been 
forced to remain aboard ship in Hawaii, when the ship 
docked at 10:00 A.M. on December 6. Three days later they 
went down to San Rafael, to call on Mr. and Mrs. Fish, 
whose son was a missionary in Korea. Their hosts took the 
two Korean students to the San Anselmo Seminary, where 
the president, Dr. Mclntosh, offered each of them a three- 
year scholarship providing room, board and tuition. Follow- 
ing their graduation, he said, he would arrange to have them 
sent back to Korea as missionaries, with full support. As 
Rhee gazed around the beautiful stone building set atop 
a green hill and contrasted it with the misery of his surround- 
ings during the preceding seven yearsas well as with the 
uncertainties of his missionhe was strongly tempted to 
accept the offer and remain. Since he could not tell these 


new friends of his about the responsibility which was taking 
him to Washington, his refusal of their generosity was awk- 
ward and left both Mr. and Mrs. Fish and Dr. Mclntosh 
feeling that these two Koreans were uncouth and ungrateful 
Rhee finally broke away from them with an uncomfortable 
feeling he was fated to experience many and many a time 
during his long life, namely that understanding is a happy 
accident which sometimes occurs but that some degree of 
misunderstanding is the general rule. 

Howard Leigh remained with Rhee and the two went 
on down to Los Angeles on December 17. There they were 
met by Hugh Cynn ? one of their old prison mates and a boy- 
hood companion of Rhee, who had first introduced him to 
the Pai Jai school (and who, half a century later, in 1952, 
was to be among his opponents in standing for election to 
the presidency of the Republic of Korea). Cynn was attend- 
ing the University of Southern California and had a number 
of Korean friends in Los Angeles. He took the two homeless 
wanderers to the Korean Methodist Mission on Magnolia 
Avenue, where they spent several days. Then, the day after 
Christmas, Syngman Rhee left on the Santa Fe Railway for 
Washington, leaving Howard Leigh behind, since they were 
unable to raise money enough for two tickets. 

Rhee's arrival in Washington was deceptively auspicious. 
His train pulled into the railway station then located at the 
juncture of 12th Street N.W. with Pennsylvania Avenue at 
9:00 P.M. on New Year's Eve. With only a few dollars in his 
pocket, he found a room in the small Mt. Vernon Hotel, on 
Pennsylvania Avenue. Then he went at once to the Korean 
legation, on Iowa Circle, where he met the first secretary, 
Hong Chul Soo, and was delighted to learn he had received 
a letter from Prince Min asking him to give Rhee every 
possible assistance. 

The legation counsellor, Kim Yun Jung, joined them and 
the three men talked the old year out and the new year in. 


Rhee soon learned there was serious disagreement among 
the small legation staff. The minister, Shin Taimu, had been 
personally selected for the post by Lady Urn, the king's 
consort. It was her driving ambition to have her own son, 
Prince Yi Eun, succeed to the throne. However, the em- 
peror's second son, Prince Eui Wha, next in line to the child- 
less crown prince, was then studying in the United States. 
Shin Taimu's chief function (or so it appeared to Counsellor 
Kim Yun Jung) was to send back adverse reports on the 
behavior of Prince Eui Wha, in order that he might be 
discredited. In the months ahead Rhee was to meet Prince 
Eui Wha several times, for the prince, who was attending 
Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, came to Washington 
frequently. So far as Rhee could see, the worst report to 
be rendered on him was that he was idle and had little 
interest in education. Rhee rather regretted the harmless 
amiability of the prince, for, remembering Lady Urn's kind- 
ness to him during his prison days, he would have liked to 
have pleased her by passing on tales of princely wildness. 
In any event, as matters turned out, he was to be far too 
busy to give thought to the personal ambitions of Lady Um. 

Kim Yun Jung had an interesting story of his own to tell 
during that long New Year's night. He (along with a number 
of other Jangban youths) had been selected by the Korean 
Students Society in Japan as a recipient of one of its five 
annual scholarships for study in the United States. When 
Kim arrived in Washington he had contacted Dr. Hamlin, 
pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, on 
Connecticut Avenue at N Street, who arranged for him to 
enroll at Howard University, a school for Negroes. Kim 
made a favorable impression upon Dr. Gordon, president of 
Howard, and upon Dr. Charles Needham, president of 
George Washington University, who was serving as an ad- 
viser to the Korean legation. With their assistance, Dr. 
Horace Allen, the American minister in Seoul, was persuaded 


to use his good offices with the emperor to have Kim ap- 
pointed as first secretary, then counsellor, to the legation. 
After this was accomplished, Kim had his wife and children, 
Frank and Cora, sent over to join him. 

During the next several weeks Rhee saw Kim frequently 
and neither he nor Hong ever had a good word to say for 
Minister Shin. In Rhee's own talks with the minister, Shin 
insisted that he had no authority to make any representations 
whatsoever to the United States government without expli- 
cit instructions from Seoul. Both Rhee and Shin knew very 
well that no such instructions could possibly be sent, in view 
of the tight Japanese control over the court. 

Rhee came gradually to talk fully and confidentially with 
Kim Yun Jung about his own secret mission. Kim assured 
Rhee earnestly that Minister Shin would never do anything 
to assist with the mission and must on no account be in- 
formed of it. Kim then indicated that if he were made 
minister he would co-operate fully and do all in his power 
to make the mission a success. Rhee asked if he would make 
an official request of the State Department to invoke the 
Treaty of 1882 and Kim replied that he assuredly would do 


In the meantime, Rhee presented letters from Prince Min 
and General Hahn to Senator Hugh A. Dinsmore from 
Arkansas, who had served a term as American minister in 
Seoul, and who was very sympathetic to the Koreans. Dins- 
more was delighted to hear from his two old friends and 
promised to arrange an interview for Rhee with Secretary of 
State John Hay, the famous author of the Open Door policy 
for China. Dinsmore felt sure that Hay would favor full 
justice for Korea, and so did Rhee for Hay was known 
throughout the Orient as the man who prevented the parti- 
tion of China following the 1899 Boxer uprising. 

While these arrangements were being made, Rhee called 
at the office of the Washington Post and talked with a re- 


porter, who wrote a story published in the January 15, 1905 
issue, telling of Rhee's protest against what he pointed out 
was a Japanese plot to seize Korea. This was the very first 
presentation of Rhee's views in the American press and it 
received as little attention as did many of the great number 
of interviews that were to follow during the next forty years. 

As the weeks passed, Rhee was learning something else 
which he also had many later occasions to relearn, namely, 
that even the most friendly officials often have other business 
which intervenes to prevent or delay their efforts on behalf 
of a voteless foreigner. on February 16 he received a letter, 
handwritten by Senator Dinsmore, which read: "Dear Mr. 
Lee: Your note came yesterday morning. I have been sick 
in bed with grippe ever since I saw you, and, therefore, have 
been unable to attend to my promise to you. I am sitting 
up in my room now, however, and am writing a note this 
morning to Secretary Hay asking him if he will kindly 
mention a time when it will be convenient for him to see 
you. When I hear from him, I will let you know." 

A few days later Rhee was excited to receive a pencil- 
scrawled note from Senator Dinsmore, dated Friday, which 
simply said: "I send you Mr. Hay's note. If you will come at 
nine o'clock sharp, we will go to the Department/' The next 
morning Senator Dinsmore drove in his carriage to the house 
at 12th and Eye Streets, N.W., where Rhee had a room, and 
together they rode to the Department of State. They were 
ushered into the Secretary's office for an interview that lasted 
more than half an hour. Hay was a parishioner of the Church 
of the Covenant and was much interested in the missionary 
program in Korea. He told Dinsmore and Rhee of his en- 
thusiasm at receiving letters from Horace Allen reporting 
that the American missionaries in northern Korea had re- 
fused to evacuate their stations even after the area was 
proclaimed a war zone. The Department had ordered a 
gunboat to Pyengyang to bring them out, but they insisted 


on remaining with their charges. Mr. Hay expressed his 
feeling that the Koreans must love the missionaries, and he 
added, "As long as the Koreans do not start any anti- 
Christian movement, there will be no trouble/ 5 Of course 
what he had in mind was the anti-Christian and anti-foreign 
Boxer movement in China. Rhee assured him that since the 
opening of Korea to intercourse with Western nations no 
single missionary in the country had ever suffered any harm 
or indignity of any kind. Then Rhee concluded, "We Ko- 
reans ask you, Mr. Secretary, to do for Korea what you have 
done for China/' Hay seemed pleased at this reference to 
his Open Door policy, and then, in the presence of Senator 
Dinsmore, he said, "I will do everything I can to fulfill our 
treaty obligations, either personally or representing the 
United States government, whenever the opportunity 
presents itself/' 

As they left the Department, Senator Dinsmore said that 
he was fully satisfied with the conference, and so was Rhee. 
Rhee wrote out full reports on the meeting, addressed to 
Prince Min and General Hahn, and Senator Dinsmore had 
them sent to Seoul in the American legation diplomatic 
pouch. Rhee always felt that this assurance from Hay would 
have resulted in saving Korea's independence except for the 
tragic fact that Hay died that summer and was succeeded as 
secretary of state by Elihu Root. So close did events come 
to averting the tragic destiny that led from Japan's seizure 
of Korea to Manchuria and on to Pearl Harbor! 

While working through Senator Dinsmore to reach the 
State Department, Rhee also was concerned to do what he 
could to secure effective working co-operation from the 
Korean legation. Following a long precautionary conversa- 
tion with Kim Yun Jung (to be sure his loyalties were beyond 
question) Rhee sent to Prince Min a recommendation that 
Kim be named as minister to replace Shin Taimu. Shortly 
thereafter Shin was recalled and Kim took his place as charge 


d'affaires. Rhee at that time trusted Kim implicitly, but later 
events showed that Kim even then was in secret communica- 
tion with the Japanese minister in Washington, telling him 
in detail of Rhee's plans and activities and assuring him of 
acquiescence in Japan's plans for Korea in return for support 
in his expected appointment to the legation post. Unaware 
of all this, Rhee felt that Kim's new official status was at least 
a partial assurance of the success of his mission. 

In June it was announced that within a month a peace 
conference would be held between the Russians and the 
Japanese, under Theodore Roosevelt's auspices, at Ports- 
mouth, New Hampshire. The Korean government was not 
to be represented and few Koreans appeared to have any 
realization of the danger confronting their country. At that 
time Secretary of War William Howard Taft, accompanied 
by Alice Roosevelt and her husband, Congressman Long- 
worth, was making a tour of the Orient. on their way 
through Hawaii the Korean community held an enormous 
mass meeting in their honor and, under the leadership of 
Pastor Pyung Koo Yoon, presented a resolution representing 
the 4,000 Koreans in the Islands, petitioning President 
Roosevelt to safeguard Korean independence by invoking 
the Treaty of 1882. This meeting elected Reverend Yoon and 
Syngman Rhee as envoys to President Roosevelt, to present 
the memorial. Dr. Wadman, the Methodist Mission super- 
intendent, urged Taft to write a letter to Roosevelt introduc- 
ing the two elected envoys. This Taft did, with results which 
later opened to them the doors of the Sagamore Hill Roose- 
velt home at Oyster Bay. 

It was from this friendly Korean gathering that Taft went 
on to Tokyo, there to seal Korea's death warrant in the secret 
agreement of July 29 signed with Katsura. Of course, Rhee 
knew nothing of the Tokyo memorandum; he did read in 
the Washington newspapers a glowing account of the 
Honolulu meeting, reflecting the cordial friendliness of Taft 
and his party toward the Korean patriots. The surface ap- 


pearances all augured success, and what lay beneath the 
surface was too melodramatically hypocritical (both in 
Washington and out beyond the Pacific) to be suspected by 
any reasonable minds. 

Mr. Yoon came to Washington with the copy of the 
memorial and together he and Rhee carried it down to 
Philadelphia to perfect its final wording with the assistance 
of Philip Jaisohn. From there the two envoys went to 
Oyster Bay, where President Roosevelt was spending his 
summer vacation at Sagamore Hill. The newspapers (intent 
on the forthcoming Portsmouth Conference, and short of 
news about it) gave more than normal attention to these 
young men and reported their every move. They reached 
Oyster Bay on the morning of July 5 and registered at the 
Octagon Hotel. Soon they were surrounded by a .group of 
reporters from metropolitan papers and the press associa- 
tions, asking them all manner of questions. Rhee and Yoon 
were tight-lipped in a desperate determination to do nothing 
that could upset the diplomatic proprieties, and told the 
reporters they could say nothing until after they had seen 
the President. The reporters jeered at them good-naturedly 
and assured them the President would never see them. 
Russian and Japanese delegates were arriving and the air 
was vibrant with big events. "The President has no time to 
see you," the reporters said, "and you can stay here for 
months with no results/' 

Rhee and Yoon called on Mr. Loeb, one of the presidential 
secretaries, and gave him a copy of the memorial and also 
the sealed letter of introduction penned by William Howard 
Taft. Loeb promised to show them to the President when 
he could, but warned that it might be some time before there 
would be any reply. The two Koreans returned to their hotel 
low in spirits. But that very evening they received a tele- 
phone call from Mr. Loeb asking them to come to the 
summer White House at nine o'clock the following morn- 


ing. Then the reporters flocked around them, asking what 
they expected to say and do, and congratulating them upon 
getting the interview. The two envoys brushed them off as 
quickly as they could and spent the evening in excited 

The next morning, dressed in rented formal diplomatic 
frock coats and silk hats, they engaged a carriage and drove 
in high style but with pumping hearts and trembling limbs 
to the Sagamore Hill residence. Shortly after they were 
ushered into a waiting room, two or three more carriages 
drove up, bearing Count Witte, the head of the Russian 
delegation, together with several military and naval attach6s, 
dressed in full regalia and dress uniforms. President Roose- 
velt, dressed in his "Rough Rider" outfit, walked out to the 
porch to greet the Russians. Then he led them into a con- 
ference room and quickly walked in to where Rhee and 
Yoon were nervously waiting. He came to them so quickly 
they had no time to make the bows they had planned, shook 
hands and said, "Gentlemen, I am very happy to receive you. 
What can I do for you and your country?" 

The two Koreans presented their memorial, which was 
very brief, and through which Roosevelt quickly glanced. 
Then he said, < I am glad that you have come to me. I would 
be glad to do anything I can in behalf of your country, but 
unless this memorial comes through official channels I can't 
do anything with it. The Chinese government has presented 
a similar petition to me through their embassy, and if you 
will have this sent to me by your legation, I will present it, 
together with the Chinese petition, to the Peace Conference. 
You see, gentlemen, my position is simply to invite the two 
nations to come together to make peace. I have no power 
to interfere. However, if you send this to me through your 
legation, I will at once send the two memorials to the Con- 
ference. Have your minister take it to the Department of 
State, and if he doesn't find the secretary of state, let him 


leave it with anyone, asking that it be sent on to me. That 
is all that is necessary/' 

Roosevelt was feeling at his ebullient best and Rhee and 
Yoon were caught up in the contagious stream of his com- 
radely enthusiasm. They thanked him effusively, said, 
"Good-by," and hurried out of the room, down the steps and 
into their carriage, shaking with excitement and aglow with 

When they returned to the hotel they were surrounded 
by the news correspondents, who congratulated them 
heartily and assured them of every wish for their success. 
Many other people at the hotel, including American and 
foreign diplomats, crowded around them to shake hands, 
compliment the young men on what they had achieved, and 
to wish them well. "In our early history," some of the dip- 
lomats told them, "our countries had a hard time to win 
recognition, too. You have all our sympathy. We pray for 
your success." In a spirit of genuine exultation the two 
envoys rushed to their room, packed their bags and made a 
dash for the station to catch the train for Washington. In 
their excitement they threw a $20 bill on the hotel counter 
to pay for their room and dashed off without waiting for any 
change. The hotel clerk ran after them all the way to the 
station platform to give them their change. Years later Rhee 
recalled that this act typified for him the spirit of honesty 
and generosity of the American people. 

Returning to Washington via New York, they arrived at 
the 12th Street station early in the morning, after a sleepless 
night in the coach, and were stimulated to a new pitch of 
excitement when they found in the Washington Post a story 
telling how the two Korean envoys had presented a memorial 
to President Roosevelt and were now returning to the capital 
to have it delivered officially through the legation. After a 
hasty breakfast they rushed over to the legation, agleam 
with enthusiasm. 


Kim Yun Jung came down the stairs to greet them and 
Rhee rushed up to him, exclaiming, "Now is the time for you 
to do your part, Mr. Kim." Kim looked coolly at the me- 
morial Rhee had thrust into his hand, then astounded the two 
envoys by replying in a thin and strained voice, "Mr. Rhee, 
I can't send it without instructions from our government." 
As Rhee heard those words, the great bulwark of hope he 
had been building began to tremble. A sudden numbing 
realization came to him that the old world of Korea s inde- 
pendence-forty centuries of history-was tumbling down. 
Yet he fought desperately against this shocking betrayal of 
all his hopes and plans. 

"What do you mean, Mr. Kim?" he cried. "Remember 
what you promised to do and how you got your appointment 
on the basis of that promise? You cannot betray your 
country like this!" But no argument or threat would avail. 
Rhee and Yoon talked with him until noon. Finally his wife 
and children came down. "Mr. Rhee," Mrs. Kim said, "you 
may kill all four of us, but we cannot do anything without 
an order from our government." Rhee turned toward Frank 
and Cora Kim and said, "You children do not know what 
your father is doing. He is selling your liberty, and you will 
live to see what slaves he is making of you. He is betraying 
your country, betraying your people, including yourselves. 
I will never let him turn this legation over to the Japanese. 
I will see it burned to ashes first." After this outburst, Rhee 
and Yoon left, slamming the front door behind them and 
stumbling down the steps in physical and emotional exhaus- 

This was almost the end. The next morning Rhee and 
Yoon again called at the legation, but Minister Kim blocked 
the door and threatened that if they did not leave at once 
he would call a policeman and report they had threatened 
to burn down the building. He ordered the Negro doorman 
to throw them out if they returned. All three of the Koreans 


were struggling to keep their tempers in check and avoid 
making a public scene on the steps of the legation. But it 
was hard. After all the many hours of confidential talks and 
planning together, Rhee was finally aware that Kim had been 
duping him all along and had used his influence to help get 
himself in a position to play the Japanese game. This was 
indeed a maddening outcome to his years of patriotic en- 
deavor and seven years of imprisonment. 

Rhee went to Dr. Hamlin at his study in the Church of the 
Covenant to plead for his help, but Hamlin sternly urged 
him to drop the matter. Hamlin declared that the question 
was completely official and could only be handled properly 
through the regular diplomatic channels. He said the Treaty 
of 1882 was a mere formality and should not be taken 
seriously. He pointed out that the President and all the 
leading government officials were friendly to Japan. In this 
interview he seemed to exhibit all the firmness of Calvinistic 
Presbyterianism but little of the loving faith of Christianity. 
Rhee discovered, however, that Hamlin was not alone in 
considering the Koreans to be naive and foolish if they rested 
faith in treaties and international commitments. 

Rhee then went to Philadelphia to talk the matter over 
with Philip Jaisohn, and he thought of an idea that might 
work. on August 7 Jaisohn wrote to Minister Kim suggesting 
that he give Rhee and Yoon a letter of introduction to the 
acting secretary of state (for John Hay had died), without 
any reference to the memorial. *TThe President desires to 
have the memorial come to him through the Department of 
State/' Jaisohn wrote, "and it is your duty to your country 
and your courtesy to the President to help these men all you 
can without involving yourself officially in the matter of the 
memorial. The letter of introduction will answer the purpose 
and at the same time it will not involve yourself in any way 
as far as the memorial is concerned. I hope you will see the 
matter in the same light." This suggestion might very well 


have appealed to Minister Kim had he simply been trying 
to resolve his own dilemma as an official without instructions 
from his home government, but since he was in secret firmly 
committed to the Japanese, it meant nothing to him. 

on August 10, back in Washington, Rhee received the 
following note from Jaisohn: "My dear Mr. Rhee If Kim 
refuses to do it, I don't see what else you can do. The only 
thing you can do is to get the home government to take up 
the matter. However, I doubt very much that they will take 
it up. If you fail, you can have the whole matter published 
in the papers through the Associated Press and give the 
reasons why the memorial is not officially accepted by the 
President and why you cannot present it officially/' Sound 
as these sentiments were, they brought no comfort to Rhee 
and Yoon. 

Dr. Charles W. Needham, president of George Washing- 
ton University, where Rhee was by that time enrolled as a 
student, replied to his plea for help with the following note: 
'1 should think the only proper course for Mr. Kim would 
be for him to receive the memorial, if you desire him to do 
so, and inform the foreign office of Korea of its receipt and 
contents and ask for instructions. It would not be according 
to good usage, in such an important time and matter, for 
him to act upon his own motion. I am sure Mr. Kim desires 
to serve Korea to the best of his ability." 

This note from the good Doctor Needham who knew 
nothing of the fierce background struggle for the control of 
Korea, but was eager to impress upon his overage foreign 
student the niceties of good usage marked almost the end: 
the end of the Rhee mission, the end of Mr. Kim, and the 
end of Korea. on September 10 Rhee received a note from 
Prince Min Young Whan commending him and Yoon for 
their efforts and enclosing $300 for their expenses. Soon 
thereafter Prince Min committed suicide as a last gesture of 
protest against Japanese seizure of his country. A bamboo 


shoot grew up through the floor of the room in which he died, 
and all during the generation of Japanese rule of Korea, a 
favorite subject of Korean art was a spray of bamboo leaves, 
or a simple sketch of bamboo shoots a memorial which the 
Japanese never found an effective means to prevent. 

Minister Kim was recalled from his post in Washington 
and appointed governor of a province in Korea. on his way 
home he traveled incognito, not daring to face the wrath of 
the Koreans on the west coast and in Hawaii. He left his son 
Frank at Mount Herman School, in Northfield, Massa- 
chusetts, from which he went on to graduate from the 
University of Pennsylvania. Frank then returned to Korea, 
fully expecting to find under the Japanese the same freedom 
and opportunities he had enjoyed in the United States. 
Within a few weeks he f ound he could not endure the atmos- 
phere of oppression and sought a means of returning to 
America. In 1911, when Rhee was in Korea, Frank Earn 
came to him and told of an interview he had had with David 
Starr Jordan, the famed president of Stanford, who was stop- 
ping briefly at the Chosun Hotel in Seoul. When Frank was 
ushered into Dr. Jordan's room, he found a Japanese official 
sitting at one side. Frank indicated that he wished to talk 
with Dr. Jordan privately, but the Japanese politely replied 
he would keep confidential whatever was said. As Frank 
told this experience to Rhee, Rhee reminded him, "You 
remember, Frank, when I was asking your father to send 
that memorial to the State Department, as he had promised 
to do? Your mother was strongly against me then and I told 
you that someday you would find out what your father was 
doing for your enslavement." Frank replied, "Dr. Rhee, I 
was too young to know. If I had known, I never would have 
permitted my father to betray his country." This was the 
sorry outcome of Rhee's dependence upon Kim Yun Jung 
for help in the fight to save Korea from Japan. 

History has recorded the outcome. The Portsmouth Treaty 


accorded to Japan a protectorate over Korea, leaving only 
the form of ineffective internal autonomy. After the with- 
drawal of the American legation from Seoul, other nations 
promptly followed suit. In 1907 the emperor made yet 
another attempt that (for him) bordered on the heroic: he 
sent a secret mission to the Hague to ask the World Court 
to restore Korea's 4,400-year old independent sovereignty. 
Since the Portsmouth Treaty recognized Japan's jurisdiction 
over Korea's international relations, the Court refused to 
accept or even consider the emperor's plea. Japan responded 
by ending the protectorate in 1910, and instead assumed 
full control over Korea. The ancient nation then ceased to 
exist except in the hearts of its people who would not let 
it die. 

Chapter V 


WHILE SYNGMAN RHEE was still pursuing his elusive goal 
of trying to save Korean independence through backstairs 
diplomacy, he was also enrolled as a student in George 
Washington University. To pick up this thread of his 
development, which was to grow into a broad pattern of 
educational leadership, it is necessary to return to his life 
in Korea, even before the years of imprisonment, to find 
there the roots of the scholar growing and intermingling 
with those of the reformist-politician. 

In a sense Rhee has never been out of the schoolroom. 
His mother and father were determined that he should be a 
scholar and were teaching him to read and memorize the 
Chinese classics well before his sixth year. All his life since 
then has been spent with books, paper, the calligrapher's 
brush, or the small lap-weight portable typewriter which 
for many years he has always kept within reach, and often 
in use. In Seoul and Pusan since his election in his mid- 
seventies as President of the Republic of Korea, his days 
have been filled with the everlasting study of reports, listen- 
ing to explanations, discussing and evaluating policies, for 
all the world like a practical-minded graduate student who 
is putting academic theories to the test of work-a-day ap- 



Life for Syngman Rhee has been an unceasing quest to 
learn, and after learning to teach; and then to test and learn 
and teach some more. As has been indicated, his imprison- 
ment had the effect of a long period of study to enlarge his 
horizons and of incubation to meditate upon and ripen his 
unusually rich accumulation of learning and experiences. By 
the age of thirty, when he entered college as a freshman, his 
education had already far surpassed that achieved by most 
professors. Yet there were also great gaps in his knowledge 
of the western and modern civilizations, and he was eager 
to learn. 

Before he put his student's notebooks aside, Rhee was to 
spend six years in the classrooms and libraries of three of 
America's leading colleges, and after that he was an educator 
(off and on) for three full decades. This was a longer 
academic career than most professors expect to have and its 
accomplishments were notable in themselves. Yet the 
educational phase of his life was never disassociated from 
politics. For him, education and politics were always closely 
intertwined. In his view, democracy demanded education 
as a background for understanding, ethical religion as a 
stimulus to duty, and action as fulfilment. To omit any one 
of these three strands would, to him, constitute a betrayal 
of function; with his temperament, to dissever them would 
have been impossible. 

An early view of the intermingling of these threads ap- 
pears in a letter written to Dr. Rhee by Dr. O. R. Avison 
(his old mentor who had removed his topknot), under date 
of December 21, 1949, when Avison was living in retirement 
in Florida and Rhee was struggling with the problems of 
trying to erect a strong Korean nation on the shaky founda- 
tion of the southern half of its ancient peninsular site. "How 
well I remember/' wrote Avison, "when you, Dr. Rhee, used 
to come to my home on the hill behind the Public Health 
Clinic [which later became Seoul's great Severance Hospital 


and Union Medical College] nearly every Sunday to practise 
your English on me and to talk over the future of Korea. 
Little did we think then of what would occur between then 
and now. You, Dr. Rhee, were even then a young rebel and 
I fear I did not discourage you as I should have done, but 
you really did not need any encouragement. You may 
remember how I warned you of the dangers of the course 
you were pursuing. I remember it very well and how, after 
sitting quietly for a time, you spoke up and said, 'Well, I am 
going to do it anyway/ And you did. 

"How I smile/' Dr. Avison's letter continues, "when I 
remember the anomalous position in which I was placed 
visiting the king when he was either sick or thought he was 
and discussing with you the future of the kingdom when 
the kingship would be abolished. I fear we were two 
traitors. But all is now well with Korea, and 'poor' Korea is 
going to have its chance . . /' 

Avison was only one of several missionaries with whom 
Rhee formed solid and lasting friendships. Another was the 
Presbyterian scholar-missionary, James A. Gale to whom 
Rhee went to seek advice and baptism after his release from 
prison. The advice Gale gave freely, but he refused the 
baptism on the grounds that since Rhee had been educated 
at Pai Jai, "the Methodists had a rightful claim to him." 
Gale joined enthusiastically in the advice Rhee was receiv- 
ing to go to America, and wrote for him a lengthy letter of 
introduction to Dr. Lewis T. Hamlin, Minister of the Presby- 
terian Church of the Covenant, in Washington, D. C. With 
a complete misreading of Rhee's destiny, Gale wrote, "Mr. 
Lee was a political reformer only till the Lord called him to 
a higher service , . " "He stands in the forefront of the 
honest, intelligent young men of the peninsula/' Gale wrote, 
"and is respected by all except a few members of the con- 
servative government, who desire no popular assembly or 
public gatherings . . . He has stood all sorts of fiery testings 


in his native land and through them all has proved himself 
an honest and faithful Christian/' 

Another American to whom Rhee turned for advice and 
help was Dr. Horace Allen, the medical missionary who be- 
came the United States Minister to Korea, and whose strange 
life of intrigue, service, and business opportunism has been 
well presented by Fred Harvey Harrington, in God, Mam- 
mon and the Japanese. Allen, at this stage in his career, was 
strutting with importance and at the same time struggling 
in the throes of rejection both by the Korean Court and by 
the United States Department of State. He had little time 
for the young man whom he regarded as an unsuccessful 
revolutionist and little taste for entangling himself in any 
deeper troubles than he already endured. Consequently, he 
brusquely advised Rhee to forget his grandiose plans of try- 
ing to create a democracy in Korea, to accept the fact of 
Japanese dominance, and to settle down to a life of acquies- 
cence with things as they were destined to be. Instead of 
giving Rhee the letter of introduction he requested, he wrote 
to Senator Hugh A. Dinsmore, a former Minister to Korea, 
on May 13, 1905: "I refused to give Ye Sung Mahn a letter 
to a single person in America and tried my best to keep him 
from going/' Among all of Allen's mistakes this one merits 
forgiveness only because of its failure to prove effective. 

In one of his speeches while attending Princeton, Rhee 
said that on arriving in America he had felt like a country 
chicken in a city hall. His first impressions were of the 
tremendous contrasts between Korea and the United States. 
He was not so much overwhelmed by the material improve- 
ments, the modern inventions, the industrialism, or the 
towering skyscrapers (all of which he had anticipated 
through his reading) as he was inspired by the fact that 
human life and labor, which were held cheaply in Korea, 
were valued most highly in America. It was in New York 
City that this lesson was driven home to him most vividly 


on a day when he saw an immigrant junkman jump down 
from the cart he was driving and commence to beat his 
skinny old horse with a buggy whip. A crowd soon gathered 
to protest this action and Rhee recalled that one indignant 
lady called the immigrant a wicked man and threatened to 
have him sent to jail. Rhee mused for hours over this inci- 
dent, which indicated to him that any man's business was 
every man's concern and that humaneness extended not 
only to people but even to beasts. 

In Washington Rhee called on Dr. Lewis T. Hamlrn, 
pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, to whom 
he had been referred by missionary friends, whom he found 
more formidable and less friendly than he had expected. 
Hamlin nevertheless accepted Rhee into his church and 
baptized him on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1905. Reverend 
Hamlin also introduced Rhee to Dr. Charles Needham, the 
president of George Washington University, who awarded 
him a ministerial scholarship, which covered all his tuition 
expenses except for the library fee of one dollar a semester. 

Syngman entered George Washington University at the 
start of the Spring semester, in February, 1905, and was 
listed by Dean W. Allen Wilbur as a "special" student, with 
one year of advanced standing in recognition of his Korean 
and Chinese studies. He took courses during the next two 
and a half years in logic, English, American history, French, 
philosophy, astronomy, economics, sociology, European 
history, and semitics (ancient languages). During all of the 
period of his enrollment at George Washington he had great 
difficulty earning enough to keep alive and often went to 
class weak from hunger. As a result, he earned only one 
grade of "A" during this college course (in the second 
semester of his class in European history). Most of his other 
grades were TB" and "C" but in French and mathematics 
he floundered and was graded "D." In those subjects he 
received some help from two friends and classmates, Merritt 


Earl and Miss Winifred King (who later married and who 
remained his life-long friends). 

one glimpse into the kind of seriousness which marked 
their relationships is preserved in a letter written by Earl on 
December 2, 1949. one day/' he recalled, "while tacking 
a G. W. U. pennant on the wall of my room, with one foot 
on the footboard of my bed and the other on the mantel, a 
rap sounded on the door. 'Come in/ I said, and Mr. Rhee 
entered. I excused my position and, as we talked, Mr. Rhee 
said: What are you going to be?' I answered that I was 
studying for the Christian ministry, Then he earnestly and 
pleadingly said: 'Oh, Mr. Earl, come over to my people/ 
I told him that I was sorry, but that I planned to enter the 
regular work when my preparation was completed." Several 
times during the next four decades Rhee paid brief visits 
to the Earls in their various pastorates, enjoying pleasant 
recollections of their old college days. 

one of Rhee's means of earning money enough to live on 
while at George Washington was by making speeches about 
Korea. He liked this particularly since it not only enabled 
him to earn a few dollars but also to win new friends for 
his country. Besides, he enjoyed the exhilaration of the plat- 
form and warmed to the earnest attention and applause of 
the audiences. Rhee has an unusually resonant and mellow 
voice, with a richness of range and a delicacy of tonal varia- 
tions. Quite contrary to the myth of Oriental impassivity, 
his face and his bodily movements are unusually expressive. 
He had had a great deal of experience as a public speaker 
in Korea, under the most adverse of circumstances, and early 
became a master of platform arts. As a speaker he was less 
notable for mastery of techniques than for possession of a 
body of vivid experiences and for a driving zeal which 
animated and indeed ennobled his talks. 

Rhee's student speaking continued through his later years 
at Harvard and Princeton, as well as at George Washington. 


He kept a notebook record of his lecture dates, and noted 
also the fees, which commonly ranged from two dollars to 
five dollars, but occasionally ran to as much as fifty dollars. 
Many of the talks were given under the auspices of the 
Y. M. C. A., though as time passed he began receiving in- 
creasing numbers of invitations from many different types 
of groups and in cities all through the East. Often he would 
show a series of 70 to 100 colored slides, and his theme 
usually dealt with the work of the missionaries in Korea and 
of the progressive improvement of conditions among the 
Korean people. He always took occasion, however, to plead 
for a better understanding of the interest the United States 
had in preserving (or, later, in restoring) Korea's inde- 
pendence and in helping to maintain it as a bulwark against 
the expanding ambitions of Japan. The normal reaction of 
his audiences was one of great interest and sympathy for the 
first portion of his talk, and of uneasy rejection of the latter 

Rhee was greatly encouraged by the friendly reception he 
generally received and by the many letters of appreciation 
that were sent to him following his talks. President Patton, 
of Princeton, wrote in 1908: "He has special qualifications 
for addressing popular audiences in a way that is both inter- 
esting and profitable/' Woodrow Wilson often recommended 
him to groups seeking a speaker. Dr. Charles Erdham, Dean 
of the Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote that Rhee 'lias 
spoken many times to great gatherings and is always heard 
with marked acceptance and interest/' Dr. Horace Under- 
wood, the founder of Chosen Christian College in Seoul, 
wrote from Korea to several groups in America describing 
Rhee's work as "a standing example of what the Gospel of 
Christ can do for the Korean people." Of course Rhee was 
proud of these commendations, and he carefully clipped and 
pasted into his notebook a story from the Majrch 12, 1908, 


issue of the Pittsburgh Telegraph, in which the reporter de- 
scribed him as "a forceful talker." 

on June 13, 1907, the Washington Post carried a story of 
an illustrated lecture which Rhee had given the preceding 
evening at the Y. M. C. A., on "Korea, Land of Morning 
Calm." According to the account, "Mr. Rhee illustrated his 
lecture with more than one hundred interesting views of 
Korea, its people and its customs. He occasioned much 
amusement by explaining that he could not show any slides 
of the 'real high class ladies' of Korea for the reason that they 
never leave their homes, but exhibited pictures of the middle 
class women, who are allowed to go about the streets wear- 
ing a long veil and always with one eye shut/ Several 
hundred people attended the lecture," the story concluded, 
"and the young Korean received an ovation at its close/' All 
who have done any popular lecturing will understand how 
essential it is to intermingle some humorous comments with 
the serious message, and how mortifying it is to the speaker 
to have the humor remembered but his message disregarded! 

During the spring of 1907, the senior class of seventeen 
members in the Columbian College of George Washington 
University was eagerly looking forward to graduation. Rhee 
was more than a little apprehensive of not graduating, for 
strain and lack of proper food combined to undermine his 
health and he was forced to miss a number of classes because 
of illness. Fortunately, Dean Allen Wilbur and the faculty 
were kind and understanding. When, on Wednesday, June 
5, the commencement exercises were held, the Washington 
Post, with the breezy intimacy of a weekly country news- 
paper and with the sympathetic interest in Rhee which it at 
that period often demonstrated, noted in its account of the 
graduation exercises that " . . none received heartier ap- 
plause on presentation of his diploma than the young 
Korean. . . . Recent illness threatened to undermine his 


health, and the possibility of failing to get his degree filled 
him with dismay." 

Each summer during his college days Rhee spent as the 
guest of a wealthy, elderly Methodist lady, Mrs. Boyd, who 
lived in Philadelphia and had a homey cottage on Emery 
Avenue in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Rhee was first intro- 
duced to Mrs. Boyd by George Heber Jones, a missionary 
in Korea who was especially interested in him because of 
his prison trials. Mrs. Boyd used to call Rhee "Paul," and 
wrote him a weekly letter during the winter terms of school. 
As soon as the summer vacation approached, she would send 
a servant down to Ocean Grove to open the cottage and 
would ask Rhee to go there as soon as his examinations were 

His first arrival in Ocean Grove was one evening in June, 
in 1905, just as night was falling. He inquired his way of 
the first person he met on the street, who happened to be a 
woman. She was frightened partly because he was an Ori- 
ental and partly because in those halcyon days women were 
taught to be afraid of strange men on the streets after dark. 
She soon recovered her poise, however, and directed Rhee 
to the Boyd cottage. Beyond this cottage was another, occu- 
pied by a family named Boyer, with whom Rhee developed 
a rather formal summer-time friendship. He taught their 
small son, Erwin, to fly a Korean-style oblong kite, and with 
the three Boyer daughters he often engaged in the kind of 
sage discourse that in those days was considered fit conver- 
sation for young people. on one occasion, as Rhee was 
strolling along the beach with the eldest daughter, Ethel, 
and her brother, Erwin, a portly woman riding in a wheel 
chair and carrying a gold lorgnette stopped to ask Miss Boyer 
pointedly, "Young lady, is this man your husband and that 
boy your son?" "No, Madame/' Miss Ethel replied, spir- 
itedly, "the young man you inquire about is the grandson of 
the Emperor of Korea, and the little lad is my brother." Her 


exaggeration of Rhee's lineage was doubtless justified by the 
provocation of the challenge, but both of the sedate young 
people decided that their friendship might become a subject 
of summer colony gossip and henceforth Bhee spent far less 
time chatting on the Boyer porch. 

Many years later, in 1950, Ethel Boyer (by that time Mrs. 
Kamp) wrote her recollections of the rather stiff formality 
of Rhee's personality as she noted it. She said he always 
wore a black alpaca suit, neatly pressed, carried his head 
high, and walked along the boardwalk with restrained dig- 
nity/ "At twenty-nine years of age," she added, 'lie was a 
dynamic, forceful personality who had onE GOAL in lif e- 
the independence of his people-which goal he combined 
with a deep concern for their individual material welfare. 
His innate dignity communicated itself to everyone, friend 
or stranger, so that he was always spoken of, as well as to, 
as Mr. Rhee. Never loquacious himself, he had a way of 
putting people at ease in his company, while his quiet re- 
serve forbade undue impertinence from strangers." 

Rhee's quiet reserve in those days was indeed partly "in- 
nate dignity" (or, more accurately, part of the cultural her- 
itage of his Confucian upbringing); but it also stemmed from 
his feeling that he was alien to his surroundings in many 
ways: in race, in experience, and even more significantly in 
his views of what was important in world affairs. To the 
people with whom he talked the Treaty of 1882 was some- 
thing of which they had never heard and could not possibly 
take seriously; the fancied danger of Japanese imperialism 
offering a threat to mammoth China and later even to the 
United States was so remote as to be ludicrous. The intense 
zealousness of this foreign youth for the restoration of the 
independence of his people was natural enough and even 
admirable, but it was so unrealistic and unimportant as to 
seem "quaint." There were very few people, not excepting 
the serious-minded Miss Boyer, with whom Syngman Rhee 


could really share his inmost thoughts. As a consequence, 
he had little choice except to live behind a veil. 

The summer of his graduation from George Washington 
(1907), was a significant one for Korea. That was the time 
when the Emperor sent Lee Sang Sul on his mission to the 
Hague, to carry an appeal for Korean independence to 
the World Court. Mr. Lee traveled to Europe by way of the 
United States and sent Rhee a telegram to join him in New 
York City. There the two men somberly talked over the in- 
ternational situation and spent several days together perfect- 
ing the text of the appeal to the World Court. While Rhee 
was in New York City, he read of an address made in the 
12,000-seat Ocean Grove Auditorium (a famous center of 
evangelistic and "cultural" speeches) by Dr, A. B, Leonard, 
editor of The Christian Advocate, whose influence in the 
Methodist Church was so great that he was known as "the 
maker of bishops/' Leonard had just returned from a tour 
of the Orient, during which he had spent some days in Ko- 
rea. In his speech he told of reforms instituted in that coun- 
try by the Japanese, and he ended his talk with a prayer 
that Japan might rule Korea forever. Rhee wrote him a long 
and hot letter of protest. A reporter from the Asbury Park 
Press sought Rhee out for an interview, resulting in a story 
which appeared in that paper and also in the Newark Morn- 
ing Star, for July 25, 1907, in which Rhee was quoted as 
declaring: "The Koreans as individuals will never submit to 
the Japs . . . The Powers are afraid to say a word for the 
cause of justice, in fear it may offend Japan, and thus may 
interfere with their commercial interests in the Far East. 
But do you not know that the whole of Asia is passing rap- 
idly into the Japanese monopoly? 

"Peace patched up with injustice to the weak ones," the 
interview concluded, "will never be permanent." The ideas 
set forth in this account summarized the view of the Far 
Eastern situation which Rhee was presenting at that time 


in his talks and which he never afterward has changed in 
any significant degree. 

During the summer Rhee determined to enter Harvard 
for a Master's degree, though many of his church associates 
advised against it, warning him, "You may lose your faith." 
The Harvard of President Eliot's presidency was undergoing 
fundamental changes, part of which consisted of a thorough 
secularization of the curriculum. The Methodist Mission 
Board wanted Rhee to return to Korea immediately as a 
preacher under its auspices, and this, indeed, had been his 
announced abjective when he was at George Washington. 
However, his own inclinations were strengthened by letters 
from his father urging him to remain for a while in America, 
for the reports of his political views were causing a stir 
among the Japanese officials. 

Accordingly, Rhee enrolled that fall in Harvard. The na- 
ture of his interests, and the assiduity with which he was 
undertaking to build a solid foundation of understanding of 
the global situation, are revealed by the choice of the courses 
in which he enrolled. These included American history, up 
to the adoption of the Constitution; the history of Continen- 
tal Europe from the Peace of Utrecht to contemporary times 
(two semesters); a special course in the expansionist and 
colonial policies of European nations; and a course in the 
Economics Department on the industry and commerce of 
nineteenth century Europe. In addition, he studied Interna- 
tional Law and Arbitration, and the operations of American 
diplomacy. To a student with an Oriental background, most 
of this was wholly new and the mastery of the problems re- 
quired long hours of midnight study. As a result, aside from 
his speeches, Rhee kept himself secluded during his year at 
Harvard, forming no lasting friendships while there and en- 
tering not at all into the social life of the college. He did 
well in his studies, proceeding to his Master's degree in the 


minimum time, but made no lasting impression on his asso- 
ciates, nor did they on him. 

Rhee's Master of Arts degree was awarded in the Harvard 
spring commencement of 1908. He returned there for some 
further graduate studies in American history in the summer 
of 1909, but even so he never felt any close or friendly at- 
tachment to the oldest of American universities. His heart 
was not in the classroom during his sojourn in Cambridge. 
In Korea the Japanese were systematically taking over the 
government departments and were steadily gaining control 
of the farmlands and industrial properties. In Harbin, Si- 
beria, a Korean nationalist youth, Ahn Chung Kirn, shot and 
killed Count Hirobumi Ito, a Japanese statesman, much ad- 
mired by the Western world, who was on his way to Moscow 
to discuss means of accommodating Japanese and Russian 
interests in Korea. (Reputedly his idea was to draw a line 
through Korea and China along the 38th parallel, with Rus- 
sia to dominate the part north of that line, and Japan the 
area south of it) In San Francisco two Korean youths 
(Chang In Myung and Chun Myung Woon) shot and killed 
Theodore Roosevelt's friend, D. W. Stevens, who had been 
appointed the fiscal adviser to the Japanese in Korea, and 
whose advice helped Roosevelt decide to ignore the "amity 
clause" of the 1882 Treaty. Stevens had come to the United 
States for a tour of lectures on the theme that Korea would 
be vastly benefited by Japanese rule. The Koreans in Amer- 
ica sent a committee to interview Stevens in his rooms at the 
St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco to ask him to retract these 
statements. When he refused they attacked him and a brief 
scuffle ensued. Afterward, when Stevens left his hotel to 
enter his automobile, two Koreans stepped forward and shot 
him dead. 

These two assassinations, one in Siberia and the other in 
San Francisco, plus all the unfavorable stories about Korea 
that were then being sent abroad from Japanese sources, 


strongly prejudiced the American public against Koreans. 
Sg the Christmas vacation recess of 1907, Ehee made a 
train trip out to California to talk over the situation with the 
Korean community there, and all along the route he found 
that people were afraid to talk to him. one of his history 
professors held him in such distaste that he refused to see 
him in his office and kept his thesis. When this professor 
left for his summer vacation, he turned Rhee's course paper 
over to his assistant, Arthur I. Andrews, a tall, scholarly 
young man who suspected there might be substance in 
Rhee's strictures against Japan. on June 16, 1908, Rhee 
wrote to Andrews: 

"I am going away on the 25th inst. for the Summer and I 
hope to see you again before I leave here. . . I hope to come 
back here next year, but I cannot tell yet." In a postscript 
he noted that he had written papers on Cavour and on the 
French and English struggle in India (besides his unidenti- 
fied thesis) which his professor had not returned. It was 
evident that the Harvard graduate work of that time, at 
least for Ehee, was far from being companionable. 

Rhee spent the summer of 1908 in marked uneasiness and 
in strenuous activity. The time was even less propitious than 
during the preceding summer for his return to Korea. Yet 
with his country's sovereignty dying, he felt strongly im- 
pelled to do whatever he could in its behalf. For months 
he had seized every opportunity in the Boston area to speak 
on Korea (often to the detriment of his studies), but he was 
disheartened to find his audiences reflecting the pro- Jap- 
anese sentiments which were so prevalent in the press. At 
the end of June he returned to Ocean Grove and there was 
further saddened by the death of Mrs. Boyd, whose cottage 
had been his summer home since 1906. 

He kept closely in touch with P. K. Yoon, who had been 
his comrade in the unsuccessful mission in 1905 to try to 
secure Theodore Roosevelt's help in maintaining Korea's in- 


dependence. Together they had planned, during the spring 
months, for an international conference of Koreans to be 
held in Denver, Colorado, on July 11-15. Yoon went over to 
England to organize patriotic activities among the few Ko- 
reans who lived there. Upon his return, he and Rhee sent 
out a general call to Koreans to attend the conference, which 
they arranged to be held in the Grace Methodist Church in 
Denver. The call resulted in a widespread attendance, with 
delegates coming from Russia, China, England and Hawaii, 
as well as from various parts of the United States. 

When their first meeting was called to order, on the eve- 
ning of July 11, there were thirty-six delegates present, from 
as far away as Shanghai, London, and Vladivostok. Rhee 
served as chairman and made the opening address. His 
speech and all their business were in the Korean language. 
They prepared summary statements in English for the press, 
and the July 12 issue of the Denver Republican reported: 
"The purpose is the making of a nation, the throwing off of 
the yoke of subserviency . . . They are going about it calmly, 
with quiet passion, and with no illusions." For the main ses- 
sion, President David Starr Jordan, of Stanford University, 
addressed them in an open meeting, attended by many of 
the people of Denver. 

It could hardly be claimed that the assembly was a huge 
success. Their numbers were few and their financial re- 
sources were far too limited to cope with the tremendous 
propaganda machine of the Japanese Government, which 
spared no effort to deluge the United States and other West- 
ern nations with stories alleging Korean incompetence and 
picturing the presumed beneficence of Japan's colonial rule. 
Japan borrowed a leaf from Rudyard Kipling's theme of 
"The White Man's Burden" to govern the helpless and back- 
ward peoples of Asia. only Japan sought to make this theme 
even more convincing by claiming that a strong Oriental 
nation was undertaking to play the "big brother" role to 


weaker and backward Korea. The desire of the Koreans at 
Denver to counter this heinous propaganda was intense and 
their devotion and energy were boundless, but the task was 
too great for their limited resources. The international or- 
ganization they envisaged never developed and after their 
separation to return to their several homes they never found 
any effective way of again uniting their efforts. 

The height of their ambition was reported in the July 14 
issue of the Denver Republican, which cited resolutions 
adopted the preceding day to unite all the diverse Korean 
groups into one central body, and to establish a publishing 
house for the purpose of bringing out Korean language trans- 
lations of Western books, to be circulated inside Korea, thus 
keeping the people in their homeland informed of events 
and developments around the world. The delegates saw 
clearly enough that the principal problem would be to coun- 
teract the effects of the bamboo curtain which Japan was 
erecting around Korea, with the aim of Japanizing the 
thoughts and the loyalties of the people kept inside. But 
vision alone, devoid of resources, was not enough. 

In Syngman Rhee's closing address to the assembly, he 
ended with a hopeful prophecy which proved to be justified 
by subsequent events. "Politicians often say nowadays/' he 
told the delegates, "that Japan is too strong a foe for Korea 
to fight successfully for its independence, and that Korea's 
hope is, therefore, gone forever. But this is only a cursory 
observation. Upon a careful study of our history, our geo- 
graphical expression and racial distinction, Korea is too 
strong for Japan. We have maintained our peculiarities and 
integrity for over 4,000 years, and these no nation can sweep 
from the face of the earth/' 

This prophecy was Rhee's living faith. Despite all the 
solid evidence that Japan was in Korea to stay; despite the 
kindly warnings of his American friends that he must bow 
to the inevitable and reshape his convictions to accord with 


the realities; despite the substantial support given to Japan's 
position by American and British public opinion and by the 
diplomatic adjustments made by the Western Powers (which 
Rhee's studies in diplomatic history taught him were certain 
to have significant effects); despite the submission to the 
new order by many of his old associates of the Independ- 
ence Club and the acquiescence in Japanese rule by Rhee's 
old friends, the missionaries; despite all the promptings of 
his senses and the urgings of reason, he could not and would 
not abandon his own solid and unshakable conviction that 
the independence of Korea was right and that, therefore, its 
re-establishment was inevitable. 

Rhee went from Denver to New York, and secured a room 
in the Union Theological Seminary, where he lived for a 
brief time while attending classes in Columbia University. 
He planned to take a doctorate at Columbia, supplemented 
by courses at Union, but was too restless to settle down seri- 
ously to any specific plan. 

Late in the summer, while stopping in the offices of the 
Presbyterian Foreign Missions Board, Rh.ee met Reverend 
Ernest F. Hall, a former missionary to Korea, who was then 
a member of the Board. Hall asked what he was doing in 
New York, and Rhee explained his plan, indicating at the 
same time his lack of enthusiasm for it. Mr. Hall said with 
brisk assurance, "You are not going to the Union Seminary. 
You are going to Princeton!" Rhee replied that this would 
suit him very well if there were any way of managing it. 
The next morning he received a special delivery letter from 
Mr. Hall, mailed from Princeton, enclosing a railway ticket, 
a railway timetable, and a note saying he would meet Rhee 
at the Princeton station. When Rhee arrived, Hall took him 
first to meet Dr. Charles Erdman, Dean of the Princeton 
Theological Seminary, then to meet Dr. Andrew F. West, 
Dean of the Princeton Graduate School. Arrangements were 
soon completed for Rhee to live in the Theological Sem- 


inary, taking occasional courses there, while at the same 
time enrolling for his doctorate program in the University's 
Political Science Department. This change of plans Rhee 
never regretted. Princeton is where he enjoyed the best of 
his college days and perhaps the least troubled months of 

his life. 

In addition to the educational opportunities and the pleas- 
ant life in beautiful surroundings, Rhee was fortunate at 
Princeton in making friends who continued to mean much 
to him through the later years. Dr. Erdman was one such 
friend, whose many kindnesses Rhee never forgot. Dean 
West was another devoted friend who did much to make his 
graduate study possible, pleasant and successful. Above all, 
President Woodrow Wilson and his family became Rhee's 
intimate friends, and their interest in Korea and in Korean 
missionary work was so real that he found vast encourage- 
ment from them for the lif ework he was planning for himself. 
Although President Wilson and Dean West were bitterly 
opposed to each other over the proper disposition of funds 
donated by Procter toward the construction of a new 
Graduate Building (a quarrel that finally drove Wilson out 
of Princeton and into the White House), Rhee enjoyed the 
cordial friendship of both men. Both of them were touched 
by his prison sufferings and interested in his plans. Both 
aided in finding speaking engagements for him and were 
impressed by his ardent advocacy of Korean independence. 

on December 15, 1908, Woodrow Wilson wrote for Rhee 
a "to whom it may concern" recommendation, which read as 

Mr, Syngman RHEE is a graduate student in Princeton Uni- 
versity and has commended himself to us by every evidence of 
ability and high character. He is singularly conversant not only 
with existing conditions in his own country, Korea, but also with 
the general standing of affairs in the East, and has been unusually 
successful in presenting those conditions to general audiences 


He is a man of strong patriotic feeling and of great enthusiasm 
for his people and should prove very useful to them. It gives me 
pleasure to recommend him strongly to those who wish to learn 
directly of the interests which should be studied and conserved 
in the great East. 

Wilson, his wife, and his three daughters all took a great 
interest in the earnest and mature student from Korea, whose 
zealous intentness was so readily (if briefly) broken by flashes 
of warm humor. The Wilsons liked to gather around their 
piano for family songf ests and Rhee was one of the Princeton 
students who was often favored with an invitation for these 
intimate occasions. Unlike the others, however, he never 
joined in the singing and the girls used to tease both him 
and their father as the restrained dignity of the student guest 
contrasted with the unleashed gaiety of the home-warmed 
college president. on campus Wilson often introduced Rhee 
to visitors, frequently with a half -joking, half -serious refer- 
ence to him as 'The future redeemer of Korean independ- 

During his two years at Princeton Rhee lived in the Cal- 
vin Club, a living center for Seminary students. Even 
though he attended only occasional lectures in the Seminary, 
his religious convictions and activities kept him in close as- 
sociation with the Seminarians. Through the kindness of 
Reverend Hall, arrangements were made for Rhee to live in 
the Calvin Club without cost. Because of this residence, 
numerous references have been published of Rhee's gradua- 
tion from the "Seminary of Princeton University." This, 
however, is only one of a great number of uninformed and 
false stories which have been circulated about him. As a 
matter of fact, Rhee's differences from his living companions 
were far greater than the similarities. He was ten or fifteen 
years older than his fellow club members and had experi- 
enced more responsibilities, hardships, and challenging ad- 
ventures than all the rest of them combined were likely ever 


to encounter. When they gathered in the club lounge, as 
they did every Wednesday evening, for impromptu enter- 
tainments generally of a very hilarious character, he stood 
out among them as a solemn island in a sea of youthful ex- 
uberance. Each of the Calvinists was enjoined to offer some- 
thing each Wednesday for the entertainment of the rest. 
While the others were inclined to give humorous readings, 
dance jigs, or sing rollicking songs, Rhee's own contribu- 
tions usually were sedate and sometimes solemn readings. 
one of the Calvin Club members later wrote of him that he 
was "not a good stunter" and that his most popular contribu- 
tions to their entertainment was his singing of Korean folk 
songs. once in a while he was persuaded to tell some hu- 
morous or quaint anecdotes about old customs in Korea, but 
he always found this exploitation of the oddities of his coun- 
trymen distasteful and after a time or two his fellows failed 
to find much interest in them. Rhee was liked in a distant 
sort of way by his fellow club members, and he enjoyed the 
hominess of the Club life. From among the group of stu- 
dents he carried away few lasting friendships. 

As in his previous work at George Washington and Har- 
vard, Rhee studied hard while in Princeton and let nothing 
interfere with his studies except his work for Korean inde- 
pendence. once again, as at Harvard, he succeeded in earn- 
ing his graduate degree in the minimum allowable time. 
His majors were in International Law, with minors in Amer- 
ican history and in Western philosophy. During the first 
semester, in the fall of 1908, he took seminars in Interna- 
tional Law and Diplomacy, in American history up to the 
fall of the Federalist Party, and in the history of Philosophy. 
In the spring of 1909 he enrolled in seminars in the history 
of Philosophy, American history following the fall of the 
Federalist Party, and in further problems in International 
Law and Diplomacy. During the academic year of 1909- 
1910, he took his qualifying examinations and seminars in 


American history from 1789 to 1850 and in International 
Law. The major portion of his time was spent in the Prince- 
ton Library, preparing his dissertation on American neutral- 
ity in Asia, centering around John Hay's "Open Door" policy 
toward China, of which Rhee heartily approved. 

one of Dr. Rhee's comments on his class work at Princeton 
was a remark which, in later years, became a jest he used on 
several occasions, to the effect that he should have had his 
tuition refunded for the work he did under Professor Elliott, 
for he Kved to learn there is no international law. There 
would have been more humor in the jest if he had not be- 
lieved there was too much truth in it. 

In June, 1910, he completed his dissertation on the topic, 
Neutrality as Influenced by the United States. Through the 
kindness of Dean West this study was published by the 
Princeton University Press, and in the next several years 
Rhee received a few small royalty checks. Two of them, for 
sums of $1.80 and $2.25, he put away to keep as souvenirs. 
During the course of World War I, while the question of 
neutrality on the high seas was of great importance, Rhee 
was pleased to be referred to on occasion as an "eminent 
authority" on neutrality. The book has all but disappeared 
and made no lasting contribution to scholarship; but it con- 
stitutes, nevertheless, an important part of his unusually fine 
education for statesmanship. 

At the annual commencement of Princeton University, on 
June 14, 1910, the last of the Princeton graduation exercises 
attended by President Wilson, Rhee received the degree of 
Doctor of Philosophy from Wilson's hands. As Dean West 
slipped the traditional hood of the doctorate over Rhee's 
shoulders, and Wilson handed him his diploma with a hearty 
handclasp of congratulation, Syngman's predominant feel- 
ing was one of 'sadness. His preparatory days were ended. 
The time had come for him to return to his own country, 
but it was his nation no longer, nor was it even any longer 


Korea. It had become Chosen, a tributary of Japan. The 
formal annexation occurred the same year in which Rhee 
earned his Ph.D. 

one of Rhee's most vivid memories of Princeton was the 
extreme difficulty of the written and oral examinations for 
his doctoratea memory not unlike that of others who have 
experienced similar ordeals. Yet he was rather proud that, 
alien as he was, and with an early education deeply em- 
bedded in Oriental history, philosophy, and literature, he 
came creditably through the severest kind of examination 
in American and European history, international law, and 
Western philosophy. He was always to remain grateful for 
the dual experiences and education which gave him the rare 
opportunity to bestride the East and the West, and in effect 
to combine in his own thinking a fusion of the two. This 
cultural integration was to become one of the great sources 
of his strength and leadership in the years that lay ahead. 
His countrymen also were impressed by the fact that he was 
the first Korean ever to secure a Ph.D. from an American 

Rhee's psychological condition on completing his work 
at Princeton was not unlike his feelings upon being released 
from prison in 1904. once more he was "free" to take up 
the destiny life was pressing upon him. And once again he 
felt terribly alone and desolate as he looked hopelessly 
around for any shreds of opportunity to accomplish the stag- 
gering task to which he felt himself called. 

Chapter VI 

JLXHEE'S UNCERTAINTY upon completing his doctorate at 
Princeton was not, of course, accompanied by any doubt as 
to where his duty lay. The question was not whether he 
should return immediately to Korea, but what he should 
do and how he should conduct himself after his return. His 
problem became easier when Mr. G. G. Gregg, of the Seoul 
Y. M. C. A., called to see him and offered him a position (on 
behalf of Dr. John R. Mott, international director of the "Y") 
as an organizer, teacher and evangelist among the youth in 
Korea. Rhee instantly accepted this offer since it provided 
him the means of returning to Korea. Moreover, it assured 
him the means of working among the young and intellec- 
tually promising Koreans, and offered a type of work in 
which he would be relatively remote from contact and con- 
flict with the Japanese, who were by then busily reorganiz- 
ing his homeland. After farewells to President Wilson and 
his family, and to Dean West, Dr. Erdman and other friends, 
he started the long trip to his home in Korea which he had 
not seen for six years. 

Not knowing when, if ever, he might leave Korea again, 
eager to complete and deepen his understanding of Euro- 
pean countries, and grateful for the latitude of the Y. M. C. A. 
in permitting him to select his own route homeward, he 
sailed for Europe on the S. S. Baltic, leaving New York on 
September 3, 1910. From Liverpool he went on for brief 
stops in London, Paris, Berlin and Moscow. After four weeks 



of this sightseeing he took the long trip on the Trans-Siberian 
Railway across the bleak and endless plains of Siberia, with 
an interesting stop at Lake Baikal, and in late October passed 
through Manchuria. When crossing the Yalu River he en- 
dured for the first time the ignominy of presenting his cre- 
dentials for the sharp and suspicious scrutiny of Japanese 
guards officiating in his own country. 

on the way down the Korean peninsula, with a brief stop- 
over in Pyengyang, Rhee brooded endlessly over the con- 
stant sight of Japanese officials and noted the covert and 
helpless resentment of the Korean people as they were or- 
dered around. His father, at the Seoul railway station to 
greet him, was tearful and overwhelmed with joy at the 
return of his only son, whom he had almost given up the 
hope of seeing again. Syngman settled down with him in 
his small hillside home in Seoul and for many evenings they 
exchanged stories of experiences during the past six years, 
achieving a sense of comradeship and union greater than 
they had ever known. 

Rhee remained in Korea for seventeen eventful and busy 
months, trying at first to find a helpful role for himself in 
the changed conditions that existed, and finally, when that 
proved impossible, meditating new plans for more success- 
ful activities. He called upon Yi Sang-Chai, a saintly old 
Christian scholar who was known as the Tolstoy of Korea, 
who had been one of Rhee's converts to Christianity during 
their imprisonment together, and between the old and the 
young man there soon developed an even closer and more 
affectionate friendship. Rhee also became well acquainted 
with Philip Gillett, the energetic and idealistic first Amer- 
ican secretary of the Y. M. C. A. in Korea. From the first 
Rhee threw himself into the work of the Y. M. C. A. with 
complete concentration, hoping that in this Christian serv- 
ice he could help his countrymen without antagonizing the 
Japanese. He never for a moment contemplated coming to 


terms with the conquerors, but he thought it might be pos- 
sible to live in their midst without either approving or ac- 
tively opposing their rule. He toured the entire country, 
speaking at many schools and conducting meetings in the 
churches. The Japanese officials, however, were far too as- 
tute and thorough to leave Rhee alone. They sent him nu- 
merous invitations to governmental and social functions, all 
of which he ignored. His relations with them soon ceased 
to be merely formal and became dangerously antagonistic. 

The Christian churches in Korea could not possibly re- 
main utterly aloof from the political facts on the peninsula. 
The Japanese kept a careful eye on the religious services and 
publications, to note any tendencies of encouragement for 
Korean nationalism. on one occasion, a tract urging all Ko- 
reans to expel the devil that was within them was suppressed. 
A Japanese official called on the editor in high dudgeon, 
charging, "When you say devil, you are referring to the 
Japanese, and you are encouraging the Koreans to rise in 
rebellion against them!" Instructions were then issued to 
all religious publications forbidding them to use the term 
"devil" again. on another occasion, a missionary weekly 
called The Christian Messenger ran an editorial on spring. 
In accordance with the regulations, an advance proof of the 
issue was sent to the Japanese censor, and he suppressed the 
entire issue on the grounds that the praise of "the new lif e" 
that breaks forth in the spring was really an incitement to 
the Korean Christians to arise and set up a new govern- 
ment! Under these conditions, Rhee, who had freely spoken 
in the United States against Japanese seizure of his nation, 
was under close watch. In aU his writings and speeches he 
had to use care to say nothing that even remotely could 
suggest any shade of dissatisfaction with the foreign regime. 

In order to escape at least partially from the humiliation 
and ordeal of constantly guarding his tongue and even his 
mind from saying and thinking the things he most ardently 


felt needed to be thought and said, he gave up the Y. ML C. A. 
lecture work and, in March of 1912, accepted the principal- 
ship of the Chong-No Academy, the leading secondary 
school in Seoul. He found, however, that this was no av- 
enue to seclusion. Within a few days he was off on another 
speaking tour, this time on behalf of the national student 
movement. But his new career as an educational admin- 
istrator died aborning. A life-and-death challenge was 
hurled at the Christian movement in Korea, and Rhee barely 
escaped becoming embroiled. 

For the last several months of 1911 rumors spread through 
Korea that all Korean Christian Churches were to have their 
charters repealed and that they would be placed under the 
administrative direction of churches in Japan. The Japanese 
correctly assumed that the individualism, the dignity, and 
the dedication which are inherent in the Christian teachings 
could not but encourage resistance to tyrannical rule. Since 
they did not dare risk foreign disapproval by simply sup- 
pressing the Christian religion in Korea, they invented what 
they termed the "Christian Conspiracy Case," and arrested 
135 of the outstanding Korean Christian leaders. Rhee was 
saved from arrest only by the quick intervention of Philip 
Gillett and other Y. M. C. A. officials, including Dr. John R. 
Mott, who was making a timely visit to Korea. These men 
quietly advised the Japanese that Rhee was so well known 
in America that his arrest would stir up considerable trouble 
for them. Against the 135 who were arrested a charge was 
placed of conspiring to murder the Japanese Governor-Gen- 
eral. Three of these men died under torture in prison, nine 
were exiled, and 106 were given prison sentences ranging 
from five to ten years. 

Bishop Harris, who represented the Methodist Church in 
North Asia, hastened from Japan to Korea. Dr. Arthur J. 
Brown, secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign 
Missions, came to Korea and collected evidence which he at- 


tested showed a Japanese plot to get rid of the most intel- 
ligent and progressive Korean leaders. Dr. Charles W. Eliot, 
Harvard's great President, who chanced to be in Japan at 
the time, made a personal investigation and then issued a 
statement which concluded: "The standing of Japan among 
Western nations would be improved by judicious modifica- 
tions of her preliminary proceedings against alleged crim- 
inals/' Dr. W. W. Pinson, secretary of the Board of Missions 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, concluded his 
investigation of the case with a report which read in part: 
". . . it is clear that the gendarmes have thrust their sickles 
in among the tallest wheat. These men do not belong to 
the criminal or irresponsible class of society . . . These are 
not the type of men to be guilty of such a plot as that with 
which they are charged." Several of Rhee's old prison asso- 
ciates were among those arrested, and he had many uneasy 
days and nights waiting for the fatal knock at his own door. 
Finally, through the active intervention of Bishop Harris, 
he was removed from the scene of danger. 

An international conference of Methodist delegates was 
to be held that spring in Minneapolis, and Rhee was elected 
by the Korean Methodists as their lay delegate to attend the 
conference, along with two missionaries and a Korean pas- 
tor. Bishop Harris was able to get permission from the Jap- 
anese authorities for Rhee to go, and finally, on March 26, 
he had a last tearful parting from his father, who stood in 
his doorway, waving, with his face turned away.* The dele- 
gates held a conference in Kamakura, Japan, and spoke at 
a big meeting in the Tokyo Y. M. C. A. As Rhee boarded 
the S.S. Tamba Karu in Yokohama harbor, on April 10, the 
Japanese minister of a Methodist Church in Seoul came 
down to bid farewell to him and Bishop Harris. He advised 
Rhee most strongly to return within six months and, mean- 
while, to say nothing in America that would be critical of 

* Dr. Rhee's father died on December 5, 1913. 


the Japanese, as the results would be harmful to the Koreans. 
It was not until the ship began moving out from the harbor 
that Rhee breathed easily, for he doubted to the last min- 
ute that the Japanese would really let him go. 

During the voyage. Bishop Harris talked to Rhee again 
and again, urging him to accept the fact of Japanese rule 
over Korea, and to accustom his mind to it. Rhee always 
argued with him briefly, then kept still, realizing they would 
never agree. While at sea they heard news of the tragic 
sinking of the Titanic, several days after its occurrence. They 
landed at Victoria, British Columbia, and proceeded to Min- 
neapolis, after a brief stop in Seattle. 

The conference had its own atmosphere of politics, and 
even of intrigue. There was secret balloting for the election 
of bishops, following a great deal of informal, off-the-floor 
discussion. Rhee shared a room with Dr. W. A. Noble (his 
first English teacher at Pai Jai), who had been criticized for 
being pro-Japanese. This view, however, was unfounded 
and untrue. Noble showed Rhee a typed report of a secret 
plan to unite the Korean Methodist Church with the North 
Chinese Conference, as a way of preventing its being dom- 
inated by Japan. He explained that several missionaries sent 
into China ostensibly to introduce the simplified 25-letter 
Korean alphabet among the Chinese, as an aid to combating 
illiteracy, were secretly charged with this additional mission. 
This revelation was an eye-opener to Rhee and showed him 
how dangerously a man could be misjudged. Many years 
later, during the first years of Korea's liberation frorn Japan, 
Rhee was greatly helped on occasion by Dr. Noble's edu- 
cator-son, Harold, who did what he could to arouse in Amer- 
ica a feeling of concern for the plight of the Korean nation. 

In another conversation, Dr. Noble warned Rhee against 
Bishop Harris, because he trusted the Japanese so much he 
could never really understand them. They had several talks 
about the political-religious situation in Korea. With Rhee's 


usual hot-headed zeal, he made a speech on the floor of the 
conference, pleading for the independence of the Korean 
Church, and was severely criticized for endangering the 
missionary work that must be carried on under the Japanese 
flag. The month-long conference ended with resolutions 
reaffirming the policy of working closely with the Japanese, 
thereby protecting the mission enterprises in Japan and in 
Korea. It was apparent to Rhee that he could neither return 
to Korea nor continue effectively to work officially on behalf 
of the Missionary Board. Dr. Horace Underwood, the Amer- 
ican president of Chosen Christian College in Seoul, wrote 
offering Rhee a position on the faculty. Rhee replied that 
he would return if Underwood could guarantee his security 
from the Japanese, but this, of course, was impossible. For 
the next six months Rhee traveled to Chicago, Princeton, 
and Baltimore (where he attended the Democratic conven- 
tion), and sat with Woodrow Wilson in his summer cottage 
at Sea Girt, N. J. during his nomination. After this he went 
on to Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and to Washington, D. G, 
visiting friends and trying to formulate new plans. 

While Rhee was in Washington, in mid-November, the 
Washington Post sent a reporter to interview him at the Wil- 
lard Hotel, where he was staying. The story, appearing in 
the November 18 issue, represented Rhee's best efforts to be 
conciliatory and to avoid any charge of trouble-making. Its 
tone is sufficiently well indicated by the following typical 
excerpt: "Within the space of three years Korea has been 
transformed from a slow-going country where tradition 
reigned into a live, bustling center of industrialism . . . Seoul 
can hardly be told nowadays from Cincinnati except for the 
complexion of its inhabitants." Obviously, he was trying as 
hard as he could to avoid trouble with the Japanese author- 
itiesprobably uncertain in his own mind of just what course 
he could or should pursue. 

During the fall of 1912 he thought wistfully of securing a 


professorship in an American college, but he knew that he 
could not abandon his work for Korea. Late that fall, Mr. 
Youngman Park, one of Rhee's old prison-mates, went to 
Hawaii to make arrangement with leaders there to raise 
funds with which to establish a Korean school, of which 
Rhee should be the principal on the invitation of these 
leaders, Rhee went to Hawaii in January, 1913, and found 
they had raised the sum of $30,000, He also found an ex- 
tremely troubled situation, in which he could not accept 
responsibility for the funds or associate himself with the 
plans that many were trying to advance. 

Ill feeling between the Koreans and the Japanese in Ha- 
waii was intense, and the Methodist Church was doing its 
best to conciliate these feelings. Dr, John Wadman, his old 
friend, still headed the Korean Methodist Compound School 
and Mission. The Korean community also supported a small, 
independent church, called Cha Yw Kio, and they wanted 
Rhee to accept its pastorate. At this time the Korean stu- 
dents in Honolulu's Mills School went on strike, in protest 
against what they considered preferential treatment for the 
Japanese and Chinese students. The atmosphere throughout 
the islands was one of sharp and bitter controversy. Rhee 
could not take sides without either embittering his old Meth- 
odist friends or betraying the independence-minded Korean 
leadership. Under the circumstances, he urged his support- 
ers to go ahead with their plans, but declared he would have 
to return to the States. 

However, the Methodists soon invited Rhee to take over 
the Korean Compound School in Honolulu, which enrolled 
Korean boys from the first through the sixth grades. Classes 
were conducted partly in English and partly in Korean. The 
mornings were devoted to "Western style" education in- 
cluding classes in Korean history and geography and the 
afternoons to teaching the Chinese classics. Dr. Rhee ap- 
proved of this general curricular plan, believing it would 


help the students to develop into citizens of both the East 
and the West. After assuming this position, he made a tour 
of the Hawaiian Islands, inquiring into the conditions of the 
Korean plantation workers. He discovered that a number of 
Korean girls were living in labor camps and that their par- 
ents were planning to force their marriage against their will. 
He took them back to Honolulu, where he paid for their 
board in the Susanna Wesley Home. Miss Anderson, the 
superintendent said, "We can keep the girls here for a time, 
but they must go to the public schools to be amalgamated 
with the great racial mixture in Hawaii/' 

There, for the first time, Rhee encountered the great issue 
which dominated his work in Hawaii. He was against the 
principle of amalgamation. He felt strongly that the Koreans 
should continue to speak their own language, should be 
educated in the history and customs of their own country, 
and should dedicate themselves to the resurrection of their 
fallen nation. The Methodist Church officials were strongly 
opposed to the idea. Dr. Wadman, his old friend, retired 
from the district superintendency of the Methodist Mission 
in Hawaii, and was succeeded by Dr. William Fry, who was 
determined to end all racial segregation. Dr. Rhee secured 
a building as a dormitory for girls and instituted co-educa- 
tionchanging the name of the school to the Korean Insti- 
tute. At first they had 27 girls enrolled, but the number soon 
increased to forty with about three times that many boys. 
During all this time there were sharp differences of opinion 
within the Korean community as to whether they should be 
independent or amalgamated with other racial groups under 
the general program advocated by the Methodist Church. 
Just before World War I broke out, the Korean community 
in Honolulu founded its own church. After several moves 
to new locations, it was finally settled at 1832 Liliha Street, 
where, in 1939, the present building, a replica of the South 
Gate in Seoul, was erected. 


In the fafl of 1916, Rhee split completely with the Mfetho- 
dist Mission and opened a school of his own, which he 
dedicated frankly to the promulgation of Korean culture and 
the education of the second-generation immigrants as Korean 
patriots. The Korean community supported the school en- 
thusiastically and the enrollment soon rose to about one 
hundred and forty. Then, in 1920, the Hawaiian Depart- 
ment of Public Instruction instituted a new requirement of a 
special examination for high school entrance, to be taken by 
graduates of all private grade schools. All private schools 
suffered from this special requirement and Rhee's Christian 
Institute was no exception. Parents who wanted to be cer- 
tain their children could and would go to high school felt it 
safer to start them in public schools. At about this time 
also the Territorial Government opened a public high school 
in every county and instituted a poll tax to finance these new 

This series of blows might well have ended Rhee's Insti- 
tute, as it did many other private schools in Hawaii., except 
for a tremendous series of events which dramatically 
changed his position in the Korean community. The revolu- 
tion in Korea which led to the establishment of a government 
in exile with Syngman Rhee as its president will be reserved 
for discussion in the next chapter, in order to preserve here 
as a unity the story of his experiences in Hawaii. Inevitably, 
however^ the new status conferred upon him affected very 
strongly the whole fabric of his relationships with the 
Hawaiian Korean community. Insofar as his educational 
work was concerned, his renewed political activities and his 
position of leadership saved his school from what otherwise 
would have been certain extinction. 

The differences that developed during these years with 
the Methodist Church officials were painful to Rhee. Al- 
though he was baptized into the Presbyterian Church of the 
Covenant in Washington in 1905, he became a member of 


the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church, in Cambridge 
during his attendance at Harvard, and he belonged to the 
Chong-No Methodist Church in Seoul during his sojourn 
back in his own country. In Hawaii it seemed to him more 
important to find a means of bringing all the Korean people 
together than it did to support any single denomination; 
accordingly he felt it a duty to organize a non-denomina- 
tional Protestant Church, within which the essential unity of 
all the Korean people could best be stressed and developed. 
After leaving Hawaii in 1939 to take up residence in Wash- 
ington, his wife and he for a time attended various churches 
of the capital city, then selected as their church home the 
Foundry Methodist Church, under the ministry of the 
Reverend Frederick Brown Harris, and they have remained 
on its membership roll ever since. 

Despite the fond attachment Rhee has always felt to the 
Methodist Church, and despite the fact that his differences 
with its program and officials in Hawaii were completely 
impersonal and on a matter of principle, there developed an 
unfortunate bitterness which long persisted between them. 
Even thirty years later, when Rhee was inaugurated as 
president of the Republic of Korea, this feeling remained. 
As one of the Mission Board officials remarked with con- 
siderable acrimony, "If the Koreans had elected Kimm 
Kiusic as their president, we would support them, but since 
they chose Rhee, let them go their own way as best they 
can." As Rhee saw political problems develop within the 
church organization to such a degree that Christian charity 
and brotherhood could be forgotten, he became sorrowfully 
suspicious of professional churchmen and gradually drifted 
into habits of solitary worship, giving up regular church at- 

Rhee's reluctant disputes with the Methodist Board were 
not his only differences of opinion in Hawaii. Indeed, his 
twenty-five years there were marked by disputation. Perhaps 


it is inevitable that any exiled independence movement must 
be characterized by a certain degree of disorder and bitter 
disagreement. The nature and degree of political differences 
that existed among the Koreans in America are doubtless of 
less interest to Americans than they are to the participants 
in the squabbles. The general outlines of the policy dis- 
agreements that developed should, however, be understood 
as a part of the background of later differences that emerged 
in Korea after the Liberation. 

When Rhee arrived in Hawaii, the one significant political 
organization that existed was the Korean National Associa- 
tion (or KNA, as it was familiarly called). Ahn Chang Ho, a 
native of Pyengyang, was one of its principal leaders; Young- 
man Park was another. As has been indicated, Rhee was 
specifically invited by the Koreans in Hawaii to join them 
and to accept a position of leadership in their affairs. His 
work in the Independence Club, his prison sentence, his 
authorship of The Spirit of Independence, and the fact that 
he had earned the first Ph. D. degree ever to be awarded to 
any Korean all served to bring him into inevitable promi- 
nence in the guidance of Korean activities. Perhaps even 
more important than any of these factors, his stubborn 
insistence that Korean independence was not dead and must 
be ever pursued as the fundamental goal of all Koreans free 
to exercise their inherent political rights provided both a 
motive on his part for exercising leadership and a rallying 
point for the loyalties of a great majority of the Korean 
expatriates. However, Rhee had rivals of great ability. 

Ahn Chang Ho, a man of brilliant intellect and strong will, 
though without much education, also had a large following. 
Rhee would gladly have worked with him, but it proved to 
be impossible to do so. Within the KNA, Ahn Chang Ho was 
the acknowledged leader of a subsidiary group, called the 
Heungsadan, a society led by the natives of Pyengyang, 
which still exists in Korea and which has a large following. 


These men cling together with fierce loyalty and pursue their 
own special interests as a group. The historical background 
of their determination lies in the fact that when the Yi 
Dynasty ascended to the throne of Korea in 1392, the 
founder of this line achieved power only over the strong 
opposition of the people of Pyengyang. As a punishment 
for them, he decreed that never again in all Korean history 
should any high governmental positions be held by Pyeng- 
yang men. And actually, for over 500 years, until after the 
absorption of Korea into the Japanese Empire in 1910, this 
unjust injunction was infallibly observed. The result was the 
natural development of a spirit of resentment and a league 
of group-interest among the natives of Pyengyang. 

Rhee sincerely believes that he has done everything he 
could to rectify the injustices of the past and to build anew 
a spirit of cordial co-operation between the Heungsadan 
and the people of all the rest of Korea. Both in Hawaii and 
back in Korea (after the Liberation) he consistently sought 
to elevate natives of Pyengyang to positions of trust and 
confidence and to show in every way his own determination 
to work with them. In those first years in Hawaii he went 
far out of his way to court their friendship and co-operation. 
When the Republic of Korea was inaugurated, his first 
nominee for the prime ministership was the Reverend Lee, a 
Pyengyang man. Pyengyang has had far more than its 
proportionate representation in Rhee's successive cabinets. 
However, it was true in Hawaii and it has later proved to 
be true in Korea that "rule or ruin" has been the first prin- 
ciple to which many of the Heungsadan members felt it 
expedient to adhere. 

Ahn Chang Ho became Rhee's bitter opponent in Hawaii 
and among die Korean residents in California. Ahn could 
speak little English and could read nothing in the language. 
As a result, he had almost no contact with the great Anglo- 
American tradition of democracy or little understanding of 


its principles. He did not emphasize any detailed political 
program but, with an oratorical power that few could match 
in the Korean language, he appealed for personal loyalty to 
himself and to the Heungsadan. To complete his story, he 
went to China after the attack by Japan upon Manchuria 
and in 1932 was arrested by the Japanese, charged with 
complicity in a Shanghai bombing attack by Korean nation- 
alists against the Japanese military leaders. He suffered 
three years of imprisonment, and was again arrested by the 
Japanese in Seoul soon after the attack on the Marco Polo 
Bridge, in July, 1937, which started the "China Incident/ 7 
Released from prison in mid-December and suffering from 
the tortures he endured in jail, he died in the Seoul Medical 
College Hospital on March 10, 1938, at the age of sixty. 
He has been very highly and properly revered by the Korean 
people as a loyal and worthy patriot who gave his life for 
his nation. Nevertheless, he proved to be unsuited for any 
program of co-operative endeavor designed to develop a 
genuinely nationwide and democratic independence move- 
ment. With him and his American-Korean followers, Rhee 
never was able to develop a co-ordinate program, and with 
them he could never live in peace. 

Youngman Park, who organized the movement that took 
Rhee to Hawaii in 1913, also became one of his principal 
political opponents. Their gradual drifting apart was on 
questions of divergent principles, and was marked by a great 
many discussions in which they both sought without success 
to reconcile the differences that pushed them farther and 
farther apart. 

Fully as patriotic and nationalistic as Ahn Chang Ho and 
Rhee, Youngman Park believed staunchly that Korean inde- 
pendence could never be achieved except through a forcible 
revolution against Japan. Rhee's own conviction was that 
no such revolution could possibly succeed, and that the 
Koreans must strive above all to merit and to win the diplo- 


matic support of the Western powers and the sympathy of 
the American people. These differences of policy proved 
irreconcilable. Mr. Park established a military academy for 
Korean youths in Hawaii, and spent his energies and abilities 
in the recruitment, training, and support of a small but high- 
spirited "army." He wanted Rhee to support this program 
publicly and to incorporate it in his Hawaiian school. Rhee, 
for his part, felt convinced that such a warlike posture would 
lose the Koreans the friends they would need if they were 
ever to reverse the policies by which England and the United 
States sought to enforce peace in the Pacific on a foundation 
of Japanese domination of that area. 

The climatic year in Rhee's relations with Youngman Park 
was 1915. Park was then editing a journal called The Korean 
Herald, through which he attacked Rhee regularly, in the 
attempt to win Rhee's following over to his program. Efforts 
to conciliate Park's opposition led to a story in the June 16, 
1915, issue of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin which asserted that 
the "old faction" wished to promote the welfare of Koreans 
in Hawaii, whereas Rhee wished to use the funds collected 
by the KNA "for military training of Korean youth, for leaf- 
lets to smuggle into Korea, and for stirring up a revolution 
in Korea." This badly bungled story then went on to declare 
that Rhee had by then changed his mind, and added, "Dr. 
Rhee today . . . declares he is working only for the good of 
the Korean people in Hawaii with no thought of Koreans 
in Korea." This was not the first time Rhee's views had been 
badly misinterpreted in the press, and has certainly not been 
the last. Considerable excitement was caused within the 
Korean community in Hawaii and California by this appar- 
ent change in Rhee's policies, and he received letters of 
anxious inquiry from several American friends. He was 
particularly concerned not to be misunderstood by President 
Wilson, from whom he hoped that help for Korea might 
somehow, some day, be forthcoming. Consequently, Rhee 


wrote a letter which appeared in the June 17 issue of the 
Honolulu Advertiser, pointing out that, "I have never 
dreamed of starting a 'revolution' either in Korea or in 
Hawaii." The letter went on to explain that, "It is a well- 
known fact that I have been criticized by some of the na- 
tional association leaders for not taking a direct interest in 
the military school run by Y. M. Park." 

The Star-Bulletin thereupon sent another reporter to inter- 
view Rhee, and in its June 21 issue carried a long dispatch 
in which Rhee explained: (1) that he was in fact very much 
concerned over the plight of the Koreans in Korea; and (2) 
that his policy was to help them to attain the independence 
of their nation and to accomplish this end without any resort 
to armed revolution. 

on July 7, 1915, Rhee wrote to Youngman Park in a 
determined effort to end the misunderstanding between 
them. "At the very bottom of my heart," Rhee wrote, "you 
will find nothing but a friendly and brotherly feeling toward 
you. And I want to assure you that there is no better friend 
for you than your old prison mate. If you still want to throw 
yourself into the hands of these men you will surely regret 
[it] in the long run. I have to fight them and find out they 
are working to ruin the Association for their own gain. . . . 
Choose between the two and follow whichever you deem 
as wisest/' The letter concluded, "Your brother, as always. 
Syngman." To this friendly overture, he received no reply. 

In September, one Chin Kook, a violent Korean youth who 
followed Ahn Chang Ho, entered the San Francisco Hotel 
where Youngman Park was staying and shot him, intending 
murder, but leaving him merely wounded. He then took ship 
for Hawaii, where he intended to assassinate Rhee. During 
the course of the trip, however, he committed suicide by 
leaping overboard probably motivated by fear of arrest 
upon the docking of the ship at Honolulu. His trunk, includ- 
ing letters describing his plan, was forwarded to the Korean 
National Association. 


As a result of the irreconcilable differences which devel- 
oped within the Korean National Association, Rhee founded 
the Dong-ji Hoi Society, which has flourished ever since, 
with a minimum of internal dissension, and with a loyalty 
to Rhee personally and to his program, which has never 
wavered. The principal chapter of this society is in Hono- 
lulu, with a second large chapter in Los Angeles, and with 
smaller ones in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. 

Under the auspices of Dong-ji Hoi, Dr. Rhee founded in 
1920 a magazine called The Pacific Weekly (or Tae-pyung 
Jang Jharp~j), partly in Korean and partly in English, which 
still continues and which serves as one of the principal means 
of maintaining the communal unity of the Koreans in 
Hawaii and in the states. Rhee regularly wrote the editorials 
in it from 1920 to 1939. 

on the whole, Rhee's quarter-century in Hawaii (from 
1913 to 1941) was a turbulent period marked by a variety of 
struggles, hardships and discouragements. Far removed 
from what he felt he should be doing, limited in resources, 
powerless to affect the course of events in the Pacific, and 
beset by factionalism within the Korean community, he 
endured reverses and suffered limitations which would have 
utterly crushed a less determined man. As proved to be true 
of his seven years in prison, he utilized his experiences to 
broaden further his knowledge and to clarify his program. 
Many of the reforms and policies which were later instituted 
by the Republic of Korea owe their origin to the lonely and 
bedeviled months and years of the Hawaiian travail. Scars 
of lasting bitterness, too, remain. Many of the political 
vendettas in Korea (which have proved so puzzling to 
American diplomatic and press observers) have roots in those 
earlier Honolulu feuds. Rut also from the positive venera- 
tion which most of the Americanized Koreans developed for 
Syngman Rhee came the first real indication of what he was 
later to mean to the people of the reborn Korean nation. 

Chapter VII 


AN THE SPRING of 1919 Syngman Rhee faced a major test of 
his philosophy of seeking Korean independence through 
peaceful appeals to the minds and the consciences of Ameri- 
cans and other Western peoples. Woodrow Wilson, Rhee's 
friend from Princeton days who used to introduce the 
Korean as "the man who will redeem Korea's freedom" 
was now leading the world in a crusade for the "right of 
self-determination of peoples." Rhee was positive that Korea 
was included on Wilson's list of submerged nations that were 
to be restored to self-government. But he also knew from 
his extensive studies of international affairs that no such 
restoration could be expected easily or automatically. Japan 
had won a claim to special consideration because she had 
done such fighting as had been required in the Far East to 
seize the German outposts in China. Assuredly Japan would 
never consent freely to the surrender of the Korean corridor 
to the continental riches of Asia. Not even Wilson himself 
would be able to accomplish the restoration of Korea unless 
the Korean people should do something dramatic in their 
own behalf. 

As a matter of fact, Japan forehandedly faced the same 
problem and met it by circulating a petition all through 
Korea, in December, 1918, and getting numerous signatures 
attached to a declaration that the entire Korean populace 



was grateful for the beneficent and generous rule by the 
Japanese and were rapidly and happily becoming assimilated 
into the Japanese nation! This maneuver was either a master 
stroke of humor or the naive act of a ruling clique which 
didn't know what humor was; in any event, it was like 
erecting a sign over a burning house asserting that all was 
calm and serene within; no fire engines were desired! 

In Hawaii the dispute over methods that had raged be- 
tween Rhee and Youngman Park was intensified. Park in- 
sisted that the occasion clearly called for an armed uprising 
inside Korea, to dramatize the determination of the people 
to win their freedom and he pointed out that with the 
statesmen of the free world standing by ready to measure 
nationalistic aspirations on the yardstick of Wilson's Four- 
teen Points, such an uprising could succeed even against the 
overwhelming strength of Japan. Rhee replied that blood- 
shed was not the answer. The world was sick of killing, 
after four years of world war. Another armed outburst 
would be insufferable. Besides, the Japanese could win Al- 
lied sympathy by pointing out that the lawless Korean 
populace had to be restrained from murdering innocent 
civilians. If a test of arms should commence, the Western 
statesmen would be forced to stand by Japan, which had 
fought with them during the late war. Consequently, 
revolution would be the worst thing to undertake. 

However, Rhee argued, there was a middle way a way of 
protest without revolution. What was demanded was not a 
revolution for freedom, but a demonstration so sweeping 
that none could doubt it bespoke the will of the Korean 
nation. Thus was born a new concept a nationwide dem- 
onstration of passive resistance, three years before Gandhi 
launched a similar program in India. 

The Korean intellectuals in their homeland watched with 
considerable interest this debate between Syngman Rhee 
and Youngman Park. Despite the closeness of Japanese 


censorship, there was constant and reasonably secret corre- 
spondence between those who were keeping the spirit of 
independence alive outside Korea and their friends within 
the country. As events were soon to illustrate, this 
correspondence was so absolutely clandestine as to leave 
the Japanese officials completely in the dark. 

Actually, the occasion for which Rhee and his friends were 
looking was provided by the old deposed Korean Emperor. 
When the Japanese circulated their petition asking the 
Korean people to renounce any wish for independence, the 
Emperor made a last gesture of courage and independence 
-almost the only one in his futile life. He refused to sign 
the petition, and thus won finally a place for himself in the 
respect and affection of his people. Very soon afterward, on 
January 20, 1919, he died: by apoplexy, according to the 
Japanese announcement, but since his blood pressure was 
low, this explanation was not widely believed. Two stories 
raced through Koreaone that he had been poisoned; the 
other that he had committed suicide in protest against the 
approaching marriage of his son to Princess Nashimoto.* The 
Japanese authorities did not announce the Emperor's death 
until two days after its occurrence, thus lending some color 

* The marriage, incidentally, did take place and turned out very happily 
for the prince. Princess Nashimoto was a lovely and unusually intelligent 
girl, whom the Japanese crown prince (the present Emperor, Hiro&to) 
had originally selected for his own bride. However, the royal household 
ruled against the marriage when it was found that her family was al- 
most barren of Sons. As the wife of Korea's Prince Lee, sbe has taken a 
leading part in many welfare programs, including the sponsorship of the 
Japanese Girl Scouts; while Prince Lee has devoted himself primarily to 
the growing and selective breeding of orchids, of which he has developed 
some twenty new varieties. When, after World War II, this royal couple 
lost the revenue from their Korean estates, they were reduced to renting 
their mansion in Tokyo and to living in the caretaker's cottage on the 
grounds. Prince Lee, however, did not surrender the green houses for his 
orchids! So far as postwar events in Korea are concerned, he has never 
shown the slightest interest in them. It is noteworthy that there is no 
vestige of a royalist party on the peninsula. The history of the Yi dynasty, 
which ruled Korea for five hundred and eighteen years, is distinctly a 
closed book. 


to the suspicion he had been poisoned, and at first refused 
to permit any special period of mourning for him. However, 
in view of the universal demand by the Korean people, 
Tokyo finally agreed that on March 3 Koreans might as- 
semble in their various communities to hold commemoration 

Instantly plans to utilize the occasion for retrieving Korean 
independence began to be discussed. Kimm Kiusic (whose 
uncle had owned the printing press on which Syngman 
Rhee's early newspaper, the Maiyil Sinmun, had been pub- 
lished back in 1897) was dispatched from Shanghai to Paris 
to plead the Korean cause at the peace conference. Young- 
man Park, who had left Hawaii in 1915 to go first to Man- 
churia and then to Shanghai, was among a group of Korean 
revolutionaries who wanted to turn the occasion into a blood- 
bath of frenzied attack (however futile it must be) against 
the Japanese officials in Korea, in order to dramatize for the 
statesmen in Paris the strength of the Korean determination 
to be free. However, the policy of peaceful demonstration 
was finally adopted apparently the first instance in all 
history of a nationwide deliberate policy of organized passive 

The motivation of the Mansei Revolution was patriotism 
guided and directed by religion. Among the outstanding 
Christian leaders in Korea were Kil Sun Chu, pastor of 
Korea's largest Christian Church, and Yi Sang Jai, who had 
been a prison mate of Syngman Rhee's twenty years earlier. 
Associated with them was Son Byung-hi, leader of the 
Chuntokyo, a native religious sect teaching the existence of 
one Supreme Mind, Hananim, and seeking to combine 
Christian brotherhood with Confucian ethics and Buddhist 
philosophy. These three, with thirty others, constituted a 
"Committee of Thirty-three" inside Korea, which set out to 
organize not a revolution but a demonstration of inde- 
pendence. These men drew up a "Proclamation of Inde- 


pendence," which they had secretly printed in a dark cellar 
in Seoul from handcarved wooden blocks. This declaration, 
conceived by the union of religion and patriotism, read as 

We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the 
liberty of the Korean people. We tell it to the world in witness 
of the equality of all nations, and we pass it on to our posterity 
as their inherent right. 

We make this proclamation, having back of us a history of 
forty-three centuries and 20,000,000 united, loyal people. We 
take this step to insure to our children for all time to come, life 
and liberty in accord with the awakening conscience of this new 
era. This is the clear leading of God, the moving principle of the 
present age, the just claim of the whole human race. It is some- 
thing that cannot be stamped out, or stifled, or gagged, or sup- 
pressed by any means. 

Victims of an older age, when brute force and the spirit of 
plunder ruled, we have come after these long thousands of years 
to experience the agony of ten years of. foreign oppression, with 
every loss of the right to live, every restriction of the freedom of 
thought, every damage done to the dignity of life, every oppor- 
tunity lost for a share in the intelligent advance of the age in 
which we live. 

Assuredly, if the defects of the past are to be rectified, if the 
wrongs of the present are to be righted, if future oppression is 
to be avoided, if thought is to be set free, if right of action is to 
be given a place, if we are to attain to any way of progress, if we 
are to deliver OUT children from the painful heritage of shame, if 
we are to leave blessing and happiness intact for those who suc- 
ceed us, the first of all necessary things is the complete inde- 
pendence of our people. What cannot our twenty millions do, 
with hearts consecrated to liberty, in this day when human na- 
ture and conscience are making a stand for truth and right? What 
barrier can we not break, what purpose can we not accomplish? 
We have no desire to accuse Japan of breaking many solemn 
treaties since 1876, nor to single out specially the teachers in the 
schools or the Government officials who treat the heritage of our 


ancestors as a colony of their own ? and our people and our civili- 
zation as a nation of savages, and who delight only in beating us 
down and bringing us under their heel. 

We have no wish to find special fault with Japan's lack of fair- 
ness or her contempt for our civilization and the principles on 
which her state rests; we, who have greater cause to reprimand 
ourselves, need not spend time in finding fault with others; 
neither need we, who require so urgently to build for the future, 
spend useless hours over what is past and gone. Our urgent need 
today is the rebuilding of this house of ours and not the discus- 
sion of who has broken it down, or what has caused its ruin. Our 
work is to clear the future of defects in accord with the earnest 
dictates of conscience. Let us not be filled with bitterness or re- 
sentment over past agonies or past occasions for anger. 

Our part is to influence the Japanese government, dominated 
as it is by the old idea of brute force which thinks to run counter 
to reason and universal law, so that it will change and act hon- 
estly and in accord with the principles of right and truth. 

The result of annexation, brought about against the will of the 
Korean people, is that the Japanese are concerned only for their 
own gain, and by a false set of figures show a profit and loss ac- 
count between us two peoples most untrue, digging a trench of 
everlasting resentment deeper and deeper the farther they go. 

Ought not the way of enlightened courage to be to correct the 
evils of the past by ways that are sincere, and by true sympathy 
and friendly feelings make a new world in which the two peoples 
will be equally blessed? 

To bind by force twenty millions of resentful Koreans will 
mean not only loss of peace forever for this part of the Far East, 
but also will increase the ever-growing suspicions of four hun- 
dred millions of Chinese upon whom depends the safety of the 
Far East besides strengthening the hatred of Japan. From this 
all the rest of the East will suffer. Today Korean independence 
will mean not only life and happiness for us, but also Japan's de- 
parture from an evil path and her exaltation to the place of true 
protector of the East, so that China too would put all fear of 
Japan aside. This thought comes from no minor resentment, but 


from a large hope for the future welfare and blessings of man- 

A new era wakes before our eyes, the old world of force is 
gone, and the new world of righteousness and truth is here. Out 
of the experience and travail of the old world arises this light on 
the affairs of life. Insects stifled by their foe, the snows of winter 
are also awakened at this time of the year by the breezes of 
spring and the warm light of the snow upon them. 

It is the day of the restoration of all things, on the full tide of 
which we set forth without delay or fear. We desire a full meas- 
ure of satisfaction in the way of life, liberty and the pursuit of 
happiness, and an opportunity to develop what is in us for the 
glory of our people. In this hope we go forward. 

To this paean of praise for a new age of enlightened justice 
which the Korean leadership felt was being ushered in by 
Woodrow Wilson with his Charter of the Fourteen Points, 
the Committee of Thirty-three added a threefold injunction 
for the Mansei demonstrators: 

1. This work of ours is in behalf of truth, justice, and life, un- 
dertaken at the request of our people, in order to make known 
their desire for liberty. Let no violence be done to anyone. 

2. Let those who follow us show every hour with gladness this 
same spirit 

3. Let all things be done with singleness of purpose, so that 
our behavior to the very end may be honorable and upright. 

Dated the 4252d Year of the Kingdom of Korea, 3d Month, 1st 
While this proclamation was being printed, the Com- 
mittee of Thirty-three was developing inside Korea a closely- 
knit nationwide organization under the very noses of their 
Japanese masters and in the midst of a veritable network of 
spies and secret agents. They appointed a local committee 
for every myun (township) in Korea. They drew up instruc- 
tions directing that the crowds assembling to commemorate 
the Emperor's death should carry concealed on their persons 
homemade Korean flags. When these crowds were as- 


sembled, the instructions directed, a leader appointed from 
among them, would read to them the copy of the Proclama- 
tion of Independence. Then the crowds were to parade 
down their village streets, waving their flags and shouting, 
"Mansei! Mamei! May Korea live ten thousand years!" The 
instructions concluded: 

"Whatever you do 
Do not insult the Japanese 
Do not throw stones 
Do not hit with your fists 
For these are the acts of barbarians." 

Incredibly, this great national movement was organized 
without the knowledge of the Japanese. The instructions 
and copies of the declaration were carried from village to 
village concealed in the long, flowing sleeves of schoolgirls. 
The local arrangements were completed in secrecy, even 
though the number of Japanese police agents in Korea 
numbered one to each one hundred of the inhabitants and 
the spy system was presumed to be extremely effective. The 
Japanese officials did, however, sense that something un- 
usual was in the air. They planned extensive police pre- 
cautions for the March 3 date of mourning. In order to 
counter these plans, the Committee of Thirty-three suddenly 
moved up the date of the demonstrations, sending word for 
the assemblages to occur and the Proclamation to be read 
at 2:00 P.M. on Saturday, March 1. This date and this hour 
became the natal time for the modern democratic Republic 
of Korea. 

At noon on March 1, 1919, the thirty-three signers of the 
Proclamation of Independence gathered for luncheon in the 
Bright Moon Cafe in Seoul. Promptly at 2:00 P.M. they 
solemnly read aloud their precious document. Then they 
called in the Japanese police and, without ostentation or 
struggle, gave themselves up. At the same hour, in every 


section of Korea, the independence demonstrations broke 

out. .. 

The sudden and universal demonstration oi the deter- 
mined will of the Korean people broke lake a stroke of light- 
ning across the Korean sky. The publisher of the Sacramento 
-Bee, who was in Korea during that first week in March, 
called it, "The Greatest Example in World History of an 
Organized Passive Resistance for an Ideal." An editorial 
entitled, "The Dignity of Lif e, w in the Los Angeles Times 
(for April 6, 1919) commented: "In our opinion this Procla- 
mation will stand on a plane of exaltation with our own 
Declaration of Independence ... It is the voice of a prophet 
crying in the wilderness . . . May God grant a mad world 
the grace to stop and listen to that voice/' To another 
observer, 'The whole plan had a loftiness and sober dignity 
of thought and speech, in which some fine old strain of 
Confucianism mingled with rich and fervent Biblical phrase- 
ology. It was one of the most remarkable revolutions in 
history-and one which might well put any Christian nation 
to shame. The instructions issued should be immortal in the 
annals of revolt/' 

The first effect of these nationwide demonstrations was to 
dramatize the utter falsity of the fabricated petition which 
had been circulated by the Japanese the preceding Decem- 
ber. The solidly determined character of the Korean nation- 
alism was demonstrated. President Wilson's thesis that every 
free people must be recognized and supported in its 
birthright of freedom was given convincing support. All 
Korea was alive with a spirit of restrained but powerful 
national self-assertiveness, 

The Japanese were astounded and reacted in the tradi- 
tional manner of colonial rulewith brute force. Several 
thousands of the peaceful demonstrators were killed. Several 
hundred thousand were imprisoned, and many of them were 
subjected to beatings and tortures. At least fifteen villages 


were fired and some thirty Christian churches were burned 
by the Japanese gendarmes, some of them with their con- 
gregations inside. The representative of the Board of 
Foreign Missions of the Canadian Presbyterian Church in 
Korea, sent back an official report, noting: "I read affidavits 
which made one's blood boil, so frightful were the means 
used in trying to extort confessions from prisoners." Dr. 
Horace Underwood, one of Koreas best known missionaries, 
wrote of coming upon a village of forty houses, burned to 
the ground, and of finding the church a mass of ashes, in 
which were found the remains of several bodies. c< The odor 
of burned flesh in the vicinity of the church was sickening," 
he wrote. An American who held a position under the 
Japanese in Korea, and therefore chose to remain anony- 
mous, wrote: "A few hundred yards from where I am writ- 
ing, the beating goes on, day after day. The victims are tied 
down on a frame and beaten on the naked body with rods 
till they become unconscious. Then cold water is poured on 
them until they revive, when the process is repeated. It is 
sometimes repeated many times. . . . Men, women and 
children are shot down or bayoneted. The Christian Church 
is especially chosen as an object of fury, and to the Christians 
is meted out special severity." The nature of the determina- 
tion of the Korean demonstrators, as well as the severity of 
the Japanese reaction to it, was well iUuminated in the 
official report rendered to the Japanese government by Mr. 
I. Yamagata, the Director-General of the Administration of 
Korea: "The agitation has gradually spread to all parts of 
the peninsula, while the nature of the disturbance has be- 
come malignant, and it was to cope with this situation that 
the government was obliged to resort to force. In spite of 
this, the trouble has not only continued, but has become so 
uncontrollable and widespread that the police and military 
force hitherto in use has been found insufficient, necessitat- 


ing the despatch of more troops and gendarmes from the 

mother country ..." 

The peaceful demonstrations and the furious punishment 
of the demonstrators continued for several months, white 
foreign news correspondents and missionaries poured out 
reports and denunciations of the Japanese cruelties. The 
revolutionists published a daily newspaper, the Inde- 
pendence Views, regularly through March, April and May, 
and at intervals thereafter, keeping the location of the press 
a secret by a veritable miracle of closely co-operative or- 
ganization. In issue after issue, the paper pleaded with its 
readers, "Do not hit the Japanese, not even in retaliation/ 
Many of the missionaries sent back word to their conferences 
that the Koreans followed these instructions, regardless of 
the wanton attacks upon them. The Japanese government 
sent an additional force of 6,000 soldiers to Korea, issued 
strict edicts against any public gathering, confiscated flags 
and posters, arrested every demonstrator they could lay 
hands upon, and gradually the great Mansei demonstration 
was suppressed. once again the Korean independence 
movement was driven back underground at home, and was 
forced to exercise its open activities only abroad. 

Before the demonstration was crushed, however, it 
achieved a notable triumph. In the week of April 16-23, 
representatives from every province in Korea met secretly 
in Seoul and organized a provisional government. A con- 
stitution was drawn up, providing for representative govern- 
ment, and embodying the guarantees of personal liberty 
which are contained in the first ten amendments to the 
United States Constitution. These representatives held an 
election and chose Syngman Rhee as president of the Re- 
public of Korea. At about the same time, exiled Korean 
patriots in Siberia and in Shanghai held similar meetings 
and endorsed the action of the patriots in Seoul, reaffirming 
the adoption of the constitution and the election of Syngman 


Rhee. Thus was born what proved to be the longest-lived 
government-in-exile in modern history. It continued to 
function until its voluntary dissolution, to open the way for 
new elections, following the liberation of Korea in 1945. 

Rhee was extremely active during this stirring period. He 
went to Washington, D. C., there to plead the cause of the 
"self-determination" of the Koreans, in accord with Woodrow 
Wilson's peace aims. With Philip Jaisohn he discussed the 
establishment of a magazine through which their cause 
could be systematically presented to the American people. 
Rhee put aside this plan for a time while he sought des- 
perately to get a passport from the State Department to 
permit him to go to Paris, where he hoped to lay the Korean 
case squarely before President Wilson and the peace con- 
ference. To Rhee's dismay, Wilson sent a message to the 
State Department indicating that issuance of a passport to 
Rhee would cause uneasiness among the Japanese and would 
consequently interfere with Wilson's plan to build a secure 
peace in the Orient upon the seemingly sound foundation 
of Japanese power and co-operation. Rhee was thunder- 
struck to discover that his friend and hero, the architect of 
peace based upon justice, was planning to sacrifice Korean 
independence for the sake of power politics. It was clear to 
Rhee that a peace based on such cold-blooded and short- 
sighted expediency could never last. 

Rhee and his associates were beset with a mingling of 
determination and despair. Their nation, 4,252 years old, 
surely came within the province of "freedom for peoples" 
upon which Wilson's entire plan for lasting peace was pro- 
fessedly based. The Koreans had acted with great decorum 
and restraint. They had participated heroically in a well- 
organized, nationwide demonstration of their will to regain 
their independence. Under the severest of provocations they 
had adhered to the Christian injunction to turn the other 
cheek. Japanese atrocities committed against the peaceful 


Korean demonstrators were widely reported by scores of 
trustworthy foreign observers. Rhee could scarcely imagine 
that in the face of aU those facts their cause would be re- 
jected. Again and again he called at the Department of 
State trying to see Secretary Lane, who was friendly and 
sympathetic, or Acting Secretary Polk. But the doors re- 
mained closed. The decision against Korea had been sealed. 

A Conference of Small and Subject Nations was held in 
New York City in the spring of 1919, with Czechoslovakia 
being the chief claimant to public attention and sympathy. 
With the support of the Koreans in Hawaii, Rhee attended 
that conference, to plead the Korean cause. It was at this 
time that he first called at the office of John W. Staggers, a 
prominent lawyer in Washington, D. C., who was an active 
promoter of the conference, to solicit his aid. Staggers re- 
fused to support the Koreans-on the grounds that President 
Wilson must be left with a free hand to try to win the 
co-operation of Japan-but, nevertheless, the talks Rhee had 
with him led to the formation of one of Rhee's deepest and 
most lasting friendships. In the long years ahead John 
Staggers was to prove a loyal friend to Korea and a warm 
comrade for Rhee through many lonely years of what ap- 
peared to be a hopeless struggle. 

Leaving the Conference of Small and Subject Nations, 
Rhee went to Philadelphia, where, with Philip Jaisohn, he 
laid plans for a concerted drive to mobilize American public 
opinion in behalf of their cause. They secured the introduc- 
tion into the Congressional Record for July 15, 17 and 18, 
1919, of a detailed report from Presbyterian missionaries of 
atrocities perpetrated against the Korean people during the 
March-May demonstrations. on August 18 they had placed 
in the Congressional Record a statement on behalf of Korean 
independence by Homer B. Hulbert, the author of the best 
English-language histories of Korea. on September 19, a 
long brief supporting Korean independence (prepared by the 

As Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr, Rhee is signing the 
newly adopted Constitution, July 17, 1948, (U.S.A. Signal 


very able and devoted lawyer, Fred A. Dolph, who had be- 
come the counselor of the exiled Korean Republic) was 
entered in the Congressional Record. Another brief detailing 
the legal basis for Korean independence, outlining the 
cultural achievements of the Koreans, and showing the 
exploitative nature of Japanese rule in Korea, was inserted 
in the Record for October 24. The story was clearly and 
ably told, but there were few who read it and fewer still 
who seemed to care. 

on September 19 the Korean patriots opened with fanfare 
and considerable ostentation a Korean Congress in Philadel- 
phia. Mayor Thomas B. Smith joined in the parade through 
the main streets of the city to Independence Hall, where 
they rang the Liberty Bell, and where Syngman Rhee opened 
the first session in the same hall in which George Washington 
had presided over the Constitutional Convention. That 
opening session was addressed by Senator Selden P. Spencer, 
of Missouri, who did all he could to win public and official 
support for the Koreans. Nebraska's great Senator, George 
W. Norris, came to their aid and made a speech in support 
of Korean independence which appeared in the Congres- 
sional Record for November 14, 1919. As the president of 
the Republic of Korea, Rhee addressed formal letters to the 
heads of state of all the principal nations proposing the 
initiation of diplomatic relations. Everything that could be 
done was done. It is amazing that the small group of ex- 
patriates, without funds or powerful friends, achieved so 
much. But the visible results were nil. The Western world 
had won its war and was content to let the peace somehow 
take care of itself. The statesmen tied together a bundle of 
compromises and adopted it as a substitute for the war aims 
set forth so sublimely in Wilson's Fourteen Points. The 
public was heartily sick of war and world problems and 
resolutely turned its attention to personal and domestic 
affairs. Japan remained in firm possession of Korea and in 


one of the more cynical aphorisms of Anglo-Saxon law, 

"possession is nine-tenths of the law/' 

Unfortunately, the divisions in the ranks of the Koreans, 
which had proved a constant problem in Hawaii, still con- 
tinued. Youngman Park, Rhee's erstwhile friend and rival in 
Honolulu, was named minister of Foreign Affairs in the 
cabinet of the new government-even though his views 
continued to differ widely from those of Rhee. Ahn Chang 
Ho was nominated as minister of Labor. Jealousies and 
struggles for preferred positions were numerous. one of the 
disputes which was hotly debated in the secret conclave 
held in Seoul was whether the executive of the new Republic 
should be titled "Chief Executive" or "President." The 
choice finally settled upon was Dai Dong Yang, or President, 
and this was the title conferred on Rhee. 

The fact that Syngman Rhee was in the United States 
deprived him of any voice in the choice of cabinet members. 
The selection actually was a patchwork of compromises 
among contending factions, all of whom had to be repre- 
sented in order to hold their support. The impossibility of 
holding an open election among all the Korean people made 
the personnel of the new government subject to decision by 
the delegates assembled in Seoul. The natural result was a 
lack of harmony and mutual trust within the cabinet. When 
these new officials fled secretly from Seoul and reassembled 
in Shanghai, Rhee began to receive a flow of radiograms and 
letters chiefly notable for their recriminations and con- 
tentiousness. These disagreements emanating from Shanghai 
were reflected in the Korean Congress which convened in 
Philadelphia. Many of the delegates were more intent upon 
sparring for personal advantage than in working together to 
achieve their common goal. Even while their hope of 
national independence was slipping inexorably from their 
grasp, they fought among themselves for the shadowy ap- 
pearances of priority in a government that had little more 


than a paper existence. Despite the notable and noble 
achievement of the organization and conduct of the Mansei 
demonstrations, it was evident that the Koreans were still 
suffering from the factionalism which had contributed to the 
failures of the old monarchy. As a result Rhee adjourned the 
Philadelphia meeting and left it in disgust. Its only tangible 
accomplishment was to vote for the establishment of the 
magazine Rhee and Philip Jaisohn had contemplated, The 
Korean Review, of which Philip Jaisohn became the editor, 
and which continued publication for a period of three years. 

Rhee gave his own attention to organizing a League of the 
Friends of Korea, of which active chapters were soon operat- 
ing in nineteen American cities. The number of local chap- 
ters might have been greatly extended, but a profusion of 
heavy duties pressed upon Rhee and time was fleeting. 
While engaged in this work, Rhee was living in the Portland 
Hotel in Washington, D. C., together with Kiusic Kimm, 
Henry Chung DeYoung, Ben Limb, and Myun Dong, all of 
whom were assisting him. Various news reporters called 
upon Rhee from time to time. Among them all he was most 
favorably impressed by a young reporter for the Interna- 
tional News Service, Jay Jerome Williams, who became very 
sympathetic with the Korean cause and was possessed of a 
genuine crusading zeal. Williams came to report but re- 
mained to help. Along with John Staggers he has remained 
through all the succeeding years among Rhee's closest 
friends a never-failing source of friendly counsel and 
sacrificial helpfulness. 

one of the steps Rhee took at this time was to write a 
letter to the emperor of Japan, offering him one more 
chance" to restore independence to the people of Korea, 
thus winning their gratitude and friendship, with the alterna- 
tive that if this offer was refused the Koreans eventually 
would become free anyway and would distrust and despise 
the Japanese as would-be conquerors. This letter was 


drafted with considerable care-in the thought that if it did 
not impress the emperor of Japan it might at least win in- 
creased sympathy from American newspaper readers. Ben 
Limb, who had been "drafted" as a secretary for Dr. Rhee 
from his studies at Ohio State University, was dispatched 
with the epistle to the Japanese Embassy. There he was 
politely received by the first secretary of the Embassy, Koki 
Hirota. The two men talked pleasantly for a time about the 
revolution in Korea, the Korean independence movement 
abroad, and the status of the Japanese residents in Korea. 
Then Limb handed the letter to Hirota, who promised that 
the ambassador would dispatch it to the emperor. The two 
parted as amicably as though their relationship was one of 
complete friendship. Hirota within a few years became the 
premier of Japan, and Ben Limb, after the establishment of 
the Republic of Korea in 1948 became, first, foreign minister, 
and next, ambassador and chief of the Korean Mission to 
the United Nations. 

Rhee and Limb were soon to engage in a most exciting 
mission. The political disagreements in Shanghai continued 
and it became evident that the new government would break 
apart unless a strong hand were introduced to settle some of 
the quarrels. Rhee determined to go to Shanghai, and took 
Limb with him as his aide. Since their capture would be a 
considerable boon to the Japanese, the first necessity was to 
drop from sight so that they could take a ship without their 
identity being known. Accordingly, they announced to their 
friends in Washington that they were returning to Hawaii 
to raise funds. After they reached Honolulu, they went out 
in the countryside and lived for a week in the sea-side 
cottage of Mr. William Bothwick, operator of a funeral 
parlor (who later became tax commissioner for the Territory 
of Hawaii). Bothwick was preparing the bodies of some de- 
ceased Chinese, which were to be sent to their homeland for 
burial on the S.S. West Hika, which was to sail for Shanghai 


on November 16. For Rhee and Limb this ship had two 
great advantages: the first, that it would not stop en route 
at any Japanese port, as did most ships sailing to North Asia; 
and the second, that Bothwick would be able to smuggle 
them aboard when he delivered the coffins. Thus it was 
that on the evening of November 15 Syngman Rhee and 
Ben Limb went aboard the West Hika without tickets and 
without the captain's knowledge, and hid themselves below 
deck among the coffins. All the next day they remained in 
the stifling hold, with their emotions supercharged by the 
danger of their mission and the nature of the cargo. only 
late the next night, after the ship had cleared the harbor and 
was safely out to sea did they reveal themselves to the second 
mate, who took them to be a poor old Chinese and his son. 

The captain treated them with great consideration. Rhee 
was assigned quarters in the hospital cabins, which were 
otherwise unoccupied. Young Limb was assigned to duty 
polishing the ship's brass and doing other light chores. The 
trip was uneventful and both Rhee and Limb enjoyed its 
tranquility after the hectic and wearing preceding weeks. 
The lumbering freighter required forty days for the crossing, 
and during this time the two men spent many evening hours 
in the ship's prow, watching the lifting of the waves and 
talking of the challenge of their cause. Upon arrival in 
Shanghai the captain considerately f orebore to identify them 
to the port authorities, and shortly afterward they went 
ashore and made their way to the headquarters of the Korean 
Provisional Government, in the French district of the Inter- 
national Settlement. 

Syngman Rhee remained in China for seventeen strenuous 
months. Because their finances were limited, and because 
Rhee wanted to send personal and urgent messages back to 
his followers in the United States, Ben Limb was soon dis- 
patched homeward, traveling by way of Europe. While he 
was spending a few days in Paris, two police gendarmes 


stopped one day at his hotel and asked him to accompany 
them to the police station. There he was informed that 
Hirohito, then the crown prince of Japan, was to arrive in 
Europe shortly for a visit to the various capitals, and the 
Japanese had warned the French government that Limb was 
probably sent as an agent to assassinate him. Limb found 
the policemen very jovial in their examination, and after he 
assured them he had no intention of killing anyone, they 
exchanged pleasantries and soon parted. Actually Limb left 
Paris for New York before Hirohito arrived. 

Rhees problems in China were more serious. Every 
member of the cabinet and the National Assembly had his 
own special group of followers. The only financial resources 
consisted of free-will donations, and all those who gave or 
collected money felt privileged to help determine policies 
and choose personnel. The lack of international recognition 
of the government seemed to make it all the more imperative 
for every official to be especially solicitous about his own 
prestige and status amongst his fellows. With so much to 
worry them, and so little grounds for substantial hope, 
tempers flared easily and personal strife was almost their 
only effective means of securing an emotional catharsis. 

Moreover, differences of policy were acute and could not 
easily be settled. Some of the Korean revolutionists favored 
close ties with the new Communist party which had recently 
come into power in Russia. Some wanted to work in close 
accord with one or the other of the several major factions 
in China. Some favored the development of an active 
program of sabotage, guerrilla activities, and assassinations 
of Japanese officials. Rhee insisted upon his long-established 
policy of peaceful appeals to public opinion and to the 
various governments upon whose support they must rely if 
they were to have any hope of success. Even those who 
were most loyal to Rhee personally or who were most in- 
clined intellectually to accept his philosophy were un- 


comfortably aware that his program thus far showed no 
tangible evidence of success. 

Whenever Rhee could do so he devised means of leaving 
the International Settlement (usually in company with well- 
known foreigners, in order to circumvent arrest by the 
Japanese) and made trips to Nanking, Soochow, Peking, and 
other cities, both for a study of conditions and for confer- 
ences with Korean leaders. In this fashion the months 
passed. Rhee admonished his cabinet members to make 
studies of Korean needs in the various areas assigned to their 
responsibility. The one avenue of effective action that ap- 
peared to be open to them was the one Rhee had long 
opposed namely, the organization of a volunteer army with 
which to make forays across the border from Manchuria 
into Korea and the secret build-up of disruptive forces inside 
Korea. Since Rhee remained convinced that lawless and 
violent measures could not achieve a victory and would only 
strengthen the Japanese case for ever-tighter controls and 
continuance of their police control over Korea, he argued 
endlessly against this course of action. But what he might 
propose as an alternative to it was not so readily apparent. 

When U. S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, 
upon the suggestion of Senator William E. Borah, issued a 
call early in 1921 for powers interested in the Pacific area to 
meet in Washington to consider limitation upon armaments, 
Rhee seized the occasion as a rallying point for the exiled 
patriots and as possibly offering an opportunity to win an 
official international hearing for the Korean cause. Delegates 
from the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, 
Holland, Portugal, China and Japan were to meet in Wash- 
ington on November 12, 1921. Rhee was convinced that 
lasting peace in the Orient could be assured only if Korea 
were restored to independence, so that it might play its 
historic role as the "buffer state" of North Asia. With his 
energetic optimism and unquenchable belief that reason 


could be made to prevail in human affairs, he had hopes of 
being able to sell this idea to the delegates of the great 
powers. Accordingly, on May 28, 1921, after a series of 
farewell sessions with his cabinet and National Assembly 
(in which at least the surface appearance of a new harmony 
was achieved), he sailed from Shanghai on the S.S. Colum- 
bia. During eleven days in Manila, he studied political and 
social conditions on the Islands-concluding that a halfway 
stop to independence is like a halfway point on a railway 
trip: merely a position to be passed by as rapidly as possible, 
rather than a place at which to linger. Then he boarded the 
S.S. Granite State for the long Pacific crossing, a passage 
which he always has loved and regards as one of the idyllic 
ways in which to pass a couple of weeks. Arriving at Hono- 
lulu on June 29, he was given a gala welcome. July and the 
first part of August were passed very pleasantly among 
friends in Hawaii; but by the end of August Bhee was back 
in Washington working to get ready for the opening of the 
Disarmament Conference. 

This process of getting ready involved a complex pattern 
of activities. The first step was to create the strongest 
possible impression that his mission was official. Since no 
Korean government was recognized, and since Korea was 
not invited to play any role whatsoever at the conference, 
this stage of the preparation required special care. News- 
papermen, with the able assistance of Rhee's friend Jay 
Jerome Williams, were courted, entertained, and given 
"story angles" on the heroic struggles of the oppressed people 
of Korea. Interviews were held in which, as it turned out, 
the story of Rhee's being smuggled aboard the S.S. West 
Hika, for the trip to Shanghai, "in a coffin" (which was not 
strictly true), proved to be especially popular. Critical items 
also appeared in the press alleging that Rhee was only one 
of several Korean claimants for leadership and that he did 
not really represent the masses of the people. These stories 


always hurt Rhee's feelings more than any other type of 
criticism, for they pictured him as being personally ambi- 
tious and struggling to elevate himself above other legitimate 
aspirants and, indeed, above the welfare of the Korean 
people themselves. 

The second step in his preparations, then, was to request 
from the provisional government in Shanghai a set of official 
credentials. These were sent to him promptly, by radiogram, 
under date of September 21, 1921, and were forwarded to 
Secretary Hughes, but failed to elicit any reply from him. 
After the conference was convened, the credentials were 
dispatched to the conference secretariat, again without re- 
ceiving any acknowledgment. Rhee and his associates were 
not surprised, for they had no expectation that their rep- 
resentation would result directly in a repudiation by the 
conference of Japanese rule over Korea. They did hope, 
however, to be accepted as "observers" at the conference, 
and they did expect to secure an amount of newspaper 
publicity which would make it difficult for the conference 
to ignore them completely. 

This attempt to secure newspaper coverage for their cause 
was the third and, indeed, the major step in their prepara- 
tions for the opening of the conference, Rhee's lawyer, Mr. 
Dolph, prepared a brief setting forth the case for recogni- 
tion of the Republic of Korea, and this brief was introduced 
into the Congressional Record for December 1, 1921. The 
brief reviewed the recent history of Korea, commencing with 
the United States-Korea Treaty of 1882, in which the United 
States pledged itself to "use its friendly offices'' in case Ko- 
rea should require aid to maintain its independence, The 
brief also quoted an interesting article written by a Japanese 
publicist, Adache Kimosuke, which had appeared in the 
Review of Reviews for October, 1907. "We shall be frank 
about it/' the passage read. "We shall say that we are carry- 
ing things with a high hand in Korea. We have gone into 


the back yard of our neighbor and are telling him to kindly 
move on simply because we need his home. We are doing 
just as the Americans have done with the Indians, the right- 
ful owners of America; just as the British have done with 
the Hindus; just as the Russians have done with the Tartars; 
as Germany did in South Africa, and France in Cochin 
China. Nippon has joined the house of the great powers. 
She has become civilized." 

The Korean delegation never was permitted to present its 
case before the conference. In personal talks with some of 
the delegates and with many newspaper reporters, Rhee was 
disheartened to find that they cynically accepted the con- 
tinuance of the age-old pattern of power politics the rule of 
the weak by the strong-in utter disregard of the high ideals 
proclaimed by the Allies in fighting the World War. The 
"New Era of Justice/' which had been hailed so confidently 
in the Korean Proclamation of Independence of 1919, was 
sacrificed to seeming expediency: and thereby were planted 
the seeds that developed inevitably into World War II. Hu- 
manity, it turned out, had not yet become ready to cast off 
the old habits which had kept mankind in a continuing series 
of bitter conflicts for over 5,000 years. The old pattern per- 
sisted; and the old price, it was apparent to Rhee, would 
have to be paid in blood and destruction, over and over 

It was also disheartening to him to find that everyone 
with whom he talked was deeply impressed by the crying 
need of Japan for greater resources with which to feed its 
teeming population. To his argument that the Koreans also 
had need of at least their own resources, with which to main- 
tain a decent standard of living for themselves, the answer 
was often a shrug of the shoulders. Let those take who 
could; let those lose who must. This view of 1921-22 might 
be dismissed as simply a historical period view except that 
thirty years later the same kind of logic has been repeated 


again and again and this even after Japan conclusively 
demonstrated that it was using its possession of Korea not 
for self -sustenance but to build armaments and to open fur- 
ther roads of aggression against both its Asian neighbors 
and the Western Powers. Rhee has always been both an- 
gered and bewildered by the strange logic of the West which 
regards the claims of strong nations as having a sort of in- 
nate and natural priority over those of weaker states. He 
has argued again and again against the view that when a 
nation has developed sufficient strength to be classified as a 
great power, different rules apply to it than those that apply 
to smaller and weaker countries. In his view history shows 
that this kind of reasoning leads only to war. He would sub- 
stitute for it not an abstract principle of perfect justice, 
which is perhaps impossible of attainment in a world of con- 
flicting national sovereignties, but the Jeffersonian theory 
(applied to nations and not merely to individuals) of the 
greatest good to the greatest number. This line of reasoning 
led him to the conclusion that the Western powers, for their 
own sakes, should sanction and support the independence of 
Korea as a sure means of keeping Japan off the continent. 

Chapter VIII 

DUEING THE TWENTY YEARS from the end of the Disarma- 
ment Conference to the attack by Germany upon Poland in 
1939, Syngman Rhee persisted in his painful and lonely en- 
deavor to accomplish what seemingly could not be done. 
He was a David without a slingshot, assailing an army of 
Goliaths. His goal was the resurrection of a nation that was 
dead in every respect except for the cardinal one that it still 
lived on in the hearts of its people. The Koreans were en- 
slaved. If this term seems harsh, it may be recalled as the 
one used by Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and 
Chiang Kai-shek in their Declaration on Korea at Cairo, in 
1943. The Korean people were abandoned diplomatically 
by the powers that (as history was soon to demonstrate) 
should have been their staunchest allies. They were so 
deeply submerged that when a book was finally written 
about Korea in 1944, the most appropriate title seemed to be 
Forgotten Nation. 

Syngman Rhee was the president of a republic-in-exile 
that lacked everything except unalterable determination. It 
was even without debts! Its officials were unpaid, undisci- 
plined and recalcitrant. As chief executive, Rhee had re- 
sponsibilities, but neither power nor resources. In these 
circumstances, with the aid of a few friends, and supported 


by the voiceless faith and muted pleas of his captive coun- 
trymen, his task was to try every available means to make 
the impossible come to pass: to make a dead nation rise 
again from its ashes, and regain for the Korean people the 
life-giving right of self-government. 

Internally, no nation ever has existed or ever will exist 
except as it is imprinted into the hearts of its people as an 
undying ideal. Externally, no nation is more than a legal 
charter, recognized by other nations as their sovereign co- 
equal in the great global community. Without that recog- 
nized charter, a people may bleed and suffer but they have 
no recourse and no apparent remedy. 

Korea's resurrection from this virtual extinction was fore- 
cast in the Mansei revolution of 1919. The founding of the 
provisional republic, however shaky its material form, pro- 
vided an essential rallying point for Korean loyalties and 
efforts. So long as that republic could be kept alive, there 
was always a vital spark in existence which might someday 
be fanned into a flame of regeneration. Rhee's task was to 
prevent that spark from being stamped out by Japanese 
force or from being smothered by sheer indifference and 

As soon as his election as president was announced, he 
founded in Washington, D. C. an office which he called The 
Korean Commission. He would have preferred to call it the 
Korean Embassy, but this he could not do, for the exiled 
republic was without sanction or recognition. To have in- 
sisted upon calling its office an Embassy would have kept 
Rhee and his associates in a perpetually defensive position 
and would have handicapped them in doing any construc- 
tive work. By adopting the ambiguous term "Commission" 
they were able to claim what none could properly deny- 
namely, that they represented the true sentiments for free- 
dom of a great majority of the Korean people. This commis- 
sion was very active from its founding until after the 


dissolution of the Washington Disarmament Conference. 
Even then it continued in being, but was not reactivated 
significantly until after the Japanese attack upon Manchuna 
in 1931. Thereafter, despite the stubborn determination of 
the Western powers to ignore the patent dangers of burgeon- 
ing Japanese imperialism in the Pacific, with a consequent 
studied indifference to all claims for Korea, Rhee kept the 
Korean Commission active and insistent upon what he con- 
sidered the just claims of his people for independence. 

Syngman Rhee s philosophy as to how to wage the fight 
was set forth in a long report which he sent to the provi- 
sional government on July 5, 1919. In it he urged, "Our 
efforts must more or less for the time being be concentrated 
on the United States. Effectiveness will result from con- 
centration/' Then as always he placed his chief faith in the 
decency and fairmindedness of the American people. His 
own experiences in America gave him ample evidence of 
the native friendliness of the people and of the strong strain 
of idealism which impelled them toward justice as the one 
dependable yardstick by which to evaluate human prob- 
lems. Rhee's years of detailed study of American history had 
taught him that the United States again and again has gone 
far out of its way to assist and encourage peoples striving 
for freedom. And beyond this faith in the character and 
temperament of Americans, he was convinced by his Ori- 
ental background and studies that vast forces were stirring 
in the Far East which would require American intervention, 
for its own self-interest, eventually to prevent the planned 
course of Japanese aggrandizement. For all these reasons 
Rhee was determined that efforts to free Korea should pri- 
marily take the form of appeals to American public opinion. 

In the winter of 1921-22, however, during the course of 
the Disarmament Conference, Rhee's chief encouragement 
came not from an American but from a prominent English- 
man. H, G. Wells came to Washington, D. C. to write a 


series of newspaper articles on the Disarmament Confer- 
ence. He received and declinedliterally hundreds of in- 
vitations but accepted one from Rhee and had dinner with 
him. In the course of their evening's conversation, Wells 
poured out his passionate conviction that only through world 
government could the human race avoid self-destruction. 
Rhee found Wells genuinely receptive to his views on the 
Far East and to his explanation of the role that must be 
played by an independent Korean nation in maintaining 
the peace in that part of the world. As Wells departed at the 
end of the evening, Rhee's chief thought was that if the 
statesmen who governed the destiny of nations could only 
be as well grounded in history as was H. G. Wells, the deci- 
sions by which international relations are shaped might be 
far wiser. 

In September, 1922, Rhee returned to Hawaii. But he 
was far too restless to remain. In January and February, 
1924, he sailed from Hawaii to New York, via the Panama 
Canal, making many stops en route to visit friends and to 
plant interviews in the newspapers along the way. After 
several months in Washington, he returned to Honolulu in 
the late fall of 1924, and settled down uneasily to five more 
years of work with his school and with the Korean Church. 
In October, 1929, he set off for San Francisco on another 
trip across the United States, making stops in Butte, Chi- 
cago, New York and Washington, warning all who would 
listen that the Japanese were engaging in activities inside 
Korea which indicated plans for some warlike move beyond 
the borders. There were few, indeed, who would listen and 
in January of 1930 Rhee returned once more to Hawaii. 

The attack launched by Japan against Chinese forces in 
Manchuria in September, 1931, was a conclusive proof of 
the soundness of the warnings Rhee had been issuing. He 
felt hopeful that now, at last, peace-loving peoples would 
listen to his pleas that Korean independence must be re- 


stored as a barrier on the Japanese pathway of aggression 
against the continent of Asia. Furthermore, there were more 
than a million Korean immigrants in Manchuria, where they 
had fled to escape Japanese rule. These political expatriates 
were certain to fare harshly under this forcible extension of 
Japanese power, which again had engulfed them, and as 
their president (whether recognized or not) Rhee felt it was 
his clear duty to speak out in their behalf. So once again 
he set forth on the weary trail to Washington, arriving there 
in the spring of 1932. He found, of course, that Secretary 
Stimson had received little support for his policy of non- 
recognition of Japanese conquest in Manchuria; and Rhee 
got even less encouragement for his pleas on behalf of the 

After consultation with the provisional government in 
Shanghai and the loyal Korean community in Hawaii, Rhee 
decided to go to Geneva to make an appeal to the dele- 
gates attending the League of Nations, where Japan's con- 
duct in Manchuria was under discussion. Therefore, just 
before Christmas, 1932, he sailed for Europe and went di- 
rectly to Geneva. He engaged a room at the Hotel de Russie 
and at once commenced a series of interviews with dele- 
gates and newsmen. on January 26 the Journal de Geneve 
carried in French a long story Rhee had prepared on the 
pitiful situation of the expatriate Koreans in Manchuria, who 
were being subjected once again to the harsh treatment of 
vengeful Japanese masters. on February 16 he spoke over 
the broadcasting facilities of the League of Nations on ''Ko- 
rea and the Far Eastern Dispute." The February 22 issue 
of La Tribune D* Orient carried a long front-page article on 
Rhee's mission, together with his picture, based on an inter- 
view with Aly El Ghai'aty. The following day Der Bund, a 
German publication in Bern, carried a similar article written 
by Dr, Edwin Debries. In addition to these activities di- 
rected to winning a public airing of the Korean case, Rhee 


wrote a long letter to Sir Eric Drummond, secretary of the 
League of Nations, pointing out that through restoration of 
Korean independence, "Japan's positive policy of military 
conquest in Asia will be greatly handicapped." 

Despite the sympathetic interest which Rhee found in 
many quarters, it very soon became apparent to him that 
the major powers were not going to take any significant ac- 
tion to check Japan's program of conquest. It was not diffi- 
cult to discover that England and France felt that their own 
interests were being served in a degree by the establishment 
of a Japanese threat to the continental holdings of Russia in 
the Far East. If the Great Bear could be worried at his rear 
quarters, he would be less free to extend his activities in 
Europe. But it was not easy, of course, to establish such a 
thesis as this on the basis of public records. Rhee inquired 
politely but urgently at the League Secretariat for a copy 
of the Lytton Report on Japan's seizure of Manchuria and 
was just as politely but very firmly refused the privilege of 
seeing it. He received a hint that a copy of the report might 
be procured through discreet inquiries in Paris, so he spent 
four days, March 6-9, at the Hotel Trianon Palace in that 
city, without success. While there Rhee received a wire 
from his supporters in Hawaii assuring him of funds suffi- 
cient to permit him to spend as much as a year in Geneva, 
continuing his work with the League. The Easter week end, 
April 13-17, Rhee spent in Zurich, visiting with a former 
student of his from Seoul, Mr. Han-ho Rhie (a noted hockey 
star) and his family. 

Back in Geneva the latter part of that month, Rhee had 
what appeared to be a significant luncheon on April 25 with 
Prentiss Gilbert, the American consul-general, who showed 
a broad and encouraging understanding of the role which 
a free Korean nation would play in maintaining the peace 
of the Orient. During their luncheon, several Japanese os- 
tentatiously took seats at a table immediately beside them, 


and they consequently left the hotel and drove out into the 
country to continue their talk. At this same period the Chi- 
nese delegation to the League expressed an interest in pre- 
senting the case of Korea to the League. However, in the 
usual "behind the scenes" strategy conferences arranged by 
the reigning powers in the League, all Rhee's efforts were 


At this point, he decided to go to Moscow. For one thing, 
Russia was much interested in stopping the expansion of 
Japanese power on the North Asian mainland. For another, 
Rhee wanted to explore the possibility of securing the co- 
operation of the Korean leaders who lived in Siberia and in 
Moscow. Rhee went to Paris to request a visa from the Rus- 
sian Ambassador, but was told he should request it in Vienna. 
In Vienna the Chinese Ambassador, Dr. Taung, who was an 
old friend of Rhee's, invited him and the Russian Ambas- 
sador to dinner at the Imperial Hotel. At this dinner Taung 
urged the necessity for a united front on the Asian mainland 
against the rising menace of Japan, and pointed out that 
Rhee, as the leader of the Korean people, must be a vital ele- 
ment in the alliance. The Soviet Ambassador Peterwsky 
was convinced and wired Moscow for the visa, which was 
granted. Rhee entrained for Moscow (having to change 
trains at the Russian border), travelling third class and in- 
cognito. Upon his arrival in Moscow, he was visited by a 
Russian official who told him the issuance of the visa was a 
mistake, and he must leave Russia at once. Rhee asked the 
Chinese Embassy to intercede, but was informed that cur- 
rent difficulties between Russia and China over ownership 
of the East China Railroad had strained the relations be- 
tween the two countries. Matsuyama, head of the Japanese 
Railway Commission, was in Moscow supporting the Russia 
position on the East China Railroad, and in order not to 
aggravate Japan and thus lose this support the Kremlin 
ordered Rhee out of Russia. on such shoals was wrecked 


the grand design of an North Asian alliance which might 
have prevented the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and 
thereby have diverted the whole later course of the history 
of our times. Rhee left Russia the next day and crossed 
Europe by train to Nice, from which port he embarked for 
New York. 

While at the Hotel de Russie Geneva (before the trip to 
Moscow) Rhee first became acquainted with Miss Francesca 
Donner, who was to become both his devoted wife and a 
dedicated champion of Korean independence. Miss Donner 
was the eldest of three daughters of a well-to-do iron mer- 
chant in Vienna, who reared his family with a mixture of 
strict discipline and wise emphasis upon their development 
of a sense of individual responsibility. He granted them al- 
lowances, and insisted that they live within them. He let 
the girls help plan their own educational and social pro- 
grams, and then required them to abide by the plans. Hav- 
ing no sons, he taught the girls the rudiments of practical 
business management and' masculine self-reliance. Thus it 
was not surprising that eldest daughter Francesca was in 
Geneva, serving as a secretary to the Austrian delegation to 
the League. 

The acquaintance of Dr. Rhee and Miss Donner com- 
menced when the Maitre d'Hotel seated Rhee one evening 
at the table where she was dining with her mother. Rhee 
found her to be familiar with the Korean question, which 
surprised him, for he seldom met people who were informed 
about the situation. She confessed she had been following 
all the articles recently published by and about him, and 
that she had been eager to meet the man who was fighting 
for such a selfless cause. From that time began a friendly 
and cordial relationship. Francesca Donner was an eager 
auditor for Rhee's stories of the oppression of his people. 
From her own Central European background she could un- 
derstand their plight with full sympathy. Their friendship 


grew from understanding to affection and inevitably to love. 
Upon Rhee's return to the United States after the Moscow 
fiasco, he opened the Korean Commission again in Wash- 
ington, and Miss Donner arranged to enter the United States 
under the regular Austrian immigration quota. She ran into 
great difficulties when she gave as her reason her intention 
of marrying an Oriental. Finally the problems were solved, 
after Dr. Rhee went to the State Department to request its 
help in the issuance of her visa. on October 4, 1933, she 
arrived in New York on the Europa. Four days later the 
wedding was performed at the Hotel Montclair, with Dr. 
John Haynes Holmes and Rev. P. K. Yoon jointly officiating. 
The vows were said in both Korean and English. 

Theirs was to prove a marriage complete and effective in 
every respect-as fine a working comradeship as ever a mar- 
riage can be. In all the years since, Mrs. Rhee has served 
as her husband's secretary, housekeeper, comrade, warmest 
supporter, adviser, and caretaker as well as his wife. Korea 
owes her more than ever will be understood, for she flatly 
refuses interviews, publicity and all manner of public rec- 
ognition of her services. When she is urged to see some of 
the newspaper correspondents who have wanted to write 
feature articles about her, she has always waved the sugges- 
tion aside with smiling insistence. She is truly a remarkable 
woman who has deliberately chosen to serve her husband 
and his cause from the shadowy background and there, in 
accordance with her own strict preference, she deserves to 
be left. 

In September the Rhees went to Honolulu, but the fol- 
lowing spring Rhee returned once again to Washington, like 
a global Paul Revere warning of the dangers that were gath- 
ering against the free world. on June 12, the Washington 
Daily News reported, "A slight, smiling figure in gray. Dr. 
Rhee arrived here from New York, where he has been organ- 
izing Korean and Chinese sentiment. *I am starting a maga- 


zine to be called Orient, 9 he announced. It will deal with 
affairs in the Far East including Japan/ * All through the 
remainder of that year Rhee worked zealously, attempting 
to secure funds and support for such a venture. He found 
then, however, what he observed again and again in the 
following years namely, that money and support were more 
easily to be found for publications on the Far East that rep- 
resent views favorable to either the Japanese or the Commu- 
nists than for publications opposing either. 

With some hope that the newly elected President, Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt, might reanimate the United States and 
assert a more positive influence in world affairs than had the 
preceding administrations, Rhee made another tour across 
the country. on September 16, 1934, in Butte, Montana, 
with his secretary, Mr. Chang Kee Young, Rhee was quoted 
in the Butte Montana Standard as saying, "It is the duty of 
every American citizen to support the program of President 
Roosevelt, especially his foreign relations policies policies 
that have indicated that the United States is ready and ca- 
pable of caring for itself." 

The Los Angeles Times for September 20, 1934, carried a 
story of Rhee's mission under a headline that was anything 
but encouraging: "Rhee Here in Korea's Lost Cause." The 
story started off, "Leader of the lost cause of the Orient, Dr. 
Syngman Rhee, president of the Provisional Republic of 
Korea ... is in Los Angeles meeting with Chinese merchants 
and leaders in an effort to enlist their aid in his campaign 
for Korean freedom." 

How little Rhee himself accepted the conclusion that his 
cause was "lost" is indicated in another story in the San 
Francisco Chronicle for December 28 of that year, which 
reported that "Breathing defiance of Japan," Rhee was on 
his way to an undisclosed destination across the Pacific. This 
"mission across the Pacific" will be discussed a little later 
in this chapter. Meanwhile, together .with his wife, Rhee 


arrived in Honolulu on the S.S. Malolo on January 25, 1935, 
to receive a truly royal welcome tendered by the Korean 
community and by many other Hawaiian friends. With an 
inaccuracy not always confined in the press to small matters, 
the Advertiser reported Rhee's arrival with the statement 
that, "He was here last in 1922 and has since been traveling 
on the mainland and in Europe." The Star-Bulletin carried 
a longer story setting forth Rhee's plea that the Koreans in 
Manchuria be allowed to hold a plebiscite to determine their 
status, similar to that proposed for the inhabitants of the 
Saar. But, as Rhee well knew, the chances for success of his 
plan were slight because no pressure was being exerted upon 
Japan to accept it 

Rhee undertook extensive speaking tours of the Hawaiian 
Islands, reanimating the Dong-ji Hoi and raising funds for 
a new Korean Church. once again he assumed direct super- 
vision over the Korean Christian Institute. Refusing to 
believe that Korean independence could ever be a dead 
issue, he resumed and emphasized his pleas to his com- 
patriots that revolutionary ideas must be subordinated to 
diplomatic appeals and education of public opinion. In 
April, 1939, he set off again for Washington to resume direct 
charge of the Korean Commission. It was obvious that the 
world struggle, in both Europe and the Orient, was rushing 
toward a climax, and Rhee was determined to omit nothing 
that could be done to serve his people's claim to renewal of 
their independence. Again, as on many other occasions, 
newsmen were far more receptive to his cause than were 
government officials. on May 17, the well-known reporter, 
Edwin C. Hill, sent out a feature story through Kings Fea- 
tures, Inc., which was widely printed. In it he reported, "An 
envoy from the Japanese Embassy arrived to make polite 
inquiries about Dr. Rhee's plans. He replied, also politely, 
that his plan was to give the boot to Japan with any and all 
opportunities, until his people were *no longer enslaved/ 


They both bowed and the smiling visitor departed/' Mr. 
Hill's story concluded: Rhee "has been fighting for Korean 
freedom for forty-five years and says he is just getting a fast 
running start." 

At this time the Washington office of the exiled republic 
was called the "Korean Nationalist Mission/' During this 
year there was considerable newspaper publicity about the 
independence movement. on December 10 the Washington 
Post carried an interview with Rhee in which he reported 
an army of 30,000 Koreans fighting against the Japanese in 
China, under General Lee Chung Chun. This story carries 
us back to the San Francisco Chronicle account, which has 
been cited earlier, of Rhee's "secret mission across the 

Rhee's relationships with the provisional government as- 
sembly and cabinet in Shanghai, during all these years of 
separation (following his stay there in 1920-22) were fairly 
close through cable and correspondence, but were not al- 
ways harmonious. As has been previously indicated, there 
were many cliques in the government and many divergent 
policies. As an "absentee president" Rhee could not control 
the situation nearly as well as he could have had he stayed 
with it. This was one of the prices that had to be paid for 
his conviction that his best work could be done in the diplo- 
matic centers. 

Just as Rhee, from his vantage points in Washington and 
Geneva, naturally was continually impressed by the neces- 
sity of seeking diplomatic support, so were his governmental 
colleagues in China continually impressed with the desira- 
bility of revolutionary activities. They were surrounded by 
Chinese nationalists who were actually at war with Japan 
and who, of course, sought their support in disrupting 
Japanese supply lines and bases in Manchuria and Korea. 
They received many evidences of friendship from the 
Chinese government, including asylum and the actual dona- 


tion of sums of money and military supplies. All of these 
factors led them to follow a course which was not only not 
in accord with Rliee's but which actually imperiled his 
policies. Much as Rhee regretted this fact, he always under- 
stood the reasons for it and submitted to the necessities of 
the situation. However greatly their views differed, Rhee 
and his governmental associates always maintained a close 
basic accord. They discussed their divergencies as fully as 
circumstances permitted and operated, whether in agreement 
or disagreement, with mutual respect and recognition of the 
reasons for the differences. 

The violence they had refused to sanction in the 1919 
Mansei demonstrations began to appear more necessary 
following the Tokyo earthquake of 1923. At that time, when 
the sympathy of the world, and particularly of the United 
States, was aroused on behalf of Japan, the Japanese police 
utilized the disrupted conditions caused by the earthquake 
to destroy thousands of Korean residents in Japan. In Tokyo 
alone 800 Koreans were invited by the Japanese to military 
headquarters for "protection," and every one of them was 
slain. In Osaka and Nagoya mass slaughters also occurred. 
The government spread the rumor that Koreans were poison- 
ing the wells, and for a time no Korean in Japan was safe. 
on September 5 the government ordered the attacks 
stopped, but by that time thousands were slain and 100,000 
Koreans in Japan had been driven from their homes and 
deprived of their properties. 

In 1929 the mistreatment of Korean girls by Japanese 
gendarmes in Korea led to nationwide demonstrations or- 
ganized by students. For several months these disturbances 
continued, during which time thousands of students were 
imprisoned and beaten. In 1930 occurred the next signifi- 
cant outbreaks of violence, when mobs in northeastern Korea 
gathered around police headquarters and other government 
buildings to protest the savage treatment accorded the 


population by the Japanese. The police fired upon them and 
several were killed. 

While Rhee was in Geneva the provisional government 
commenced its first significant direction of open revolution- 
ary activities. In China, Siberia, and Manchuria, Korean 
military academies were established to train soldiers, sabo- 
teurs and guerrillas. In January, 1932, a patriot youth 
named Yi Bong Chan was dispatched to Tokyo with the 
mission of assassinating the Japanese mikado. He threw a 
bomb into a car that was supposed to be carrying the 
emperor on a procession through Tokyo, but through a 
change of plans the emperor was riding in another vehicle. 
Inside Korea, eight secret societies united, under the leader- 
ship of the Eui Jul Tan, and pledged themselves to the 
liquidation of high Japanese officials. Besides the attack 
upon the emperor, assaults against Baron Tanaka, author 
of Japan's blueprint for world conquest, and upon Korea's 
Governor-General Saito were the most notable "near misses." 

The most successful of these attacks occurred in Shanghai, 
on April 29, 1932, when the Japanese staged a huge demon- 
stration to celebrate their successes in Manchuria. The chief 
Japanese military and political leaders in China gathered on 
a platform to review the triumphant parade of their troops. 
A youthful zealot named Yun Bong Kil, carrying a bomb in 
a simulated bandage on his right hand, edged through the 
crowd close to the platform, and tossed the bomb upon it. 
General Shirakawa, who had commanded the troops which 
captured Manchuria, was killed. Admiral Shigemitsu, a 
noted militarist who later became Minister of Foreign Af- 
fairs, when the Japanese militarists seized control of their 
home government, lost a leg. And Admiral Nomura, who 
lived to represent Japan in Washington during the talks 
which screened the attack on Pearl Harbor, lost an eye. 

In 1935 some 200 armed Koreans made a foray into Korea. 
It was at this time that Rhee planned what the Chronicle 


called a "secret mission" to Shanghai to persuade the cabinet 
and the assembly of the folly of this kind of activity, which 
could not win Korea's independence, and which, on the 
contrary, merely strengthened the Japanese propaganda that 
Koreans needed to be held in strict subjection. From Hono- 
lulu, however, Rhee sent confidential messages ordering a 
discontinuance of this type of warfare and received reluc- 
tant assurances that it would be stopped. For this reason 
and because of the extreme danger, if not impossibility, of 
his venturing into China, where the Japanese w.ere carrying 
affairs with a very high hand Rhee remained in Hawaii. 

The warfare, however, could not be entirely halted. Ko- 
rean grievances were too pressing and Korean sentiments of 
independence were too deep-seated to be held completely 
in check. Year after year the sabotage and guerrilla activities 
continued. In 1936, for example, the Japanese governor- 
general in Korea reported 4,474 cases of guerrilla activities 
involving 169,961 persons. Kim Koo, who as a youth had 
slain Captain Tsuchida, one of the murderers of Queen Min, 
had become the premier of the exiled Korean Republic's 
cabinet. Kim Yak San, a guerrilla leader with few peers in 
the world, was another of the determined leaders of the 
revolutionary movement in China. General Lee Chung 
Chun, who led the Sino-Korean Northern Route Army which 
opposed the Japanese most bitterly in Manchuria in 1931, 
was another. Such men, backed by the tempestuous and 
indomitable spirit of the whole Korean nation, could not be 
readily held in check. All that Rhee could do was to seek 
to modify their methods while continuing his own work of 
seeking for a diplomatic solution of what even his friends 
came to describe as a 'lost cause." 

Chapter IX 


JL HE LATE THIRTIES were dark days for Syngman Rhee. His 
policy of seeking to revive his lost nation through appeals 
to the self-interest and good sense of the West was seem- 
ingly bankrupt. His leadership never made any deep im- 
press on the American officials to whom he tried to appeal, 
and as decade piled upon decade with his program barren 
of results, his own following began to disintegrate. Damag- 
ing divisions developed among the expatriate Koreans, and 
the Korean National Association in Hawaii came into the 
control of men who opposed Rhee with great bitterness. A 
Siberian-born Korean named Kilsoo Han, who had spent 
much of his life in China and Japan, came to Washington 
'and (partly because he was a new face with a fresh appeal) 
won the sympathetic interest of some officers in the State 
Department. Those who had no intention of recognizing 
any Korean independence claims found a new reason for 
rejecting them in citing the lack of unity among the Korean 
claimants. Rhee was denounced as stubborn, uncompromis- 
ing and ambitious, and was charged with clinging to the 
shreds of a discredited program in the vain hope of salvag- 
ing some kind of personal advantage. His most loyal friends 
and supporters were weary from years of fruitless struggle 
and sacrifice. In those days Rhee had little but his religious 
faith to sustain him. He was certain that the restoration of 



Korean independence was inevitable-because it was de- 
manded by the logic of the Asian situation. And he was 
equally certain that the course he was pursuing was the 
best means of achieving it. Yet aside from his wife and a 
small handful of Korean and American friends, he was left 
to nurture this faith almost in solitude. 

When, after the outbreak of World War II, Ehee went 
from Hawaii to Washington, he and his wife moved into a 
small two-storied red brick house on Hobart Street, on a 
bluff above the National Zoological Park. At night he lis- 
tened to the roaring of the lions in the zoo, and felt a kin- 
ship with their frustrations. one of his relaxations was to 
walk around the zoo, enjoying his life-long fondness for an- 
imals. For a year or so he drove a car, but his driving was 
so absent-minded that his wife and friends exercised all 
their ingenuity to keep him from behind the wheel. Since 
he often drove down the middle of the street, carrying on an 
animated political discussion with vigorous gestures while 
approaching cars swerved out of his path, it is probably a 
sheer accident that he never was involved in a wreck. When 
his friends would remonstrate with him, he would chuckle 
and assure them that he had no intention of getting killed 
before his life's task was accomplished. 

His most fruitful recreation during this period, however, 
was in a return to the artistic interests of his youth. As a 
child he had acquired a very considerable skill in Chinese 
calligraphy, an art which is highly valued everywhere in the 
East. His parents used to boast of this and it was one of 
their greatest satisfactions. During Rhee's childhood his 
mother would never permit him to lift anything heavy, or 
even to throw stones for great distances, for fear the delicate 
nerve system of his hands might be affected. In his youth, 
friends had tried to interest Syngman in playing the ancient 
Korean harp or Kumoonko, but he refused to learn, lest the 
drawing of his fingers across the taut strings might interfere 


with his skill in calligraphy. Then, while he was in prison, 
the tortures to which he was subjected left his fingers sore 
and clumsy. For many years he had tried again and again 
to regain the delicacy of control over the brush which is 
necessary for artistic writing of the Chinese characters. He 
did not succeed until the year of 1939, in Washington, when 
to his great joy he found his old skill restored. In all the 
years since, the practice of calligraphy has been his chief 
relaxation and delight. 

His thoughts turned to scholarship also to the lessons he 
had learned in his early schooling in Korea and in the Amer- 
ican universities. To Rhee there seemed to be a pattern of 
inevitability in the unfolding of the international situation 
in Asia. Time and again during the past years he had warned 
that Japan was directed fundamentally by a basic philosophy 
of military conquest and expansion, and that her innate ag- 
gressiveness could only be checked by a restoration of Ko- 
rean independence, thus confining Japan to her islands. His 
warnings had been dismissed as special pleading. Now, with 
no apparent hope of persuading the diplomats to depart 
from the Wilsonian formula of a Pacific built around a strong 
Japan, Rhee decided to write a book in which his ideas might 
be set forth fully enough to be convincing. 

Much of 1940 was devoted to this task, resulting in a vol- 
ume entitled Japan Inside Out, which was published early 
in 1941. The comment on it which Rhee liked best was the 
one in which Pearl Buck wrote: "There is no personal hatred 
toward the Japanese, but there is a sure diagnosis of the 
danger that such a state of mind as theirs possesses for the 
human race." 

"Postponement is not a settlement," Rhee wrote in this 
prescient book. 'The forest fire will not extinguish itself. It 
is drawing nearer day by day. Years ago you heard faint 
whispers of impending trouble. It was so far away. It 
seemed as if it might be on Mars or some other planet. Later 


on you saw columns of smoke rising at a distance, or per- 
haps a glow of the flames reflected on the clouds, or, at 
times, even heard the roaring or crackling of burning trees. 
Yet it was still far enough away to cause you no worry or 
alarm. Now that is all changed. You already begin to feel 
the heat. It is coming too close for your comfort. You must 
move from your own home or your own business because it 
is dangerous for you to ignore it longer. You must give up 
the international settlements in the Orient. You must lose 
your business investments, mission stations, universities, hos- 
pitals, and any and all other institutions that are yours . . . 
Can you still say, 'Let the Koreans, the Manchurians, and 
the Chinese fight their own fight; it is none of our business?" 

After pursuing through fifteen chapters the thesis that 
Japan s aggression in Asia was a threat to the entire free 
world, Rhee concluded with an appeal "that the United 
States should employ all her power, economical, moral, and 
military, now to check Japan in order to prevent an ultimate 
conflict with her/' In a final argument that sounds very 
much like what he later said in regard to world communism, 
Rhee concluded: "I cannot persuade myself to see how you 
can escape clashing with a bully by making him stronger all 
the time. Is it not clear that when he becomes powerful 
enough to tackle you, he will surely attack you as he has 
already attacked and robbed every one of his weaker neigh- 
bors? Is it not equally clear, then, that your true policy 
should be to act quickly and keep him down by force before 
he grows too big, so that he can never get out of hand?" 
Speaking finally of Korea, he wrote: "Her destiny cannot be 
separated from that of the free peoples of the world, not 
from the lot of those peoples who once knew freedom and 
have lost it for a while." 

These words were soon proved by Pearl Harbor to have 
a real pertinence for the time in which they were penned. 
They gain added interest because, in the opinion of Syng- 


man Rhee, they have as true relevance today in relation to 
the struggle that faces all free peoples confronting the men- 
ace of Soviet communist aggression. Postponement is not a 
settlement. Although written in 1940, these words express 
equally well Rhee's sentiments in 1954. History has come 
a strange circle, with Korea in the center again, as it was be- 
fore. once again Korean patriot voices are lifted, and once 
again they are not heard. International problems would be 
more readily solved if governments, as well as individuals, 
could learn from experience. 

December 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy/' as 
President Roosevelt told the Congress, was hailed by all Ko- 
rean nationalists as a fateful incident that brought the United 
States into the war which, to the best of their abilities, they 
had been waging against Japan for a generation. Rhee 
arranged for the provisional government in Chungking 
(through Prime Minister Kim Koo and Foreign Minister Cho 
So-ang) to send him a cabled declaration of intent to do 
everything the exiled republic could to assist the United 
States in defeating the Japanese. The Koreans felt confident 
that now, at last, their provisional government would be 
recognized, for the old argument that Japan must not be 
affronted could no longer apply. However, when Rhee pre- 
sented the statement from his government to Dr. Stanley 
Hornbeck, the chief of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs in 
the State Department, Hornbeck received it with careful 
circumspection and made it very clear that he was not ac- 
cepting Rhee in any degree as the representative of either 
a nation or a people. Rhee was treated as though he were 
merely an individual who had walked into the State Depart- 
ment to present his own personal viewpoint. 

Sorely disappointed and disturbed, Rhee wired Chung- 
king asking the assembly and cabinet to adopt a formal dec- 
laration of war against Japan, so that the exiled Korean 
government might properly be included among the list of 


states entering into the democratic alliance. This declara- 
tion, too, was ignored by State Department officials, 

Rhee's secretary, Chang Kee Young, wrote to Senator Guy 
Gillette, with whom they had had some friendly exchanges, 
asking for his intercession. on December 18, 1941, Senator 
Gillette replied: "I have discussed the recognition of Korea 
as an independent political entity with the State Depart- 
ment. I found them sympathetic but of course no action can 
be taken until the exchange of diplomatic representatives 
and attaches between the Japanese Empire and the United 
States Government has been effected. You can readily see 
that we could not and should not take any steps to arouse 
resentment which might find expression in abuse or misuse 
of Americans still resident in the Japanese Empire." 

Since the United States was at that time in a state of war 
with Japan, Rhee found this determination not to "take any 
steps to arouse resentment" an attitude extremely difficult to 
understand. In company with John W. Staggers and Jay 
Jerome Williams, Rhee visited Senator Gillette in his office 
on December 22 to make sure there was no misunderstand- 
ing. The senator asked Rhee not to make any formal re- 
quest that the Provisional Republic of Korea be recognized 
by the United States, for if such a request should be granted 
the Japanese would be offended and would find some means 
of retaliation. (On that very day three separate Japanese 
armies were sweeping almost unopposed through the Philip- 
pine Islands, converging upon Manila, where General Mac- 
Arthur was without any effective means of defense.) Rhee 
said to Senator Gillette with great seriousness, "In that case, 
the war is lost. How can you fight the war without offending 
the Japanese ?" Senator Gillette replied, "I have but told 
you what the State Department has said/' 

This interview with Senator Gillette was a staggering 
blow. Of course Rhee had been disappointed not to receive 
immediate recognition from the State Department after the 

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attack on Pearl Harbor. However, Dr. Hornbeck had at least 
indicated that the Koreans' case was under consideration. 
Rhee had received a somewhat more cordial reception upon 
his call at the Department of War, where he left a statement 
indicating the desire to do all the Koreans could to help 
militarily. Following his talks with Army representatives, 
he wrote on December 17 to Dr. Hornbeck as follows: 

"Yesterday afternoon I had a very interesting conversation 
with Major Wallace H. Moore of the Army Intelligence 
Service. He said it was at your suggestion that the Army 
wants to find out what they can do to help Korea. He said 
he would do all that he could to secure aid for the Koreans 
fighting in China." The letter went on to quote a cablegram 
from the Korean Republic Cabinet in Chungking stating 
that it had formally declared war against Japan, in order to 
qualify (as it hoped) for Lend-lease aid, and citing the fact 
that the Chinese government had formally recognized the 
role of the Korean army which numbered 30,000 men, and 
which was equipped and supplied largely by Chiang Kai- 

This letter was not acknowledged and, after the talk with 
Senator Gillette, Rhee knew that it would not be. Actually, 
his efforts to win a recognition of the part Korea could play 
in the struggle against Japan had come to a head as early 
as June 6, 1941, at which date he addressed a long letter to 
President Roosevelt, together with a copy of credentials 
from the provisional government, setting forth in detail what 
Koreans could do to help undermine the vital Japanese posi- 
tion in Korea. A week later Rhee received a reply from Dr. 
Hornbeck, rejecting his offer of aid, and concluding, "We 
are still technically on friendly terms with Japan." Now it 
appeared that these same "friendly terms" were to be main- 
tainedat least so far as Japanese claims upon Korea were 
concerned after Japan and the United States were at war. 

on January 2, 1942 Rhee had an appointment with Mr. 


Alger Hiss, who served as a direct representative of Secre- 
tary Hull in discussing many Far Eastern policy questions. 
Soon after Rhee entered Hiss's office, Dr. Hornbeck called 
them both in to join him, and the three of them discussed 
the Korean situation for more than an hour. Rhee explained 
in detail what Koreans might do to assist in the defeat of 
Japan, and pointed out that they could develop their poten- 
tialities for sabotage and guerrilla activities only if their 
government were recognized, assisted with economic and 
military aid, and integrated into the general plans of the 
top command. The two men listened attentively, occasion- 
ally asking questions for clarification. Finally, Mr. Hiss de- 
clared that since Rhee's proposals involved a recognition of 
the Korean government, there was little or nothing the 
United States could do. To recognize an independent Ko- 
rean government at that stage, he said, could offend the So- 
viet Union, which had a great interest in north Asia. To 
raise any political questions concerning that area, at that 
time, was premature, he declared, for the Soviet Union 
could not enter into such discussions not being at war with 
Japan yet its interests could not be ignored or circum- 
vented. Rhee left this meeting believing sorrowfully that 
this young man with such great power was exercising very 
bad judgment. It did not occur to him to think that Hiss 
might be dedicated to serving Russian rather than American 

However discouraging the appearances, Rhee continued 
his efforts, writing on February 7, 1942, to Secretary of State 
Cordell Hull. To this letter he received on February 19 the 
following reply from Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle: 

"Reference is made to your letter to the Secretary of State 
of February 7, 1942, with which there were enclosed a docu- 
ment addressed to the President of the United States dated 
June 6, 1941, a document addressed to the Secretary of State 


bearing the same date and a document entitled CREDEN- 
TIALS also dated June 6, 1941. 

"As you are no doubt aware, the Department has stated 
in an announcement of its policy toward the activities of 
foreign political leaders in the United States that it is glad 
to be informed of the plans and proposed activities of organ- 
izations of aliens in this country who wish to assist in the 
struggle against Axis domination of the world. Accordingly, 
the Department is glad to be informed of the activities of 
Koreans who are assisting in the task of defeating Japan and 
her allies and, consequently, is making note of the informa- 
tion conveyed in the document under reference regarding 
the plans and objectives of the organization to which they 

"For your convenience there is enclosed herewith a copy 
of the Department's press release of December 10, 1941 in 
which there is set forth a statement of the Department's pol- 
icy in matters of this kind/' 

To this communication Rhee replied on March 14, writ- 
ing to Secretary Hull, and reviewing the preceding corre- 
spondence. His letter then continued: 

"May I respectfully suggest that the matters accompany- 
ing my communication of February 7 do not seem to fall 
within the purview either of the reply of Mr. Berle or the 
press release referred to. 

"The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea is 
the sole representative of the Korean people, whether they 
are resident in Korea proper, Manchuria, Siberia, China or 
elsewhere, and regards itself, on the basis of the treaty of 
1882, negotiated between the Government of Korea and the 
Government of the United States, not as a free movement 
in any sense whatever of that phrase, but as the only govern- 
ment agency of Korea that is in existence. 

"It is the desire of my Government to be advised how the 
Government of the United States regards the aforementioned 


treaty between the two countries. It is the plea of my Gov- 
ernment that the existence of this treaty be noted by the 
Government of the United States, for anything to the con- 
trary would seem to further countenance the act of wanton 
aggression perpetrated by the Japanese Government upon 
the people of Korea/' 

To this letter Rhee received no reply. However, his ap- 
peals directed to Attorney General Francis Biddle, on be- 
half of the Korean nationals resident in Hawaii and in the 
continental United States, achieved a more favorable result. 
on February 9, 1942, Attorney General Biddle issued a state- 
ment specifically exempting from restrictions placed on en- 
emy aliens all "Austrians, Austro-Hungarians and Koreans 
who registered as such under the Alien Registration Act of 
1940 and who have not since that time voluntarily become 
citizens or subjects of Germany, Italy, or Japan. 

"Such aliens,'* the statement continued, "are not required 
to surrender cameras, radios, or other articles prohibited to 
alien enemies; are not restricted as to travel or place of resi- 
dence; are not required to secure certificates of identifica- 
tion; and are not required to observe other restrictions or 
regulations prescribed for aliens of German, Italian, or Jap- 
anese nationality. This exemption is designed to exempt the 
many thousand loyal aliens of Austrian, Austro-Hungarian, 
and Korean nationality who have never been sympathetic 
to the government imposed upon their homelands by mili- 
tary conquest." 

Korean nationality! This was the phrase Rhee and his 
associates long had been struggling to have uttered by 
friendly governments! The attorney general's statement 
seemed to be a clear and unequivocal acceptance of the 
de facto existence of a Korea free from Japanese rule. With 
this encouragement he and his friends rallied and com- 
menced a fresh campaign. on March 6, 1942, the Reverend 
Frederick Brown Harris, Minister of the Foundry Methodist 


Church in Washington along with Mr. John Staggers and 
Mr. Jay Jerome Williams, in their capacity as trustees of 
the Korean-American Council, addressed a long communica- 
tion to President Roosevelt. This communication set forth 
as persuasively as they could the major points in the case 
for immediate recognition of the Korean government, and 
for integration of Korean war efforts with those of the 
united allies. 

They pointed out, in the letter, that the Koreans impressed 
into the Japanese army or conscripted as a labor force con- 
stituted fertile ground for psychological warfare appeals, 
and that the Korean expatriates in China, who already had 
organized an army of more than 30,000 men, would have 
the strongest motives to fight for the liberation of their home- 
land if they were given equipment and were integrated 
under the allied command. "Here is the moment for a tre- 
mendously effective political offensive/' they concluded, "for 
who are better able to refute Japan's claims of establishing 
a new order in Asia than that new order's first victims, the 
Korean people?" 

But however convincing this statement appeared to its 
sponsors, no answer was forthcoming. Rhee's diplomatic 
approaches were impeded by the efforts of Korean Commu- 
nists and opportunists who were seeking to utilize the war 
that had broken out to establish a leadership of their own 
in relation to Korea. The most voluble and impressive of 
the new claimants was Kilsoo Han, as mentioned previously, 
who came to Washington declaring that he represented 
300,000 Koreans in Japan, who were engaged as street- 
sweepers and in other menial positions which gave them 
entry into vital Japanese buildings and restricted areas. He 
claimed also to represent the Black Dragon Society in Tokyo, 
a secret brotherhood which was in a position to get strategic 
information on war plans. From time to time Kilsoo Han 
represented that he was in receipt of secret war data and 


offered to the State Department figures which it had no way 
of checking. By such means he won a degree of confidence 
in the lower echelons of the State and War Departments. 
He used this influence to undermine Rhee and the provi- 
sional government, stating that Rhee and his associates had 
been so long out of Korea (Kilsoo Han himself had not been 
in Korea since he was nine years old) that they no longer 
represented the people there and were, in fact, unknown to 


In the latter part of 1942, Rhee was flatly informed by 
Dr. Hornbeck that in the opinion of the State Department 
he was wholly unknown inside Korea and the provisional 
government was no more than a self-constituted club with 
limited membership among a group of expatriates. Rhee 
and his friends gave very thoughtful consideration to this 
development and wondered if, in fact, the total failure of 
the State Department to take advantage of all the aid Korea 
could offer might be due to a reasonable skepticism of the 
validity of Rhee's position. Mr. Staggers offered a method 
of counteracting such doubt. It was obviously impossible 
to take a poll of Koreans inside Korea, and the opinions of 
the substantial majority of Koreans in the United States had 
already been ignored. Similarly, the de facto recognition 
accorded to the provisional government by China had not 
proved to be convincing to the State Department officials. 
Mr. Staggers suggested that one body of witnesses did exist 
whose testimony could scarcely be doubted. This was the 
group of American missionaries who had served in Korea 
and had been forced out by the Japanese during 1940 and 
1941. They constituted the only group of Americans who 
had any way of knowing the real sentiments of the Korean 
people. Since they all had learned the Korean language and 
had lived on close terms with the people, and since their 
character and probity were above reproach, they seemed to 
be witnesses whose word would carry great weight. 


Accordingly, Mr. Staggers undertook the arduous task of 
getting from the Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic 
Churches and from the Y. M. C. A. the names and present 
addresses of as many of these missionaries as could then be 
located. With this information at hand, he addressed to 
them an objective questionnaire, requesting them to list the 
names of Korean leaders upon whom the Korean people 
depended to represent them politically. As the answers 
came back, the name of Syngman Rhee was almost the only 
one listed and it was supplied by almost every missionary 
who replied. With these data in hand, Mr. Staggers called 
upon Dr. Hornbeck and placed the papers on his desk. Dr. 
Hornbeck said that he would soon find an opportunity to 
read them. "No/' Mr. Staggers declared, "I have gone to 
great trouble and expense to gather this information and I 
intend to sit right here while you take the necessary time 
to read through these documents." Dr. Hornbeck assented 
and for almost an hour went through the pile of responses, 
studying each one carefully. Finally he put them down and 
said uneasily that they appeared to be a substantial body of 
testimony and would merit the most earnest consideration 
by the Department. More than that he would not say., but 
Mr. Staggers left his office convinced that the fears of the 
State Department concerning Rhee's status, if indeed the 
officials actually had such fears, must now be allayed. 

It was about this time that my own relations with Dr. 
Rhee began. My first meeting with him occurred in late 
August, 1942, at a luncheon to which Rhee and I were in- 
vited by our mutual friend, Reverend Edward Junkin, a 
Presbyterian minister who had been born in Korea. (The 
meeting place was the commonplace setting of a cafeteria 
on Connecticut Avenue, in Washington.) Rhee was dressed 
plainly, and his manner was agreeable and friendly; he 
seemed eager to please. But although there was nothing 
outwardly impressive about him, we had not talked long 


together before the magnetism of his personality was evi- 
dent. He talked of Korea with earnestness and conviction, 
yet with the saving grace of humor and with a broad under- 
standing of related world problems which removed him at 
once from the category of a zealot. Nevertheless, the facts 
he related of Koreas plight under Japan and of the deter- 
mined fight of the provisional government to restore the na- 
tion's independence were arresting. I asked why he did not 
write up this story of Korea for the American public, and 
he replied, "I am not a writer; why don t you?" Thereupon 
commenced an acquaintance which brought me into increas- 
ingly intimate association with the further developments in 
Dr. Rhee's struggle for the re-establishment of his nation. 

In February or March of 1943 I went to the Office of War 
Information and talked to Dr. Harold M. Vinacke, head of 
the Far Eastern Division (of which the field operational head 
was Owen Lattimore, operating out of San Francisco). Vin- 
acke listened to the plea that Rhee be provided with facilities 
for making radio appeals to the Korean people to prepare 
for sabotage and other disruptive activities against the Jap- 
anese, and then asked coldly, "Do you honestly believe that 
anyone in Korea even knows who Syngman Rhee is?" I left 
his office wondering how American foreign policy possibly 
could be directed realistically by men who were so little in- 
formed of the essential facts. Yet from decisions such as 
that of the OWI there was no appeal. 

At about this same time Rhee was advised by Major Wal- 
lace H. Moore of Army Intelligence to talk with Colonel M. 
Preston Goodfellow, who was on the staff of "Wild Bill" 
Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services. Colonel 
Goodfellow was most cordial and receptive and fully agreed 
with Rhee that it would be a serious mistake for the United 
States to fail to take advantage of any aid the Koreans could 
offer. He said that even though the Korean government was 
not recognized by the United States, the War Department 


could "recognize" the leaders of the group sufficiently to 
develop some plan of co-operation. Together Rhee and 
Goodfellow worked out a plan by which Ehee should seek 
to gather a group of one hundred young Koreans who knew 
both the Korean and Japanese languages well enough to 
enable them to go about freely in Japan and Korea without 
being suspected of being outsiders. With such a group as- 
sembled, they could be secretly trained and at an opportune 
time could be parachuted into either Japan or Korea to 
develop a program of active sabotage and to establish con- 
tact with members of nationalist underground clubs within 
Korea which could assist them. Rhee agreed, on condition 
that he might be one of those parachuted into Korea. 

Recruitment of such a group of Korean youths from among 
the second and third generations of Koreans in the United 
States proved to be exceedingly difficult, for few of them 
knew their own Korean language with sufficient exactness 
and fluency, and even fewer could pass muster in the Jap- 
anese language. Yet, since every Korean in Korea was forced 
to use the Japanese language, such bilingualism was a neces- 
sary qualification. Eventually Rhee got together a group of 
qualified Korean men and their training commenced. 
Through all the remainder of the war they awaited the time 
when this body of men could be utilized, together with an- 
other group of Koreans given similar training in China. 
However, as the plans for the defeat of Japan were devel- 
oped, the campaign was directed up through the Pacific 
Islands, rather than calling for a landing on the northern 
Chinese coast. Consequently the Allied war plans never 
required the disruption of Japanese supply lines through 
Korea, and the Korean volunteers were not utilized. 

Rhee's work with Colonel Goodfellow, however, was 
undertaken with great enthusiasm and hopefulness. on De- 
cember 7, 1942, Rhee wrote to President Roosevelt, com- 
menting on the anniversary of the "date of infamy/' and 


informing him that "December 7 as of this year marks the 
beginning of the training of Korean nationals for warfare 
against the Japanese by the American War Department. 
The number is small, but the purpose, my dear Mr. Presi- 
dent, is to make use eventually of the vast reservoir of Ko- 
rean manpower in Asia to defeat the island savages." 

At the end of November, 1942, Rhee received from Dr. 
Victor Hoo, Chinese Under-secretary of State for Foreign 
Affairs, a request for clarification of the aims and purposes 
of the Korean Provisional Government, and on December 5 
Rhee wrote Hoo a letter which may be quoted as summariz- 
ing the policies and philosophy which governed his thinking: 

My dear Dr. Hoo: 

I am glad to respond to your request transmitted to me by 
Mr. John W. Staggers. 

The immediate aim of the Provisional Government of the Re- 
public of Korea is more actively to assist the United Nations in 
the war against Japan by: 

(1) Adequately equipping the Korean National Army with 
weapons of warfare; 

(2) Augmenting that army through accessions from the sub- 
stantial reservoir of Korean manpower in the Far East; 

(3) Establishing an espionage service both without and within 
Korea so that effective sabotage and revolutionary activities may 
be undertaken against the enemy. 

I need not emphasize to you, my dear Dr. Hoo, the centuries' 
old and justifiable hatred of the Japanese by the Koreans, our 
ceaseless warfare against them during the past 37 years, the ad- 
mitted skill of the Korean both as a regular and guerrilla soldier, 
and our earnest desire to play a major role in crushing Japanese 
militarism, routing the tyrant from our homeland and instituting 
a democracy for the 23,000,000 enslaved Koreans, 

You have been advised by American military authorities of the 
first initial steps to implement our aim but much remains to be 
done and every moment is now precious. With vigorous Chinese- 
American collaboration, the military potential of the Korean na- 


tion can soon be realized to the immense benefit of our common 
cause where, as you know, nearly one year since Pearl Harbor 
has been permitted to elapse and this potential consequently has 
been virtually paralyzed. 

The ultimate aim of the Korean Provisional Government is the 
complete demilitarization of Japan. Thereafter, the following: 

(1) Banishment to Japan of all her nationals now resident in 

(2) Return to Korea of all Korean national now held in serf- 
dom in Japan proper. 

(3) Search and recovery of all Korean books, records and 
works of art looted by the Japanese. 

(4) Rigid restriction of Japanese fisheries, navigation (sea and 
aerial) and commerce. 

(5) Return of Tsushima Island. 

(6) An indemnity from Japan sufficient to cover her pillaging 
of Korean resources during the 37 years of occupation, as well as 
the damages which will result from the forthcoming military 
action in our country. 

It is the purpose of the Korean Government, once the homeland 
is regained, to purge our nation of all Japanese influence, establish 
law and order, institute democratic processes, and to call for a 
general election wherein all adults male and female may exer- 
cise the rights of suffrage. 

In the new world that will emerge from this war, a free, strong 
and democratic Korea can be one of the most powerful assurances 
of peace in the Far East. 

Korea, even today, with more than one million Christians, is 
Christianity's greatest bastion in the Orient. And, as the future 
aerial gateway to Asia, it would fulfill a great role as the crucible 
for the tenets of Confucius and the teachings of Christ. 

Korea, resuming her rightful place in the family of nations, will 
need the assistance of her age-old friend, China; material support 
and capital from America, and the understanding and friendship 
of her great neighbor, Russia. 

Down through the 42 centuries of our existence as a nation, 
the Korean people have made priceless contributions to civiliza- 
tionthe magnetic compass, the first moveable type, the Orient's 


first alphabet, solar observatory, etc., etc.,-yet the industrial 
revolution caught us unaware but gave the imitative Japanese 
their chance. We are passing through Gethsemane but our will 
to fight for freedom and our belief that that great document, the 
Atlantic Charter, should apply to us now, can be our resurrection. 

on December 7 Rhee sent a copy of this letter to Secre- 
tary of State Cordell Hull, so that the United States govern- 
ment would be equally informed of his program. A few 
weeks later he wrote to Hull, once again calling to his atten- 
tion (as he had to Hornbeck and Hiss) Russian ambitions 
in Korea. He warned Hull again, as he had more than a year 
earlier, that failure to recognize the Provisional Republic of 
Korea would inevitably "result in the creation of a commu- 
nist state" on the Korean peninsula. He concluded, "May 
I not beseech you again, my dear Mr. Hull, for the oppor- 
tunity to come by and talk to you personally?" The letter 
went unanswered. 

In view of such correspondence as this, besides Rhee's 
numerous personal appeals at the State Department for 
Korea to be allowed to take an active role in the war, he 
was both surprised and embittered when Secretary Hull 
made his widely publicized statement that no people which 
had failed to fight for its own liberties could expect Amer- 
ican aid. Korea was obviously included in his category of 
"peoples who did not fight," and Khee thought this refer- 
ence was wholly unjust. 

From Secretary of War Henry Stimson Rhee received 
somewhat greater satisfaction. Despite Attorney General 
Biddle's ruling exempting Koreans from restrictions applied 
to enemy aliens, the Army officers stationed in Hawaii per- 
sisted in many instances in lumping Koreans together with 
the Islands' Japanese. on March 30, 1943, Rhee wrote to 
Secretary Stimson, citing many such instances, and calling 
his attention both to Mr. Biddle's ruling and to the state of 
war existing between the exiled Korean government and 


Japan. Rhee received from him the following reply, dated 
April 30: 

I regret that necessary investigations have occasioned a delay 
in replying fully to your letter of March thirtieth, acknowledge- 
ment of which was made by the Adjutant General on April sixth. 

The War Department has issued instructions to all field com- 
manders to inform all concerned that Koreans who registered as 
such under the Alien Registration Act of 1940, and who have not, 
since that time, voluntarily become citizens or subjects of enemy 
nations, shall be exempt from restrictions imposed upon enemy 
aliens. Field commanders have been directed to examine into the 
handling of the matters brought out in your communication and 
to take immediate action to correct any injustice done to your 
countrymen and their descendants. 

I am fully appreciative of the feelings of the many loyal 
Koreans now resident in this country who have never been in 
sympathy with the government imposed upon their homeland by 
military conquest. I am convinced that, by and large, these peo- 
ple are sincere believers in democracy and are loyal to the United 

I thank you for bringing this matter to my attention and I 
would appreciate knowing of any subsequent difficulties experi- 
enced by Korean nationals or soldiers of Korean parentage. 

Naturally Rhee appreciated the friendly and understand- 
ing tone of this communication. Actually, arrests of Koreans 
and enforcement of restrictions against them continued to 
occur under the jurisdiction of General Emmons, the military 
governor of Hawaii. When two of Rhee's countrymen were 
arrested in midsummer of 1943 for "violation" of the 8:00 
P.M. curfew (which applied solely to enemy aliens) Rhee 
once again wrote to Secretary Stimson, and on July 7 re- 
ceived his renewed assurances that such restrictions would 
not be applied against Koreans. The fact that the Koreans 
in Hawaii nevertheless continued to be subjected to "alien 
enemy" regulations from time to time was ameliorated by 


their knowledge that Secretary Stimson was doing what he 
could in their behalf. 

on July 12, 1943, Rhee received a letter from Assistant 
Secretary of State Adolf Berle, pointing out "that numerous 
and generous concessions have been made by various agen- 
cies of this Government to Koreans not only in continental 
United States but also in the Hawaiian Islands/' Since Rhee 
felt that Koreans must of necessity be classified as either 
friends or enemies, he could not preceive the logic of "gen- 
erous concessions" which fell short of recognizing that Ko- 
reans were independent of Japanese sovereignty. Rhee 
wanted Korean nationals in America to be treated as well 
as possible, but this treatment fell so far short of recogniz- 
ing their nationalistic rights that he was far from satisfied. 

It was not until the convening of the Cairo Conference, 
in November, 1943, that Korea's claim to independence re- 
ceived a hearing. Then, at the suggestion of Chiang Kai- 
shek (who had already extended de facto recognition to the 
Korean Provisional Government) Roosevelt and Churchill 
agreed to take formal cognizance of Korean claims. on 
December 1 the Big Three issued a statement which read 
in part, "Mindful of the enslavement of the Korean people, 
the aforementioned three Great Powers are determined that 
Korea shall, in due course, be free and independent/' 

Rhee was alarmed by the phrase, "in due course/' which 
could mean the indefinite postponement of independence. 
He issued a series of statements condemning this restrictive 
phrase and addressed letters to President Roosevelt and to 
the United States' State Department asking for a clarifica- 
tion of its intent. No answers were received and the phrase 
was left suspended in the midst of the Cairo Declaration 
"charter of freedom/' always threatening to blot out its es- 
sential meaning. 

The year of 1943 ended on at least one note of hopeful- 
ness. Mr. Sumner Welles, who had been eased out of the 


State Department because of his disagreements with Mr. 
Hull, but who presumably retained considerable influence 
with both President Roosevelt and the American people, 
wrote in his syndicated newspaper column: "With the res- 
toration of Korean independence, one of the great crimes of 
the twentieth century will have been rectified, and another 
stabilizing factor will have been added to the new interna- 
tional system which must be constructed in the Pacific." 

This statement by Mr. Welles neatly summarized much 
that Rhee had been saying for many years. As Rhee read it, 
meditated upon the source from which it came, and reflected 
on the number of newspapers in which it was published, he 
took renewed hope that the great spirit of justice and sym- 
pathetic understanding which he knew to be characteristic 
of the American people would assert itself effectively on 
behalf of Korea when eventually peace should be restored. 
At the very least, regardless of the dangerous qualification 
inserted in the Cairo pledge, Korean claims had finally been 
recognized by the major powers and the restoration of Ko- 
rean independence had been pledged. In view of the many 
years of fruitless struggle the Korean patriots had had to 
endure, the Cairo statement loomed as a tremendously sig- 
nificant landmark on their road to national redemption. 

Chapter X 


I^YNGMAN RHEE'S struggles and difficulties during the many 
years he strove to counteract Japanese aggressive designs 
against Korea seem almost simple in retrospect as compared 
with his problems of dealing with the rising menace of So- 
viet ambitions in Korea. Russian designs upon the strategic 
Korean peninsula were not new in his experience. During 
his youthful leadership of the Independence Club, before 
the opening of the twentieth century, Russia had been one 
of the powers most persistently attempting to subvert the 
weakened and inept Korean monarchy. The last Korean 
emperor had spent an entire year in the shelter of the Rus- 
sian Embassy in Seoul, protecting himself from Japan at the 
expense of yielding to the dominance of the Czar's ambas- 
sador, M. Waeber. The Russo-Japanese War, fought while 
Rhee was held in a Seoul prison, and the Portsmouth Treaty, 
which he had tried so hard to alter, marked a titanic (if un- 
successful) effort by the Russians to sweep Korea into their 

Rhee's studies in Far Eastern history had made him aware 
at an early age of the drive to the Pacific which had given 
Russia control of the Siberian Maritime Provinces in 1854, 
and which subsequently had led to the penetration of Rus- 
sian influence into Manchuria. Rhee well understood Rus- 


sia's need for adequate Pacific seaports (since Vladivostok 
freezes up in the winter) and the consequent Russian hun- 
ger for control of Hamhung, Wonsan, and other Korean 
warm water harbors. Similarly, Russia long had eyed greed- 
ily north Korea's timber, coal, iron, and gold resources. 
Moreover, Russian strategists have understood (as Western 
statesmen until recently have not) that Korea lies at the 
heart of the strategic triangle of North Asia and that a 
strong power in control of Korea would be able to dominate 
or at least threaten Japan, Manchuria and Siberia. For all 
these reasons, before the end of the Russo-Japanese War 
(1905), Clifton Breckinridge, the IT. S. ambassador to Mos- 
cow, wrote to the State Department: "Korea and the country 
around Peking, one or both/' are the areas that "clearly meet 
the requirements" of Russia in North Asia. And Czar Nich- 
olas II made the Russian aim specific in a note he sent to 
his Foreign Minister at about the same time: "Russia abso- 
lutely needs a port free and open throughout the whole year. 
This port must be located on the mainland (southeast Korea) 
and must certainly be connected with our possessions by a 
strip of land." 

The seizure of Korea by Japan as a protectorate in 1905, 
and through outright annexation in 1910 pushed the Rus- 
sian threat into the background for a full generation. In- 
deed, the Bolshevik Revolution, occurring just before the 
Mansei demonstrations in 1919, created a surface appear- 
ance of brotherhood between the Korean patriots and the 
new communist Soviet state. After Japan's conquest of 
Manchuria in 1931, the Soviets and the Korean expatriates 
had a common enemy and fought battles together against 
the Japanese in the borderlands of Manchuria and Siberia. 
Several Korean patriots went to Moscow for their educa- 
tion, and a Korean branch of the communist party was or- 
ganized in China. By 1942, Syngman Rhee was quarreling 
openly with Kim Koo, the new premier of the Korean Pro- 


visional Government in Chungking, because Kim Koo in- 
sisted on admitting communists into the cabinet. The 
Korean National Revolutionary Party (communist) in De- 
cember, 1941, soothingly adopted a manifesto promising to 
support the Korean Provisional Government, '"because the 
democratic countries of the world have now formed an anti- 
Fascist bloc and gone to war with the Fascist powers/' and 
calling for a "representative assembly of all revolutionary 

Although shortly after Pearl Harbor Senator Guy Gillette 
told Dr. Rhee that the State Department was withholding 
recognition from the Provisional Republic of Korea in order 
"not to offend the Japanese," Rhee realized within a few 
months that this reason could surely no longer apply. Yet 
the doors of the State Department remained closed to him 
and other Korean patriots as tightly as ever. It was not hard 
for him to deduce that the real reason was a determination 
not to affront Russia. .When he talked to Alger Hiss and 
was assured that any solution of the Korean question would 
have to wait upon a postwar conference with the Soviet 
Union, he had no suspicion of how definitely communist 
influences had crept into the very confines of the State De- 
partment itself. But he did know that Secretary Cordell 
Hull had no intention of satisfying Korean claims for inde- 
pendence at the risk of disturbing the war strategists in the 

Early in 1943 the London correspondent of the Chicago 
Sun reported that Anthony Eden had discussed with Presi- 
dent Roosevelt the possibility that Korea might be absorbed 
into the Soviet Union. Cordell Hull, in his Memoirs, reports 
that on March 27, 1943, President Roosevelt suggested to 
him "that Korea might be placed under an international 
trusteeship, with China, the United States, and one or two 
other countries participating/' Although Rhee had no way 
of knowing what was being said behind the closed doors of 


the world's chancelleries, he was deeply disturbed. An ar- 
ticle published in the June, 1943, issue of World Affairs 
raised a question he was much concerned about at that time: 
"Why, one may ask, should the State Department treat Ko- 
rea differently from the other governments-in-exile? The 
reason cannot be willful obtuseness nor a love of Japan 
nor any special anti-Korean bias. It cannot be the reasons 
which the State Department has officially given, for it has 
ample precedents for contrary action. Then why is Korea 
singled out for special rejection? The answer which any im- 
partial examiner will find is Russia/' In the spring of 1945, 
Dr. Rhee circulated a pamphlet, 'The Case for Korea/' in 
which the following appeared as one reason why the Pro- 
visional Republic of Korea had not been recognized: "In 
view of the anxiety in some quarters to get Russia into the 
Asiatic War, recognition may have been withheld pending 
a clearer formulation of Russia's desires in regard to Korea. 
If this were a factor, it represented either a crass willingness 
to trade the independence of a small nation for the support 
of a large one, or a timid fear of developing any foreign pol- 
icy until we were able to ascertain that it would please a 
powerful ally. Either motive would be one we should not 
expect to be avowed." 

What is perfectly clear from the record is that long before 
the Western world was aware of the rising danger of Soviet 
imperialism, Rhee well understood that Russian ambitions 
were pointed toward Korea and that the United States De- 
partment of State was committed to a policy of at least par- 
tial (if reluctant) acquiescence in this aim. In the summer 
of 1943 the badly muddled and divided Chinese government 
got into the act. Rhee's Korean Commission office in Wash- 
ington prepared a blueprint of the Korean underground or- 
ganization and dispatched it to President Roosevelt, At a 
meeting of the Pacific War Council Roosevelt asked China's 
Foreign Minister, T. V. Soong (who was then in Washington) 


for his estimate of the worth of the Korean movement. Dr. 
Victor Hoo, Soong's assistant, asked Rhee and other mem- 
bers of the Korean Commission to form a coalition with 
Kilsoo Han (then a favorite of several State Department 
officials), thus uniting their divergent forces. Rhee replied 
that Han represented very few Koreans and that in his 
judgment to unite with Han would have no other effect than 
to encourage the Korean communists. In the subsequent 
meeting of the Pacific War Council, Soong reported to Roose- 
velt that the Koreans were too disunited to comprise any 
effective force. This is the same Soong who, in August, 1945, 
went to Moscow and signed a treaty handing over control 
of Dairen, Port Arthur and the South Manchuria Railway 
to the Soviet Union. 

At the time of the organizational meeting of the United 
Nations in San Francisco, in April, 1945, Syngman Rhee 
wrote as follows in a memorandum addressed to his friends: 
"I knew that the shadow of Joseph Stalin loomed large at 
the Cairo meeting, even though he was not physically pres- 
entthat Russian ambitions in the Pacific were receiving 
full consideration. I knew that England was fighting to 
maintain what holdings and status she could in the Orient, 
and I feared that the spirit of expediency and compromise 
which had led to the closing of the Burma Road in 1941 
(leaving Chiang Kai-shek cut off from desperately needed 
supplies at a crucial period of his struggle for China's sur- 
vival) might lead to similarly harsh decisions in respect to 
North Asia. I knew that the doors of the State Department 
were as tightly closed to me and to my pleas for recognition 
of the provisional government as before Cairo. I knew that 
my repeated attempts to have Korea numbered among the 
United Nations and to be considered as a worthy ally and 
recipient of lend-lease aid went unheeded. It was evident 
that the Cairo pledge was rendered deliberately ambiguous 
in order to keep the Korean question open for later deci- 


sion. And it was also clear that the chief reason for this 
ambiguity was the undefined position Russia was preparing 
to assume in Asia. 

"My lifelong studies in international relations had dealt 
with Europe as well as with Asia. My travels in Europe also 
tended to sharpen my awareness of the significance of the 
trend of events in that part of the world. It was obvious that 
the nationalistic guerrillas operating in southeastern Europe 
were themselves divided into two groups communist and 
noncommunist. When Roosevelt and Churchill agreed not 
to invade the European continent through the Balkans, it 
was also apparent that an agreement had been reached to 
leave this area primarily to Soviet influence. England's des- 
perate efforts to aid the Greeks constituted a limitation of 
this policy and emphasized the need for Great Britain to 
protect its Mediterranean life line by keeping a friendly gov- 
ernment in Greece. But the effective prohibition of any dis- 
cussion of the communist problems presented by this and 
other areas (lest Russia be offended) prevented the develop- 
ment of policies adequate to safeguard southeastern Europe. 
In northern Europe Finland had prejudiced its position by 
fighting against Russia and by assisting Germany (though 
only in a desperate effort to maintain its own independence) 
and in Poland the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland gave 
communism a great advantage for exploitation of Russia's 
design of expansion. 

"What was gradually unfolding in regard to Europe was 
much more open and apparent in China. There the Allies 
were insisting that the Nationalist government cease its op- 
position to the communists (who were openly in revolt 
against it, and who maintained a separate army and a sep- 
arate government of their own) and accept a compromise 
coalition. It was evident that President Roosevelt's policy 
of 'unconditional surrender' by the Rome-Berlin-Japanese 


Axis was being paralleled by another policy of Allied acqui- 
escence in the essential pattern o Russian imperialism. 

"My argument during the closing years of the war was 
that recognition of the Republic of Korea-in-exile was an 
effective means (and the only effective means) of blocking 
Soviet seizure of Korea. To the retort that the provisional 
government had been so long and so far removed from Ko- 
rea that it no longer represented the people, and that it 
would be better to await the end of the war, at which time 
an election could be held in Korea to establish a new gov- 
ernment, I replied that the Republic might be granted 
merely provisional recognition, with the understanding that 
an election under Allied supervision might be held as soon 
as Korea should be liberated. This point of view was pre- 
sented over and over again by myself and my friends, in 
talks at the State Department, in news conferences, in radio 
talks, and in magazine articles written by some of our asso- 
ciates. However, I never received any indication that it 
was even considered by the higher levels of government. 
Reluctantly I came to die conclusion that President Roose- 
velt and Prime Minister Churchill had decided that Korea 
should have a government which would be independent 
only in form, but that actually it would be under the control 
of the Soviet Union." 

As has happened many other times in his life, Rhee suf- 
fered by arriving at these views years before others in posi- 
tions of power came to share them. Among the Koreans in 
the United States there were many (including the leadership 
of the Korean National Association) who came to believe 
the only "practical" solution for Korea would be a commu- 
nist coalition government. These leaders represented them- 
selves as "realists" and denounced Rhee as being "stubbornly 
unrealistic/' They won some support from Dr. George Me- 
Cune, head of the Korean desk in the State Department, 


who had been born and reared in Pyengyang and favored 
a north Korean leadership for the country. 

When the San Francisco Conference was called, Rhee de- 
termined to do everything possible to utilize the occasion 
to secure a dependable guarantee of Korean independence. 
He called together all the leaders of the dissident Korean 
factions, established headquarters in the Maurice Hotel, and 
pleaded with them to stand together on a simple program 
of absolute independence for Korea, with the question of 
leadership to be decided later. A tenuous agreement to this 
effect was reached, and in the name of the United Korean 
Committee Dr. Rhee asked Alger Hiss for status as an ob- 
server representing Korea. This request was refused. At 
this point Dr. T. V. Soong of China again entered the pic- 
ture. He invited the Koreans to a dinner on May 22 with the 
avowed purpose of drawing them together to support a pro- 
gram of coalition for Korea. In a memorandum dated June 
11, 1945, Dr. Rhee declared that "McCune, together with 
Dickover and Ballentine in the State Department, joined 
with Dr. Soong in support of the coalitionists/' Rhee refused 
to attend the dinner; the Korean National Association group 
withdrew from his delegation and set up separate head- 
quarters in Los Angeles. 

Early in May, Rhee was visited by a Russian who had 
left the communist party, and who convinced Rhee that he 
had authentic information of a secret agreement made at 
Yalta to turn Korea over to Russian control. on May 14 
Rhee sent the following telegram to Senators Owen Brewster 
and Walter F. George and to Congressman Clare E. Hoff- 

on advice of your friends here I am wiring you following 
information which calls for statesmen of courage to disclose to 
the American people. President Truman has been informed of 
secret agreement at Yalta which turns Korea over to Russian 
domination. We are positive of our source of information on this 


agreement, which we uncovered here. Secret agreement signed 
by United States, Great Britain and Russia, declaring Korea will 
remain in orbit of Soviet influence until after end of Japanese war 
and further declared United States and Great Britain shall make 
no commitments to Korea until after the Japanese war has ended. 
All this was signed at Stalin's request at Yalta. I respectfully call 
your attention to significance of this agreement compared with 
Cairo Declaration promising Korea her freedom. This secret 
agreement is now preventing Korea from becoming member of 
United Nations in San Francisco Conference . . . Facts we have 
uncovered plainly indicate Russia wants no democracy in Far 
East. This policy will end Korea unless America decides there is 
a limit to Russia's demands. Stettinius refused to discuss barring 
of Korea and is pleading for time to look up background. I am 
informed President Truman at first did not know of this agree- 
ment He has been seen at White House about this matter and is 
being urged by freedom-loving Americans to intervene so that 
Korea may take her rightful place as member of the United Na- 
tions Conference. Every minute counts to save freedom of Korea 
now and I appeal to your sense of American justice to exert your 
influence to right this wrong/* 

When the legislators made no reply to this appeal, Rhee 
called a press conference and stated his charge of a "secret 
deaF publicly. News from U. N. organizational conference 
was scarce at the time, and newsmen gave these charges a 
wide coverage. The State Department in Washington re- 
leased a formal repudiation. Rhee repeated his charge, and 
this time the White House issued a denial. By this time 
news coverage of Rhee's successive statements was consid- 
erable, and in the House of Commons in London Churchill 
was asked whether there was substance in the charge that 
the Big Three had entered into "secret agreements" at Yalta. 
Churchill replied that there were no secret agreements, but 
that many subjects had been discussed and some general 
understandings had been reached. It is almost a certainty 
that the 38th parallel division of Korea was among those 


"general understandings." Rhee's charge o a "deal" on Ko- 
rea received no further official notice, nor was there any 
foreshadowing from Allied sources of the division of Korea 
until it was formally stated in mid-August, 1945, in Com- 
munique No. 1, issued by General Douglas MacArthur, as 
Supreme Commander of SCAP, in Tokyo. Whenever or 
however the decision was reached, this much at least is cer- 
tain: despite the fact that it profoundly affected the present 
and future status of Korea, no Korean representative had any 
part in its consideration or formulation. To this day there 
never has been any official explanation from any source as 
to the genesis of the 38th parallel division which has proved 
so costly in blood and so dangerous to world peace. 

In review of all the available facts, it is almost certain that 
the fateful decision was reached through the following 
sequence of events: 

In the first step, at Yalta, Joseph Stalin (who was de- 
termined to extend Soviet influence over the strategic Korean 
peninsula as a part of his master plan for conquering Asia) 
made it clear to President Roosevelt that, as part of the price 
for Russian participation in the war, Soviet troops would 
have to be admitted into Korea. It is probable that Prime 
Minister Churchill was not present at this conversation, for 
both he and Roosevelt have indicated that he had little to 
do with the Asian topics discussed by Roosevelt and Stalin 
at Yalta. 

In the second step, at Potsdam, President Truman (newly 
installed in office, uninformed about many details of the 
Roosevelt-Stalin talks, and under the urgent necessity of 
reaching many important decisions quickly) accepted Stalin's 
declaration that agreement had already been reached for 
Soviet troops to enter and occupy a part of Korea. 

In the third step, when Russia finally entered the war, 
just six days before the surrender of Japan, Soviet troops 
were rushed into northern Korea by land and sea, and im- 


mediately commenced pushing southward with all possible 

As the fourth step, agreement was formalized in the top 
military command in mid- August for a "temporary" dividing 
line to be established along the 38th parallel. 

Finally, as the concluding step, American troops were 
assigned to occupy southern Korea. At first the plan was to 
have Lt. General Charles Wedemeyer, who was in northern 
China, and who was well acquainted with both Asian prob- 
lems and communist tactics in that part of the world, take 
his command into Korea. on August 23, 1945, however, it 
was determined that difficulties of transport (plus the need 
to keep Wedemeyer where he was) invalidated this plan, 
and in a hasty reassessment of possibilities, the occupation 
duty was assigned to Lt. Genera] John R. Hodge, who was 
in Okinawa, where he had brilliantly led the Sixth Army 
Corps in the conquest of that key island. General Hodge, 
unfortunately, knew nothing of Korea, or of occupation 
duties or of Asian history, psychology or problems. 

on September 9, General Hodge landed at Inchon in the 
midst of a most unfortunate situation. General Abe, the 
Japanese governor-general of Korea, had radioed Hodge 
asking for full authority to maintain absolute police control, 
in order to prevent Korean reprisals against the 600,000 
Japanese residents of the peninsula. Hodge had granted this 
request, and, to make it clear to the Koreans that he was not 
favoring them in any way, he issued a statement saying he 
regarded the Koreans as "breeds of the same cat as the 
Japanese" and would deal with them as conquered enemies. 

This attitude came as a tremendous shock to the Korean 
people, who had greeted the surrender of Japan with deep 
rejoicing and were preparing peacefully and enthusiastically 
to resume their age-old nationality. During the period be- 
tween August 15 and September 9, the Korean populace 
acted with commendable restraint and refrained from any 


general acts of reprisal against their now-defeated overlords. 
They did, very naturally, intend to welcome the American 
troops of liberation with suitable manifestations of gratitude 
and hospitality. When General Abe ordered all Koreans to 
remain in their homes and make no display of any kind to 
welcome the arriving Americans, the Korean people refused 
to accede to his order. A crowd of 500 gathered on the 
Inchon docks, waving Korean flags and bearing gifts of 
flowers for General Hodge and his staff. As the Americans 
landed and the Korean welcoming delegation moved for- 
ward to present the flowers and to extend their welcome, 
the Japanese police opened fire upon them, killing five and 
wounding nine more. Instead of being punished, the police- 
men were commended by General Hodge and the Korean 
welcomers were pushed roughly out of the way while 
Japanese officials took over the role of official hosts. General 
Hodge compounded the follies of that unfortunate day by 
announcing that for the time being all Japanese officials 
would be retained in office, to continue their rule over the 
Korean populace until a military government could be es- 
tablished. A nationwide storm of denunciation broke out 
against this incredible order. Washington intervened and 
ordered Hodge to relieve and replace all Japanese officials 
within the shortest possible time. These were the foreboding 
circumstances under which commenced the American oc- 
cupation of south Korea. 

Meanwhile, in northern Korea, the Russians had entered 
the country a full month before the Americans and with 
plans much better laid. They advanced systematically and 
brought with them a group of expatriate Korean communists, 
who had been trained in Siberia and at Yenan to take over 
control of Korea and establish a puppet government. The 
Soviet troops pushed south to the 38th parallel and across 
it, to occupy and loot the city of Kaesong. After the landing 
by the American troops, the Russians withdrew from Kae- 


song, taking with them the city's large stock of ginseng (a 
root highly valued in Oriental medical practice) and all the 
money from the banks. Guards were quickly established 
on both sides of the 38th parallel, and on the northern side 
the building of fortifications was quickly commenced. 

The problem General Hodge found in south Korea was not 
an easy one to solve particularly since he had received no 
briefing, was accompanied by no experts, and had no officers 
who understood the Korean language or knew Korean his- 
tory, customs or psychology, Politically, the situation con- 
fronting Hodge was peculiarly difficult for one who had no 
prior understanding of it. At the time of Japan's surrender, 
General Abe had called in a well-known Korean named Lyuh 
Woon Hyung, who headed an underground resistance move- 
ment comprising both genuine patriots and communists, 
Lyuh himself had been partly educated in Moscow and had 
been an active member of the communist party, though he 
declared he had severed those ties. Nevertheless, the 
People's Republic Party which he headed was largely under 
communist influence. Lyuh was well educated, spoke 
English (as well as Korean, Russian and Japanese) with 
complete mastery, was suave, affable, able and popular. He 
had been imprisoned twice by the Japanese for his national- 
istic activities, thus identifying him (for those who did not 
then understand Moscow's pervasive influence) as a true 
patriot. Abe turned to him as the one Korean on the ground 
who could most probably achieve a smooth transition from 
Japanese to Korean rule. He gave Lyuh large sums of money 
and placed in his hands resources for communication and 
transportation to every part of south Korea. With such aid, 
Lyuh soon had People's Republic cells established in every 
province and in many of the goons (or townships) of the 
south. During the month before the arrival of the American 
troops sufficient progress was made to insure at least the 


surface appearance that Lyuh's party was genuinely a 
"people's movement." 

After General Hodge had set up headquarters in the Banto 
Hotel in Seoul, Lyuh presented himself as the president of 
the People's Republic of Korea and requested that General 
Hodge recognize him as the civil ruler of southern Korea. 
This General Hodge brusquely refused to do, declaring that 
he would only confer with him as a private citizen. Even so, 
Lyuh was able to establish himself in the opinion of the 
occupation authorities as the foremost man in south Korea, 
with a claim to represent a significant organization of the 
people. The Korean Provisional Government officials in 
Chungking had their return to Korea blocked by T. V. 
Soong, Chinese foreign minister, and did not arrive to enter 
their own claim until mid-November. Meanwhile, Rhee was 
still in the United States, struggling with problems that 
seemed to multiply rather than diminish, despite the long- 
awaited liberation of Korea from Japan. 

At just about the time Hodge was landing at Inchon, I 
talked with Dr. and Mrs. Rhee, to express my concern, as a 
friend, over the "extreme" course he was pursuing. I under- 
stood his nervousness about Soviet ambitions in Korea, but 
the newspapers were full of the glorious news that the United 
Nations had been launched successfully and that now at 
last the world was entering into the long-delayed era of 
international co-operation. The tragic failure of the League 
of Nations, contributing to the outbreak of World War II, 
had resulted (so it was an article of faith to believe) because 
the United States had remained out of it. Now the U. N. 
was organized with the membership of all the leading nations 
of the world. The problems posed by Russian obstreperous- 
ness were very evident, but surely the fact that the Soviet 
Union had joined this new partnership dedicated to the 
preservation of peace through the judicious settlement of 


problems around a conference table meant that the inter- 
national difficulties would be safely and sanely overcome. 

Filled with these sentiments, and disturbed by the general 
news accounts that Rhee was threatening to block an agree- 
ment on Korea by insisting upon bucking the policies of both 
the United States and the Soviet Union, I went to the 
Wardman Park to have dinner with Dr. Rhee and his wife. 
We dined on the back porch, where we had a small private 
room that looked out over the long rolling green lawn. Dur- 
ing the dinner we confined ourselves to inconsequential 
social chitchat, but as the dessert was finished I spoke to 
Dr. Rhee with great earnestness, expounding at some length 
the sentiments summarized in the foregoing paragraph. To 
this lecture on the new internationaHsm I added the more 
particularized observation that Korea, located definitely 
within the Soviet sphere of influence in Asia, would certainly 
have to co-operate with the Russians. Under all the cir- 
cumstances, it appeared inevitable that there would be a 
communist coalition government in the peninsula. I added 
that the course Dr. Rhee had adopted would lead to his 
exclusion from that government and that, as a result, after 
his lifelong struggle to achieve the independence of Korea 
he would fail personally just when the cause he had struggled 
for was succeeding. 

After I had finished, there was a long silence, broken at 
last by Mrs. Rhee. She said, "Dr. Rhee and I have talked at 
length about the question you have raised. We believe that 
what you have said may probably be right. Korea may have 
a communist government. All that is happening makes it 
look that way. We know that we could not be a part of any 
such government because of the stand Dr. Rhee has taken. 
In any event, he would never join such a coalition." 

Dr. Rhee spoke up at that point, at first slowly, then with 
a gathering rush of emotional tension. "What would you 
have me do?" he asked. "You know I have fought all my life 


to free Korea from Japan. Do you think that now I would 
conspire to turn Korea over to Russia, just for the sake of 
my own personal position? Mrs. Rhee and I have dreamed 
for many years of the time when we should return to Korea 
to rejoin my people. I know millions of them are waiting 
for me. Should I deceive them and tell them I am returning 
to lead them to independence when it would really be noth- 
ing but another slavery? You must know me better than 
that! This may be the end of my work for Korea. The big 
powers seem determined to follow their own course and 
they pay no attention to whatever I may say. But I will keep 
on warning them as long as I can of the mistake they are 

"It is not only Korea that is being ruined. The United 
States will suffer more than any other nation, for you are the 
only people who stand in Russia's path of conquest. But 
what can I do more than I have to make the people see what 
is happening. As for us/' and he turned to Mrs. Rhee with 
a wry smile, "we can always retire to a farm and raise 
chickens!" The incongruity of the suggestion made us all 
smile, and the dinner meeting ended on this somewhat awk- 
ward note. I left them, still thinking Dr. Rhee was wrong 
in his stand, but feeling more sure than ever that in his heart 
and in his motives he was undoubtedly a man of true nobility 
and selfless courage. 

Chapter XI 

WHEN A PATRIOT who has crusaded and labored for the 
redemption of his country's independence is enabled to re- 
turn to its shores for the first time after an absence of thirty- 
three years, it may be expected that his homeward journey 
would bear every mark of impatient haste. Yet Syngman 
Rhee did not arrive in Korea until two months after the 
defeat of Japan, and five weeks after General Hodge's 
landing at Inchon. Why? This question is one to be pon- 
dered by those who have repeated endlessly the story that 
Rhee was flown posthaste back to Korea to serve as the 
stooge of the State Department, which (so this story runs) 
wanted to establish a pro-American puppet regime in south 
Korea. Rhee, of course, was anything but a State Depart- 
ment favorite. How he got back into Korea is another 
revealing episode. 

The nature of the problem confronting Rhee is well 
indicated in a letter written by his wife on March 9, 1945, 
in which she said: 

I am enclosing an article by Mrs. Roosevelt. It is the first 
time that anyone (with real influence) mentioned our pro- 
visional government We wrote her a letter and asked if we 
could call and express our gratitude personally. We received 
a note the other day that she would see us on Thursday at 4 
o'clock , . . 

We were prepared just to exchange friendly words but she 

At home in Kyung Mu Dai, Seoul, on March 26, 1953-his 78th 
birthday-President Rhee examines a book of congratulatory 
messages sent by 103 78-year old scholars and officials on 
Formosa. (ROKO.P.I.) 


asked immediately, "Are you trying to get lend-lease aid?" Then 
Dr. Rhee told her how many times we approached the govern- 
ment for assistance to share in the fighting against Japan and 
that up until now we have not received one dollar for lend 
lease nor a stick of dynamite, etc. 

He said that we believe the President has been misinformed 
about us, otherwise it would be different. Mrs. Roosevelt prom- 
ised that she would talk to the President. She said, "I will surely 
teU him." 

I wonder if you could write a letter to her commenting on her 
article, particularly stressing the fact that it would be a grave 
injustice to disappoint these peace-loving people who are look- 
ing up to the United States to extend a helping hand. A strong, 
unified and independent Korean Provisional Government [has 
been] established by the will of the Korean people in Korea and 
maintained by all Koreans outside of Korea for 26 years. To 
recognize that government is to carry out the will of the Korean 
people whose declared intention is to hold the national election 
within a year after the liberation of the country. 

on the other hand, if the United Nations insist on unification 
among all the groups outside of Korea as a prerequisite for the 
recognition, the result will be encouragement for the communist 
agitators, whose sole aim is to take hold of the nationalistic 
democratic government now in exile and proportionate weak- 
ening of the position of the nationalistic leaders who are not co- 
operating with the Chinese government. . . . 

Eleanor Roosevelt's reaction to the meeting Mrs. Rhee 
described was indicated in her syndicated column for March 
12, 1945, in which she says: "I had never met Dr. Rhee be- 
fore, but a beautiful spirit shines in his face, and the patience 
which one feels his countrymen must have exercised for 
many years is evident in the gentleness of his expression." 
As for her proposed talk with President Roosevelt, nothing 
came of it 

In a memorandum dated June 11 Dr. Rhee outlined other 
phases of the developing problems. T. V. Soong was trying 


to negotiate an agreement with the State Department to 
insure priority in Korea for the Koreans in Chungking with 
whom he had the closest ties Kimm Kiusic, Kim Yaksan and 
Cho So-ang-who he felt would enter into a coalition with 
the communists and thus "solve" the Korean question. As 
early as December 7, 1942, Kim Koo had taken some com- 
munists into the cabinet of the exiled Korean Provisional 
Government in Chungking, and Dr. Rhee had been urging 
him ever since to rescind that policy. "I advised him against 
it at the time/' the June 11 memorandum by Dr. Rhee said, 
ff but perhaps he was unable to resist it ... Meanwhile, 
Chiang Kai-shek was very much handicapped by the Ameri- 
can support of the Chinese communist demands for complete 
unity and all those high Chinese officials playing power 
politics, including T. V. Soong himself, made the situation 
precarious for Chiang ... As a result, both Chiang Kai-shek 
in the Chinese government and Kim Koo in the Korean gov- 
ernment are isolated. . * ." 

With this situation developing, Dr. Rhee made every effort 
to return to Korea immediately upon the defeat of Japan. 
He did not wish to travel by way of China for fear that 
T. V. Soong would keep him there until after Kimm Kiusic 
and his associates had time to establish themselves firmly in 
Korea. Accordingly, he planned to travel by way of Manila. 
He requested a passport from Mrs. Ruth Shipley, head of 
the Passport Division, and she secured authority to issue it 
from Secretary of State James Byrnes, just before his de- 
parture for London, on September 5. The next requirement 
was a military permit to enter the war theater. Colonel 
Sweeney in the Pentagon wired General MacArthur and the 
permit was approved by him. Colonel Sweeney thereupon 
prepared the permit, stating that Syngman Riee, High 
Commissioner from Korea to the United States, was author- 
ized to return to Korea by any suitable route. While Mr. 
Manning of the State Department was arranging transporta- 


tion for Rhee, the Secretary of State's office called Mis. 
Shipley and informed her that the designation as "High 
Commissioner" was objectionable and that the passport 
should be canceled. on September 21 Mr. Manning called 
Rhee, advising him to see Mrs. Shipley. This was late Friday 
afternoon, and Rhee was unable to see her before Monday 
morning. At, that time he told her that he required no title 
and wished to return to Korea with no publicity or fanfare. 
Colonel Sweeney was thereupon advised to make out a new 
military permit, omitting the title. 

With this new permit in hand. Dr. Rhee again called on 
Mr. Manning and was informed the State Department had 
decided not to assist him with travel arrangements. Further- 
more, Manning said Rhee would have to secure a new permit 
from General MacArthur granting him specific permission 
to land either on Okinawa or at Tokyo. Rhee would also 
have to have assurance from MacArthur that he would be 
flown into Korea by an Army plane. When Rhee asked 
Colonel Sweeney to wire for this new request he said he 
could not do so without specific authorization from the 
State Department. And when Rhee asked Mrs. Shipley for 
such authorization she replied that the State Department 
could not intervene further in his behalf. It was almost an 
additional month before these various difficulties were un- 
raveled and Rhee's return to Korea was effected. 

In view of the veil of secrecy behind which official deci- 
sions are made, it is impossible to be certain why the plans 
for Rhee's return, which at first went so well, suddenly 
encountered inexplicable delays. Some day the State De- 
partment files for this period will be opened to scholarly 
inquiry and the story will be known. In the meantime, 
speculation suggests that the original expectation of the 
responsible American military and diplomatic officials was 
that, following the disarming of the Japanese troops, the 
Russians would co-operate in holding an all-Korea election 


to provide a basis for a government of the whole peninsula 
with the proviso that it should be a government of limited 
authority, subject to the combined military command. The 
pattern established for Japan, Germany and Austria (of 
operating through a controlled native regime) was probably 
the one also intended for Korea. If this presumption is 
correct, the return of Rhee to participate in the election 
would not be objectionable. 

However, within a very few days after the entry of 
Hodge's Sixth Army Corps into Korea it became evident that 
the Russians were not going to be co-operative. one of the 
first definite indications of this was what happened when 
Hodge sent a trainload of supplies into north Korea, there 
to be exchanged for a load of coal; the Russians not only did 
not send back any coal but they kept the train. Under these 
circumstances it did not take long for the officials to learn 
that the hope for a speedy reunification of the peninsula they 
had so casually dismembered was not to be expected. The 
next decision to be made was whether to establish a separate 
government (with limited autonomy) in south Korea or to 
hold the south Koreans under U. S. military authority, thus 
keeping the situation fluid, while an attempt should be made 
to negotiate with the Russians. The latter decision being 
made, it must have been evident to the State Department 
that the return to Korea of the most ardent and able advocate 
of Korean independence could only prove embarrassing. 

Whether or not this explanation eventually proves to be 
correct, the fact is that Rhee's return was delayed until 
October 16. The absurd charge that he was hand-picked by 
the State Department to be its anointed agent in south 
Korea, and that his rise in power there was due to the as- 
sistance of the American government is utterly ridiculous. 
The simple fact is that Rhee was in effect persona non grata 
with the Department of State because of his long fight to 
try to induce it to recognize the provisional government, and 


that he had to utilize every influence he and his friends could 
bring to bear to win the mere right to return to Korea in a 
private capacity. 

After the difficulties were surmounted, however, Rhee's 
return was a triumphant procession which did much to repay 
him for all the long years of sacrifice and lonely struggle. 
MacArthur suggested to Hodge the wisdom of greeting Rhee 
as a home-coming national hero. The Korean people re- 
garded him as an almost legendary leader, whose indomi- 
table spirit had been an inspiration since 1897. To two 
generations the name Syngman Rhee had symbolized re- 
form, democracy and independence. As soon as his arrival 
became known, a mass of cheering people filled the court- 
yard of the Chosun Hotel, where a three-room suite had 
been reserved for him by General Hodge on the third floor. 
With an understandable feeling of jubilation, Rhee wrote on 
October 21 sitting up in his bed at 5:30 A.M., for he had 
been awakened by the crowds gathered under his windows 
to shout "Mansei!": 

It seems the whole nation is agog since my arrival was an- 
nounced. Hundreds of people gather around the hotel entrance 
and ask for a chance to see me. General Hodge and I had 
agreed not to announce my arrival until we are ready but the 
next morning the general came and said the American news 
reporters were demanding an interview. So we rushed to the 
Palace and entered the press conference, with General Hodge 
and General Arnold escorting me. Then I spoke both in English 
and in Korean. Since that time to this, crowds gathered in 
front of the outside gate and many men and women managed 
to come inside and I could not find one minute for rest. Yester- 
day afternoon I had to call to them, saying that they must go 
away and do their work. 

The letter ended on a note of haste: "They are coming 
already and I must stop so that I can mail this today." That 
was indeed a busy time. All the political leaders in south 


Korea called and offered Dr. Rhee the chairmanship of then- 
parties. Lyuh Woon Hyung and his brother Lyuh Woon 
Hong came and offered Dr. Rhee the leadership of the 
People's Republic Party. Pak Hun Yung, the chairman of 
the south Korean communist party, called to ask Rhee to 
assume the chairmanship of the communists! Rhee realized 
that in accepting these offers he would be committing him- 
self to a coalition and that in effect he would be the prisoner 
of those he was presumed to be leading. Accordingly he 
declined them all and insisted that he would not affiliate 
himself with any political party. Instead he formed the 
Society for the Rapid Realization of Independence and asked 
all Koreans to join it. Soon local chapters were opening up 
in all the cities and villages below the 38th parallel line. 

In a sense Rhee s return to Korea filled a political vacuum. 
Lyuh Woon Hyung had forfeited much of his popularity 
with the masses by his acceptance of the sponsorship of the 
hated Japanese governor, General Abe. His ties with com- 
munism were also soon to prove an even worse handicap. 
Kim Koo and Kimm Kiusic had not yet returned to Korea 
from China. After they arrived, Kim Koo proved to have 
considerable popular following, but as events demonstrated 
this was almost entirely because of his association through 
the provisional government with Dr. Rhee. As soon as Kim 
Koo tried to pursue an independent course (as happened in 
1948) his following all but evaporated. Kimm Kiusic was to 
become the "i air-haired boy" of the American Military Gov- 
ernment, but despite monumental efforts in his behalf by the 
AMG personnel he couldn't win the loyalty of more than a 
handful of Koreans. Chang Duk Soo, physically and in- 
tellectually vigorous and with the prestige of a Ph. D. from 
Columbia, had great promise, but was assassinated in the 
first months after the liberation. Kim Sung Soo, a wealthy 
textile manufacturer and sponsor of Posting College, was 
well and favorably known by the liberal intellectuals but 


unknown to the people at large. The only Korean whose 
appeal approached that of Syngman Rhee was Cho Man-sik, 
a Christian leader of the northern city of Pyengyang, whose 
exemplary character and patriotism had shone out from the 
sheltering protection of the Church. But in the first days of 
the occupation of north Korea, Mr. Cho was arrested by the 
Soviets and has never been heard from since. When Syng- 
man Rhee appeared in Korea, the people eager for patriotic 
leadership and for guidance out of the maze of international 
complications that beset them turned to him as the one man 
they felt they could trust. 

Rhee's rejection of the proffers of leadership of the various 
political parties in south Korea was denounced by many 
members of the Military Government and by the American 
newspaper correspondents who were on the ground. They 
were eager to see unity emerge from the tangled political 
scene, and were shocked when Rhee rejected what appeared 
to be the only chance to achieve it. At that date and in that 
place, coalition of unlike political elements (including com- 
munism) did not seem too high a price to pay for the unity 
they desired. Rhee's rejection, they decided, must be due 
to the ambitious determination to achieve power all by him- 
self. What they did not seem to grasp was that Rhee's 
ascendancy could not possibly develop by any other means 
than his acceptance by the masses of the people. In most 
places that would be accounted a fair operation of the 
democratic process. But in south Korea in 1945-46, with the 
American personnel anxious only to get some kind of agree- 
ment with the Russians that would let them leave, the one 
test that was applied to any action was whether it would 
help to win the acquiescence of the Russians. To this end 
Bhee very definitely did not contribute. 

Unfortunately, it was not alone the foreigners in south 
Korea who failed to recognize the danger of communism. 
Many Koreans, too, were favorably inclined toward Russia. 


During the years of Japanese rule over Korea, Russia and 
Japan had been at loggerheads. The Soviet revolution of 
1917-19 was an encouragement to the submerged Korean 
patriots. Communist guerrillas operated freely in Manchuria, 
harrying the Japanese after their 1931 conquest, and it was 
only natural that many Korean guerrillas joined forces with 
them. From time to time small quantities of arms and other 
supplies were smuggled into the Korean underground from 
Siberia. All these were reasons why the Korean people had 
come to entertain friendly feelings toward Russia and, 
therefore, an uncritical attitude toward communism. Strict 
Japanese police control had kept communist propaganda 
almost entirely out of Korea, but as soon as the war ended 
this bar was lifted. The American Military Government be- 
lieved that democratic fairness required that communists be 
treated exactly like the other political parties. The com- 
munist party was assigned one of the best office buildings in 
Seoul for its headquarters (and was allowed to retain the 
building even after it was discovered that a counterfeiting 
press was being operated in the basement for the printing 
of paper Wanthe Korean currency). Local communist cells 
were quickly spread throughout south Korea. They were 
well financed, partly with the counterfeit currency, partly 
with the money that had been taken from the Kaesong banks 
and with other paper currency from north Korea. The 
Russian army of occupation in north Korea quickly adopted 
a new paper currency for the northern area, calling in all 
the money in circulation, so that it had large quantities 
(forty percent, in fact, of all the paper Won in Korea in 
1945) to be sent for the use of its agents in the south. With 
this money, the communists set to work systematically to 
buy newspapers and motion picture theaters. They also 
printed innumerable posters and leaflets, which were lib- 
erally distributed to give the impression that communism 
was widespread among the populace. In Korea, as in other 


parts of the world, it proved true that a small number of 
communists, by working hard and by being loudly articulate, 
could give the impression of constituting a mass movement. 

Toward the end of December, 1945, the Moscow Con- 
ference (of Byrnes, Eden and Molotov) decided that the 
solution for Korea was a five-year trusteeship to be super- 
vised by Russia, the United States, Great Britain and China. 
Rhee and Kim Koo issued a denunciation of it and called a 
protest strike of all government workers which resulted in 
a shutdown of Military Government offices on January 1 and 
2, 1946, and demonstrated the strength of the provisional 
government in the affections of the people. on January 1 a 
mass parade was held down the main streets of Seoul, aflutter 
with banners decrying trusteeship. Even the communists 
joined in this rejection but in the very midst of the demon- 
stration word arrived from Moscow that the communists 
were to support it. As a result, many of their signs were 
hastily changed, so that in "No Trusteeship" banners, the 
"No" was crossed out, and "Down with Trusteeship" was 
hastily converted into "Up with Trusteeship!" Within a very 
few hours the Korean attitude was so clearly manifested 
that Secretary of State James Byrnes quickly made a radio 
speech declaring that to the American government "trustee- 
ship" meant only "aid and assistance/' 

Rhee, who was working closely with Kim Koo, knew very 
well that "aid and assistance" was not what the Soviet Union 
had in mind. He commenced a series of weekly addresses 
over the Korean radio, in which he pointed out that a trustee- 
ship managed by four separate and, in some respects, inimi- 
cal powers could not possibly work; that the five-year term 
could be lengthened and probably would be; that an 
immediate effect of the plan would be to extend Russian 
influence directly over the whole of the peninsula; that the 
plan violated the Cairo promise of independence for Korea; 


and that since Korea had governed itself for over 4,000 years 
a proposal of trusteeship was insulting and needless. 

In January Rhee, Kim Koo and other like-minded leaders 
held a series of consultations which led to the calling of an 
Emergency National Assembly in February. This Assembly 
recommended, and General Hodge accepted, a plan for the 
establishment of a Representative Democratic Council of 
South Korea, with Syngman Rhee as Permanent Chairman 
and Kim Koo and Kimm Kiusic as Permanent Vice-Chair- 
men. Lyuh Woon Hyung at first accepted membership on 
the Council, but under the threats of the communist wing of 
his following soon withdrew from it. In the months that 
followed Lyuh was twice kidnaped by the communists. 
once he was taken north of the 38th parallel for an "edu- 
cational" session, and once he was led up South Mountain 
and held out over a cliff while his captors "reasoned" with 
him. Actually, Lyuh was a very genial man (well acquainted 
with American athletics) who was frightened by the radicals 
whom he professed to lead. In July of 1947 while riding in 
a car in Seoul, he was assassinated by a youth who was 
identified by General Hodge as a north Korean communist 
acting on orders from the northern occupation authorities. 
Lyuh learned the harsh lesson that breaking away from 
communism is far harder than joining it. 

It was evident to Rhee that unless this burgeoning com- 
munist movement could be checked, Korea would be swept 
by default into Soviet control. Accordingly, much as his 
presence was needed in Seoul to cement his position with 
the Military Government, to build an organization of his 
own, and to mollify critical foreign newspaper correspond- 
ents, he set out in February, 1946, on a six weeks 7 tour of 
south Korea, speaking in every city and in many of the towns 
and villages about the evils of communism and the necessity 
of combating it at all costs. Late in March, as a result of his 


exertions, lie came down with an attack of influenza and for 
two weeks was confined to bed. 

The Representative Democratic Council, meanwhile, 
adopted a set of 27 principles Rhee had drawn up in 
America, which promised land reform for the peasants, votes 
for women, universal education, and other democratic 
changes that later were written into the constitution of the 
Republic of Korea. Colonel Preston Goodf ellow was brought 
to Korea by the U. S. Army to serve as a liaison man between 
General Hodge and President Rhee and for a time Hodge 
believed that the Council might supply the "unity" which 
he sought. However, Rhee refused to try to achieve unity 
at the price of coalition with the communists and spared no 
effort to denounce them on any and every occasion. In the 
spring of 1946 General Hodge appointed a censor to read 
all of Rhee's speeches prepared for delivery over the Korean 
radio network, and had him delete all criticisms of Russia 
and of communism. When it appeared that Rhee was in- 
corrigible on this subject, Hodge dropped the Democratic 
Representative Council from his calculations., and although 
it continued to meet for several more months, it never be- 
came an effective agency of the American Military Govern- 
ment. When I arrived in Korea on June 2, 1946, General 
Hodge told me that "Syngman Rhee is so much the greatest 
Korean statesman that he may be said to be the only one, 
but because of his persistent attacks upon Russia he never 
can have a part in any government which the United States 
may sponsor in Korea.'' Hodge urged me to do my best to 
make Rhee see that no solution for Korea was possible with- 
out Russian co-operation and that, therefore, he must cease 
his criticisms of Russian intentions. When I presented these 
views to Rhee, in his hillside home outside the East Gate of 
Seoul, he paced back and forth on the veranda and asked in 
some agitation, "Am I wrong in my views?" Then he went 
on to describe first the dominant position Russia had by then 


already assumed in the eastern European countries and, 
subsequently, the long history of Russian intrigue in Korea. 
His own conclusion was unshaken that to admit Russia in 
any guise into south Korea would merely be to surrender 
the independence of the nation. 

While Rhee was active in Korea, the Korean Commission 
in Washington, D. C. was ably headed by Ben C. Limb (who 
later became foreign minister of the Republic of Korea and 
subsequently ambassador-at-large and permanent observer 
for the republic at the United Nations). on November 7, 
1945, at Dr. Rhee's direction, Colonel Limb sent to John 
Carter Vincent, Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs 
in the State Department, a letter, in which he pleaded that 
the United States should adhere firmly to a policy of inde- 
pendence for Korea. To this letter, Mr. Vincent returned 
the following cryptic reply: 

November 20, 1945 
My dear Colonel Limb: 

I have read your letter of November 7, 1945, with interest. 
The restoration and evolution of civilization, broken and all but 
destroyed by world war, is and must be the primary objective of 
all of us. No one man, no political party, no one nation can 
work out the right result alone. Full discussion and careful at- 
tention is essential to all procedural suggestion from all con- 
cerned. Consequently, right procedure to the attainment of our 
common object is bound to be slow, in the democratic processes 
which you and we prefer. We all need to be sure that we have 
the right procedural process upon which we may help you to 
build your own self-government and essential independence. 

No responsible person is unaware today that Korea in all 
recorded history has been the crossroad and point of contact of 
the great movements of the peoples of eastern Asia, and, in later 
decades of the impact upon them of the western peoples. Nor is 
any responsible person unaware that Korea's ancient culture 
has influenced and been influenced by that historical fact. It 
is upon this awareness that we must all attempt to help you to 


build up a synthesis of your very old culture with all that is best 
in the modern for a solid and permanent future. 

I can assure you that I welcome suggestions or comments by 
you on matters concerning your country's future. 

The friendly but noncommittal tone of Vincent's letter 
typified the uncertainty of American policy toward Rhee at 
this period. Mrs. Rhee was allowed to return to Korea to 
join her husband, but only after several weeks of exasperat- 
ing delay, sailing finally from Seattle on an Army transport 
in January, 1946. Rhee's transcendent position of leadership 
among the people of Korea could not be doubted, but 
General Hodge adopted a determined policy of trying to 
replace him with someone who would be more amenable to 
suggestions of coalition. 

The attempts to settle the problem of reunifying divided 
Korea proceeded through the Joint Commission of repre- 
sentatives of the two military commands, north and south. 
The first meetings were held in December, 1945, and soon 
were broken off when it became apparent the Russians meant 
to maintain an iron wall along the parallel. In May and June 
of 1946 a second series of meetings was held. The Ameri- 
cans proposed that representatives of all Korean political 
parties be consulted on plans for the future of the country 
with the result that more than 400 political parties were 
registered, in a rush between the communists and the anti- 
communists to assure for themselves majority representation, 
The foreign newsmen, trying to make sense in their ab- 
breviated dispatches of this hodgepodge of politics, soon 
settled upon the simple (but misleading) terms of 'leftists" 
to designate communists; "rightists" to designate the anti- 
communists; and "middle-of-the-roaders" to designate those 
who were noncommunist but were willing to form a coalition 
government. on the easy assumption that a middle position 
is preferable to extremes, the newsmen and their readers in 


the United States and Europe-soon came to prefer the 
middle-of-the-road group, led by Kimm Kiusic and Lyuh 
Woon Hyung. Rhee, because of his strong and frequent 
denunciation of communism and his utter rejection of any 
suggestion of compromise with it, was soon labeled an 
"extreme rightist." 

The communist negotiators from north Korea hit upon 
the expedient of insisting that no Korean could be admitted 
to consultation who refused to sign and abide by the Moscow 
Declaration setting up trusteeship for Korea. Their claim 
had some plausibility, on the ground that this was the agreed 
solution among the big powers and consequently must be 
imposed upon the Koreans. The American command replied 
that any and all Korean leaders who actually represented 
significant segments of the population must be "consulted" 
but this would prove no bar to imposing trusteeship, even if 
they opposed it. General Arnold, who headed the American 
delegation in the conference in its early stages, devised what 
became known as "Communique No. 5," a document attest- 
ing that all who signed it agreed to accept the validity of 
the Moscow Declaration but were not bound to abide by it. 
Arnold considered he had produced an "open-end" pledge 
which would satisfy the Russians and at the same time 
permit Korean leaders to sign it without being bound to 
accept trusteeship. Kimm Kiusic and Lyuh Woon Hyung 
signed. Rhee and Kim Koo explicitly declared that their 
followers should feel free to sign it if they wished, but they 
themselves would not do so. General Hodge issued some 
testy statements to the effect that Rhee was "blocking" an 
agreement with Russia for the reunification of Korea. Rhee 
replied that the general knew full well the big powers would 
do whatever they wished and that no Korean had any power 
to block their plans. Actually, the Russians never had the 
slightest intention of wiping out the 38th parallel division 
of Korea. If they could not get the whole country, they had 


no intention of surrendering the half which they already 
held. As General Arnold said in the summer of 1946, 
"Usually the Russian negotiators won't say anything at all. 
When they do say something, it is No. But if they ever say 
Yes, they break their agreement by the next day." 

These Joint Commission meetings were held in Seoul, 
and the Russian negotiators brought large staffs, which 
worked busily with leaders of the south Korean communist 
party. To the Korean people the sight of the Russian officers 
riding through the streets was anathema. on one occasion 
(but only once) students and other demonstrators threw mud 
and stones at the Russians' cars. No one was hurt, but the 
Russians threatened to break off the talks and Hodge 
severely warned the Korean leaders that unless they held 
the people in check the failure to attain a free and reunified 
Korea would be their responsibility. 

Rhee's position, often repeated, was that talks between 
the two military commands in Korea were fruitless: the real 
decisions would have to be made by the American and 
Russian governments, and the talks should be held between 
Washington and Moscow. For whatever the reasons may 
have been (and they presumably were largely the hope of 
keeping the Korean problem localized to the Korean penin- 
sula itself) Washington long refrained from approaching 
Moscow on the matter. The attempt to settle the question 
inside Korea, and the hope to get both the Russians and the 
Koreans to agree on trusteeship as the solution, persisted 
until March, 1947. As late as April 10 of that year, Mr. 
Hugh Borton, chief of the Division of Northeastern Asian 
Affairs of the Department of State, was still explaining hope- 
fully to a press conference: 

"We are bound by the Moscow decision just as much 
today as we were when we made that agreement. I would 
also like to give you this statement even under a four-power 
trusteeship it would be possible for the Koreans to extend 


their control over their own economic, political, social and 
cultural development and advancement. I will explain why 
I said that. Trusteeship can be an entirely different thing 
for one area, territory, country than it is for another. I say 
that because whatever form a trusteeship takes depends 
entirely on the trusteeship agreement itself. You are familiar 
with the trusteeship agreement for the former Japanese- 
mandated islands which was passed by my government to 
the Security Council of the UN. It was actually passed the 
day I left Washington. It provides for very strict control 
by the U. S. alone. Trusteeship for Korea, obviously, could 
be something entirely different. For example, its first article 
might say that on such and such a date Korea would be 
completely free and independent. It might further state in 
the second article an agreement to support Korea's entrance 
into the UN and then it would go on and convey a very 
limited power and authority that these four states would 
have. I have read in the Moscow agreement that Koreans 
would be consulted in the formation of the provisional gov- 
ernment in reference to the drafting of a trusteeship agree- 
ment for Korea. I would not be excited about the idea of 
trusteeship. The thing that I would be excited about is what 
is in a trusteeship agreement when that time is reached." 

Mr. Borton's fanciful portrayal of a hypothetical trustee- 
ship agreement which would in reality be a velvet-covered 
pathway to independence was worse than a whistling in the 
dark. Since Secretary of State Marshall was already prepar- 
ing to drop the trusteeship proposal and to suggest an en- 
tirely new approach to Molotov in Moscow, the Borton press 
conference can only be interpreted as an attempt to persuade 
the newsmen that the opposition led by Rhee to such a 
friendly and promising trusteeship as he described could only 
be shortsighted or worse. The eighteen-month attempt was 
about to fail. In the eyes of the public the onus of failure 
must be shifted from those who devised and had pushed the 


scheme to someone who had blocked it. Russia was the 
obvious villain but to blame the Soviets might impede 
further plans for other solutions. The newsmen could readily 
guess, of course, that Russia never would accede to the kind 
of trusteeship Mr. Borton described. But blaming Rhee for 
stubborn unco-operativeness was convenient and had, by 
then, become a habit firmly fixed. In any event, whoever or 
whatever was to blame, by the time Mr. Borton's statement 
was made, trusteeship was already a dead issue. Rhee, who 
knew it well, had other fish to fry. 

Chapter XII 


AN NORTH KOREA the Russians are riding a wild horse/' the 
American newspaper correspondents jested sourly in the 
summer of 1946. "But in south Korea the Americans have a 
tiger by the tail and can't figure out how to get loose." Their 
figurative analogy had some point. North Korea was organ- 
ized as a going concern under a communist regime that was 
first appointed, then, in the fall of 1946, "elected" on a 
single-slate ballot. A northern army was being developed. 
The seven and a half per cent of the population that owned 
farm rental properties was liquidated and the land was re- 
distributed to farmers who met the requirements of the 
Myun (or county) communist committees. Factories, mines 
and hydroelectric power plants were being restored to 
operation. Prosperity was loudly claimed in the Pyengyang 
propaganda radio broadcasts and with some show of reason. 
Yet an average of 1600 north Korean refugees were fleeing 
from this workers' paradise every day to find refuge in south 
Korea. The horse was being ridden but it was indubitably 

Meanwhile, in south Korea, General Hodge operated 
under a Congressional enactment which provided him with 
funds and authority specifically limited to "combating dis- 
ease and unrest." He could put down riots and alleviate 



severe hunger little else. A State Department booklet issued 
in August, 1947, estimated that the industry and mines o 
south Korea (for two years under the control of the greatest 
technological power on earth) were producing only twenty 
per cent of their normal capacity. Unemployment was wide- 
spread, increased by the flood-tides of repatriates from China 
and Japan and the refugees from the north. In November, 
1946, General MacArthur estimated that in Seoul alone at 
least 20,000 Korean families were sleeping in the streets, 
with no manner of shelter whatsoever and November in 
Seoul is cold. The south Korean communists were crying 
for trusteeship and all the other political factions were 
clamoring for independence. The State Department could 
tell General Hodge little except to "maintain order" and to 
continue to work for an agreement with Russia. In the fall 
of 1945 Hodge had foolishly cut himself off from his best 
source of help when he had bluntly rejected a directive from 
Douglas MacArthur with the rejoinder that south Korea was 
a separate military theater from that in Japan, and was 
responsible directly to Washington. MiacArthur gleefully 
accepted this "clarification" and left Hodge to stew in his 
Korean juice. Since all supplies for Korea came by way of 
Japan where MacArthur's command took what it wanted 
-the Korean theater was in every respect the "end of the 
line/' The Army PX's were bare, the Korean people received 
only such remnants of shipments from the United States as 
the Japanese didn't get, and the worst disciplinary threat 
offered to U. S. personnel in Japan was that "if you don't 
make good here, we'll send you to Korea." The Korean tiger 
may have been a mangy beast in many ways, but his growl- 
ing was a constant threat. 

In attempting to deal with the Koreans, Hodge had failed 
in his initial attempt to keep them under the control of the 
experienced Japanese officials. He was disappointed when 
Syngman Rhee refused, in October, 1945, to solve his prob- 


lems by accepting the chairmanship of a coalition of all the 
existing political groups. He felt he could not support the 
Representative Democratic Council when the "leftists" 
walked out from it. The negotiations with the Russians 
failed utterly to provide any basis for reuniting the country. 

In June, 1946, Hodge adopted another plan. He invited 
Rhee, Kim Koo 5 Kimm Kiusic and Lyuh Woon Hyung to 
unite in an advisory Coalition Committee. Rhee and Kim 
refused to join with the two leftists (on the grounds that 
they represented few south Koreans but did represent 
Russia), but Hodge stubbornly insisted upon keeping the 
Coalition Committee and named Kimm and Lyuh as its joint 
chairmen. With the advice of this committee he devised a 
plan for an "Interim Assembly/' 

This Interim Assembly was to have forty-five members, 
elected from all the provinces of south Korea, in November, 
1946. The Assembly was to have merely advisory functions, 
and was strictly enjoined from passing any resolutions in 
the areas of foreign affairs or economic matters. Still further 
to insure that it could not get out of hand, Hodge declared 
that he would appoint an additional forty-five members. 

The result was an overwhelming triumph for Syngman 
Rhee. When the elections were held, forty-three of the 
elected members were adherents of Rhee and Kim Koo. The 
American Military Government had conducted the election 
and its police had supervised it, but Hodge readily accepted 
the explanation of Kimm Kiusic and Lyuh Woon Hyung that 
"rightist terrorists" had frightened the people into voting as 
they did. Accordingly, he appointed forty-five members 
from a list presented to him by the Coalition Committee, 
"in order to assure the representative character of the Interim 

Following the announcement of these appointees, Rhee 
called on General Hodge for what proved to be a cold and 
bitter session. Rhee first tried to persuade Hodge to aban- 


don his plan and was told brusquely that the general did 
not intend to permit Rhee to "seize power." Rhee then said 
that he had tried to defend Hodge to the Korean people, 
despite all the mistakes that had been made, but that from 
this point on he intended openly to oppose him. Hodge 
replied that the United States could never be turned aside 
from its chosen policies by threats, and assured Rhee that 
he must co-operate in the program or be destroyed. 

Rhee went from his meeting with Hodge to consult with 
Kim Koo and their immediate lieutenants. Kim was in favor 
of issuing an immediate announcement that the provisional 
republic, based on the Mansei demonstrations of 1919, was 
in fact the only lawful government of Korea, and calling 
upon the Koreans to rally around it. Rhee never doubted 
that the people would respond to such a call, but he knew 
that the immediate result would be an outbreak in which 
the unarmed and disorganized twenty million south Koreans 
would be pitted against the 50,000 American troops in 
Korea. He declared flatly that such a program as Kim pro- 
posed was utterly impossible, for if American soldiers were 
killed the American people would forget the rights and 
wrongs of the situation and rally immediately to the support 
of their endangered sons. once again, as he had for so many 
years, Rhee argued that the only feasible road to inde- 
pendence lay through an appeal to the fair-mindedness of 
the American public. He proposed that he should go to the 
United States to present the case personally to the State 
Department and to news-men who would not be, as were 
those in Seoul, completely dependent upon the Military Gov- 
ernment for livelihood, transportation, communication, and 
interpretations of the situation. 

Kim Koo and others argued strongly against Rliee's posi- 
tion, chiefly on the grounds that such appeals had not 
succeeded in the past and that the time had come for action. 
Rhee continued to urge that his proposal offered the only 


hope, and finally a compromise was reached. Kim Koo 
agreed that Rhee might be granted the opportunity he re- 
quested, but only with the understanding that if Rhee could 
not promptly bring or send to Korea assurances of success, 
the revolutionary program would be put into effect. Suicidal 
though Rhee knew Kin Koo's program would be, he had no 
means of combating it. The temper of the Korean people 
did, indeed, call for decisive action. Yet he reminded Kim 
that the processes of government move slowly and asked 
that he be allowed several weeks for his attempts before 
Kim should proceed with his own plan. 

With this much decided, Rhee returned to General Hodge 
and asked for co-operation in arranging his trip to Washing- 
ton. Hodge declared himself "hurt" by Rhee's intention of 
going "over his head" to Washington. He reminded Rhee 
that he had several State Department political advisors and 
was in constant touch with the Department by cable. He 
insisted that no possible good could come from the trip and 
that much harm might result if the Korean people placed 
any confidence in it Rhee could not explain to Hodge what 
the alternative to his trip would be, but simply insisted he 
was going to make it. The trip was announced in the Korean 
newspapers on November 25, The plan was unanimously 
approved in the press even by the communist newspapers 
-"in spite of the fact," as the Han Sung Ilbo bitingly editori- 
alized, "that it will cost the Koreans three hundred thousand 
dollars in gold." (Where such a sum could come from, the 
editorial did not reveal.) Actually, the Representative Dem- 
ocratic Council raised the sum of 500,000 Won (about 
$10,000) to finance the trip. on December 1, Dr. Rhee sailed 
from Inchon on the S.S. Marine Jumper for Tokyo, where 
General MacArthur provided passage on a military plane 
for him to the United States. In the stop at Hawaii Rhee 
was honored by a military guard, under command of Gen- 
eral Hull, who (in 1953) became Commander of all U. N. 


troops in Korea. He arrived in Washington, D. C. ? on De- 
cember 7. 

The issues that had to be decided in Korea were clear. 
Rhee's immediate complaint was against what he consid- 
ered Hodge's undemocratic action in nullifying the results 
of the election by his appointment of forty-five middle-of- 
the-road members to the Interim Assembly. After Rhee's 
departure for America, Hodge appointed Kimm Kiusic as 
chairman of the Assembly. As an interesting commentary 
on the general tenor of Korean opinion, despite this stack- 
ing of the membership, the first resolution adopted by the 
Assembly was a denunciation of trusteeship a vote from 
which almost half the appointed members abstained, but 
against which only one ballot was cast. The sole negative 
voter, Ahn Chai Hong, was promptly named by Hodge as 
civil administrator of the South Korean Interim Govern- 
ment (SKIG), which was organized to carry out specified 
administrative procedures under the direction of the Mili- 
tary Government. To Rhee the whole proceeding was as 
un-American as it was undemocratic and he did not believe 
Hodge's actions would be supported by the State Depart- 

In a larger sense, however, Rhee had little interest in this 
immediate question. Since the Interim Assembly and SKIG 
had no authority, he did not much care who controlled them. 
In his judgment it should by this time be abundantly clear 
to everyone that Russia would not agree to the establish- 
ment of a free government for all Korea and, consequently, 
he believed the time had come to establish a separate gov- 
ernment, even if it had to be confined to south Korea. Im- 
mediately upon his arrival in Washington (where he took 
up residence at the Carlton Hotel) he asked me to leave my 
teaching position on the staff of Syracuse University to join 
him, and he established a "strategy council/* of which the 
other members were John W. Staggers, Jay Jerome Williams, 


CoL M, Preston Goodfellow, Col. Emory Woodall, Rev- 
erend Frederick Brown Harris, Col. Ben C. Limb and Miss 
Louise Yim. The following program, supported by a 4,000- 
word brief, was developed and presented to the State De- 

1. An interim government should be elected for southern 
Korea, to serve until the two halves of Korea can be reunited 
and a general election held immediately thereafter; 

2. Without disturbing direct Russian-American consultations 
on Korea, this interim government should be admitted to the 
United Nations and allowed to negotiate directly with Russia 
and the United States concerning the occupation of Korea and 
on other outstanding questions; 

3. Korean claims for reparations from Japan should be given 
early consideration, to aid in the rehabilitation of the Korean 

4. Full commercial rights should be granted to Korea, on a 
basis of equality with other nations, and with no favoritism ex- 
tended to any nation; 

5. Korean currency should be stabilized and established on 
the international exchange; 

6. United States security troops should remain in southern 
Korea until the two foreign armies of occupation simultaneously 

There were marked differences between the hostility Rhee 
encountered in Korea from General Hodge and the relative 
friendliness accorded him in Washington. Hodge's failures 
as a military administrator were too obvious to be over- 
looked. Without any doubt he would have been transferred 
from Korea except for the fact that an active move was 
under way to shift occupation responsibilities in Korea, Ger- 
many and Austria from the Pentagon to the State Depart- 
ment. Rhee's argument that Hodge had acted unfairly and 
undemocratically in his appointments to the Interim Assem- 
bly was patently true. By this time, too, Washington was 


deeply concerned about Russia's world-wide expansionism 
and it was evident that new policies were demanded for 

Rhee's overwhelming success in the November elections 
had impressed the State Department and it was ready, as 
never before, to deal with him as the presumptive leader of 
the Korean people. General John R. Hilldring, the Assistant 
Secretary of State for Occupied Countries, was close to Mac- 
Arthur, who admired and respected Rhee; Hilldring also was 
a fair-minded, blunt-spoken man who personally saw no 
reason why south Korea should not be allowed to organize 
a free government as a counter-balance to the controlled 
regime the Russians had established north of the 38th par- 
allel. John Carter Vincent, chief of the Office of Far Eastern 
Affairs, appeared to oppose Hilldring's position behind the 
scenes but could not combat it openly. John Z. Williams, 
who occupied the Korean desk, and who "evaluated" Hodge's 
reports for the State Department, knew little of Korea but 
was not blind to the fact that the patent will of the Korean 
people was repeatedly violated by the Military Government. 

Despite these favorable circumstances, governmental pol- 
icies change but slowly and no State Department official of 
consequence felt himself in a position to talk with Rhee 
about positive steps to reform conditions. The weeks passed, 
and in late February Rhee received a coded message from 
Kim Koo saying that the time had come when he felt he 
must announce the sovereignty of the Provisional Republic. 
Rhee sent him a strongly worded radiogram to postpone any 
such action, and, under Rhee's directions, I had a series of 
talks with Assistant Secretary Hilldring about the urgency 
of the situation. Unless some genuine progress could be 
achieved through negotiation, the lid would soon be blown 
off in Korea. In the second week of March an understand- 
ing was reached with Hilldring that he would support a 
program very similar to that spelled out in the six points 


that had been submitted. In a final talk, Dr. Rhee and I met 
with Hilldring in his office and received assurances definite 
enough to be transmitted to Kim Koo. 

Meanwhile, General Hodge was called to Washington for 
consultation and arrived on March 1. He electrified the pub- 
lic by announcing that the Russians were organizing an 
army of 500,000 men in north Korea, apparently for the pur- 
pose of launching an attack on the south. The Pentagon 
was alarmed lest American troops be trapped on the penin- 
sula and be drawn into a war that might involve the Soviet 
Union. These factors were added reasons why Rhee's pro- 
gram began to look attractive to Washington officials. Secre- 
tary of State George Marshall went to Moscow for general 
discussions with Molotov and made one last effort for bilat- 
eral agreement on Korea by proposing that the Joint Com- 
mission discussions on reunification be resumed, with 
assurances that all Korean leaders, including those who re- 
jected trusteeship, be consulted. Unexpectedly, Molotov 

Rhee was greatly disheartened by this development, for he 
did not expect Russia to agree to a reunified and independ- 
ent Korea and lie did fear that the renewal of the talks would 
block any progress toward establishment of a government 
in south Korea. He desired to extend his stay in Washing- 
ton, where the vital decisions would be made, but conditions 
in Korea (with Kim Koo becoming increasingly restive) made 
his return imperative. In order to determine State Depart- 
ment intentions, I called Hilldring's office and asked if there 
would be any objection to a release of a statement summariz- 
ing the informal agreement on the six points. The reply was 
a noncommittal statement that the State Department did 
not wish to exercise any influence over whatever kind of re- 
lease Dr. Rhee might wish to make to the press. Conse- 
quently, the six-point program was published followed by 


a routine statement by the State Department press officer 
that no new policy for Korea had been adopted. 

What happened after that was a comedy of errors. The 
State Department secured military clearance from Hodge 
for Rhee's return to Korea, and plans were made by the Pen- 
tagon to fly him back in a military plane. Travel orders were 
issued for Rhee, in conventional military style, dated March 
27, by which he was "authorized and invited to proceed by 
air on or about 1 April 1947 from Washington D. C. on the 
Statesman to Fairfield-Suisun Army Airfield for further 
movement by air on or about 2 April 1947 to Korea." In the 
orders Rhee's trip was described as an "emergency mission" 
and it was provided that "travel expenses will be borne by 
the individual." on March 31 Rhee went to the Air Trans- 
port Command Terminal, as he was instructed to do, and 
paid $900 for his fare to Tokyo. He prepared to report at 
the ATC Terminal at 8:00 A.M. the following day. 

Early in the evening of March 31, there came a telephone 
call from Colonel Monson, in the office of Assistant Secretary 
of War Howard Peterson, saying that Rhee's permission to 
fly on the army plane had been canceled. As soon as offices 
were opened the next morning, I called Major Simmons at 
the War Department and was told that, "The State Depart- 
ment has informed the War Department that Dr. Rhee's 
return to Korea was not considered of sufficient importance 
to justify placing ATC transportation at his disposal." There- 
upon I called at Secretary Hilldring's office, and he told me 
with some consternation that he had just learned of the can- 
cellation but had no idea what lay behind it. He put several 
assistants to work tracing the message, and two hours later 
informed me that the cancellation had been "suggested" by 
a subordinate official of the Department (who may have 
been John Carter Vincent) and that he was informing the 
War Department this suggestion did not represent the views 
of the Department of State. Nevertheless, the War Depart- 


ment informed Rhee that the cancellation was "unalterable." 
Hilldring expressed deep regret at^this inexplicable devel- 
opment and before the day was over he telephoned to say 
that passage had been secured for Rhee and his aide, Chang 
Kee Young, on a Northwest Airlines plane which was mak- 
ing a "pilot run" to Tokyo (preparatory to establishing pas- 
senger service), scheduled to leave Minneapolis on April 5. 
The military permit issued by Hodge had been rescinded 
and Rhee did not know whether or not he might be allowed 
to re-enter Korea. Nevertheless, he took the flight. From 
Tokyo he flew to Shanghai and went on to Nanking for a 
conference with Chiang Kai-shek. With Chiang he had a 
long talk about the communist encroachments itf their re- 
spective countries and about the need for securing more aid 
from the United States if these threats were to be held in 

on April 19 Dr. Rhee wrote from Shanghai about still fur- 
ther delays: 

I think we are leaving for Seoul on Monday the 21st. It is a 
long story to tell of all the red tape required for my passage. The 
Northwest Airlines plane finally left Minneapolis on April 8. As 
soon as I landed here from Tokyo (where I had a two-hour talk 
with General MacArthur) I was swamped with Chinese officials 
and banquets. Then Generalissimo and Madame came from 
Hangchow and we had a delightful and important conversation. 
They offered their own plane to take me back home, with the 
understanding that I would secure permission for landing in 

I wired my friends in Korea and it took two days to get the 
reply, which said that General Hodge demanded an official re- 
quest from the Generalissimo through the Chinese Consul in 
Seoul. The Chinese Government wired the request at once. Then 
we were informed that we would have to have another permit 
from Seoul, identifying the plane by number. 

I was so impatient that I was about to wire General MacArthur. 
But this afternoon the Foreign Office notified me officially that 


we are to leave Monday the 21st, at 9:00 A*M. So I feel that the 
way is at last open for me to return home. 

An interesting incident: Soon after my arrival here the local 
Catholic paper published a letter from the new Foreign Minister, 
Wong, addressed to the chairman of the committee for my enter- 
tainment, asking him not to make a big thing of my visit. It was 
supposed to be confidential, but the Catholic paper got hold of 
it and published it together with a strong editorial comment to 
the effect that the Foreign Minister has nothing to do with 
arrangements made by the people of Shanghai. When I went to 
Nanking, Minister Wong was the first one to entertain me at his 
official residence, and the Catholic paper criticized him again for 
doing what he asked others not to do. Then it was revealed that 
the Chinese Ambassador in Washington, at the request of some 
of the "Far Eastern experts" there, had requested Wong to refrain 
from receiving rne as a state guest. This story seems to have 
made the reception even bigger. 

Upon Rhee's return to Korea, he faced a situation of ex- 
plosive potentialities. Kim Koo, with whom he had worked 
for years in an atmosphere of difficult co-operation, was de- 
termined to go his own way. In Chungking, during the latter 
years of the war, against Rhee's strongest urgings Kim had 
reorganized the cabinet of the Provisional Republic to take 
in a number of communists and thus to effect a coalition. 
Rhee greatly respected Kim Koo's courage and patriotism 
but had serious misgivings about his wisdom. Kim neither 
spoke nor read English and was really ignorant of world af- 
fairs. He had little patience with RLee's arguments that the 
United States faced grave international problems and would 
have to work out the Korean question slowly in accordance 
with its global program and responsibilities. Kim could see 
little further than the immediate situation and, as a Korean 
patriot, he saw little reason why he should be restrained by 
obligations the United States might have in Europe or else- 

on March 2 Kim had convened a meeting of 1500 dele- 


gates from all over south Korea and proposed that the au- 
thority of the Provisional Republic be proclaimed at once. 
A vitriolic debate lasted that day and most of March 3, after 
which Kim Koo resigned as chairman of the Provisional Gov- 
ernment and Syngman Rhee was elected to replace him. 
Thus Kim Koo's revolutionary plan was temporarily defeated. 
Meanwhile, in the Interim Assembly a bill was introduced 
proposing a constitution for an independent government in 
south Korea. The biE was referred to a committee, where it 
remained very much under active consideration. 

Under these circumstances, it was necessary for Rhee to 
act quickly to prevent an open clash between the Korean 
patriots and the Military Government. As the best, if not the 
only, means of controlling the situation, he called a press 
conference upon his return to Seoul, and announced that 
he had a personal understanding with Assistant Secretary 
Hilldring that steps would soon be taken to establish an in- 
dependent government in south Korea. General Hodge is- 
sued a counterstatement, pointing out that he himself was 
just back from Washington, and that positively there was no 
such agreement or policy as Rhee claimed. Hodge was aware 
of the restiveness of Earn Koo and many other Koreans, but 
apparently was convinced that Rhee was stimulating the 
revolutionary sentiments, rather than doing his best to curb 
them. Rhee called on Hodge to explain the problem and to 
ask for his co-operation, but was brusquely dismissed. 

In May General Shtikov with a retinue of 38 Russian offi- 
cers arrived in Seoul to reopen the Joint Commission sessions. 
From the first, he refused to honor the pledge Molotov had 
made in Moscow to admit all Korean leaders to consultation, 
and once again stalled the negotiations with a flat refusal to 
admit any Koreans who opposed trusteeship. Hodge made 
a valiant effort to convince the Koreans that trusteeship 
meant only "aid and assistance'* and that the United States 
would not concur in the establishment of any Korean gov- 


eminent that would not be genuinely democratic. on June 
9 Rhee published an "open letter" to General Hodge, in 
which he requested an official definition of the words trustee- 
ship and democracy. He insisted that "My true motive was 
and still is to find some basis for co-operation and common 
understanding between us/' Pointing out that he was dis- 
turbed by Hodge's reiteration that "the Moscow decisions 
are Immutable laws' which no one can change/' Rhee con- 
cluded that "the fundamental question on which alone you 
and I can work together" was to devise effective means of 
establishing an independent Korean government. 

For the remainder of that dismal summer of 1947 (while 
the Joint Commission meetings dragged on into utter and 
patent futility) Rhee was practically under house arrest. Let- 
ters from the United States could reach him only through a 
military censor. The telephone was removed from his house. 
Official and other prominent visitors passing through Korea 
were discouraged and circumvented if they wanted to see 
him. And his weekly radio talks and other means of reach- 
ing the Korean people were cut off. In sharp contrast (and 
in revealing illustration of how divided were the Depart- 
ments of State and War at this time) in Washington Rhee's 
standing was never higher. Even those officials who liked 
him least were by now willing to accept the fact that Rhee 
was the chosen leader of the Korean people and would have 
to be dealt with on that basis. When General William Dean 
was called to the Pentagon from Fort Leavenworth to be 
briefed for his new assignment as Military Governor (under 
Hodge) for South Korea, Colonel Ben C. Limb, then chair- 
man of the Korean Commission, was invited to explain to 
him the Korean political situation. At the State Department, 
Charles Saltzman, who replaced Hilldring as Assistant Secre- 
tary of State, was uniformly agreeable, if not always in ac- 
cord with Rhee's views. Walton Butterworth, who replaced 
John Carter Vincent as chief of the Office of Far Eastern 


Affairs, did not seem much of an improvement, but John 
Allison and Niles Bond, who worked on the Korean question, 
appeared willing to adjust their thinking to changes in the 
factual situation. 

In August Secretary Marshall finally accepted the fact of 
the failure of the Joint Commission and issued an invitation 
for Russia, Great Britain and China to join the United States 
in seeking some alternative to trusteeship for Korea. The 
Soviet Union rejected this bid and on September 17 Marshall 
asked the General Assembly of the United Nations to place 
the Korean question on its agenda. When this proposaj was 
made, the hallways and the lounges at Lake Success buzzed 
with worried comment. Delegates said to one another that 
Korea was a Russian- American problem, that it was a major 
power dispute which should not be unloaded upon the un- 
steady and toddling United Nations. The American dele- 
gates, ably seconded by Ben Limb and Louise Yim as 
unofficial Korean representatives assured the delegates from 
other nations that the United States was not trying to aban- 
don or evade its primary responsibility in Korea. It would 
still provide financial and economic aid along with military 
and diplomatic support. What it did wish to accomplish 
was to get out of the bilateral deadlock with Russia; to avoid 
the charge that America wished to make South Korea a mil- 
itary base, which would be impossible if the U. N. rather 
than the U. S. was the sponsoring body for the area; and to 
lessen Asian fears that the United States was succeeding to 
England's role as a leading colonial nation in the Far East. 
on September 23, 1947, the General Assembly accepted the 
Korean question on its agenda, and on November 14 it voted 
43 to for the holding of a free election in Korea, to estab- 
lish an independent government, under the observation of 
a United Nations commission. 

To Syngman Rhee this vote came as a vindication of his 
lifelong program a vindication both to his foreign critics 

President Khee is shown talking with north Korean refugees 
on Koje Island and Mrs. Rhee distributing a gift shipment of 
sewing machines, in midsummer, 1951. (ROK O.P.L) 


and to the doubtful among his Korean following. For months 
(since his return to Korea in May) Rhee's position had been 
exceedingly unenviable. He had sufficient political power to 
prevent Kim Koo from going ahead with his plans for revolu- 
tion, but he had very little to offer to the patriots as an alter- 
native. His claim of a special understanding with Hilldring 
came to appear increasingly dubious as the months passed. 
The program he had sketchily indicated was not put into 
effect. And his relations with the Military Government ob- 
viously were very bad. Rhee had no will to launch a new 
movement; and indeed, from his forced seclusion he had 
neither the means nor the freedom of consultation out of 
which new plans might have been developed. From his 
home, high on a bluff overlooking the Han River, he kept 
closely enough in touch with affairs to know that his rivals, 
Kimm Kiusic and Lyuh Woon Hyung were not enhancing 
their own popularity. Hodge and the whole personnel of 
the Military Government were depressed in a stagnant mel- 
ancholy as black as Rhee's own. But it is scarcely true that 
misery finds any special consolation in having company. 
The plain fact was that Korea was drifting helplessly nearer 
to ruin, with no pilot at the helm. North Korea was becom- 
ing militarily stronger and Russia alone seemed to have a 
policy and the will to advance steadily toward its anticipated 
goals. Then out of this depressing blackness came the pres- 
entation of the Korean question to the United Nations. A 
stirring recital of Korean aspirations was laid before the 
General Assembly by Warren Austin, chief of the United 
States delegation. This was followed by a thrilling climactic 
vote of 43 to for an election to establish in Korea a free 
government. After the darkness, there was beginning to 
dawn a glimmer of light. 

Chapter XIII 


IN AUGUST, 1947, before the Korean question was 
even presented to the United Nations, and while Rhee was 
still under virtual house confinement in Seoul, he was ex- 
periencing the very blackest period which traditionally 
comes just before the dawn. His fortunes well illustrated 
the old Korean proverb that "The darkest spot is just below 
the candle." Branded as an enemy of the United States by 
General John R Hodge (whose own fumbling plans for Ko- 
rea Rhee could not approve), Rhee wrote on August 12 to 
his friends in America: "I am fighting for the interest of the 
United States and Korea, as the interest of our two countries 
is the same and identical." So long as he had to oppose 
phase after phase of the State Department's Korean program 
(which closely paralleled the policies under which China 
was lost), this assertion did not appear to his critics to make 
sound sense. But after the vote of the General Assembly to 
hold elections in Korea a new situation began to unfold in 
which Dr. Rhee anticipated increasing understanding and 
co-operation. on October 7, 1947, in reply to assurances 
from his representatives in New York that the U. N. would 
favor an election, he wrote with sober satisfaction, "Most of 
the major obstacles have been brushed out of our path/' 
When Secretary George Marshall stated that an election 



would be held soon in Korea, Rhee wrote, "This refers to 
an election in the north and south" to which Russia would 
not consent, '"but we can apply this principle to our election 
in the south for the present/' 

Amid all the grimness of those days, Ray Richards (a news 
correspondent for the International News Service, who be- 
came a close friend of the Rhees) tells a story that indicates 
Dr. Rhee could on occasion jest about even so crucial a ques- 
tion as Korean independence. The Rhees had a dog whose 
coat of fur they tried to thicken by keeping him out of doors 
on cold nights during that fall and winter. During the day- 
time, when it was warm, they freely let him in the house, 
When Richards called on them one day and found out about 
this plan, he chuckled and told Dr. Rhee, "There you have 
it! You Koreans put a dog out when it's cold and take him 
in when it's warm! How can such a people ever learn to 
govern themselves?" Every time the two men met during 
the next several months, Dr. Rhee would look at Richards 
with twinkling eyes and remark something about the dog 
and the inability of the Korean people to manage their af- 
fairs. As a jest die subject was in good standing, but no one 
in the Rhee circle ever cast doubt on the independence 
movement with any seriousness. 

From Lake Success Colonel Ben Limb wrote to Dr. Rhee 
in mid-November, assuring him enthusiastically that he had 
found the delegates from Syria, France, China, India, El Sal- 
vador, Australia, Canada and the Philippines (who were to 
observe the projected Korean elections) all friendly and de- 
termined to get the elections completed not later than March 
31. The Soviet Union had denounced the U. N. vote to hold 
elections as illegal, and the Ukrainian Republic had silently 
ignored appointment to the supervisory U. N. Commission. 
This attitude, however, was not preventing the U. N. from 
proceeding with its plans, and on January 8, 1948, the first 
group of the U. N. Commission delegates arrived in Seoul. 


Dr. Rhee, along with General Hodge and Kimm Kiusic, 
joined the official welcoming party which greeted the dele- 
gates in the crowded Seoul Stadium. The speech which was 
made by Dr. Rhee so well portrays both his own feelings 
and the significance of the occasion that it merits presenta- 
tion in full. It may be noted here that Dr. Rhee speaks eas- 
ily, fluently and frequently. He is unrestrainedly articulate. 
on many occasions he speaks extemporaneously, generally 
with a simple theme developed with a prolific body of ap- 
plications and specific illustrations. When he reads a pre- 
pared speech, as he did on this occasion, he presents it with 
a skillful utilization of emotional and intellectual emphasis 
on the main points to be unfolded. His voice is resonant, 
full-bodied and responsive to a wide variety of meaningful 
overtones. Even in his latest years he commands a dramatic 
expressiveness which might be envied by a professional ac- 
tor. As a natural speaker, with his powers enhanced by long 
practice and thoughtful consideration of communicative re- 
quirements, he responds wholeheartedly to the stimulation 
of an audience and often shows a fine appreciation for the 
special requirements of particular situations. This address 
to the U. N. delegates delivered in the presence of some 
200,000 Koreans who had long waited for the fruition of his 
policies of peaceful appeals represents a careful attempt 
on his part to set the right tone for their initiation into their 

Gentlemen of the United Nations Temporary Commission 
on Korea: 

We welcome you with solemn gratitude and renewed hopeful- 
ness as you undertake one of the most significant missions in hu- 
man history. It is not often that the united peace-loving nations 
of the world have undertaken such a task as the one to which you 
have been committed. 

Forty years ago our nation was sacrificed to the ambition of one 
of the Great Powers, while the other nations of the world stood 


aside. During the past 28 months our long-suffering people have 
once again been the victims of circumstances wholly beyond our 
own control. We have seen justice delayed, pledges postponed, 
and the hopes of honest men frustrated. It has seemed through 
many dark months that a new blight had fallen across our land, 
even worse than that we were forced to endure while our country, 
however harshly ruled, was still united. 

In those dark months we touched the depths of bitterness, but 
we refused to despair. We clung then just as Koreans will al- 
ways cling, so long as they may live to the fierce determination 
that our country must once again be united and must once again 
be free. 

We hail your arrival as a solemn event, not only in our own 
history, but in the history of the world. No longer do the Korean 
people stand alone. The free nations of the world have heard our 
voice and have answered it. 

We take pride in the fact that the vote to establish the Tem- 
porary Commission on Korea was the largest affirmative vote ever 
cast on a disputed issue in the General Assembly of the United 
Nations. In this vote we see a world-wide recognition that our 
cause is a just one. We see in it a justification for the unfaltering 
demand we have made that Korea must be restored, indissolubly, 
to its own sovereignty. 

The difficulties that lie ahead are not veiled from our eyes. We 
know that the task you have undertaken will not be easy. The 
obstacles that have prevented the reunification of our country 
during the past two years have not melted away as a result of 
the United Nations vote. 

However, your mission to our country introduces a basically 
new element into our sadly troubled situation. The United Na- 
tions has voluntarily shouldered a responsibility for assuring that 
the promises which have been made to us will be kept. What has 
for too long been narrowly conceived in many quarters as a 
"Korean problem" has now at last properly been accepted as a 
general problem basically connected with the re-establishment 
of the stability of Asia and the continued peace of the world. 

Troubled as our hearts still are by the magnitude of the issues 
yet unsolved, we nevertheless rejoice in the revolutionary change 


in our situation that your mission portends. With the free nations 
of the world standing by our side, we are confident that our long 
struggle for freedom must at last succeed. 

We need not review for you the events of the past two years. 
Our people have been rent asunder, our hopes have been frus- 
trated, our sovereignty has been submerged. Dire evils have 
sprung up in our very midst, while we have been denied the op- 
portunity to deal with them or to protect ourselves. These are the 
conditions that led to the consideration of our situation by the 
United Nations. It is precisely to remedy these evils that your 
mission has been undertaken. 

We greet you in a spirit of determined hope and of co-opera- 
tion. Our goal is the same as yours the re-establishment of a 
united, democratic, and independent Korea that will be a corner- 
stone of peace. It is vital to our welfare, as it is to the peace of 
the world, that Korea should never again be subjected to interna- 
tional intrigue and the contending ambitions of major powers. 

What we ask is very simply the inherent and inalienable right 
to rule ourselves. In all our 4,000 years of history we have never 
gone outside our own borders to attack a neighboring state. We 
never expect to do so. But neither have we ever surrendered to 
foreign aggression, and this we never shall do. There is not now 
nor has there ever been any question of Korean infringement 
upon the rights of any other nation. What we are determined to 
achieve is the restoration of our own right to live as a free people 
in our own way. 

Located as we are in the strategic heart of North Asia, we can 
and should be the keystone of peace in the East. This is the con- 
tribution we are prepared to make to the peoples of the world. 
It is for the achievement of this high goal that we particularly 
welcome your aid. 

The thirty million people of Korea are asking for justice, not 
for alms. Our case has been presented before the greatest forum 
of free nations ever assembled in the history of the world. The 
decision has been rendered that our sovereign rights must be 

We pledge to you our active aid in your endeavor to enforce 
that decision. We trust that an election may be held at the earliest 


possible date. We trust that our long-sought freedom no longer 
will be needlessly delayed. It is our earnest hope that within a 
few weeks there will be established a free and sovereign govern- 
ment chosen by the Korean people themselves, ready to take its 
place among the nations of the world in the responsible partner- 
ship of free men everywhere who are dedicated to the cause of 
establishing and maintaining a just peace. 

In this solemn hour we look to the future, not to the past. With 
the knowledge that our cause is just, and with the full support 
of the United Nations, we confidently expect that the obstacles 
will be overcome and that we shall succeed. The people of Korea 
will never rest until once again the control over our own destinies 
is restored to our own hands. 

The first formal session of the U. N. Commission was held 
in Seoul on January 12, and in it the delegates drafted let- 
ters to General Hodge and to General Shtikov, requesting 
free access to all areas in Korea and the co-operation of the 
two commanding generals in holding the elections in their 
respective zones. Hodge replied immediately, affirming full 
support for their mission. The letter to Shtikov, and all their 
subsequent communications to him, went unacknowledged. 
Some of the U. N. delegates later expressed regret that, in- 
stead of writing letters, they had not simply formed a caval- 
cade of motor cars and traveled north to the 38th parallel 
and on across it unless or until they should be stopped by 
communist guards. But, as one of them said wryly, "Who 
would have been willing to ride in the first car?" 

Within two weeks it was evident that the Soviet Union 
would not permit the proposed election to be held in the 
north, and a very able report of the situation was drafted 
by the Indian delegate, Mr. K. P. S. Menon, who was se- 
lected to go back to Lake Success to ask the United Nations 
for further directions. At Lake Success a special "Little As- 
sembly" was called in February to hear the report and decide 
what to do. The issue was clear: would the holding of a 


separate election, to establish a separate government, in 
south Korea advance or deter the hope for reunification of 
the country. Canadian and Australian delegates argued that 
such an election would solidify the division. United States 
and English spokesmen (ardently seconded in off-the-floor 
lobbying by Col. Limb and Miss Yim) declared that the 
existence of a free and democratic government in South Ko- 
rea would prove to be a rallying point for the loyalties of 
all Koreans; that it was especially required in view of the 
establishment of a communist regime in North Korea; and 
that this was the only available way in which the United 
Nations could carry forward its mandate to grant self-gov- 
ernment to the Korean people. on February 19 the Little 
Assembly authorized the Commission by a vote of 31 to 2, 
with 11 abstentions, to observe elections "in all areas in Ko- 
rea accessible to it." 

A few days later, on February 26, there occurred a dra- 
matic conflict in Dr. Rhee's home in Seoul which illustrates 
some of the comic confusions which have marked many 
phases of the handling of the Korean situation, and which 
also indicates one of the ways in which Dr. Rhee has from 
time to time suffered from inaccurate news reporting. At 
about three o'clock in the afternoon Dr. Rhee was sitting in 
his home talking with Mrs. Hughes of the International 
News Service and with an unidentified reporter for the 
French Press Agency when Dr. Harold Nobleson of Rhee's 
first English teacher at the old Pai Jai School, half a century 
earliercame bursting breathlessly into the room. Without 
any preamble, and paying no attention to the two reporters 
who were present, Noble told Dr. Rhee the U. N. Secretariat 
had approved a plan to hold a system of "staggered" elec- 
tions, beginning at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula 
and working northward, in successive stages. In this way, 
he said, the elections would proceed until the 38th parallel 
was reached, and would go on beyond it through the entire 

President and Mrs. Rhee, with their dog, Happy, on the grounds 
of Kyung Mu Dai, shortly after their return to Seoul in the early 
Spring of 1953. (ROK O.P.I.) 


country if the communists would approve. If not, the halt- 
ing of the elections at the parallel would show the entire 
world the responsibility of the communists for preventing 
the reunification of Korea. 

Dr. Rhee, describing the incident in a letter he wrote on 
March 2, said he told Noble, "Such a plan is not acceptable 
to us; no one ever heard of such a plan before. The main 
reason why our people would object to it is that it would 
create a dangerous situation. Let us suppose there are 10,000 
communists in south Korea. If we hold an election all 
through the south, they will spread out in every section and 
we will be able to check them. If we hold an election in 
only one district or even in one province, they will all con- 
gregate and concentrate their weapons and forces to disturb 
that section of the country. Moreover, they would try to go 
from one district to another to vote in all the elections and 
that would be another problem to check/' 

Noble then asked Dr. Rhee, "Will you boycott the elec- 
tion?" Rhee replied he had been working for the election 
for over a year and surely was not planning to boycott it. 
But, he replied, the staggered election plan would be im- 
possible, and he added, "We will go right ahead with our 
election program." Noble and Rhee engaged for several min- 
utes in a heated exchange, in which Noble declared that if 
Rhee opposed the plan the U. N. Secretariat had devised 
the American troops would be withdrawn and the Russians 
would take over all Korea and Rhee replied that he was 
tired of hearing threats that if the Koreans did not accept 
fully all the plans presented by the Military Occupation au- 
thorities, the troops would be pulled out. "They should keep 
in mind that we are not working for the sake of Korea only. 
We are fighting their cause just as much as we are fighting 
our cause." 

At this point the two reporters hurried out, and Noble 
warned Dr. Rhee that they would send out news cables and 


"In two hours it will be all over the United States that you 
are boycotting the U. N. elections." Rhee remained ada- 
mant, and after another half hour Noble left, saying, "I have 
been your friend for fifteen years and this is our saddest 
moment." Rhee replied, "My friendship for you is always the 
same. Our political views have nothing to do with it/' one 
hour later Noble returned, with a copy of the U. N. election 
plan in his hand and said, "I must apologize and I am terribly 
sorry. I made all the trouble for nothing. There is no plan 
for a staggered election, after all!" Rhee patted him on the 
shoulder and told him it was all right. 

The sequel to this conversation was another flurry of press 
condemnation of Rhee in newspapers all around the world. 
Mrs. Hughes had gone from Rhee's home to the Duksoo Pal- 
ace, where the U. N. Commission met, and found out that 
there was no such plan as Noble had described. Hence, she 
sent out no story. The French reporter, however, had rushed 
to the cable office and sent out news of the sensational re- 
jection by Dr. Rhee of the U. N. plan for an election in Ko- 
rea. The next day Richard Johnston of The New York Times 
called on Dr. Rhee and asked him for a statement of what 
had actually occurred. However, the story was so compli- 
cated that the news desk decided not to run it especially 
in view of the fact that it was a tempest in a teapot, with no 
factual basis. The result was that foreign newspaper readers 
were left once again with the impression that Dr. Rhee was 
stubborn, unco-operative, and so confused that he opposed 
the U. N. election plan one day, and favored it again the 
next By such events (multiplied many times in other cir- 
cumstances) his reputation for being undependable and er- 
ratic spread. To a very large extent, that reputation is a 
factor of the difficulties of foreign news reporting. 

The progress being made toward the holding of elections 
in Korea did not result in improving the relations between 
Dr. Rhee and General Hodge. on the contrary, their mutual 


suspicion and acrimony increased. on January 27, 1948, the 
usually sober and restrained Christian Science Monitor gave 
front-page display to a story by Gordon Walker, its chief 
Far Eastern correspondent, stating that "the official Ameri- 
can viewpoint" in Seoul was "that Dr. Rhee would be un- 
suitable as a political leader, even of south Korea." The 
story continued, "As far as the local United States command 
is concerned, Dr. Rhee today seems to be classified in almost 
the same category as many Korean communist leaders, who 
either are hunted or else already in jail for activities deemed 
detrimental to the occupation operation." on February 2 
General Hodge wrote to Senator Brien McMahon: "Regard- 
less of Mr. [Jay Jerome] Williams' great regard for Dr. Syng- 
man Rhee, Dr. Rhee has not been for over a year, and is not 
now, working in co-operation with the efforts of the United 
States to bring forth an independent and united Korea, but 
actually is making our task more difficult. He has done much 
in the past year to bring about distrust by Koreans of the 
occupation forces and of United States policies." According 
to another story by Gordon Walker (who was closely in 
Hodge's confidence) Kimm Kiusic was slated by Hodge for 
the presidency of the proposed republic. 

There is no doubt that both Rhee and Hodge had come 
to a point where each readily thought the worst of the other, 
without much regard for evidence. Of course there were 
spite-mongers near both men who did their petty best to 
heighten the animosity. Since Hodge, for all his limitations 
and mistakes, came to entertain a high regard for the Ko- 
rean people and did his best on their behalf, it is most re- 
grettable that he and Rhee could not have maintained the 
cordiality of their earlier relations in the fall of 1945. When 
Hodge charged Rhee with "making our task more difficult," 
what he probably had in mind was the fact that his ostensible 
Military Government could not operate effectually unless 
supported by the real power which Rhee held by virtue of 


his popularity with the people. As the time came to work 
out plans for holding an election in Korea, the necessity be- 
came acute for a conference between Rhee and Hodge to 
insure a workable harmonizing of their ideas as to proce- 
dures. Hodge several times sent indirect hints to Dr. Rhee 
that it would be desirable for him to come to the staff head- 
quarters in the Banto Hotel. Rhee ignored them, feeling 
that if Hodge did not care to call upon him, the least courtesy 
he could extend would be a direct invitation. 

The impasse was broken in a strange manner. one eve- 
ning in January General Hodge telephoned to Rhee, who 
was about to leave with Mrs. Rhee for an early evening meet- 
ing, asking if, on his way home, he would stop at Kyung 
Mu Dai, the official governmental residence which Hodge 
occupied, to give his reaction to an important notice which 
the Military Government intended to issue. Rhee agreed 
and a couple of hours later drove up to the door of Kyung 
Mu Dai. Leaving Mrs. Rhee in the car (since the call was 
not social and was presumably but to require a few mo- 
ments) he went in. In the room which Hodge used as his 
study Rhee found many papers spread out, completely cov- 
ering a large table in the middle of the room. Hodge greeted 
him grimly and told him "Now we can give some considera- 
tion to all these matters that have been piling up." Actually 
the conference lasted more than an hour and a half, during 
all of which time Mrs. Rhee sat outside in the car, in weather 
far below freezing, completely ignored by the guard stand- 
ing by the door and with no invitation to enter. Both she 
and her husband resented the way they had been treated 
that night (though so far as Mrs. Rhee was concerned, this 
was doubtless simply an oversight on Hodge's part). What 
was true without any doubt whatsoever was that the two 
men who represented the only two sources of significant 
power in South Korea had drifted into ill-concealed enmity. 
Relations were not exactly cordial, moreover, between 


Dr. Rhee and the other major political leaders among the 
Koreans. His differences with both Kim Koo and Kimm 
Kiusic came to a head as election time drew near and a 
choice among them was to be made. Two other personalities 
were introduced into the situation when General Hodge 
brought to Korea Philip Jaisohn, whose prestige for his 
founding of the Independence Club half a century earlier 
was high, and Younghill Kang, author of The Grass Roof, 
the most famous book by a Korean ever to be published 
abroad. Immediately upon his arrival Kang gave out an 
interview to newsmen, saying, "I don't like and don't trust 
Dr. Rhee. He's a politician, and I despise all politicians, 
Koreans or Americans. I'm a writer, an artist. Artists have 
no interest in the squabbles of materialistic politicians." 
Kang's sentiments clearly were such as to serve the purpose 
Hodge presumably had in mind, but his lack of tact rendered 
him unsuitable as a disruptive influence. Kang was shunted 
into a "back room" job and a few months later was quickly 
sent back to the United States. Jaisohn similarly lost for 
himself much of the goodwill he had upon his arrival, by 
saying in the hearing of a group of American and Korean 
newsmen that "The Koreans do not know how to make a 
bar of soap. How can they govern themselves?" This was 
in mid- April, when plans for the election were announced, 
but while the Canadian, Australian and Syrian delegates on 
the U. N. Commission were stating publicly that in their 
judgment it would be best to give the elected officials merely 
a consultative and not a governmental role. Suspicion, ill 
will, charges and countercharges flew in all directions. 

A more sensational development was an invitation ex- 
tended by Kim II Sung, the premier of "The People's Demo- 
cratic Republic" set up by the Russians in North Korea, for 
all "patriotic" South Korean leaders to attend a meeting in 
Pyengyang to plan for a coalition government under which 
the entire nation could be united. Kim Koo and Kimm 


Kiusic, along with the representatives of the Nan No Dang, 
South Korean Labor Party (communist) agreed to attend the 
conference. Both denounced the projected United Nations 
election for a separate government in south Korea, asserting 
it would have the effect of perpetuating the 38th parallel 

on February 12 General Hodge called Dr. Rhee, Kim 
Koo and Kimm Kiusic into conference at Kyung Mu Dai in 
an effort to persuade them to issue a joint statement favor- 
ing the U, N. election plan. Kimm Kiusic objected, saying 
he feared they were not in agreement. "Kim Koo and I 
have consulted one another," he said, "and we agree that 
any election for South Korea should be postponed until we 
can hold a joint conference with the leaders of the north." 
Rhee then tried to persuade the two other Korean leaders 
to change their minds. The discussion continued for two 
hours, without success. on Saturday morning, February 21, 
Kim Koo called a press conference and announced publicly 
that he was opposing the U. N. election. A newsman re- 
minded him that he had said a few months earlier, "My 
loyalty to Dr. Rhee will never change. The pine trees on 
Namsan may change their color, but not I." Kim Koo re- 
mained silent for a time, then replied, "We may disagree 
on small details, but on the whole we stand together." When 
the reporter later told Dr. Rhee of this conference, Rhee 
commented that, "All the pine trees in Korea are dying." 
As a matter of fact, the disagreement on the election was 
one of the most vital issues in the entire postwar Korean 
situation. The simple question was whether plans should 
be carried forward to restore independence in South Korea, 
or whether all such plans should be held in suspension await- 
ing a possible development of a spirit of co-operation by 
Russia. In essence, this has remained the central issue dur- 
ing all the subsequent period of the war and the truce in 
the peninsula. Rhee had made up his own mind very early 


that expectations built upon the hope of reasonableness in 
the Kremlin were mere chimera. 

on April 5 Dr. Rhee wrote: "The general belief is that 
the decision of the two Kims to go north will be much 
played up here. Already the communist press is praising 
them. They will make Kim Koo the vice-chairman and try 
to keep him there. Their propaganda is working hard to 
tell the northerners that Kim Koo is coming home to save 
the nation. It will go all right for a while, but they will in- 
sist either on carrying out the Moscow decision (on trustee- 
ship for Korea) or pronouncing that the northern government 
is the government and must be moved down. All the mili- 
tary preparations (in the north) are pointing toward it. Kimm 
Kiusic will demand the withdrawal of the Americans he 
has always clamored for it the Russians will move across 
the border and watch how the American people react, and 
if America is pulling out you know the rest. Dr. Kimm is 
too smart and he still thinks he can outwit the Russians. The 
only thing is for us to go right ahead with our program in 
the south without any delay." A few days later the confer- 
ence in Pyengyang was convened. on April 26 Dr. Rhee 
wrote, "If General Hodge was not in favor of it, the two 
Kims and their followers could not have gone. Kiusic was 
escorted up to the 38th parallel by a GF and was "protected 
and entertained all the way." "We are informed/* Rhee 
added, "that our opponents are hoping the conference will 
put up Dr. Kimm as head of the national government of 
united Korea, thus to postpone the election in the south." 

At the end of April the two Kims returned to Seoul from 
Pyengyang, both announcing they could not support the 
plans of the communists, for they had become convinced the 
so-called national government that was projected was merely 
a plan to extend Soviet control throughout Korea. Kim Koo 
was unsparing in his denunciation of the communists, but 
Kimm Kiusic insisted they were reasonable men and it would 


be possible to work with them. He announced that he had 
received a personal promise from Kim II Sung that under 
no consideration would the north cut off the flow of elec- 
tricity to the south. (South Korea got almost all its electric- 
ity from the hydroelectric power plants on the Yalu River.) 
To anticipate a bit, the power from the north was abruptly 
cut off on May 14, and from that time Kimm Kiusic's loss 
of face in South Korea was so complete that he faded into 
background obscurity. To still further dip into the future, 
he remained in Seoul when the communist army captured 
it on June 29, 1950, and upon their retreat in September of 
that year the communists took him north with them. His 
death a few months later was reported through underground 

After the failure of their mission to Pyengyang, Kim Koo 
and Kimm Kiusic reiterated their objection to a U. N.-spon- 
sored election in South Korea, and announced that they 
were asking their followers to boycott it. A flurry of news 
dispatches went out from Korea carrying this news, and 
intimating that such a boycott would nullify the significance 
of the election, which was scheduled to be held on May 10. 
The communists instantly took the cue, and the South Ko- 
rean Labor Party announced that it, too, would boycott the 
election. Since the news reporters had been declaring in 
their dispatches for many months that Rhee was an extreme 
rightist who represented only a handful of wealthy land- 
owners, this threat of a boycott by both the leftists and the 
middle-of-the-roaders seemed to augur a deathblow to the 
United Nations program for a South Korean government. 
The United Nations Commission hurriedly called a meeting 
to discuss whether the election should be canceled, but the 
plans were far too advanced to be dropped. No one in au- 
thority, however, ventured any forecast as to what would 
happen on election day. 

From the comfortable distance of 8,000 miles away, and 


especially several years after the event, it is difficult to pic- 
ture the confusion, acrimony and disorder of that pre-elec- 
tion situation in Korea. The communists were officially 
treated as a genuine political party and were allowed full 
freedom of action. With ample funds from the north, they 
had secured control of large numbers of newspapers and 
other media of information (notably motion picture theaters) 
and were able to give the impression of being a large minor- 
ity of the total population. The mountainous terrain of Ko- 
rea, the severe shortage of transportation and communication 
facilities, the inadequacy of the Military Government (both 
in numbers and in knowledge of the language, customs and 
temper of the Korean people) to control the situation all 
united to make easy the communist program of sabotage, 
arson, murder and planned revolution. on Cheju Island the 
communists gained virtual control, spreading out from the 
central mountain mass to terrorize the villagers in nightly 
raids. Several hundred communist agitators and terrorists 
were arrested, but on the eve of the arrival of the U. N. Com- 
mission in January, General Hodge freed 669 of them in an 
amnesty to "restore full political liberty." At Taegu, in 
February, a communist coup was attempted and the police 
maintained command only after forty-eight persons were 
killed. More arrests occurred. When the U. N. Commission 
commenced its meetings, one of its first acts was to demand 
the release of all "political prisoners." General Hodge de- 
nied there were any political prisoners in South Korea, but 
under the urging of the Commission he almost emptied the 
jails of all the communists who had been arrested for their 
lawless activities. The communists openly announced, on 
billboards and in their newspapers, that they would attack 
any "traitors" who tried to vote in the "imperialist election 
planned by the United States through its puppet, the United 

Dr. Rhee at first had no thought of standing for election 


as a member of the Constituent Assembly which was to be 
elected on May 10. The function of this Assembly would 
be to draft a constitution and then elect a president, after 
which would be proclaimed the establishment of the inde- 
pendent Republic of Korea. His friends both in Korea and 
in the United States urged him to stand for election, since 
the prevailing view in the news sent out by the foreign cor- 
respondents was that he did not have any broad base of 
support among the masses of the people. If he should ig- 
nore the election and then should subsequently be chosen 
as president, not by the general electorate but merely by the 
elected assemblymen, the charge would be reiterated end- 
lessly that the people themselves did not want him. Rhee 
yielded to these arguments, and permitted his name to be 
entered as a candidate from his home district in Seoul. Since 
there were no other means of determining candidacy, the 
regulation propounded by Hodge was that nomination 
should be by petition. Rhee's nominating petition soon was 
presented bearing 40,000 signatures many times the 200 
required under the regulation. Up to the end of the final day 
for submitting nominations, he was unopposed. But after 
the official deadline had passed, on April 16, an unknown 
man named Choi Neung Chin appeared at the headquarters 
of the Military Government alleging that he was a candidate 
desired by the great majority of the voters in Rhee's dis- 
trict, and that he was tacitly supported by Kimm Kiusic and 
Philip Jaisohn, but that Rhee's "lioodlums" had frightened 
people so that only 93 had dared to sign his petition. He 
requested an extension of the time limit. Although he had 
no evidence to submit, in view of Rhee's prominence the 
Military Government authorities decided it would be dis- 
creet, to lean over backward and allow Choi an extension of 
a week, to safeguard themselves against charges of favor- 
itism toward Rhee. At the end of the week, Choi again 
appeared this time with a petition bearing the required 200 


signatures. However, upon examination many of them were 
found to be fabrications. The military officials ruled that 
he would not be allowed on the ballot. Choi appealed his 
case to the United Nations Commission, which made an 
elaborate investigation, held extensive hearings, and finally 
issued a lengthy report stating that there was no evidence 
Choi had suffered any interference in his attempted candi- 
dature. The matter was ended officially, but the communist 
papers in Korea continued to drum away at charges of "co- 
ercion" by Rhee's Hoodlums" and many of these stories were 
dutifully reported to American newspapers as allegedly un- 
biased reporting of the news, 

The morning of May 10, 1948, arrived and Korea was to 
have its first democratic election in its long 4,400 years of 
history. The vote extended to women (a notable fact in the 
Orient) as well as to men. Registration had been heavy, and 
when the polling places (guarded by American soldiers and 
Korean policemen under their orders) were opened at 8:00 
A.M. long lines of voters had already formed. The balloting 
proceeded through the day, even though the communists 
conducted a campaign of violence in which over one hun- 
dred persons were killed. Voters were checked against the 
registration records, were handed ballots, and were then di- 
rected into the secret voting booths. In many instances elec- 
tion officials had to intervene to prevent husband and wife 
from entering a booth together for this was their first ex- 
perience with the secret ballot. Many voters upon emerging 
from their booths attempted to hand their open ballots to the 
officials, but were instructed to fold them and drop them 
into locked boxes. During the day the delegates and staff 
members of the U. N. Commission dashed around Korea 
(having previously divided the area into districts to be cov- 
ered by the observers) visiting as many of the polling places 
as they could. Curious officers of the American Military 
Government, wondering what would eventuate from all the 


plans and all the mishaps of the preceding months, also went 
on private inspection tours of the polls. Probably there has 
never been another election in which parties and candidates 
participating had less control and were under such close 
observation, That night when the locked ballot boxes were 
delivered to the Military Government officials to be guarded 
and to have the ballots counted, there could be no reason- 
able doubt that what was recorded was a fair expression of 
the will of the voters. Syngman Rhee's election in Seoul 
was accomplished by a vote of over ninety-five per cent of 
all the registered voters in his district. 

As for the widely heralded boycott, it simply failed to 
eventuate. Over 86% of all eligible voters had registered, 
and 92.5% of registered voters turned out to cast their ballots. 
In such periodicals as the New Republic and the Far Eastern 
Survey (published by the Institute of Pacific Relations) edi- 
torials promptly appeared declaring the election meaning- 
less since all the leftists and all the moderates had boycotted 
it. Most American newspapers accepted the fact of a more 
than 90% turnout of voters as being anything but a boycott. 
The Koreans themselves were enormously pleased that their 
new experiment in democracy had been launched so auspi- 
ciously. The United Nations Commission withdrew to 
Shanghai, to insure an impartial atmosphere for its delibera- 
tions on the reports submitted by its observers, and on June 
25 issued its own report that there had been "a reasonable 
degree of free atmosphere wherein [were exercised] the 
democratic rights of freedom of speech, press and assem- 
bly," and that the election constituted "a valid expression of 
the free will of the electorate in those parts of Korea which 
were accessible to the Commission and in which the inhabi- 
tants constituted approximately two-thirds of the people of 
all Korea." 

When the election of 200 assemblymen was certified (from 
among more than 2,000 candidates) the elected members 


gathered in Seoul on May 22 and agreed to hold their first 
formal organizational meeting on May 27. At this point 
General Hodge again intervened (seemingly with a genius 
for making mistakes) and suggested that the Assembly not 
elect a chairman but simply accord the honor to its oldest 
member who was a man named Sur, aged 78. At the session 
on May 27 many members spoke with great indignation 
against Hodge's proposal, both because they opposed it and 
because they feared it signaled an intention to try to dom- 
inate the Assembly. Rhee did his best to calm them down, 
assured them that General Hodge was probably simply try- 
ing to be helpful, and suggested they proceed with the elec- 
tion as planned. After some quiet was restored, Dr. Rhee 
led General Hodge into the Assembly Hall and introduced 
him to the members, saying, "If there is any one person who 
deserves more credit than any other one single individual, 
it is General Hodge, and I know he is rejoicing with us in 
what has been accomplished." Then, turning to General 
Hodge, General Dean, and members of their staffs who were 
with them, Rhee went on, "We are happy to see so many 
Americans here. You have been with us in a most difficult 
time. You were perhaps misunderstood and unjustly crit- 
icized but all these unpleasant experiences will soon be for- 
gotten forever, but one great fact will remain and stand out 
prominently in history: you have come here to help us to 
restore our independence and you have accomplished it 
Our people will remember this for generations to come with 
a high sense of profound gratitude and appreciation." Gen- 
eral Hodge responded with a speech in which he promised 
to keep hands off of Korean affairs and offered to do what- 
ever he could to assist the Assembly with its work of creat- 
ing an independent government. 

That same day General Hodge released publicly the text 
of a letter to Dr. Rhee in which he sought to lay down the 
basis for an orderly transition of authority, as well as express- 


ing a variety of cautions, hopes and policies. The paragraph 
of most lasting significance is the one that read: "The policy 
of the United States has always been that Korea shall be a 
united independent nation under democratic government 
free of foreign domination. That same policy is reflected 
internationally in the 43 to vote of the United Nations 
General Assembly when it voted to observe elections in 
Korea as a step toward establishing a Korean National Gov- 
ernment and to advise Korean elected representatives in the 
formation of that government. This policy also reflects the 
wishes of the 30,000,000 Korean people, and we all regret 
exceedingly that the free election could not be held in Korea 
north of the 38 parallel at the same time as in South Korea. 
The United States and United Nations hope that this can be 
done and that representatives from North Korea can join 
those of South Korea in the establishment of a truly National 
Korean Government joining North and South Korea together 
in one nation. It is my hope . . . that the newly elected 
representatives will do everything in their power to form 
a truly democratic government and to unite Korea." 

on May 31 the Assembly met again and proceeded to elect 
a chairman. Eighty-five of the members described them- 
selves as independents, another forty-eight classed them- 
selves as followers of Dr. Rhee ? 30 listed membership in the 
Democratic Party (led by Kim Sung Soo), and the remaining 
37 belonged to a variety of splinter groups. Dr. Rhee was 
elected chairman by a vote of 189 to 8. During the next 
several weeks the Assembly worked on the draft of a con- 
stitution, with considerable assistance from American 
lawyers attached to the Military Government. on the 19th 
of July, 1948, with the constitution adopted, Dr. Rhee was 
elected the first president of the Republic of Korea by a vote 
of 180, with 16 of the members voting for Kim Koo. on 
August 3 Dr. Rhee's nominee for prime minister, Mr. Lee 
Bum Suk, was confirmed by a vote of 110 to 84. Indications 


were that President Rliee would have a sound working 
majority in the Assembly, but that there would be a strong 
minority to serve a "watchdog" function. This expectation 
forecast the general tenor of executive-legislative relations 
in Korea during the years that lay ahead. 

The process of turning over authority to the new govern- 
ment from the American Military Government proceeded in 
orderly fashion through a period of several weeks. The date 
for the formal inauguration ceremonies was set for August 
15, notable as the anniversary of the defeat of Japan and the 
liberation of Korea. on that day General Douglas Mac- 
Arthur came to Seoul for the ceremonies, the first time he 
had ever set foot on Korean soil. During the preliminary 
observances, he placed his arm around President Rhee's 
shoulders and remarked, "If Korea should ever be attacked 
by the communists, I will defend it as I would California/* 
Attentive newsmen who heard and reported the remark 
wrote it down as an expression of rather inane sentimen- 
tality. That it was sincere was finally demonstrated in late 
June, 1950, when American troops under MacArthur's com- 
mand poured back into Korea from their base in Japan to 
repel the communist attack. But all that lay far ahead. on 
the Inaugural Day, neither Rhee nor anyone else expected 
that the future would be free of heavy problems. This day, 
however, was not the time for qualms or fears. The sky was 
overcast with heavy clouds which promised, but did not 
deliver, rain. As Rhee stepped forward to deliver his in- 
augural speech, the clouds cleared away and beams of strong 
sunlight illuminated his white hair and crinkled face. Some 
of the observers saw an omen in the clouds, but to the 
Koreans the best symbolism was the breaking forth of the 

Rhee's inaugural address emphasized the importance of 
democracy and the need for protecting civil rights and in- 
dividual liberties. He called for "the active support of every 


citizen, whatever his former beliefs may have been." In the 
light of subsequent events, perhaps the most notable portion 
of his speech is the paragraph which reads: "We await with 
hope and determination the missing third of our representa- 
tives from the north. The 38th parallel division is no part of 
our choice and is wholly foreign to our destiny. Nothing 
must be neglected to keep wide open the door to reunion 
of the whole nation. The Everwhite Mountains are as surely 
our boundary to the north as are the Straits of Korea to the 
south. No temporary international situation can obscure 
what has been established through the centuries as historic 
fact/' The speech concluded: "We realize that without the 
goodwill and assistance of free nations, the many problems 
before us might be insuperable. But we know we have their 
goodwill and feel we can count on their assistance. Above 
all, we need and we count upon the loyalty, the devotion to 
duty, and the determination of all Korean citizens. With 
hopeful hearts and minds alert we take into our own hands 
today a sovereign republican government that will long 

Thus, at the age of 73 still looking toward the future, 
animated by hope and dedicated to the cause he had served 
for more than half a century Syngman Rhee entered upon 
the heavy responsibilities of attempting to build the structure 
of a democratic government upon a foundation of 4,400 years 
of monarchy, Orientalism and Confucian codes of subordina- 
tion. He was confronted with the task of restoring economic 
self-sufficiency in a country cut in half, with its mineral, coal 
and hydoelectric resources held by a foreign power and with 
its heavy population augmented in the south by some three 
and a half million refugees. He had to deal with an inter- 
national situation that placed the world's most effective 
aggressor within the northern confines of his country and 
hungry to extend its conquest, while on the other hand he 

Top: Dr. Rhee introduces Kim Koo to General Hodge, upon 
Mr. Kim's return to Korea from China in November of 1946. 
Bottom: President Rhee on one of his many visits to American 
wounded aboard the hospital ship Jutlandia, at the Pusan dock, 
in May, 1951. (U.S.A. Signal Corps) 


had to deal with a sponsoring organization of sixty nations 
which comprised not only his worst enemies but many more 
countries which would willingly trade off Korean interests 
for such advantages as they might win for themselves. His 
people were not only inexperienced in self-government but 
were untrained for administrative and technological duties. 
Political parties in the Western sense did not exist, but the 
Korean electorate was beset by many factions which were 
bitterly contentious. Education had been in the Japanese 
language until 1945 and was designed to instil Japanese 
ideas, which meant that the knowledge of Korean history 
was incomplete and distorted. Because of the unhappy ex- 
perience with the Military Government, many Koreans were 
confused as to where around the world were their friends, 
or if, indeed, their country had any real friends at all. The 
communists, who had enjoyed three years of opportunity to 
dig themselves into South Korea, were prepared to exercise 
every means at their disposal to disrupt and destroy the new 

Under the searchlight of world scrutiny, liberals of many 
nations were determined to be critical of the procedures for 
dealing with communist subversion adopted by this new 
ward of the United Nations. Many so-called liberals were 
eager for the Republic of Korea to fail, to demonstrate that 
only through co-operation with the Soviet Union could 
suppressed peoples really find liberation. Miseries, inade- 
quacies, shortages and troubles multiplied upon every side. 
And to compound the problems, many simple-minded 
Koreans believed (just as simple-minded people do else- 
where) that through the establishment of their own long- 
sought independent government, all their problems would 
be solved. "Today we rejoice in having our own government! 
Surely by tomorrow we shall have security, and education, 
and plenty to eat!" It was not alone the poorly educated 


and uninformed people of Korea who looked to their new 
president for miracles. Many well-intentioned but unin- 
formed people outside of Korea took it for granted that if 
the independence Korea so long had sought did not answer 
all the people's needs, the fault must lie in the man at the 

Chapter XIV 



J? OR MORE THAN half a century Syngman Rhee labored with 
single-minded intensity to create an opportunity to help the 
Korean people achieve the decencies of democracy, a mod- 
ernization of their ancient society and a redress for the ills 
of an outmoded system. When the chance came for him to 
lead them into the Promised Land, fate seems to have con- 
trived every conceivable stratagem for turning his dream 
into a mirage. He himself was seventy-three years old a 
decade or more beyond the usual age for retirement. The 
presidency which he was assuming was for only half a 
nation with the division mischievously drawn between the 
living halves of an organic whole: industries to the north, 
agriculture to the south; hydroelectric power and coal to the 
north, light fabrication factories dependent upon such power 
to the south; fertilizer plants to the north, and in the south 
fields farmed for two thousand years and therefore unable 
to produce except as nitrates and phosphates were poured 
into them each spring. 

Northward, across the artificial line of the 38th parallel, 
lived kindred millions speaking the same language, treasur- 
ing the same traditions, thinking largely the same thoughts 
as their fellows in the south but organized under a totali- 
tarian regime and subject to a large army of repatriates 



under Soviet control. South of the 38th parallel huddled 
more than three million refugees from the north, homeless, 
jobless, and restively competing for a livelihood in the midst 
of the nineteen million overcrowded and undernourished 
southerners. Mines, factories, farms and fisheries were all 
in disorder and disrepair, lacking in equipment and techni- 
cians, short of raw materials, and uncertain in plans. Owner- 
ship of most of the heavy industries, transportation and 
communication resources, and of many of the better homes 
was vested in the new government (having been turned over 
to it by the American Military Government after expropria- 
tion from the former Japanese colonizers). Few indeed were 
the Koreans who had resources with which to purchase these 
means of production, and even fewer were those who were 
willing to risk converting fluid capital into deteriorating 
properties which would be subject to attack from the north, 
sabotage from communist agents in the south, and to taxation 
and regulations yet to be devised by a new and untried 

The further problems that confronted Syngman Rhee were 
lack of experienced personnel, the unfamiliarity of the 
people with democracy, shortage of everything needed for 
economic recovery, a Japanized educational system that had 
fallen apart when the Japanese were repatriated, a currency 
not admitted to the international exchange and with little 
gold reserve, a critical military defensive problem without 
an army, undefined international inspection without inter- 
national responsibility, and an American aid program pointed 
toward relief instead of the industrial development that was 
so desperately needed. Both the United States and the 
United Nations were interested enough to insist upon pre- 
cautionary controls, but were not interested enough to invest 
the money and the attention required to help establish the 
economy, the armed forces and the government structure of 
Korea as an integrated going concern. Korean politicians 


were confronted with the heady prospect of being able to 
advance their own interests for the first time in their lives, 
with no real organized political parties and with no rooted 
traditions to serve as guides for plans, procedures or conduct. 

Syngman Rhee had asked for leadership and he got it 
under conditions almost impossible to conceive. As an 
illustration of the minuteness as well as the pervasiveness of 
the difficulties, he could not even secure a secretary. Koreans 
with secretarial skills were practically nonexistent and 
foreign secretaries were not available. During the course of 
the Constitutional Convention, in the summer of 1948, he 
wrote to an American friend a long letter (pecked out on 
his own portable typewriter), which concluded: "I am not 
going to have this rough draft retyped, as we have not time 
to do it. Hope you will be satisfied with its mistakes and 
errors as I am typing it myself in the midst of all the con- 
fusion and noise. Do find for me a good stenographer!" In 
these circumstances Dr. Rhee entered into the last and 
greatest phase of his life's work the building of a secure, 
democratic and free Korean nation. 

'These people [the newly elected members of the National 
Assembly] don't know what democracy is," an associate of 
President Rhee wrote in early July, 1948, while the debate 
on the constitution was proceeding. "For most of their lives 
they had to take orders from Japan and resented it. For the 
past three years they took orders from the Military Govern- 
ment, and most of them liked it because that got them 
positions of influence. Now they don't intend to take orders 
from anyone, but they don't know how to make up their 
minds for themselves." The summary is as apt as it was 

As the new government began to take form, President 
Rhee was quickly immersed in problems that had no solu- 
tions. Hundreds of appointments had to be made, many of 
them to posts of crucial importance, but there were no 


Koreans with democratic administrative political experience. 
No wonder many foreign observers doubted that the Ko- 
reans were as yet able to govern themselves. Not a few 
Koreans shared this doubt. Yet the problems piled higher 
every day and most of them demanded action without delay. 
Without any doubt the one saving factor in the situation 
was the character and determination of Syngman Rhee. 
Despite his age, he was a paragon of tireless activity. Ac- 
cumulation of years had not dimmed the sharpness of his 
mind. Weariness didn't keep him from giving detailed con- 
sideration to a multitude of problems. Three characteristics 
formed the fundamental basis of his leadership and they 
proved adequate to the harrowing responsibilities which he 
faced. The first of these qualities was an optimism that could 
never admit defeat and that always insisted problems could 
be solved. The second was an ability to see beneath and 
through the maze of complexities to the simple and clear 
issues which underlay them. And the third was the absolute 
conviction that the welfare of the Korean people and the 
interests of the great powers of the free world were so closely 
intertwined that his efforts to build a Korean democracy 
would inevitably gain the support of the Western nations. 
Without this clarity of vision and without this faith, there 
would be no bulwark of democracy in South Korea today. 
Out of this compound emerged a magnetic leadership which 
created at least a partial success against overwhelming odds. 
The rebirth of a free Korea is the direct and unquestionable 
result of the selfless devotion and transcendent abilities of 
Syngman Rhee. The great and indeed the crucial advantages 
of having democracy soundly implanted on the vast and 
teeming continent of Asia are owing directly to him. Those 
who have made him the whipping boy for the succession of 
disasters arising from the confusions of postwar policies in 
the Far East should ponder thoughtfully and humbly the 
question of where the free world would stand in the Far 


East today had it not been for the devotion to democracy 
and the iron will of Syngman Rhee. 

While the questions of the character of the new Korean 
government were still unanswered, President Rhee took time 
out on July 5, 1948, to write a long letter, of which a few 
excerpts will show the tenor of his thinking. Concerning the 
question of the interrelationships of Korean and American 
military security and responsibilities, he expressed the basic 
policy from which he never since has deviated: 

... I was told the U. S. Army is making plans to withdraw 
during the next 60 or 90 days. Our position in that connection is 
that they ought to give us time in which to organize our national 
defense. When that is done they can do what they please. How- 
ever, we will not ask or beg the United States to maintain forces 
here to protect us from foreign aggressors. Americans should de- 
cide to safeguard the United States interests in Korea, first from 
a sense of moral obligation, and second for the sake of American 
security. If the American people are sufficiently informed of these 
facts, I do know the Americans will not pull out and leave to the 
Soviets a free hand for occupying the south. 

Turning to a consideration of the newspaper label of 
extreme rightist which was freely and frequently applied to 
him, President Rhee indicated that his own economic-politi- 
cal philosophy is liberal Jeffersonianism neither radically 
socialist nor reactionary. "We are stigmatized/' he wrote, 
"as reactionary. We do not have to answer this charge by 
words. Our actions will speak more loudly for us. I do not 
think they can find anything in our constitution when 
adopted that will show that we are reactionary. Everything 
that has been said in the U. S. Constitution to guarantee the 
freedom of citizens has been adopted in our constitution and 
we are going even further than the Americans have ever 
gone. Our laborers are demanding now an article permitting 
the laborers to participate in business co-operation with 
capital and also giving them a share of the profits. This 


motion was brought before the Assembly and they asked 
me to give my opinion. I think it is a little too much for the 
laborers to demand. I am sure that the resolution should be 
voted down . . /' 

on still another subject which was to become a major 
issue in the second presidential election in 1952, President 
Rhee outlined the reasoning which he has continued to de- 
fend against those members of the National Assembly who 
wanted to change to the French system of legislative domi- 
nance over the executive: 

There was another question which created a strong division of 
opinion. This was about the premier and the cabinet. Certain 
leaders of the Assembly who have high aspirations secretly advo- 
cated the idea of the premier being the head of the government. 
They were about to present a resolution to the Assembly to this 
effect when I learned of it and met with them. I explained that 
when England adopted its cabinet system, they had a king who 
could not be the executive head and whom they could not get 
rid of. But in Korea we have no king and there is no reason to 
create a president who would be outside of the government. The 
moment the Assembly voted against a premier the government 
would lose stability. Therefore, we should adopt the American 
system and insure stability at least for the duration of the presi- 
dential term of office. Overnight the committee changed its rec- 
ommendation and decided to keep the premier in name, but to 
make him an assistant to the president, who will be the real 
executive head . . . 

A few days later Dr. Rhee wrote, "While the Congress is 
in session downstairs, I am in my office trying to answer 
some letters which need my attention." He was deeply 
immersed in the problems of constitution-making, trying to 
foresee problems that would arise, and attempting to devise 
compromise solutions which would gain and hold majority 
support without weakening the structure of a government 
which would have to be strong if it were to have a chance 

During an interlude between conferences in mid-July, 1953, 
President Rhee shows the Kyung-Hoi pavilion in the Capitol 
grounds to U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Assist- 
ant Secretary Walter S. Robertson. (Seoul Daily News) 


for survival against the many external pressures and internal 
problems. "So far," he wrote, "the draft [of the constitution] 
provides for a single-house Congress, which will elect the 
president and vice-president. My original suggestion was 
that a clause should be adopted for the establishment of an 
upper house after the government is formed." This sugges- 
tion of the need for an upper house, to insure balanced 
consideration of legislative questions, again came to the fore 
in 1952 and was finally adopted as a constitutional amend- 
ment, after a hard struggle. Another idea which President 
Rhee presented to the Assembly was also adopted in the 
summer of 1952: namely, that the president should, after 
the first election, be chosen by direct vote of the people. 

Despite all the difficulties, the new government took office 
on August 15, 1948. Two months later President Rhee was 
writing, "Since the turning over of the government depart- 
ments, a vacuum exists, due to the fact that the former AMG 
advisers sit around, wondering if their services are still 
wanted. We have asked twice for a list of available person- 
nel, but have not yet received any answer. In the meantime, 
nobody does anything. ... It will take a long time before 
we have an over-all survey and everything going easily/' 

on August 18 the Rhees moved into Kyung Mu Dai, the 
official residence which had been occupied by General 
Hodge. There was little furniture and they had the usual 
difficulties of new householders. Mrs. Rhee wrote that one 
of her problems was that the cook they engaged had worked 
for an American family in Seoul" and the wife called to com- 
plain about her cook being hired away. She and Mrs. Rhee 
discussed the question amiably for an hour over a pot of tea, 
with the result that the cook stayed in Kyung Mu Dai. The 
big two-storied, green-tiled building sits on a hilltop above 
Seoul, surrounded by twenty acres of wooded grounds. It 
is handsome, but very hard to heat and requires a great deal 
of furniture and a large staff of servants. Under Korea's 


depressed circumstances the Rhees had no intention of living 
any more expansively than they had before. Consequently, 
they engaged only two housemaids, and closed up the entire 
house except for the reception rooms and two offices on the 
first floor, and a bedroom, small dining room, and sitting 
room for themselves on the upper floor. During all the years 
since, this same economy has been maintained. The first 
and only time the state dining room (almost as large as a 
basketball court) has been used during their occupancy of 
Kyung Mu Dai was when they entertained Secretary of 
State John Foster Dulles in August of 1953. 

The grounds, on the other hand, were a sheer delight for 
Dr. Rhee. He has always loved physical exercise and the 
out of doors, yet the danger of communist assassination at- 
tempts (of which three were uncovered) had kept him con- 
fined to the small grounds around his former modest home 
in Seoul At Kyung Mu Dai, with a police guard around the 
surrounding wall, he has been able to stroll at will through 
the grounds and along the wooded paths. He is especially 
interested in the goldfish in the pond beside the house, and 
goes every day to feed them. He also has arranged a small 
pool where the fish are bred and watches them as attentively 
as any farmer would watch a flock of new lambs. His favor- 
ite outdoor recreation is to putter about the grounds with 
pruning shears in hand, trimming bushes and directing the 
work of a gardener. During the first two years of his presi- 
dency (until the communist attack upset all schedules) he 
customarily spent half an hour every afternoon out in the 
back yard sawing wood. His friends learned that the gifts 
he most appreciates are sets of small tools, such as wrenches, 
screw drivers, pliers, etc. In the evenings, since he cannot 
read after working all day on papers, he enjoys spending a 
couple of hours writing Chinese calligraphy. Mrs. Rhee rubs 
up the inkstone for him, helps in the selection of the proper 
brushes, and criticizes the results noting that one line is 


too heavy, another light or wavy, or Judging the balance of 
a completed ideograph. Sometimes, she will read aloud to 
him for an hour from some current book preferably a dis- 
cussion of international affairs. Their life in their leisure 
hours is a simple one, comparable to that of middle-class 
educated Americans, even to the Saturday evening movie, 
which is shown in the reception room of Kyung Mu Dai. 

Dr. and Mrs. Rhee are both very fond of animals, partic- 
ularly dogs. They have two small dogs, which Dr. Rhee 
always feeds with scraps from the table, and which are 
devoted to him. They lie at his feet while he works, sit 
outside his office in the hall when he has high-level con- 
ferences, and walk with him around the grounds. In the 
summer of 1948 the Rhees had a three-legged deer, which 
hunters had found in the woods, and which they presented 
to him. This animal was a prime favorite for about six 
months, after which it developed such a temper that it had 
to be disposed of. During the winter of 1952 Dr. Rhee had 
another pet deer running about the grounds of Kyung Mu 
Dai, and coming up to him to receive the sugar and bread 
which he always had for it. In the spring of 1952 Korean 
soldiers found two small black bear cubs in the eastern 
mountains, where their mother had been killed by artillery 
fire, and they presented these to Dr. Rhee. The cubs 
wrestled, climbed and entertained visitors through the 
summer, and then were sent to Washington, D. C. as a 
present for President Eisenhower, where they are now enter- 
taining a larger audience in the National Zoo. 

For a time after his election to the presidency Dr. Rhee 
continued his tennis, which he had played intermittently for 
many years. Mrs. Rhee was his customary partner, and 
spectators were strictly barred. This game he gave up, too, 
when the communist attack was launched, and he has not 
returned to it since. Fishing was a sport he learned to love 
while in Hawaii, and he continued it in Korea when time 


permitted. When he could do so, he went out in Inchon 
Harbor in a small boat (or in Chinhae Harbor, during the 
period while the capital was in Pusan). When he could not 
take time for a fishing trip, he would try in the summer 
months to get in an hour of fishing, once or twice a week, in 
a large pond behind the Capitol building. Again, he dis- 
couraged spectators during these fishing periods, and used 
the time for meditation on government policies and prob- 

Along with his light but regular exercise, the fact that he 
does not smoke or drink and that he eats simply doubtless 
contributes to his excellent health. Another factor is his 
ability usually to forget his problems when he leaves his 
desk. He and Mrs. Ehee prefer a few good friends to large 
numbers of casual acquaintances, but the confining duties 
of the presidency make friendship a luxury difficult to enjoy. 
Consequently, they have devised entertainments which they 
can manage singly or together. When bedtime comes, 
usually around 10:00 P.M., after evening prayers Dr. Rhee 
ordinarily falls quickly to sleep. By 7: 00 A.M. he is up, and he 
and Mrs. Rhee have breakfast together, during which time 
he reads to her a chapter or more from the Bible. After this 
he works alone for an hour on the most pressing problems 
before him. By 9:00 A.M. he is out on the grounds for a few 
moments of observation of the goldfish and a brief walk, and 
9:30 A.M. finds him commencing a round of conferences 
and the study of innumerable documents. He writes long 
and frequent memorandums, sometimes dictating them to a 
secretary, but often pecking them out with two-fingered 
typewriting on a small portable. 

A large measure of his effectiveness in the presidency 
stems from the flexibility of mind which makes it easy for 
him to turn quickly from one problem to another, often 
wholly changing his mood in doing so. He may have a 
disagreeable discussion with one person concerning a policy 


which is not working well; and after that talk ends he may 
greet another visitor with such relaxed graciousness that it 
seems impossible he ever has to struggle with problems. 
During the course of a day he will talk with experts in half 
a dozen different fields and often he astonishes them by 
his grasp of not only the essentials but even of many of the 
details of the problem upon which they are working. Sub- 
ordinates who report directly to him have found that he is 
not satisfied with generalities, but requires detailed state- 
ments of what is being done and of the reasons why some 
particular course of action is being recommended. 

As an administrator, his greatest liability is his difficulty 
in delegating full responsibility. When this problem is dis- 
cussed with him, he is prone to look at his inquirer quizzi- 
cally and ask just how much responsibility can safely be 
intrusted to untrained and inexperienced aides. His secretary 
high-lighted another facet of the situation when he wrote, 
on December 3, 1948, "It is very difficult to make the Koreans 
understand he cannot attend to everything." Everyone who 
has a problem, whether he be a Korean, an American, or a 
representative of one of the several international organiza- 
tions in Korea, tries if he can to get the direct attention of 
the president. When the government was first organized, 
with lines of authority not clearly defined, cabinet ministers 
developed the habit of bringing to President Ehee for final 
decision a great many of the problems with which they had 
to deal. This habit has persisted unduly partly because of 
Dr. Rhee's own nature; partly because cabinet officers have 
been frequently changed, so that there are always new and 
inexperienced ones; and partly because Korea has been beset 
during the short life of the republic by a mass of problems 
too acute to permit of anything but top-level decision. 

Because of his long lifetime of agitation, President Rhee 
has a high regard for the value of achieving favorable public 
opinion, and during his entire tenure in office he has given 


considerable attention to the press. He is fond of issuing 
statements for newsmen and perhaps does so too often for 
maximum effectiveness. During his first eighteen months in 
the presidency, he held weekly press conferences, for foreign 
and Korean newsmen. At these conferences, he would talk 
freely, normally with no prepared statement, and would 
answer every question that was asked. It is probably true 
that in all his life he has never turned aside a reporter with 
the noncommittal, "No comment/' which is the customary 
safeguard of high officials. His custom is to talk with the 
press in English until all the foreign newsmen are satisfied, 
then to hold a continuing session in Korean with the local 
pressmen. However, after the attack by the communists, 
this regular weekly press conference was suspended and it 
has not been renewed. In place of it, President Rhee has 
adopted the practice of granting special interviews to 
selected newsmen a method that frequently results in harsh 
criticism by those who are left out. In any period of crisis 
(and Korea is never long without one) newsmen will send 
questions to Kyung Mu Dai, accompanied by a request that 
they be allowed to come and see the president personally. 
Most of these questions are answered only in writing, with 
personal conferences perhaps once in two weeks. During 
this latter period he has granted general conferences only 
at infrequent intervals. Korean reporters practically never 
see him except at these general conferences, which is a 
subject of common complaint among them. Since President 
Rhee most often discusses international questions with news- 
men, he is chiefly interested in addressing the foreign press. 
The Korean newsmen, of course, receive daily news reports 
from the Korean Office of Public Information. 

President Rhee, however, far from neglects Korean public 
opinion. His favorite method of reaching the Korean people 
is through public speeches, which are naturally reported in 
full in the local newspapers. He is a prolific speaker and 


enjoys extempore addresses. If he says something indiscreet 
in one of these off-the-cuff addresses, and it gets translated 
for a foreign correspondent, President Rhee customarily will 
paraphrase what he has said in an appropriate statement in 
English, which he then considers as "official." This custom 
is one of the commonest sources for the contradictory or 
inflammatory statements which from time to time get into 
publication abroad. 

In the spring of 1949, during eight days at the end of 
April, President Rhee undertook his most ambitious barn- 
storming tour of Korea. He set out from Seoul in a special 
train, which took three days for the customary twelve-hour 
trip to Pusan. Along the route he delivered eleven speeches 
the first day, ten the second, and five on the third. Some of 
these were major addresses to large crowds gathered in 
decorated town squares in the major cities along the route. 
Others were whistle-stop talks to crowds of farmers gathered 
at a crossroad. When such a crowd was spotted ahead of 
the train, President Rhee would order a stop, while he 
talked to the crowd for from ten minutes to half an hour. 
on one occasion, a crowd of perhaps two thousand farmers 
and their families had gathered behind a rice paddy fifty 
yards from the tracks, to wave at the president as he went by. 
President Rhee had the train stopped, got off, went to where 
the crowd had assembled and shook hands with hundreds 
of the people. His staff was worried for fear he would wear 
himself out, but upon arrival in Pusan on the third day 
where a tremendous crowd had gathered for a speech he 
was apparently as fresh as when he left Seoul. From Pusan 
he and a small party went by motor launch to Chinhae, 
where he held a long press conference with a dozen news- 
men who had gone there by car. After that he took two days 
out to rest and fish, then went on by water to Moppo, at the 
southwest corner of the peninsula, and worked his way back 
by train to Seoul, talking to numerous groups along the way. 


Newsmen estimated that in the eight days occupied by this 
trip President Rhee addressed between three and four 
million people. 

In these talks President Rhee devoted himself to explain- 
ing the pattern of Korean-American co-operation and the 
communist threat. "Without American aid," he told the 
crowds, "we never could hope to revive our blasted and 
divided economy. United States military aid is helping us 
to build the army that already has subdued the communist 
guerrillas on Cheju Island, in the Chiri Mountains, and 
around Taegu. American technicians are helping us to 
organize the coal mining and electricity generating programs 
upon which our hope of industrialism is based. American 
fertilizers are providing the basis for the best crop year in 
our history." He would then drive home the corollary point 
that the aid program could only be effective if the Korean 
people co-operated properly with it. "American money can 
accomplish very little," he told the crowds, "unless it is 
matched by Korean labor and patriotic devotion. Don't 
dream of heaven on earth," he admonished them, "but work 
for the practical realities. We shall have to work longer 
hours, may have to eat less, and do without everything but 
the bare necessities. It is the future of our nation we are 
building, to make a better life for our children. If we should 
selfishly concentrate upon getting a better life for ourselves 
today, the whole future of our land may be imperiled." 

This theme of building for the future has marked every 
phase of President Rhee's administration. During the period 
of aid for Korea supplied through the Economic Co-opera- 
tion Administration he often was in disagreement with the 
officials who wanted to concentrate on bringing in con- 
sumers goods, in order to deflate the high prices, whereas 
Rhee insisted the Koreans were willing and able to tighten 
their belts for the sake of devoting all available funds to the 
construction of long-range factories, transportation facilities, 


and mining developments. In his first inaugural address he 
sounded this keynote: "The final destination toward which 
we are bound lies yet far ahead, at the end of a road that 
may be both long and rough. . . . This is no time to relax 
and take our ease. Rather than to brood upon the past, or 
to rejoice in the present, we must plan and work for the 
future." In a letter written during his first weeks in the 
presidency, he said: "The United States did not start out in 
marble halls, but in log cabins. That is the choice we must 

In the middle of December, 1948, Paul Hoffman, director 
of EGA, visited Korea, and on December 14 Dr. Rhee wrote: 
"Hoffman was here for a day came late Wednesday and left 
at 8:00 A.M. Friday. He stressed the importance of 'co-opera- 
tion' between America and Korea ... He fully agreed that 
Korea is ready for democracy and thinks it should be helped, 
etc." When Hoffman returned to the United States from 
this trip, he created a new watchword by telling a press 
conference that, "Korea is the bastion of democracy in Asia." 
This proved to be an astute forecast. 

In these two themes: economic recovery and the establish- 
ment of a sound democracy that would be a bastion against 
communism, President Rhee confronted the major problems 
with which he had to deal. The other problems were multi- 
ple (such as the procurement of capable personnel, develop- 
ment of education, re-establishment of the Korean language 
which the Japanese had tried hard to displace, etc.) but 
in general they were means of accomplishing the two great 
ends. As a matter of fact, the two goals are more easily 
separated in a narrative account than they could be in gov- 
ernmental policy-making and administration. 

Reform of the farm tenure system, for example, was neces- 
sary economically, since the farmers had somehow to be 
rescued from their dire poverty, and it was also a necessity 
if democracy was to be given any substantial meaning to the 


mass of the people. Because of its far-reaching importance 
(with 75% of Koreans living on farms, and almost half of them 
being tenants), farm-tenantry or land reform offers a key 
to the fundamental nature of President Rhee's administra- 

Although he was elected president of the republic, with 
powers defined more broadly than those of an American 
president, he still was far from having a free hand. American 
economic and military aid were essential to Korean survival, 
and both U. S. policy and American public opinion favored 
immediate and sweeping land reform for South Korea. The 
Military Government had sold the farm lands which had 
been taken over from former Japanese owners and thus set 
a precedent for granting ownership of the farms to their 
tillers. The "land reform" of the communists in North Korea 
was loudly and widely heralded by Owen Lattimore and the 
Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy (which in- 
fluenced many Americans before it was placed on the 
attorney general's subversive list). Actually the seven and a 
half per cent of the North Korean population which was 
classed as "landlords" was liquidated jailed, exiled, or ex- 
ecutedand the land was placed at the disposal of com- 
munist committees in every myun, who were charged with 
the responsibility of allocating it to farmers who were de- 
pendably loyal to the regime. 

In South Korea President Ehee had no intention of 
liquidating landlords. The problem he did confront was 
complex. Those who owned rental farm property, he felt, 
should be forced to sell it but they should be paid a fair 
price. on the other hand, the tenants had no money with 
which to purchase the land. And the landlords must be 
given some chance to make other investments which would 
preserve their capitalist status for Rhee was and is com- 
mitted to a free enterprise society. Another complication 
existed in the fact that the landlords did not wish to sell 


their lands, and they were heavily represented in the new 
National Assembly, both by the Democratic Party members 
and by many of the Independents. Since the Korean land- 
lords had traditionally been the most influential segment of 
the population, it was wholly natural that many of them had 
won election to the Assembly. These men had a very im- 
portant vested interest in maintaining their land ownership. 
What President Rhee needed to do, and what he immediately 
set about doing, was to devise some means of making land 
reform acceptable to them. The solution which he devised 
was to offer the landowners certificates in payment for their 
farm properties which could be used to purchase factories 
that had been expropriated from former Japanese owners 
by the Military Government and then turned over to the 
government of the republic. In Rhee's view, the transfer 
of title to these properties from governmental to private 
ownership was fully as important as the solution of the farm 
tenantry problem, for only when that was done could the 
republic become a genuinely free enterprise society. 

Because of a vast amount of misinformed discussion in the 
foreign press, the nature of the land tenure question in South 
Korea has been widely misunderstood. The real problem 
was the shortage of land, which was only sufficient to allow 
an average of two and a half acres per farm family, rather 
than the concentration of ownership in a few hands. Figures 
on land ownership are revealing. only 272 landlords owned 
as much as 245 acres. Tracts of from 12.5 to 24.5 acres were 
owned by 5,488 landlords. Rental properties of from 2.5 
acres to 4.9 acres were owned by 45,692 landlords, and 
213,453 families owned less than 2.45 acres of land. What 
was bad about the farm tenure system was not the concentra- 
tion of large acreages in a few hands, but excessively high 
rentals, which normally amounted to one-third of the an- 
nual crop. Farmers, who under the best of available 
circumstances were barely able to make a living for their 


families, were subjected to the heavy drain of losing one 
bushel out of every three of the rice they could grow. They 
had to be rescued from this burden and President Rhee 
placed land reform at the top of his agenda. 

A land reform bill was one of the first pieces of legislation 
to be introduced into the National Assembly. It was referred 
to the Agricultural Committee, where hearings and special 
study consumed about eight months. on June 21, 1949, a 
land reform bill was passed, but because of objectionable 
features in it, it was vetoed by President Rhee. Finally, on 
March 25, 1950, he signed a new bill which had been drafted 
with his aid, with the advice of American agricultural 
economists, and which met the political requirements of the 
National Assembly. By April 15 arrangements were com- 
pleted for the sale under this law of 1,709,320 acres of farm 
rental lands to 1,236,558 former farm tenants. The price 
charged for the farms was one-third of the annual crop (the 
same as the former rental charge), payable each year for a 
term of three years. This payment in kind was to be made 
to the government, which in turn paid to the former owners 
the equivalent value in certificates of 150% of one average 
annual crop. The communist attack disrupted this program, 
but in spite of the ravages of the onslaught (which carried 
the invading armies all the way to the Pusan perimeter), by 
March 1, 1951, more than a million acres had been trans- 
ferred to the new ownership. President Rhee takes great 
pride in this achievement, which he considers the most 
sweeping land reform program ever put into effect by a 
sovereign democratic nation. 

The problem of establishing a sound democracy which 
would safeguard the rights of the people and help them 
achieve substantial benefits was extremely complex. The 
Korean people had no background of democratic traditions. 
As President Rhee said in a press conference on March 2, 
1952: "Many of the Korean people are used to the monar- 


chial form of government and do not know fully yet how 
they should rule their nation, now that it is a republic. They 
have to learn how to exercise their rights through their es- 
tablished agencies, especially when the latter choose to ig- 
nore their constituents and pursue only their own ends . . . 
Just as the monarch of old had absolute power to enforce 
his will and change the law to suit his personal convenience, 
the people in a republic today have power to see to it that 
their representatives respect their will and so are able to 
keep the government from falling into the hands of a few 
whether they be in the government or the Assembly or both. 
The real ruler of a modern, democratic nation is the people; 
they have the inherent right to restrain or remove their 
agents should they oppose the express will of the people, 
especially when a serious national issue threatens to en- 
danger the democratic form of government/' 

In any fledgling government, the severest test of its basic 
nature comes when the first election is held, after its estab- 
lishment, to determine the successor to its founders. Presi- 
dent Rhee could talk democracy and frequently did but 
how would he act when the time came to stand for re-elec- 
tion and risk the loss of office? Many foreign observers felt 
that President Rhee failed this test, for in 1952, when under 
the Constitution the Assembly was to elect a president for 
another term and when the Assembly made it evident that 
it did not intend to re-elect Rhee he insisted upon an 
amendment to the Constitution to transfer the power of 
electing the president from the Assembly to the people them- 

In November, 1951, President Rhee first presented to the 
Assembly a request for the amendment. He was advised to 
call in the Assembly leaders and find out what kind of favors 
(patronage and other privileges) they would demand as the 
price of voting away their own power to choose the chief 
executive. It was pointed out to him that this procedure is 


standard in older democracies (including the United States) 
and that he could not expect the Assembly to yield such 
power unless the members got something they desired in 
return. He scorned the suggestion. He said that the amend- 
ment was democratically sound and that if the Assembly re- 
jected it, the people would insist upon its adoption. The 
result was an overwhelming rejection by the Assembly, fol- 
lowed by a series of actions by President Rhee which brought 
down upon his head official protests from Trygve Lie, secre- 
tary general of the U. N., President Truman, and the heads 
of state of Canada, Australia and Great Britain, as well as 
a veritable storm of denunciation in the world's press. What 
he did was to declare martial law in the Pusan area (which 
he said had nothing to do with the dispute with the Assem- 
bly, but was necessitated by communist guerrilla activities 
in the hills around Pusan, in which several American sol- 
diers as well as a score of Koreans were killed), and to arrest 
four members of the Assembly. one of the members ar- 
rested had murdered a man in a cafe brawl; the others were 
accused of taking bribes to vote for a president who would 
favor a coalition with the North Korean communists. 

What President Rhee very deliberately set out to accom- 
plish was to create such a storm in Pusan that the Korean 
people in even the most remote districts would hear about 
it. When they did, they would ask what it was all about and 
would learn that President Rhee wanted the people to have 
the right to elect their own president; whereas the National 
Assembly insisted on retaining the right of election. As soon 
as the Korean population understood the issue, the national 
response was overwhelming. Every provincial legislature 
and over 1,400 local councils adopted resolutions supporting 
the amendment. Many localities sent representatives to 
Pusan bearing copies of their resolutions and these represent- 
atives crowded around the Assembly hall demanding pas- 
sage of the amendment. on one occasion they held the 


assemblymen in the hall for four hours before the national 
police took charge and cleared an exit. 

The chief concern of foreign governments was whether 
Rhee would disrupt the war effort against the communists 
by withdrawing some of the Korean troops from the front- 
lines to assign them to martial law duty in Pusan. This he 
did not do. The chief concern of many individual supporters 
of the republic abroad was lest democracy was being de- 
stroyed to entrench Rhee as a personal dictator. Great 
Britain sent Minister of State Selwyn Lloyd to Korea to in- 
vestigate the situation, and Lloyd reported back to the for- 
eign ministry, "Rhee is clearly most astute, and, in spite of 
his age, is head and shoulders above any of his compatriots 
whom I have met/' Some critics abroad charged that Rhee 
was violating the constitution. He replied that instead he 
was trying to amend it. on July 4 the Assembly concluded 
a marathon session of two days and two nights by adopting 
the amendment by a vote of 1630, with three abstentions. 

on election day, August 5, with 8,218,100 citizens regis- 
tered, and with four presidential candidates (including Hugh 
Heung-woo Cyan, an old prison mate of Rhee's, and Cho 
Bong-am, a former communist and presumed coalitionist), 
Dr. Rhee was re-elected by a vote of 5,238,769, out of the 
7,033,633 votes cast (86% of the total registration). The com- 
ment by the United Nations Commission, which observed 
the election, was: "The chief criticism which could be made 
of the elections was the short time between the date when 
nominations closed (July 26) and polling day (August 5). ... 
The Commission's teams found that, especially in the rural 
areas, very little was known about the personality, record, 
or platform of any candidate except Mr. Syngman Rhee. As 
to the charge of police interference, there undoubtedly was 
some interference, but it did not make any significant dif- 
ference as far as the choice of the president was concerned." 

President Rhee's own commentary was incorporated in 


his second inaugural address, presented on August 15, 1952, 
in which he said: "The recent "political disturbances in Pu- 
san' so widely publicized throughout the world as a terrific 
crisis were in fact a tempest in a teapot. The truth is that 
some of our foreign friends and press correspondents unfor- 
tunately listened to what my political enemies were telling 
them and believed the fantastic story that I was trying to 
dissolve our National Assembly and eliminate democracy 
by armed force. Most of my friends, however, who know 
my life and the principles that I stand for, laughed at them 
and some were even indignant. However, with the solid 
support of my fellow citizens we have won the fight against 
our adversaries. As a result, our democratic institutions and 
principles have been strengthened immeasurably by permit- 
ting the people, at long last, to have the right to elect their 
president by direct, popular ballot, instead of permitting 
that power to remain in the hands of the National Assembly/' 
There are three e< behind-the-scenes" additions to this story 
which require telling. The first is that President Ehee, 
throughout the fall of 1951, was honestly and fully convinced 
that he would not run for re-election. He was desperately 
tired and had begun to feel the weight of his years. He felt 
that by withdrawing into private life, he could still influence 
Korean policies, particularly in the realm of international 
relations, without having to bear the burdens of day-by-day 
administration. When he told me several times that he had 
decided not to run, I was not certain that he really under- 
stood his own feelings enough to insure the reliability of his 
conclusion. However, Mrs. Rhee, who surely understands 
the depths and nuances of her husband's mind better than 
any other person, assured me that she knew beyond any 
doubt that Dr. Rhee had decided firmly upon retirement. 
Why, then, did he change his mind? The reasons are doubt- 
less complex. Foreign influence was unquestionably being 
used to affect the choice of the Assembly. The storm of de- 


nunciation from abroad aroused fully Dr. Rhee's fighting in- 
stincts and persuaded him that he must show his critics he 
was not defeated by their clamor. And finally, the resistance 
of the Assembly to the popular will convinced him that de- 
mocracy in Korea was not yet sufficiently established to in- 
sure its persistence without the sheltering protection of an 
executive who was dedicated to it. 

Another story relates to the aftermath. In the fall of 1952 
when I spent two weeks in Korea, I referred to that political 
struggle, and President Rhee's whole body sagged and his 
face showed the full marks of his years. In a flat and heavy 
voice, he replied, "You will never know what the fight cost 

Still a third sidelight on the event was presented in a talk 
I had with Colonel Harry L. Mayfield, commander of the 
Seoul Civil Assistance Team of the U. S. Eighth Army. 
"When President Rhee was forcing through the amendment," 
Mayfield said, "we were all against him. But we have 
changed our minds. We admire him for the courage and 
skill with which he won his fight. Moreover, we have had 
time for a second thought about what would have happened 
if he had yielded to the foreign pressures and had dropped 
his plan for the amendment. The National Assembly would 
have elected someone besides Rhee whom, we don't know 
and the people would have been divided and embittered. 
The whole of South Korea would probably have fallen into 
chaos. That would have been the end of democracy in Ko- 
rea, and it would have made an impossible situation for our 
troops. We've got to admit the old man was right/' 

As has been evident, Dr. Rhee's chief concern has always 
been to safeguard the national independence of Korea 
against foreign encroachment. All other considerations, he 
feels, are secondary and in a sense derivative. A thoroughly 
independent Korean government will be able to concentrate 
attention upon the progressive improvement of the lot of 


its citizenry. on the contrary, any foreign government which 
has influence on the peninsula will use that influence pri- 
marily for its own ends. Thus, Russia in North Korea has 
behaved much as Japan did when it possessed all Korea: 
first, exploitation of the area, then utilization of it as a base 
and an avenue for further conquest. Trusteeship, or military 
government, or any other step short of independence, in the 
judgment of Syngman Rhee, would merely be a means of 
keeping the Korean people under foreign exploitation. In 
his thinking about foreign encroachments, he is even more 
deeply concerned about the Japanese than about the commu- 
nist threat. The Soviet Union and Red China have impor- 
tant but not essential interests in Korea, he feels. on the 
other hand, Japan cannot subsist on its own island resources 
and has no other outlet except in and through Korea. 
Hence, not because he suspects the Japanese of being in- 
herently evil but because he understands and sympathizes 
with their dilemma of possessing a rapidly expanding pop- 
ulation on land that is too small and too barren to supply 
a livelihood, he is convinced that necessity will impel Japan 
toward another adventure of conquest in Korea. Accord- 
ingly, much of his thinking about foreign policy is concerned 
with devising means of holding off this Japanese threat. 

Dr. Rhee has devoted a great deal of energy and thought 
to convincing his people that their own immediate welfare 
is of less importance than the long-term welfare of their 
country, "Tighten your belts, sacrifice, and work for the 
future," is a recurring theme in his speeches. He thinks it 
more realistic to emphasize the responsibilities than the priv- 
ileges of citizenship. He was not favorably impressed by 
New Dealism in the United States and has not tried to in- 
corporate it into his government in Korea. A continuing 
dispute which he has had with his cabinet and the Assembly 
is over salaries paid to government employees with Rhee 
arguing that Korea's disrupted situation requires that the 


salaries be kept low and that patriotism should be the pri- 
mary inducement to government service. on one theme, 
however, he has strongly emphasized the immediate values 
of citizenship: he has never missed opportunities to urge the 
people to assert themselves and demand their fundamental 
right to govern their own destinies. Many a time he has 
mused (sadly, or resignedly, or angrily) half to himself and 
half aloud to a companion, "The trouble with these people 
is that they don't know their own power/' or "How can they 
be aroused to stand up for their own rights?" 

on the vital question of civil rights, President Rhee is 
fully aware that the Koreans under his administration have 
been restricted more than are Americans or Britishers. But, 
he points out, the position of Korea is so dangerously exposed 
that some rights must be restricted for the protection of the 
whole people. Korean newspapers have been restrained 
from publishing articles favoring a coalition with the com- 
munists, for example. Yet those who charge Rhee with 
throttling freedom of the press fail to keep track of what is 
printed in the ninety-odd Korean newspapers. A great many 
of them (on some questions more than half) are outspokenly 
in opposition to his policies. A favorite theme of their edi- 
torials is to denounce some of his appointments to cabinet 
offices. Similarly, the popular belief among foreigners far 
from the Korean scene that President Rhee dominates and 
terrorizes the National Assembly fails to take account of the 
fact that the Assembly has from the first opposed many of 
his programs and devotes many of its sessions to listening 
to its members denounce his administration. Rhee makes no 
secret of his feeling that the Assembly members are imma- 
ture in political judgment and often are more concerned in 
protecting the interests of the well-to-do than in working 
for the uplift of the masses, Rather than attempting to find 
some means of strengthening his rapport with the Assembly, 
he seems almost to welcome its outspoken opposition, in the 


belief that this actually serves as a reminder to the great 
majority of the voters that he is their principal advocate and 

The presumed arbitrariness and alleged cruelty of the 
police has been another favorite target of foreign criticism. 
Ehee points out to those who discuss the question with him 
that the police force was organized and trained during its 
first three years by the American Military Government, and 
that all during his administration it has had three or more 
American advisers, appointed upon the recommendation of 
American officials. The Korean prisons are always open to 
inspection and newspapermen and humanitarian visitors to 
Korea are prone to visit them often and without advance no- 
tice. Trials of indicted persons are held publicly and in im- 
portant cases the courtrooms are always attended by foreign 
observers. In particular, the U. N. Commission in Korea has 
always kept a close eye upon the judicial and police activ- 
ities, as well as upon all other matters having to do with the 
progressive development of democracy. In its 1953 Report, 
the Commission observed: *ln reviewing the political situa- 
tion in the past year, it should be recalled that the Republic 
of Korea, since its birth in 1948, has held itself open to in- 
ternational observation of the development of representative 
government. . . . Despite certain trends and practices noted 
in previous reports which it is hoped are of a transitory na- 
ture largely resulting from war conditions, the basic con- 
stitutional structure of the Republic of Korea remains 
representative and democratic/' 

Education has made steady advances, both in its quality 
and in the number of students enrolled; the level of health 
and welfare has been raised despite the ravages of the war; 
the government, regardless of the newness of its institutions, 
the lack of democratic traditions, and the inexperience of 
its officials, has continued to function and to maintain its 
general services, in the face of the severe disruptions of in- 


vasion, bombing, and widespread destruction. Above all, 
the unity, cohesiveness, and sense of loyal devotion of the 
Korean people to their chosen government and to its general 
policies have never been shaken, but continue to be strength- 
ened. In the spring of 1949, U. S. Ambassador John J. Muc- 
cio observed (preparatory to the withdrawal of the United 
States troops, which occurred in July of that year): "If Pres- 
ident Ehee loses the support of his people, as Chiang did in 
China, we will have to abandon him/' The most pertinent 
commentary on this warning is the conclusion expressed in 
the 1953 report of the U. N. Commission on Korea: "The 
government has furnished a strong and independent leader- 
ship. The president's prestige with the people of the Re- 
public of Korea appears to have increased during the period 
under review, as a result of the stand he took in connection 
with the armistice and the release of prisoners. Perhaps the 
growing confidence of the government in its own abilities is 
the most significant trend of the past year. The government 
has convincingly demonstrated its will to insist on the rec- 
ognition of what it considers the basic interests of the re- 

Chapter XV 


JL HE EXTERNAL EVENTS and general development of the war 
in Korea have been widely reported in the press and have 
formed the subject matter for a score of books. The U. S. 
State Department and the U. N. have issued many official 
statements of their policies. It is to be hoped that historians 
of the future may somehow gain access to memoirs and offi- 
cial documents which will clarify the ambitions, roles and 
inter-relationships of the various communist participants. 
Meanwhile, another gap which can now be filled in is a view 
of the war as seen by President Rhee. 

In 1949 President Rhee quietly commenced a movement 
to initiate a Pacific area anticommunist pact which would 
match the NATO alliance in Europe. In furtherance of this 
idea he wrote to President Quirino of the Philippines, ask- 
ing him to be its public sponsor, and he invited Chiang Kai- 
shek to visit him at Chinhae, where they discussed the idea. 
on May 16, 1949, Rhee issued a press statement in which 
he said, "What I am advocating as a solution to the grave 
threat against Korea and all Asia by the aggressive forces 
of communism is adoption of one of the following three 
things: 1) The formation of a Pacific Pact similar to the At- 
lantic Pact; or 2) An agreement between the United States 
and Korea alone, or with some other nations, for mutual de- 


fense against any aggressor nations; or 3) A public declara- 
tion by the United States of a pledge to defend a reunited, 
democratic, independent Korea, in accordance with the pol- 
icy of President Truman respecting communist aggression." 
This movement for a Pacific Pact gained sufficient impetus 
for Quirino to call a conference at Baguio to discuss it. In 
view of Premier Nehru's opposition to working with South 
Korea, Rhee and Quirino reached an understanding that the 
Republic of Korea should not be invited, and accordingly the 
conference was called to consider the safeguarding of south- 
eastern Asia. Even this limited concept was opposed by 
India, and the idea of a Pacific Pact was sidetracked with 
a comment by Secretary of State Dean Acheson that it was 

In May, 1949, Ambassador Muccio, on instructions from 
Washington, told President Rhee that the United States 
troops which still remained in south Korea (about 15,000 
strong) were to be withdrawn, and asked him to issue a state- 
ment concurring in the plan for the withdrawal-in order, 
as Muccio said, that the communists should not be encour- 
aged to think a split had developed between the Republic 
of Korea and the United States. Rhee told him, "Whether 
the American soldiers go or stay does not matter very much. 
What is important is the policy of the United States toward 
the security of Korea. What I want is a statement by Presi- 
dent Truman that the United States would consider an at- 
tack against South Korea to be the same as an attack against 
itself. If that is done, we won't need the soldiers/' This re- 
quest by President Rhee was the subject of considerable 
discussion between the two governments, but no such state- 
ment was issued. on June 24 President Rhee wrote: "The 
American forces will be out of Korea by the end of this 
month. What do we have for our defense? Most of our army 
men are without rifles and so is our police and navy. Our 
defense minister reports that we have munitions which will 


last for only three days of actual fighting ... It is highly 
probable that if we explain this situation in some judicious 
and convincing manner, the American people may under- 
stand what we need and help us get it. As I said before, it 
is not my place to raise my voice at this juncture but there 
should be many ways of explaining this pathetic situation." 

on September 30, 1949, President Rhee wrote a letter in 
which he expressed cogently his views of the stalemate sit- 
uation existing in Korea and around the world. "The longer 
we drag along, the harder it will be," he wrote. "The So- 
viets' cold war is always a winning war. First, they give the 
communist agitators money, weapons and propaganda lit- 
erature to stir up the people to fight among themselves. 
Then, later, they form the communist converts into gangs 
of terrorists, assassins and robbers who, by killing and burn- 
ing, make human society in the area a hell. By so doing the 
communists are strengthening themselves and spreading 
wider and digging deeper all the time. The more robbery 
they commit, the more money they get. With the money 
they finance their burning and killing activities. But the 
nationalists everywhere have no one to count on for help. 
They have to use every means of their own to defend them- 
selves, and this sort of thing goes on year in and year out. 
The nationalists cannot keep on fighting indefinitely. They 
are forced sooner or later to give in. That is what happened 
in China and what is happening in many other places. What 
the Americans are doing now in the so-called cold war is a 
losing battle. If we continue in this losing battle by sitting 
still and merely warding off these gangsters, no human flesh 
and nerve can hold on very long." 

The letter expressed feelings that were sharpened by the 
fact that during this period communist attacks across the 
38th parallel occurred almost daily. As a requirement for 
receiving the small arms furnished to the Korean constab- 
ulary by the United States, the South Koreans were required 


to stay back at least three miles from that dividing line. 
This meant, for example, that in the city of Kaesong the de- 
fending forces could not dig in north of that key defensive 
position, but were restricted to a camp in the center of the 
city itself-since the 38th paraUel lay just three miles to the 
north. In March, 1949, a communist force struck against 
the city, pounded it with mortar fire, and sent a column of 
infantry against it. In order to flank and turn back this at- 
tacking force, the Republic of Korea soldiers moved north- 
ward along a ridge running up toward the fateful parallel, 
and turned them back. The next day, Ambassador Muccio 
called on President Rhee to launch a strong protest because 
South Korean troops had violated the three mile neutral 
strip south of the parallel! In the early fall of 1949 strong 
communist forces, with troops numbering up to 4,000 men, 
attacked south of the 38th parallel on the -Ongjin peninsula, 
a barren area above Inchon on the west coast, General Rob- 
erts, who commanded the 500-man military advisory force of 
U. S. troops (known as KMAG), serving in Korea, advised 
President Rhee to withdraw from the peninsula and let the 
communists have it, since it was without strategic signifi- 
cance. President Rhee scornfully refused and wondered 
publicly whether the United States ever believed commu- 
nism could be defeated by retreating before its onslaughts. 
on November 20, President Rhee responded to an invita- 
tion to write a brief statement for the Korean Clipper, a pe- 
riodical circulated among former Korean missionaries who 
were in the United States, with the following: "The main 
resource of Korea in these troublesome times must be the 
faith of our people in their own integrity and in the princi- 
ple that the right will triumph. You who have contributed 
to that faith deserve our humble thanks. The armies of our 
nation's enemy are lined up along our border the threat of 
destruction hangs over our heads. Yet there is something 
that communist totalitarianism has not been able to under- 


stand. Free men will not surrender. Men of integrity cannot 
be over-awed. We are fortified by the conviction that who- 
ever serves the cause of freedom is marching in the army of 

on January 12, 1950, came the statement by Secretary of 
State Dean Acheson, before the National Press Club in 
Washington, that Korea lay outside of the United States de- 
fense perimeter in Asia. Shortly after that, instructions were 
circulated to American diplomatic personnel in Asia asking 
them to prepare to explain to the public the anticipated fall 
of Formosa to the Chinese Reds. on M'arch 8, President 
Ehee wrote a lengthy memorandum, of which the following 
is a significant extract: 

You can gain some appreciation of our position if you consider 
that we are sitting here in Seoul, knowing that the enemy in the 
north can sweep down on us at any moment with more arms, 
more planes, more of everything than we can muster against 
them. We have no antiaircraft guns, no planes we can put in the 
air at the present time, not even any ammunition. The present 
program of military aid will only provide ammunition, spare parts, 
and the other little things which are necessary to keep the ma- 
chinery operating. I say "little" because they are only small parts 
which won't build anything. It is unbelievable how much these 
things cost, but they add nothing to our air and coastal defenses. 
It is only the determination of the Korean people not to compro- 
mise with communism and my determined stand against it which 
so far has prevented Moscow from giving the North Koreans the 
"green light" to invade the south. They have been better pre- 
pared at all times, and have guns and rifles with a longer range 
than ours . . . 

To summarize this whole military problem, we are not after a 
large army, a large air force, or a large anything. We only want 
to obtain forces in each branch of the military service which will 
be adequate for our defense. Even a start on an air corps and a 
navy would have a great psychological effect on the Korean peo- 
ple and on our enemies in the north. However, to accomplish this 


means that the State Department must revise its present interpre- 
tation of the American perimeter so that it includes Korea. . . . 

Two weeks later, on March 24, President Rtee answered 
a question about the Pacific Pact, in his weekly press con- 
ference, by saying: "If there is to be any pact at all, the 
main idea is to check the communist expansion; to check 
it by 'cold war* will not be effective. We have seen enough 
of it and some military approach is absolutely necessary, I 
believe. What worries us at the present time is the fact that 
some people seem to worry about our preparation for mili- 
tary and police forces in the national defense. I think that 
is entirely the wrong view. Unless our friends would like 
to see the communists completely successful in Korea how 
can they criticize us for military and police expansion? 
Whatever forces we have been using for our defense are 
necessary. If anybody wants us to stop this military prepara- 
tion for national defense then he doesn't take an interest in 
our security." 

There, in a nutshell, is the ironic summary of the situation 
which confronted President Rhee on the eve of the commu- 
nist attack. The danger was clear and was underlined by 
frequent communist raids across the 38th parallel. Intelli- 
gence reports from the north indicated beyond any doubt a 
large enemy build-up. The statements by Dean Acheson 
about the defense perimeter and about Formosa weakened 
the position of the republic by suggesting that it would not 
be supported in the event it were attacked. Meanwhile, both 
the United States and the United Nations were less con- 
cerned about the danger of a communist attack than they 
were lest President Rhee might do something to touch off a 
conflict. Accordingly, the United States restricted its mili- 
tary aid to South Korea to ten million dollars for the fiscal 
year and then limited this sum to expenditures only for light 
arms for a constabulary force. When President Rhee asked 


General Roberts for tanks, he was told brusquely, "There is 
not a tank in all Asia!" Despite earnest and persistent re- 
quests by Rhee and his minister of National Defense, no 
provision was made for gunboats, fighting planes, artillery 
or other requirements for heavy fighting. The military in- 
struction offered by the KMAG was limited to maneuvers for 
small groups, typically in company strength, not in the battle 
array of divisions and corps. The military status of the Re- 
public of Korea was designed to fit it to deal with guerrilla 
uprisings within South Korea and nothing else. 

As a matter of fact, a team of military observers was ap- 
pointed to assist the IL N. Commission in the spring of 1950, 
and it arrived on the scene and conducted its first field sur- 
vey just a week before the communist attack was launched. 
The purpose of this team was to insure that "neither side" 
was arrayed in a military posture threatening to the other. 
Of course the team was not allowed to observe north of 
the 38th parallel, but on June 24 (just about 18 hours before 
the attack was launched) it completed a report showing that 
the troops of the Republic of Korea were dispersed all 
through the south, and were not in the vicinity of the divid- 
ing line, except at small observation outposts. This was fit- 
ting and proper; this was the way Syngman Rhee was 
supposed to behave. This, presumably, was the way to have 
peace with the communist empire by displaying such weak- 
ness that it would have no fear and hence would not feel 
impelled to make a "defensive attack/' As has been indicated 
in the quotations from Rhee's letters of this period, he deeply 
and even bitterly disagreed; but his hands were effectively 

The first communist troops moved across the 38th parallel 
just east of Kaesong at 4:00 A.M. on Sunday morning, June 
25, 1950. It was not clear immediately whether this was sim- 
ply another border raid in force or a major attack; but by 


6:30 A.M. news was brought to Kyung Mu Dai that what 
looked like an invasion in full force was commencing. 

Without hesitation, President Rhee sent word to his de- 
fense minister, Shin Sung Mo, to resist with full force and 
at any cost. It was a decision freighted with heavy respon- 
sibilities. There was no precedent which might lead Presi- 
dent Rhee to anticipate that help from the United States or 
the United Nations could possibly arrive in time, even if help 
should be proffered at all. He could well recall the similar 
situation of Poland on another Sunday morning, September 
1, 1939, when the invasion by Germany did lead England to 
declare war, but did not result in any help being sent to the 
Poles. What had happened to Poland thereafter was not 
encouraging. Moreover, Poland had been assured in advance 
of a guarantee of support; whereas, the world had been in- 
formed that Korea lay outside the defense perimeter of the 
United States. The United Nations was directly involved, 
through having its Commission in Korea, but the history of 
international organizations seemed to preclude possibilities 
of any quick or decisive action. Neither Ambassador Muccio 
in Seoul nor General MacArthur in Tokyo could give Presi- 
dent Rhee any assurance of American aid, for no such deci- 
sion was reached in Washington until about twenty-four 
hours later. on the other hand, Rhee could recall that both 
Czechoslovakia and China had received at least temporarily 
lenient treatment when they surrendered. With no real 
armed force in South Korea and with no legitimate hope of 
substantial help from abroad, the prospect of defeating the 
invading army seemed so slim as to be hopeless. Yet Rhee 
ordered not surrender but resistance. 

It was a crucial decision perhaps the key turning point 
of the cold war between the Soviet Union and the free world 
led by the United States. A surrender by Rhee would have 
made the occupation of all Korea by the communists an ac- 
complished fact and resistance after that fact would have 


been impossible. Endangered peoples around the periphery 
of Soviet territory would have been still further disheart- 
ened. At the same time, it is beyond question that the quick 
and easy conquest of Korea would have been followed in- 
stantly by assurances from the Kremlin that the communists 
had "no further territorial ambitions.'* Stalin surely would 
have made every effort available to him to lull the Allies and 
to persuade them to continue the "economy drive" which 
President Truman and Secretary of War Louis Johnson had 
inaugurated in the United States (and which also marked the 
policies of the western Europeans). "Peace" was the strange 
device inscribed on the communist banner, and it may be 
fairly assumed that the occupation without resistance of 
South Korea (an area which Americans contemplated with 
distaste, at best) would not have led many to question the 
reliability of this claim. Czechoslovakia fell without arous- 
ing any strong reaction by the democratic world. The fall 
of China did not precipitate any active movement toward 
rearmament. Had Korea followed this same pattern, could 
the reaction have been any different? The Kremlin strate- 
gists, on the basis of the statement in January by Dean Ache- 
son, and similar later statements by President Truinan and 
Senator Tom Connally, chairman of the Senate Foreign Re- 
lations Committee, had no reason to anticipate foreign inter- 
vention. The patent military weakness of the Republic of 
Korea indicated that even if it did try to resist, the effort 
would be futile. The plan seemed safe enough safe except 
for the sentiment President Rhee had expressed in his letter 
of the preceding November to the Korean Clipper: "There 
is something that communist totalitarianism has not been 
able to understand. Free men will not surrender." 

President Rhee's policies and actions in dealing with com- 
munist aggression have been subjected to much harsh crit- 
icism. Yet assuredly here is something that his worst critics 
must ponder: his decision to stand and fight on that lonely 


Sunday morning on June 25, 1950, made the essential differ- 
ence in alerting and inspiring the free world to rise up and 
stop the advancing tide of Russian imperialism. Korea would 
have to pay the price; but the world of freedom would reap 
the benefit of learning the necessity and buying the time to 
prepare to resist. 

The next several days were crowded with anguish. Ko- 
rean soldiers from all over the peninsula were rushed to the 
front by train, truck and afoot and were fed piecemeal 
against the invaders. The light bazookas which constituted 
their strongest artillery fired shells which bounced off the 
communist tanks like pingpong balls. Uijongbu, a crossroads 
town halfway between Seoul and the 38th parallel, was 
quickly captured. Then, miraculously, the republic's troops 
swarmed in and retook the city. Molotov cocktails bottles 
of flaming gasoline were thrown against the sides of tanks. 
Carbines sprayed back their answer to the northern artillery 
and long-range rifles. Fifty per cent of the ROK force of 
93,600 men fell as casualties in the first few days of the 
fighting. After that organized resistance collapsed. In Seoul 
Ambassador Muccio mobilized all possible transportation 
and shipped every American out to safety. President Rhee 
ordered the Seoul radio station to transmit assurances to the 
population that the communist invaders were being held, 
and (after Truman's decision to intervene) that American 
help was on the way. on Tuesday, June 27, MacArthur re- 
ceived orders to give all possible support to the Korean 
forces. But the occupation troops in Japan were not ready 
for emergency action and help was slow in coining. 

The saga of the long retreat to the Pusan perimeter was 
a succession of stories of individual and unit heroism, with 
a strong undertone of tragedy, confusion and divided deci- 
sions. Unused to this kind of warfare, General Walker, who 
commanded the newly arriving American forces, kept his 
men in the valleys where their motorized equipment could 


follow the roads, while the communists swarmed around 
them along the ridge tops. President Rhee urged that the 
remnants of the Republic of Korea troops be integrated with 
American units, but in the haste and fluidity of the situation 
General Walker refused to risk what he feared would be a 
disruptive influence. With tragically inadequate forces, un- 
dermanned, underarmed, and without real liaison between 
the ROKS and the U. S. troops, the heroic withdrawal went 

on June 29, the fifth day of the war, President Rhee and 
Ambassador Muccio, in two light observation planes, flew 
up from Taejon, where the temporary capital had just been 
established, to meet General MacArthur at Suwon. on their 
way a Yak fighter plane tried to attack them, and was 
avoided only by the pilots maneuvering their planes back 
and forth through the valleys at tree-top height. David 
Duncan, a photographer for Life, was at Suwon when the 
planes landed, and gives this touching account of the ar- 
rival: "I thought to myself that President Rhee was a rather 
energetic individual for a man of his advanced years. When 
I learned what he had just endured I could feel only pro- 
found admiration for his composure at such a naked moment 
in his life, but more than that I shall always remember the 
way he looked down at our booted feet as we stood in the 
field alongside the [air] strip. With an expression of tender- 
ness he looked up from the earth and said, 'But the young 
soybean sprouts. Our feet are crushing them/ " Much was 
being crushed in Korea; but much endured. 

From the midst of the successive blows that were falling 
that summer, President Rhee wrote several letters expressing 
his feelings and views. on July 29, for example, he wrote: 

So far we have been following wrong tactics. Instead of arous- 
ing the fighting spirit of the nation, we have been trying to keep 
the people ignorant of the facts by telling them that the U. N. 

fl O 


army will start an all-out combat as soon as the reinforcements 
of men and material have arrived within two or three days. The 
people, confident of their security, do not think of preparing for 
their own defense. 

The cities and towns were captured one by one without any 
resistance on the part of the people themselves. Now we have 
come to the last city, Taegu, which is only a short distance from 
Pusan. The other day some 60 Red guerrillas entered Hadong 
and soon they increased the number to 300 men. General Chai 
(the chief of staff of the Republic of Korean Army) was shot to 
death when he entered with a small group of his men yesterday 
morning. It was reported this morning that they are moving to- 
ward Taegu. A group of American soldiers and Korean police 
have gone out there to fight them back, but so far we have no 
report from them. Meanwhile, another group of enemies occupied 
Hamyang, a little way to the north of Taegu. This city is pro- 
foundly stirred up and asked us what to do. I am telling them 
to get up and arm themselves with sticks, bamboo spears or any 
kind of homemade bombs and get ready to fight. I tell them not 
to run away from their homes, for there is nowhere to go when 
this city falls. We must stand together in defense of our homes 
and our city and our friends will do all they can to assist us on 
land and in the air. If we manage to hold this city for several 
days until the ships from America bring in the reinforcements, 
we will have nothing to worry about. Now the youth groups are 
marching in from all directions, singing songs of cheer. Their 
fighting spirit is thoroughly stirred and they are preparing for 
resistance . . . 

on August 2 he wrote: 

I hold myself responsible for the Taejon disaster. Had I known 
in time how the American army and the Korean army were to 
hold separate fields of action, I would have advised against it. 
The Americans just arriving in Korea, comparatively few in num- 
ber, rushed to the battle front to face a preponderant enemy 
force, without any knowledge of the country or the people, whose 
language they do not understand. Either the Korean troops or 


the Korean police should have been in the front serving as guides 
or interpreters. These Americans held the western sector, which 
is mostly plain rice fields, while the Korean army took charge of 
the high, rough mountain region between Taejon and the eastern 
sea coasts* The enemies concentrated most of their men* and 
machines on the Taejon front and General Dean would not back 
down. This disaster forms a sad story on the pages of history. 
Utilizing this sad experience, the Korean and American armies 
should march shoulder to shoulder and the result will be entirely 

A new phase of the war commenced after the successful 
landing of the U. N. armies at Inchon, on September 15, fol- 
lowed by the sweep northward across the 38th parallel, as 
authorized by the U. N. General Assembly resolution of Oc- 
tober 7. Everywhere the North Korean communist armies 
were broken and dispersed. The civilian population wel- 
comed the advancing armies as liberators with every mani- 
festation of joy. Against the advice of the Unified Command, 
which feared he might be assassinated, President Rhee went 
north and spoke to throngs of tens of thousands at Wonsan 
and at Pyengyang. Every evidence indicated that the re- 
unification of Korea would present no problem, so far as the 
feelings of the people themselves were concerned. 

The urge to bring the divided nation together as quickly 
as possible was uppermost in President Rhee's thinking, even 
before the communist southward surge was checked. on 
July 19 he sent a long cablegram on the subject to President 
Truman, of which the following are the most significant pas- 
sages: "It would be utter folly to attempt to restore the 
status quo ante, and then to await the enemy's pleasure for 
further attack when he had time to regroup, retrain and re- 
equip . . . The people of North Korea are the same as the 
people of South Korea. All are loyal to the land of their 
birth with the very minor exceptions of foreign-trained and 
foreign-directed communists. This war is not a conflict be- 


tween north and south; it is a conflict between the few who 
are communists, and who by an accident got control of half 
of our country, and the overwhelming mass of the citizens 
of Korea, wherever they may live . . . For anything less than 
reunification to come out of these great sacrifices of Koreans 
and their powerful allies would be unthinkable." 

What President Rhee did to help accomplish reunification 
is indicated in a memorandum, written in the third person, 
which he sent out to a few friends on October 19. In part, 
it reads: "When General MacArthur was here on September 
29th and had a talk with the president in regard to the 38th 
parallel, the general wanted to wait 2-3 weeks and get all 
the supplies ready and march on. It was the directive from 
the higher-ups not to cross the parallel but to wait for the 
U. N. decision and act accordingly, The president told him 
that it will be perfectly all right for the Americans to stay 
behind the 38th parallel, but the Koreans will move on and 
nobody can stop them. If they get the air support, they can 
make it. The president knew that the backbone of the enemy 
was broken and any delay would only give them time to re- 
group and reinforce and it would be that much more difficult 
to fight them . . . MacArthur finally agreed . . ." 

While the war in North Korea was going well, new trou- 
ble developed between President Rhee and the United Na- 
tions. The U. N. directed that the authority of the Republic 
of Korea should be restricted to the south, and indicated 
that when order was restored in the north, a new election 
would be held there under U. N. auspices. President Rhee 
insisted that the constitution of the Republic of Korea ex- 
tended over the entire nation, and that the U. N. had never 
questioned that fact. He said the Unified Command was not 
prepared to administer North Korea, and would have no 
means of distinguishing between the loyal citizens and the 
communists. And he pointed out that the Soviet Union had 
been telling the North Koreans the war had been instigated 


by the United States, in order that American troops might 
take over the rule of all Korea. "Now," he said, "if American 
soldiers do move into the cities and villages and try to gov- 
ern them, this Soviet propaganda will seem to be true and 
the people of the north will feel that they must fight to de- 
fend their nation against foreign imperialism." President 
Rhee's arguments were not well received, and U. S. Army 
officers moved into the areas directly behind the advancing 
troops, to set up a new military government. 

The dispute quickly became academic, for the Chinese 
Reds poured across the Yalu River to aid the North Korean 
communists, and on November 28 General MacArthur an- 
nounced that "an entirely new war" had started. President 
Truman announced that "under no conditions" would the 
war be expanded into China, and General MacArthur de- 
clared that forbidden to bomb the Yalu River bridges on 
which the enemy was crossing or to bomb the bases from 
which they were cominghe was forced to fight under handi- 
caps without precedent in military history. According to 
press reports, the U. S. Joint Chiefs of Staff were seriously 
considering withdrawing all U. N f forces from Korea rather 
than risk an all-out war with Red China. 

President Rhee expressed his own feelings in a lengthy 
communication dated December 16: "Every day both the 
Chinese and the North Korean communist forces are moving 
southward, destroying lives and property, looting, murder- 
ing, and raping everywhere they reach, striking the entire 
population of the north with terror. Thousands of men are 
being killed on both sides every day. Refugees by hundreds 
of thousands are pouring to the south, exposed to snow, ice 
and freezing air, night and day. The Red hordes are slowly 
moving on without meeting any serious resistance. No one 
knows what the U. N. may decide to do. All this time the 
U. N. forces are in a state of suspense, since the decision has 
not been made as to whether they shall stay and fight or 


withdraw . . . What are the countries that compose the U. N.? 
Some of them are struggling between the anticommunist 
and the procommunist elements in their own country. Some 
are trying to appease the Soviets, hoping to save their own 
necks. If they continue compromising and appeasing, their 
procommunist elements will multiply and their governments 
will begin to crumble/' 

In another note on December 24 he added: "General 
Walker's sudden death is a great blow to us all. He was not 
only a brave soldier but a true friend of Korea. . . . The most 
important thing our friends can do at the present time is to 
make the American people realize that the situation in Ko- 
rea is not as gloomy as some of the defeatist press reporters 
seem to make of it. We are in a hundred per cent stronger 
position than we have ever been. And we have full confi- 
dence. We can take care of the Chinese Communist in- 

The exuberant confidence expressed in these last sentences 
was in part the result of General Ridgway's calm announce- 
ment upon his arrival to replace Walker, "I am here to stay." 
Rhee's every effort was designed to counteract the very 
heavy pall of pessimism which was being spread on every 
side as the Red Chinese poured in and the U. N. nervously 
tried to make up its mind what to do. In part, his sentiments 
reflect the natural expectations that the war with the Red 
Chinese would inevitably follow the same pattern as that of 
the war with the North Koreans: initial successes for the 
invaders, but a resounding reversal as soon as the great West- 
ern powers assembled their strength for a counterblow. 
Where he misconstrued the facts was in his conclusion that 
the democracies really had no choice except to turn and 
fight the enemy that was pouring in its soldiers against them. 
In Rhee's view, it was perfectly clear that the Soviet Union 
was testing the will to self-defense of the free world, and 
that if timidity or hesitation were shown, the Kremlin would 


proceed with its plans for world conquest. So believing, lie 
took it for granted that either Allied prescience or else the 
sheer force of events would soon arouse the principal U. N. 
powers to the simple necessity of fighting to win. The loss 
of the local war in Korea, in Rhee's view, would simply be a 
prelude to a world war. 

Although the leading Western statesmen did not accept 
this conclusion, and decided instead to work for a compro- 
mise and a stalemate in Korea, Rhee has never weakened in 
his own belief in the soundness of his analysis. This is why 
he opposed the truce, when it was first initiated. It is why 
he released the anticommunist prisoners of war, in an at- 
tempt to force a reconsideration of the truce proposals, when 
it was evident the communists were ready to sign. And it 
is the basis for his present efforts to induce the U. N. to 
confront the fact that the communists have not abided by 
the truce terms, and that no solution has yet been reached. 
Stalemate, Rhee believes, is not so much postponement as 
it is an invitation to disaster. History will have to be the 

During the war President Rhee shared the hardships im- 
posed on his people and despite his years he found the 
strength to make a trip to some forward unit of Korean 
troops almost every week. General James A. Van Fleet, pay- 
ing high tribute to Syngman Rhee as one of the greatest 
thinkers, scholars, statesmen and patriots of our times," wrote 
in Life how, "For almost two years he went out with me to 
the front lines and to training areas on an average of about 
once a week, under all kinds of conditions. When we had 
to travel by jeep in cold weather, he would shrug away my 
apologies and smile at my expressions of concern. Then he 
would climb up into the jeep, and ride there with his fine 
face and his fringe of white hair standing up out of his parka 
like a sun shining from above a dark cloud." 

These trips, in the summer heat, in the heavy seasonal 


rains of June and July, or in the biting continental cold of 
the Korean winter, were made under the rigorous conditions 
of war. on one of them on which I accompanied him in the 
late fall of 1951, we left his Pusan home by car and drove 
through the traffic-clogged streets of Pusan. At one point 
his car was stopped by a halted motorcade of military trucks, 
and a crowd of curious Koreans soon gathered around con- 
taining no one knew how many refugees from the commu- 
nist north. At the Pusan airfield, we boarded a two-motor 
plane and flew to a landing field improvised in a valley in 
east central Korea, just below the 38th parallel. Then we 
transferred to small planes, each with barely room for a sin- 
gle passenger crowded behind a pilot, in an open fuselage. 
In this manner we flew through the valleys, almost literally 
touching the treetops, for another twelve miles to the north. 
There President Rhee alighted to be greeted by the com- 
manding officers of three ROK Divisions which were des- 
tined the following day to enter the battle of Heartbreak 
Ridge. President Rhee reviewed these troops, and spoke to 
them for about fifteen minutes. The theme of this and others 
of his talks to the frontline soldiers is well summarized in 
the legend he wrote to be inscribed over the entrance of the 
first Korean military academy: Sang-mu-dal, which may be 
translated as, "Hail to the spirit of the honorable soldier." 
Many a participant in these forward area gatherings has 
testified to the great boost which these visits by President 
Rhee have given the morale of the troops. President Rhee 
always thought of them as a two-way exchange, for he never 
failed to return from the front without his own spirits and 
his own determination heightened. 

on this particular trip, our return to Pusan found the air- 
field closed in with heavy weather, and the pilot was ordered 
to go back to Taegu. By the time of our arrival there, how- 
ever, the clouds had closed in there also. The gas supply 
was too low for the flight to Seoul, and the only available 


strip was a small jet fighter base at Pohang on the near-by 
east coast. Fortunately our plane was able to land there, 
although just in time to beat the lowering clouds. Our party, 
which besides President Ehee included Ambassador John J. 
Muccio, General John B. Coulter, and Admiral Sohn Won 
II of the Korean Navy, was not expected, and half an hour 
passed on the drafty field before several jeeps came out from 
the barracks. By this time it was 7:30 P.M. and the only 
available food was some warmed up left-overs from the sol- 
diers' mess. After this meal we all sat around in the cramped 
quarters of the major, who was base commander, until after 
11:00 P.M., when several jeeps took us through a driving 
rainstorm to an adjacent spur of rail line on which a car had 
finally arrived to carry the president back to Pusan. All in 
all it had been a day that might have tried the strength and 
nerves of a vigorous youth, but to the very end President 
Rhee was laughing, jesting, and giving every appearance 
of being a host who was having a good time himself and 
wanted his guests to enjoy themselves. As a matter of fact, 
even though many of these front-line trips were tiring, and 
many came at inconvenient times, on the whole President 
Rhee enjoyed them and found them a welcome relief from 
the pedestrian duties of day-long conferences and paper 

In Pusan President and Mrs. Rhee lived in a weathered 
and somewhat dilapidated old brick residence on a hillside 
above the harbor. on the lower floor the president had a 
study ten feet square and a conference room ten by eighteen 
feet in size, besides which there were two work-rooms for 
the secretarial staff. Upstairs were a small bedroom, and a 
five-by-seven-foot office for Mrs. Rhee on a glassed-in porch. 
Their meals were served commonly in President Rhee's 
study. The house was heated by an oil stove which stood in 
one of the secretarial offices, and from which a certain 
amount of warmth circulated through the remainder of the 


house. The only other heat came from passages built under 
the ondol floor of Dr. Rhee's study. It was useless for anyone 
to suggest more comfortable quarters for the president, for 
in wartime Pusan these accommodations were about as good 
as could be found. Some solicitous American officials did 
on one occasion suggest that perhaps he should have a pri- 
vate plane for his trips around the country, but he replied 
emphatically, "If I had an airplane, I'd want it to be used 
for carrying bombs to the enemy/' 

The grounds of the Pusan home amounted merely to a 
few square feet on each of three of its sides. About a quarter 
of this space was devoted to the raising of vegetables for 
the Rhees' table. Under a small tree in the back yard he 
had a table placed and during the summer months preferred 
to hold his conferences and do his paper work there. In an 
area about fifteen by twenty-five feet in size several shrubs 
and a plot of scraggly lawn were growing. This was the 
locale to which Dr. Rhee was restricted during the war 
years for his beloved outdoor exercise. Understandably, in 
the early summer of 1953 he was eager to return to Seoul, 
and actually did move back up to Kyung Mu Dai two months 
before space was found in that badly damaged city for the 
transfer of the general governmental offices. 

There he found not relaxation from the tensions of the war 
or relief from his labors, but the hardest struggles of his life 
as he fought stubbornly to try to unsnarl what he felt were 
the unworkable tangles of the truce. Walter S. Robertson 
was sent by President Eisenhower as his special representa- 
tive to work out a means of co-operation between the Amer- 
ican and Korean governments. Robertson found Rhee a 
tough negotiator, but when he got back to Washington he 
told the Congressional committees which requested his re- 
port, "You hear lots of things said about President Rhee but 
what it all adds up to is that he insists on fighting commu- 


nism. We'd have less trouble around the world if all our 
allies had his spirit/' 

In the talks with Mr. Robertson, President Rhee explained 
that he opposed a truce because in his view it constituted a 
surrender to communist aggression, which would be a heavy 
blow to the prestige of the free world, a danger to the future 
of peace, and a veritable death-blow to the independence of 
Korea. So long as Korea is divided, he declared, it cannot 
be self-sustaining economically and will always have to 
maintain a huge military establishment with American aid. 
The time will come when the American Congress no longer 
will vote funds for such a purpose and then Korea will slip 
helplessly into communist control. Even before such a time 
might arrive, the people of Korea and of all Asia would lose 
faith in the determination of the Western Allies, thus open- 
ing the door to communist subversion. In view of the un- 
questionable truth of these views, Mr, Robertson agreed 
with President Rhee that one of the necessities for safe- 
guarding even the half of Korea which remained free (for 
which so much sacrifice had been made) would be the ne- 
gotiation of a Mutual Defense Treaty between the United 
States and Korea. 

During the period of the talks, which lasted for three 
weeks, President Rhee made several public statements 
frankly appealing for the support of American public opin- 
ion, including an eloquent Fourth of July broadcast likening 
the Koreans to Patrick Henry and the American Revolution- 
ists. The response came in the form of thousands of com- 
mendatory letters from individual Americans and resolutions 
of support adopted by scores of state and national organiza- 
tions. The Hearst and Scripps-Howard Press, David Law- 
rence and other influential publicists gave President Rhee 
strong approval. The usually non-committal Roscoe Drum- 
mond, Chief of the Washington Bureau of the Christian 
Science Monitor., summed up what many felt in his dispatch 


of June 15, after Rhee's agreement "not to obstruct" the 
truce: "Mr. Rhee has not been conquered, and he deserves 
never to be conquered. He is the leader of the strongest, 
best-equipped, highest moraled anticommunist forces in 
the Far East today. The will to resist communist tyranny to 
the very end is universal and militant among the Korean 
people. I think it would be accurate to say that there is no 
more anticommunist population on earth at the moment 
than in South Korea. Korea needs the West and the West 
needs Korea. Nothing should be allowed to separate us." 
President Rhee ended the talks with this conclusion: "I have 
opposed the signing of the truce because of my conviction 
that it will prove to be the prelude to more war, not less; to 
more suffering and ruin; to further communist advances by 
war and by subversion. Now that it is signed, I pray that 
my judgment of its effects may turn out to be wrong . . " 

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles went to Seoul in 
July to negotiate the text of the proposed treaty. Rhee and 
Dulles had been acquainted in Washington, and Dulles had 
visited Korea just a week before the communist attack in 
1950 at which time he assured the National Assembly that 
Korea would never be left to face an invasion alone. With 
this background, the talks between the two men during the 
four days of Dulles* visit were friendly and understanding. 
Nevertheless, it could not be said that there was a genuine 
meeting of minds. Secretary Dulles told Rhee that, the sign- 
ing of a truce did not mean the United Nations was sur- 
rendering to the aggressors. The aim of reunifying Korea 
as a free and democratic nation was still retained; die only 
difference was the U. N. wanted to achieve it by negotiation, 
rather than by fighting. President Rhee replied to this as- 
surance: "I am in full agreement with your views. No coun- 
try has suffered so much from the war as Korea has and if 
our goal can be achieved in peace no people will be happier 
than ours. The only question I want to ask is this: if you 


cannot accomplish our joint purpose by peaceful negotia- 
tion, what then?" This question formed the nub of the four- 
day conference. Rhee would not leave it unanswered, and 
Dulles would not (could not) answer it. 

The result is that the talks ended with a certain amount 
of uncertainty which was sure to lead to future misunder- 
standings. In Dulles' view, the United States was committed 
only to assisting the Republic of Korea militarily in case it 
should once more be openly attacked by the communist 
armies. In Mice's view, the U. N. and the U. S. were com- 
mitted to a struggle with communist aggression which was 
left unsettled and in which the repeatedly stated aims of 
the democracies had not been attained. It followed, then, 
that they must either be prepared to admit defeat which in 
President Rhee's judgment would simply signal the begin- 
ning of another period of sweeping communist advances 
around the world or else they would have to find some way 
of bringing sufficient pressure on the Red Chinese to induce 
them to withdraw across the Yalu River and permit the goal 
of reunification for Korea to be achieved. In Rhee's view, 
arguments that the U. N. had "succeeded" in the war be- 
cause "aggression across the 38th parallel had been repelled" 
were simply shallow verbalisms. He pointed out that Korea 
was a united nation for thousands of years before it was 
divided by foreign agreement that the U. N. and the U. S. 
have repeatedly promised that the nation would be reunited 
under a free democratic government of its own choice and 
that this has not been achieved. Wherein, then, has there 
been success? Moreover, the U. N. armies at one point oc- 
cupied most of North Korea (having advanced across the 
38th parallel in accordance with the resolution adopted by 
the U. N, General Assembly on October 7, 1950) and after 
that were beaten back by as much as 200 and 300 miles, Is 
that success? Finally, in North Korea a million Red Chinese 
troops have settled down as a foreign army of occupation, 


where there had been none at all when the war started. In 
the opinion of Syngman Rhee, these common-sense factors 
indicate beyond any reasonable question that the war in 
Korea was lost by the Allieswhen he was certain that with 
resolution it could have been won, and for the sake of the 
future of freedom in Asia it had to be won. 

But his was the voice not heard. His was the policy not 
adopted. His was the country left dismembered by allies 
who still hoped that concession was a road to world peace. 
His was the policy rejected. And his was the voice raised 
in foreboding prophecy, warning the free world it had paid 
far too high a price for a booby trap spuriously labeled 
"peace/' Whether his fear that compromise in Korea will 
cost the democratic nations far more in the future than 
would have been required for a decisive victory there, re- 
mains for the future to unveil. But no one can doubt that 
he was eminently right in his assessment that the truce in 
Korea was a resounding defeat for the Korean people and 
nation. Time will have to demonstrate whether that loss 
will eventually be retrieved. And for Syngman Rhee (and 
in a sense for his people also) time is running out. 

Chapter XVI 


OYNGMAN RHEE'S long life has been distinguished by a re- 
markable consistency of principles and by an unusual record 
of success in foreseeing and foretelling the course of events. 
He has won and held the devotion of his people as no other 
man has ever done in Korea and as few have done in any 
country. He has suffered physical tortures and the long 
maddening misery of condemnation and rejection of his 
views by the major statesmen of the world. When the sharp- 
est crisis in the struggle between communism and the free 
world was precipitated, he was on the spot and was equipped 
with the courage to confront it and make the only decision 
which could serve the fundamental welfare of free people 
everywhere. He has been often condemned usually for up- 
holding policies which events have lost little time in justify- 
ing. He is near the end of his life, but he fights on with the 
strength of enduring convictions. 

In some more tranquil time to come, after the burning is- 
sues of this day are resolved and have become merely data 
upon which historians may ponder and moralize, a final 
judgment will be rendered concerning the justice and wis- 
dom of the course he has pursued. It is not, however, too 
early now to state with assurance that he has carved for 
himself a lasting niche in the heroic chronicles of the men 


who fight against disheartening odds for the good of their 
people and for the principles in which they deeply believe. 
The name of Syngman Rhee will be long remembered. 

But although his name is widely known, the nature of the 
man himself remains obscure. It is easy to say that Rhee is 
often misunderstood. But why should he suffer more than 
other public men from prejudiced, or misinformed or ill- 
natured reporting? The question is a fair one and the answer 
is not hard to find. Rhee has been associated with a cause, 
the establishment and defense of Korean independence, 
which has long been and still remains unpopular. He advo- 
cated freedom for Korea while it was under Japanese rule 
and we were at peace with Japan. He denounced commu- 
nism and warned against Russian treachery while the free 
world was allied with the Soviet Union. He opposed 
methods and policies of the American Military Government 
in Korea. He was against the policy of "waiting for the dust 
to settle in the Far East/' He has warned against errors and 
has forecast disaster. When his judgment was vindicated by 
the communist attack on Korea, the U. S. and the U. N. were 
drawn into the Korean war and nobody liked either the war 
itself or the limitations under which it was fought. The 
general public distaste with involvement in the Korean war 
came into focus against Syngman Rhee the highly vocal 
leader who stood out boldly calling for stronger measures 
and more determination. 

Of his character and personality, his temperament and 
habits, his methods and his goals little is known; and that 
which is known is reported out of context in scattered news- 
paper stories. The name of Syngman Rhee, then, stands not 
so much for a real man as it does for a distorted and mislead- 
ing myth. What has long been needed is a factual and 
detailed record of the real Syngman Rhee, with the myth and 
the prejudice stripped away. 

Among the newspaper readers in this turbulent period 


President Rhee is most widely known for his adroit capacity 
to set the world by its ears. He is also known, in some 
quarters with admiration, in others with dismay, as one of 
the most influential men of our time. A contemporary of 
Winston Churchill, Rhee matches him fully in the length 
and in the drama of his public career. Seven years older 
than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rhee was in prison with a dis- 
tinguished record of political liberalism and leadership 
already behind him while Roosevelt was an undergraduate 
student in Harvard. Twelve years older than Chiang Kai- 
shek, Rhee has both learned much from and taught much to 
his compeer in the anticommunist struggle in North Asia. 
He is fourteen years older than Nehru, between whom and 
Rhee there flows a current of biting personal animosity, and 
six years younger than Gandhi, with whom he had much in 
common, though they never met. Rhee was a student and 
a disciple of Woodrow Wilson, and his life was significantly 
interwoven with the careers of Theodore Roosevelt and 
William Howard Taft In his youth he resisted the encroach- 
ments of Czar Nicholas II of Russia and in later life the 
imperialist ambitions of Lenin, Stalin and Malenkov. He was 
one of the first to expose the continental designs of Japan 
and remained one of the sharpest critics of Japanese mili- 
taristic and territorial ambitions. 

Rhee had reached the age of customary retirement before 
the start of World War II, yet his period of most influential 
leadership came a full decade later. He was editor of Korea's 
first daily newspaper in 1895 and a member of the Emperor's 
Privy Council in 1897. Yet almost sixty years later he was 
the pivotal figure around whom revolved the questions of 
war or peace in the crucial struggle between the communist 
and democratic worlds. Few men have played so significant 
a role in the twentieth century as has Syngman Rhee. Yet 
among all the important figures of our era, he is perhaps the 
least known. 


It is the destiny of Syngman Rhee that he stood at the 
crossroads of Korean history in a period when Korea has been 
a focal center of the global power struggle. He has had the 
clarifying gift of being able to see the essential simplicity 
of issues which have confused other national leaders because 
of their seeming complexity. In the history of Korea his 
name will stand out as by far the greatest statesman yet 
produced by that prolific land. But in this era of the inter- 
relationship of peoples, Syngman Rhee belongs to America 
and to the entire free world, as well. 

It is not because of Dr. Rhee's education and forty-year 
residence in the United States that he has become a part of 
American history. Nor is it because his political and social 
thinking became Americanizedthough in the long perspec- 
tive his success in planting the roots of genuine democracy 
on the continent of Asia may prove the most significant turn- 
ing point in the relationship of the two hemispheres. His 
significance for us arises only in part from the fact that he 
identified himself so closely with the United States that he 
has not been able to avoid looking at problems largely from 
an American point of view, nor has he at any time since 
1904 thought of world or of Korean problems except in rela- 
tion to official policies and public opinion in our country. 

His basic connection with America's destiny in the Pacific 
is that he offered guidance for our Far Eastern policies 
which, to our cost, we ignored, and through his unswerving 
resistance to the communization of Asia he provided the 
United States and the United Nations with an opportunity 
for bringing to a halt the long forward sweep of Soviet 
aggression. If the Pacific basin continues to grow in world 
significance, as it seems certain to do, historians of the future 
will devote increasing attention to the role played by Syng- 
man Rhee in the westernization, the modernization, and the 
democratization of that half of the world. 

Great statesmen are not the exclusive products of large 


and powerful states. Small peoples may produce great 
leaders. Syngman Rh.ee is a great man. He combines the 
shrewdness of the organizer, the strength of the leader and 
the vision of the prophet. He has long and persistently been 
ignored, but he could not be erased. He has been denied, 
but he could not be dismissed. He has been repeatedly 
condemned, only to have his judgment and policies re- 
peatedly exonerated. He has been often shunted aside, but 
the logic of events he foretold has cast him directly back into 
the center of the world's affairs. 

This, then, is the story of Syngman Rhee: founder of the 
new Korea! Syngman Rhee: a catalyst of democracy in Asia! 
Syngman Rhee: the man who has done much to save the 
values Americans cherish in the Far East, even at times 
against our will. The story of his life is one of the most 
dramatic and sensational chronicles of this century. It is 
also one of the most enlightening and suggestive life stories 
of our time; for he has lived in and through successive crises 
which for seventy-five years have jarred and shaken the 
tenuous relationship between the West and the East. 

It is a curious anomaly that Rhee has been commonly rated 
even higher by his critics than by his friends. In an orgy of 
denunciation (chiefly emanating from officials and publicists 
who favored reaching an accommodation with Asian com- 
munism) he has been credited with powers almost super- 
natural and indicted with a bevy of contradictions. The 
communist propaganda line charges that he is an "American 
puppet, propped up and held in power by American bayo- 
nets." Andrei Vishinsky, in the October, 1952, session of the 
General Assembly of the United Nations, described him as 
"notoriously pro- American and pro-Japanese." The Christian 
Science Monitor called him "the problem child of the United 
Nations." Owen Lattimore labeled him "a little Chiang Kai- 
shek." The Washington Post has depicted him as the 
egregious or the unspeakable or the despicable Dr. Rhee. 


The Nation, the Christian Century., the Manchester Guardian 
and the London Times have denounced him as dictatorial, 
ambitious, reactionary, irresponsible, and even bloody- 
handed. Sir Winston Churchill has insisted that England 
would never fight "to conquer North Korea for Syngman 
Rhee." At times when his policies and those of the United 
States have happily been in concurrence, critics have 
charged that he is "leading the United States around by the 
nose/' and "forcing the United States to ride on his coattails." 

He has been caricatured in numerous cartoons as an imp- 
ish, mischievous or irresponsible disrupter of the farsighted 
plans of the world's true statesmen. He has been the recip- 
ient of some of the sharpest notes ever dispatched to the 
head of a friendly state by two presidents of the United 
States, two prime ministers of Great Britain, the officials of 
Australia, India and Canada, and by two secretaries-general 
of the United Nations. He has long been a favorite whipping 
boy of the press in the Western nations and has concurrently 
been a chief target for vituperation in the communist press. 
He has received thousands of friendly letters and has been 
the subject of hundreds of resolutions of support by organiza- 
tions in countries whose inhabitants would ordinarily have 
paid no more attention to Korea than they do to Timbuktu 
or Uruguay. Like Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln in 
their times, he has had the capacity of arousing virulent 
denunciations and astonishingly zealous devotion and 
loyalty. He has become one of the epicenters of his age a 
symbol, a magnet, a target; and also a prophet and a states- 
man as well. 

The truly amazing vitality of Rhee after he became presi- 
dent of the new Republic of Korea in his midseventies has 
led to an unnatural concentration of attention on his age. 
Drew Pearson, who knew Rhee casually in Washington, 
wrote a column about him upon his return to Korea in Octo- 
ber, 1945, declaring that he was at that time at least eighty. 


Every successive year, as his birthday rolls around and 
another year is tallied, perplexed observers ask doubtfully, 
"Can it be true that he is only seventy-eight?" (or whatever 
his current age might then be). News correspondents find it 
difficult to write about him without reference to his advanced 
age. Yet this very concentration upon his age arises from the 
amazed perception that he can outwork, outwalk, outtalk, 
outhope and outplan men also notable for special abilities 
who have no more than two-thirds his years. 

By his critics even more than by his friends, "this old man" 
is credited with abilities and energy truly beyond human 
endurance. He is often charged with being an absolute 
dictator who dominates every cabinet post in the Korean 
government, who makes every decision of state, who person- 
ally passes upon every passport application and every con- 
tract for supplies, who supervises the arrest, trial and 
conviction of every alleged enemy of the state, who not only 
shapes the foreign policy of Korea but also determines every- 
thing that is said about it by every one of its spokesmen 
abroad, and who (it is admitted) in addition to this still has 
time to work out expansive and detailed plans for the future 
development of his nation. Time credits him with an ap- 
pointment schedule of thirty visitors a day an exaggeration, 
but wholly in line with the widely held theory of his 
omniscient grasp of every phase of Korean life. Aside from 
these exaggerations, it is true that most of the great number 
of people he does see go out from their conferences with him 
amazed by his detailed knowledge of the special project they 
have come to discuss. 

No less notable than Rhee's presumed comprehensiveness 
of power and knowledge is the contradictoriness of the views 
confidently ascribed to him again, more vehemently by his 
critics than by his friends. The newspaper and magazine 
discussions of Rhee are replete with claims that he was 
"raised to power in Korea by the American Military Govern- 


ment," but also that "his unco-operativeness and anti- Ameri- 
canism were the chief causes of the failure of the American 
Military Government in South Korea." He has been damned 
as being allegedly both reactionary and socialistic. His 
hatred of Japan has been denounced concurrently with 
strictures upon his presumed leadership of the pro-Japanese 
Korean collaborators. He has been reviled not only for 
supposedly heading an unholy coalition of landlords and 
wealthy oppressors of the poor, but also for demagogically 
organizing the masses of Korea into a political machine. He 
has been described as having the Messianic delusion that the 
Korean people will follow blindly wherever he may choose 
to lead them, and also with perfecting a tight political or- 
ganization that reaches down into every myun and goon. He 
is said to be a terroristic dictator who will brook no slightest 
show of opposition and this is said to be proved by the very 
existence of a highly articulate opposition in the National 
Assembly, among some of the Korean newspapers, and by 
some of the Western-educated politicians and businessmen. 
It is claimed that he appoints no one to office except his own 
abject supporters, who dare not think a thought or utter a 
syllable except at his behest; and at the same time it is 
pointed out that he is continually in the midst of quarrels 
and disputes with his cabinet officers and other officials of 
the republic. 

Those who hate Rhee (without knowing him) spare no 
lengths in their vilification. If it were not for the unparal- 
leled loyalty and affection of the people of Korea for him 
and the high praise from notable men who know him well, 
it might be thought that Rhee has a talent for inspiring 
dislike. But to General James A. Van Fleet, who worked 
closely with him in the Korean war for two years, he is 
"worth, his weight in diamonds/' and one of the greatest 
statesmen who ever lived." To his long-time Methodist 
pastor and chaplain of the U. S. Senate, Reverend Frederick 


Brown Harris, Rhee is one of the gentlest and truest Chris- 
tian gentlemen I have ever known." U. S. Secretary of State 
John Foster Dulles is proud to refer to him frequently as 
"my friend" and as a "genuine statesman." He has been 
highly admired and indeed loved by men as diverse as 
Woodrow Wilson and Douglas MacArthur. His worst critics 
have paid tribute to his selfless patriotism and to the tenacity 
with which he stands by his principles. Those who denounce 
his policies most unsparingly are usually willing to admit 
that he has been right in the past, though they hasten to add 
that he is tragically wrong in terms of whatever present issue 
they are concerned with. 

The truth about Syngman Rhee is that he is that rare 
being, an original, who follows his own convictions even 
though they lead him into the teeth of direct opposition by 
world opinion and by the policies of the strongest states. 
As one of his severest English newspaper critics, Robert 
Guillain, wrote in the Manchester Guardian during the truce 
talks in September, 1951: "Syngman Rhee, with a blindness 
to facts equaled only by his ambition, intends that South 
Korea and ultimately, of course, all Koreashall be no one's 
satellite." Satellite indeed! In all his life Rhee never has 
swerved from adherence to what he is convinced is right. 
What "everybody believes" has not influenced him, for he is 
no opportunistic seeker after popularity. once his mind is 
made up as to what is the fundamentally right course of 
action, he doesn't argue with himself and is impatient with 
those who argue with him. He simply forges ahead on what 
he believes implicitly to be the path of history and waits for 
the laggards to catch up. 

If the events of the past three-quarters of a century had 
proved him to be wrong, he would require no iota of our 
interest, but would be relegated to oblivion among the count- 
less mistaken doctrinaire thinkers. But since the course of 
twentieth-century history can be pretty well traced in terms 


of the causes for which he has fought, he has become a major 
influence in our time, and must be numbered among the 
great political prophets of history. 

In his youth in a hermit kingdom just emerging from 
medievalism, he foresaw the inevitability and the desirability 
of modernization and democratic reform and was subjected 
to seven years of torturous imprisonment for being a genera- 
tion ahead of his times. While English and American policy 
combined to assist the onrush of Japan to a position of power, 
he foresaw and warned against the imperialism that was to 
lead through Korea, Manchuria, China and southeast Asia 
to Pearl Harbor. When power politics evolved the plan of 
inviting Czarist Russia into Asian competition with Japan to 
maintain an equipoise of power in North Asia, he warned 
fruitlessly that the only hope of maintaining peace in that 
part of the world was through support for Korean inde- 
pendence as a buffer among contending states. While 
Western statesmen were trying to negotiate an agreement 
with communist Russia based on "final concessions," he 
insisted that the status quo represented by a divided Europe 
and a divided Asia is too great an imbalance to persist. And 
after war broke out in Korea in 1950 because his pleas and 
warnings went unheeded, he urged that the only salvation 
for democracy, security and a lasting peace lay in a policy 
of beating the aggression back across the Yalu River whence 
it had come an appeal in which he was overruled, with the 
results yet to come. 

For all his achievements as a prophet whose vision has not 
been distorted by his struggles with power politics, Syngman 
Rhee is a humble and simple man. He neither drinks nor 
smokes, yet is not at all an ascetic. He enjoys good food, 
good books, good talk and such pleasant diversions as fish- 
ing, tennis, working in his garden, playing with his dogs, and 
writing Chinese calligraphy. He chuckles with solid enjoy- 
ment over good stories and mercifully forgets them so 


quickly that his appreciation extends through several re- 
tellings. He has a great capacity for enjoying the companion- 
ship of friends and is fortunate in possessing the essential 
quality of being able to relax and forget the care and 
responsibilities of office when his day's work is done. More 
basically, despite his alleged involvement in every minutia 
of his government, in actuality he holds himself aloof from 
the detailed operations of his administration and is thus 
enabled to keep his attention concentrated on the underlying 
principles and over-all policies. 

When one has finished cataloguing what Syngman Rhee 
does and how he does it, the fact remains that he possesses 
the undefinable and rare quality of personal magnetism 
which distinguishes true leaders. No one can associate with 
him for long without coming to the conviction that he is a 
truly great man, who lives on a somewhat higher and un- 
questionably different plane from most people. Genius has 
never yielded to analysis, though many (including some 
undoubted geniuses) have tried to define it. Thomas Edi- 
son's often-quoted explanation that "Genius is ninety-eight 
per cent perspiration and two per cent inspiration' 7 is sup- 
ported by the indomitable industry of Rhee. Napoleon is 
said to have declared that the leader is one who dreams 
great dreams and then sets out to make them come true. 
This, again, is an apt statement of the course of Dr. Rhee's 
life. on the other hand, Buffon's belief that genius is "a great 
aptitude for patience" finds no support from an examination 
of the life of Syngman Rhee, for he has made a virtue of 
impatience even if he has been forced by circumstances to 
wait and postpone and try and try again before he ever has 
been able to carry forward any of his major programs. Those 
critics who have tried to explain Rhee's pre-eminence with- 
out being willing to concede to him any special abilities have 
been prone to call him a symbol. But this label in itself 
wholly fails to explain why or how Rhee early became for his 


own people a transcendent figure in whom they long 
centered their hopes and to whom their loyalties have been 
dedicated during a grievously heartbreaking period of 
devastation. The dynamism of Syngman Rhee can be ex- 
pressed adequately only in the term leader. He has known 
where he was going and he has known how to rally his own 
people to follow this course. If he has not been equally 
successful in carrying the great nations with him, it at least 
is true that he has exercised a far greater influence over the 
major powers than could ever have been expected from the 
head of a small and weak nation. Moreover, it has often 
proved to be true that the major statesmen refused to 
follow his counsel to their own cost and that of the free 

Rhee is not a man who gains dignity from his executive 
position, but rather he is one who imparts meaning and 
significance to whatever he may do or wherever he may be. 
This quality is not alone apparent to his intimates but is 
instantly transmitted to great crowds when he speaks to 
them or officiates in public ceremonies. His very presence 
radiates the calm conviction of command, the assurance of 
knowing what he is about, the consciousness of being a 
leader and this he does with no strutting, no pomposity, no 
pretense. He is inwardly serene, both because he feels him- 
self to be in the right and because he never doubts that both 
his own people and history are with him. He must be 
interpreted as a humble man who claims no special credit 
for what he does but keeps intently and single-mindedly at 
his work. 

Syngman Rhee's basic humility derives from his deep 
spirituality. From his earliest manhood he has been con- 
vinced of the eternal justice and compassion of God and 
has found his greatest source of strength in prayer. For 
many years he has accompanied his breakfasts with his wife 
by reading aloud one or more chapters from the Bible. 


Frequent solitary prayer has been for him not so much a 
solace as an unfailing stimulus to hopeful reaffirmation of 
his faith. No matter how harshly his course may be criticized 
or denounced, he has subjected his own policies to the test 
of prayerful meditation and if they stand that test he re- 
mains sure they will eventually succeed. Since his return 
to Korea in 1945 he has not customarily attended church 
services and there are few references in his speeches to 
divinity or religious symbolism. Yet among all the national 
leaders of our time, there are few others who rest as solidly 
as does Rhee upon a bedrock of religious faith. 

Finally, in assessing his unique position of world-wide 
influence, there must be noted his native intellectual capacity 
and excellent education. In his youth he attained the highest 
levels of achievement in mastery of the old Chinese classics. 
He earned three degrees from three of America's best 
universities after he had undergone a period of leadership 
and trial which provided for him an unusual maturity of 
judgment to guide his studies. In this college work he 
majored in international relations, specializing in United 
States policies of neutrality in dealing with the Far East. 
He is one of the very few men who ever rose to the presi- 
dency of a nation after earning the Ph. D. degree. He did 
not spring to fame as did England's William Pitt, who be- 
came prime minister at twenty-two. He did not climb to 
political power through demagogic ability as did Adolf 
Hitler. He did not patiently work his way up the political 
ladder to eventual top-ranking success as did Franklin D. 
Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. He combined in his own 
person the best education of the East and the West; he de- 
voted himself unselfishly to the determined pursuit of a 
great ideal; and when the time came he was ready not only 
to lead his own people but also to serve the needs, in a time 
and place of great crisis, of all the free peoples of the world. 

THIS LIFE of Syngman Rhee is based almost entirely upon 
original, unpublished sources. In part it derives from two 
trunks full of personal papers which I was granted the priv- 
ilege of examining in the storage attic of Kyung Mu Dai in 
Seoul in May, 1949. Just over thirteen months later Seoul 
was captured by the communists in a sudden attack, and 
within two weeks after that date Andrei Vishinsky, the Soviet 
Ambassador to the United Nations, claimed to be quoting 
from some of those papers in a debate in the General Assem- 
bly. This valuable source collection, which was accumulated 
by President and Mrs. Rhee, and which is partly in English 
and partly in Korean, is now scattered or lost or held in the 
archives of the communists probably in Moscow. 

Another principal documentary source for this book is the 
correspondence which I have had with Dr. and Mrs. Rhee 
over a period of some ten years and which since 1947 has 
normally consisted of an exchange of letters each week. In- 
cluded in this correspondence are copies of various unofficial 
memoranda, which reveal the background of Rhee's think- 
ing on particular issues as well as clarify the general tenor 
of his policies, and which define clearly the nature of the 
problems he has confronted. He has, further, given me ac- 
cess to a large filing cabinet full of correspondence and rec- 
ords covering his activities on behalf of Korean independence 
between 1919 and 1945. These papers are not now acces- 
sible to public examination; but it is to be hoped that at least 
a generous selection from among them may be published 
as a contribution to better understanding both of Korean 



history and of the operations of some phases of American 
foreign policy during this period. 

Newspaper files, including especially the Star-Bulletin and 
the Advertiser in Honolulu, the Washington Post and Star, 
The New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the 
Los Angeles Times, and others ref erred to in this biography, 
are of value principally in tracing the consistency both of 
Rhee's policies and of his methods. The files of The Korean 
Repository (1895-98), The Korean Review (1901-06 and 1919- 
22), and The Korean Pacific Weekly (1915 to date) contain 
little about Rhee's personal life but much about the condi- 
tions and the issues with which he dealt. The Voice of Ko- 
rea, published in Washington by Youngjeung Kim, of The 
Korean Affairs Institute, since 1942, contains consistently 
unsympathetic criticisms of Rhee's policies and actions. So 
does The Korean Independence, a newspaper published in 
Los Angeles by a Korean group which regularly supports 
policies for Korea that seem closely parallel to those advo- 
cated by the Soviet Union. 

An unpublished doctoral dissertation by S. M. Vinocour, 
entitled Syngman Rhee: Spokesman for Korea (Pennsylvania 
State University, 1953) presents a detailed analysis of Rhee's 
policies, problems, and methods of leadership during the 
period of political crisis between June 23, 1951 and October 
8, 1952. American Military Government in Korea, by E. 
Grant Meade, King's Crown Press, Columbia University, 
1951; The Epic of Korea, by A. Wigfall Green, Public Affairs 
Press, Washington, 1950; Korea Today, by George M. Mc- 
Cune, Harvard University Press, 1950; The Russians Came 
to Korea, by Henry Chung, Korean Pacific Press, 1947; and 
Korea My Country, by Yung Tai Pyun, Korean Pacific Press, 
1953 all give valuable interpretations of the situation in and 
affecting Korea during the period of American Military Gov- 
ernment, 1945-48. 

Among the books most valuable for interpreting the con- 


ditions in Korea during the Japanese rule (1910-1945) are: 
The Annual Report on the Administration of Chosen (in 
English) compiled by the Government-General of Chosen, 
1923-24 to 1937-38; The Annual Report on Reforms and 
Progress in Chosen (Korea) (in English), compiled by H. I. 
J. M/s Residency General for 1908-1909, and compiled by 
Government-General of Chosen, 1909-1910 to 1921-22; Ko- 
rea: Forgotten Nation by Robert T. Oliver, Public Affairs 
Press, Washington, 1944; Now Welcome Summer by Francis 
Herlihy, the Hawthorne Press, Melbourne, Australia, 1946; 
Korea of the Japanese, by H. B. Drake, Dodd, Mead, 1930; 
My Forty Year Fight for Korea by Louise Yim, A. A. Wyn, 
1951; The Case of Korea by Henry Chung, Fleming H, Re- 
veil, 1921; The Rebirth of Korea by Hugh Heung-woo Cynn, 
Abingdon Press, 1920; Korea's Fight for Freedom by F. A. 
McKenzie, Fleming H. Revell, 1920; The Tragedy of Korea 
by F. A. McKenzie, E. P. Button, n. d.; The Song of Ariran 
by Kim San and Nym Wales, John Day, 1941; and Modern 
Korea by Andrew J. Grajdanzev, John Day, 1944. The Jap- 
anese case for annexation of Korea is presented by Kiyoshi 
K. Kawakami in American Japanese Relations, Fleming H. 
Revell, 1912; by Durham White Stevens in "China and Japan 
in Korea," North American Review, Vol. 159 (1894) pp. 308- 
316; and by George T. Ladd in In Korea with Marquis Ito, 
Scribner's, 1908. 

The turbulent conditions in the Korea of Rhee's youth 
(1775-1905) are best described in The Passing of Korea by 
Homer B. Hulbert, Doubleday, Page, 1906; God, Mammon 
and the Japanese by Fred Harvey Harrington, University 
of Wisconsin Press, 1944; Americans in Eastern Asia by 
Tyler Dennett, Barnes and Noble, 1941; The Coming Strug- 
gle in Eastern Asia by B. L. Putnam Weale, Macmillan, Ltd., 
London, 1908; Americas Finest Gift to Korea The Life of 
Philip Jaisohn by Channing Liem, William-Frederick Press, 
1952; "A Chronological Index," in Korea: Fact and Fancy by 


Horace N. Allen, Methodist Publishing House, Seoul, 1904; 
Korea by Angus Hamilton, Scribner s, 1904; The Grass Roof 
by Younghill Kang, Scribner's, 1932; and Undiplomatic Mem- 
ories by William Franklin Sands, Whittlesey House, 1930. 

The nature of life in Korea as the country was emerging 
from medievalism to modernization (1882-1900) is well de- 
picted in Chosen, The Land of Morning Calm by Percival 
Lowell, Ticknor, Boston, 1886; Life in Corea by W. R. Carles, 
Mkcmillan, 1888; Korea and the Sacred White Mountain by 
A. E. J. Cavendish, George Philip and Son, London, 1894; 
Korea and Her Neighbors by Isabella Bird Bishop, Fleming 
H. Revell, 1898; Fifteen Years Among the Top-Knots by 
L. H. Underwood, American Tract Society, 1904; Korea in 
Transition by James A. Gale, Board of Foreign Missions of 
the Presbyterian Church, New York, 1909; A Forbidden 
Land: Voyages to the Corea by Ernest Oppert, Putnam's, 
1880; Histoire de VEglise de Coree, two volumes, by Ck 
Dallet, Victor Palme, Paris, 1874; Religions of Old Korea by 
Charles Allen Clark, Fleming H. Revell, 1932; and Korean 
Games by Steward Culin, University of Pennsylvania, 1895. 

An over-view of life in Korea in recent years (1920-1953) 
is presented in Why War Came in Korea by Robert T. Oliver, 
Fordham University Press, 1950; Verdict in Korea by Robert 
T. Oliver, Bald Eagle Press, State College, Penna., 1952; The 
Korea Story by John C. Caldwell in collaboration with Les- 
ley Frost, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1952; I Married a Ko- 
rean by Agnes Davis Kim, John Day, 1953; The Koreans and 
Their Culture by Cornelius Osgood, Ronald Press, 1951; The 
Reds Take a City by John W. Riley, Jr., and Wilbur Schramm, 
Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1951; Cry Korea 
by Reginald Thompson, MacDonald, London, 1952; Mission 
to Korea by Edgar S. Kennedy, Derek Verschoyle, London, 
1952; In Korean Wilds and Villages by Sten Bergman, John 
Gifford, London, 1938; and Pictorial Korea, two volumes, by 
International Publicity League, Seoul, 1950, 1952. 


The long history of Korea, out of which came the first 
formative influences in shaping the mind and character of 
Syngman Rhee, has been only inadequately presented in 
western languages, but the best histories are: Korea and the 
Old Orders in Eastern Asia by M. Frederick Nelson, Louisi- 
ana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1946; History of 
Corea, Ancient and Modern by John Ross, Elliot Stock, Lon- 
don, 1891; The Story of Korea by Joseph H. Longford, Fisher 
Unwin, London, 1911; Corea, The Hermit Nation by Wil- 
liam Elliott Griffis, Scribner's, 1897; The History of Korea, 
two volumes, by Homer B. Hulbert, Methodist Publishing 
House, Seoul, 1905; and the valuable historical studies pub- 
lished in The Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal 
Asiatic Society, issued periodically from 1900 to 1941. 

The cultural history of Korea is represented by A History 
of Korean Art by Andreas Eckhardt, translated by J. M. Kin- 
dersley, Edward Goldston, London, and Karl W. Hierse- 
mann, Leipzig, 1929; The Culture of Korea ed. Changsoon 
Kim, Korean-American Cultural Ass'n., Honolulu, 1945; Co- 
rean Pottery by W. B. Honey, Van Nostrand Co., 1948; by 
various works on Korean architecture, archeology, and ce- 
ramics in the Japanese language, by various collections of 
Korean folk tales and poetry, such as those by Horace Allen, 
Y. T. Pyun, Frances Carpenter, James A. Gale, and Berta 
Metzger, who dedicated her Tales Told in Korea (Stokes, 
1932) "to Dr. Syngman Rhee, from the garden of whose 
memory came many of these stories"; and by occasional ar- 
ticles in the monthly magazine, The Korean Survey, pub- 
lished by The Korean Pacific Press, Washington, D. C. A 
good bibliography of Korean literature is that prepared by 
Bishop M'. Trollope, "Corean Books and their Authors," 
Transactions, Korean Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 16 
(1932) pp. 1-105. 

The best bibliographies on Korea are: Eibliographie Co- 
reenne by Maurice A. L. M. Courant, E. Leroux, Paris, 1894- 


96 and 1901; A Partial Bibliography of Occidental Literature 
on Korea by Horace Underwood, Transactions of the Korea 
Branch of die Royal Asiatic Society, volume XX, Seoul, 1931 
with a Supplement prepared by E. Gompertz and pub- 
lished in the Transactions, volume XXIV, 1936; Korea An 
Annotated Bibliography of Publications in Western Lan- 
guages compiled by Helen D. Jones and Robin L. Winkler, 
Library of Congress, 1950; Korea An Annotated Bibliog- 
raphy of Publications in Far Eastern Languages compiled by 
Edwin G. Beal, Jr. and Robin L. Winkler, Library of Con- 
gress, 1950; and Korea An Annotated Bibliography of Pub- 
lications in the Russian Language compiled by Albert Parry, 
John T. Dorash, and Elizabeth G. Dorash, Library of Con- 
gress, 1950. Current bibliographies on Korea are included 
periodically in The Far Eastern Quarterly, published for The 
Far Eastern Association by The Science Press, Lancaster, 
Penna. Shorter selected bibliographies have been issued by 
The Institute of Pacific Relations; by Shannon McCune, Col- 
gate University; and by The Korean Pacific Press, Wash- 


as .53 




O fl 


:B - 


Supplementary Documentation 

Chapter I: 

The genealogical records of the family of Syngman Khee 
are preserved in the Royal Archives in Seoul, under the 
supervision of Dr. Yun Hong Sup, the Administrator of the 
Royal Palace. Rhee's paternal line extends from Prince Yang 
Yung's fifth son, Yi Keun, down through Yi Soon, Yi Yun-in, 
Yi Kui-dang, Yi Won-yak, Yi Kyung-cho, Yi In-hoo, Yi Yu- 
won, Yi Ching-ha, Yi O, Yi Chui-kwon, Yi Hwang, and Yi 
Chang-nok to Rhee's father, Yi Kyung-sun. 

Chapter II: 

The general significance of the Independence Club in the 
context of the situation then existing in Korea is described 
by H. B. Hulbert in Chapter X of The Passing of Korea. 

The story of the fascinating Horace Allen is told by F. H. 
Harrington in God, Mammon and the Japanese; the Horace 
Allen Manuscript Collection is in the New York City Library. 

Among the Korean reformers of the 1890-97 period were 
Kim Ok-kiun, Kim Hong-jip, Pak Yung-hyo, Su Kwang-gum, 
Kim Pyung-si, Yun Chi-ho, Pak Chong-yang and Yi Han- 
yangalong with Syngman Rhee, Philip Jaisohn, Prince Min 
and General Hahn. Leading opponents of reform included 
Min Yong-ik (who started as a reformer, then changed sides), 



Kim Yung-jun, Yi Yong-ik, Kim Hong-nyuk, and Taiwunkun. 

Homer B. Hulbert, The Passing of Korea, tells in detail 
the story of the Russian intrigues for control of the Emperor. 
Valuable historical analyses of Russia's role in Korea are pre- 
sented by Henry Chung, The Russians Came to Korea, 
Korean Pacific Press, 1947; Edward Henry Zabriskie, Amer- 
ican-Russian Rivalry in the Far East, A Study in Diplomacy 
and Power Politics, 1895-1914, University of Pennsylvania 
Press, 1946; William Appleman Williams, American-Russian 
Relations, 1781-1947, Rinehart, 1952; and David Dallin, So- 
viet Russia and the Far East, Yale University Press, 1948. 

The biography of Henry G. Appenzeller, founder of the 
Pai Jai School, is told by William E. Griffis, in A Modern 
Pioneer in Korea, Fleming H. Revell, 1912. He describes 
the school building in which Rhee studied as, "a long, low, 
one-storied edifice, the first brick building in the country. Of 
necessity, it could not be lofty, for anything high was feared 
in the palace. All ideas of Korean propriety would have been 
violated had it been higher than the squatty native struc- 
tures in use from king to coolie/' Pp. 208-209. 

The extent of the changes taking place in the Korea of 
Rhee's youth is well indicated in Griffis's story of an incident 
that occurred during the digging of the foundations for the 
Pai Jai School. The laborers, he said, "were in abject fear 
of the ghosts and spirits that lurked in the soil. A foreign 
tree, fir or elm, said to have been planted during the Jap- 
anese invasion of 1592, which had stood on the site of the 
school was blown down in 1885. As a powerful spirit lived 
in this tree, no one dared to take away or burn the wood; 
but after A(ppenzeller) bought the ground the ghost left. . . . 
A(ppenzeller)'s smile and wit quieted their fears, and suc- 
ceeding days and years helped to improve the climate of 
belief, as prosperity followed. In a word, ghosts and demons 
alike made way for truth and education/' P. 239. 

Leaders of the Peddler's Guild in the attacks against the 


reformers were two court politicians named Hong Jong-woo 
and Kil Yung-soo. 

Chapter III: 

The autobiographical sketch of which a portion is quoted 
was written by Rhee with the assistance of the scholar-mis- 
sionary James A. Gale following Rhee's release from prison 
in 1905. Rhee rewrote it in a hotel room in Seattle, Wash- 
ington, in March, 1912 while on his way to Minneapolis. 
Earlier portions of the sketch provide a basis for some of the 
events presented in Chapter I. 

Details of Rhee's life in prison were related to me in 1949 
by Hugh Heung-woo Cynn, who was one of Rhee's child- 
hood friends and a fellow prisoner. In the prison school 
which the inmates organized, Chinese calligraphy was taught 
by Yang Kwee Chang (later known as Yang Kee Pak), arith- 
metic and geography by Hugh Cynn, the Japanese language 
by Kong Won Dal (who had studied at the Tokyo Imperial 
University), and history by a nephew of the famous Ahn 
Kyung Soo. 

The Spirit of Independence consists of forty-seven chap- 
ters and an appendix on "Essential Conditions of Independ- 
ence/* Since the book has never been translated into 
English, there may be interest in the titles of the first thirty- 
four chapters, which were written in prison and which com- 
prised the first edition of the book: 

1. Preface 

2. Each Man Ought to Know His Own Responsibility 

3. Without Performance of Duty, Nothing Can be Expected 
But Disaster 

4. If the People Work Together, Independence Will Be Ac- 

5. The Foundations of True Loyalty 

6. Be Sure to Have Independence in your Heart 

7. The International Complications Confronting Korea 


8. The Distinctions Between Independence and Neutrality 

9. Without Knowledge and Enlightenment, the People are 

10. The Importance of Independence to a Nation 

11. The New Knowledge of Heaven and Earth (Astronomy) 

12. An Introduction to the Six Continents 

13. An Introduction to the Five Races 

14. New Things and Old Things 

15. Three Forms of Political Institutions 

16. The American Bill of Rights 

17. A Brief History of American Independence 

18. The American Declaration of Independence 

19. The Civil War in America 

20. The French Revolution 

21. The Nature of Constitutional Government 

22. The Need for Consistency in Political Leadership 

23. Political Institutions Depend on the Level of the People 

24. The Mind of the People Must be Free before the Nation Can 
Be Free 

25. on the Right of Freedom 

26. A Brief History of Korea's Struggle for Independence 

27. Stubborn China 

28. Japan's Growth 

29. The Political History of Russia 

30. The March of the West into the East 

31. Trade Between Korea and Japan 

32. Korea's Commercial Ties with Japan 

33. Trouble with Japan 

34. Relations among Korea, Japan and China 

In a note covering the origin and nature of this book, 
President Rhee said: "It should be remembered that I wrote 
this book in prison, with very few reference materials, and 
that I addressed it in very simple terms to the Korean peo- 
ple, most of whom were uneducated and without any earlier 
knowledge of the Western world/' 

Among other prison inmates with whom Rhee was inti- 


mate were Yi Sang Choi, Yi Wong Kung, Kim Sang Ok, and 
Lee Hi Chun. 

Chapter IV: 

In the Confucian system, China was the Middle Kingdom, 
surrounded by a "family" of other independent nations which 
were in the relation of younger brothers to the big brother, 
China. This relationship is fully analyzed in Korea and the 
Old Orders in Eastern Asia by M. Frederick Nelson who, 
however, was handicapped in his analysis by his inability to 
use Korean language sources. The "family of nations" con- 
cept was loosely similar to that of the British Common- 
wealth, without the unifying influence of a common monarch. 
In a yet truer sense it was an early Oriental fore-runner of 
the internationalism which led to formation of the League 
of Nations, the World Court, and the United Nations. Korea 
was wholly independent, yet was "related" to China, with 
a sense of mutual responsibility existing between them. This 
pattern of familial relationships in the Far East preserved 
the peace in a way never achieved in the Western world. 
After Japan's seizure of Korea in 1910, the Japanese Shin- 
toists invented a myth that the sister of their Sun-goddess, 
Amaterasu, had come to earth at a spot near Chunchon, in 
central Korea thus hoping to persuade the Koreans to con- 
sider themselves a part of the new order of the Japanese Co- 
Prosperity Sphere. 

The efforts of the Korean Emperor to prevent Japan's sei- 
zure of Korea are related by F. A. McKenzie in Korea's Fight 
for Freedom, Chapter V, and in the Appendix to The Un- 
veiled East; and by Henry Chung in Chapter II of The Case 
of Korea. Hulbert's The Passing of Korea is the most com- 
prehensive account of the situation, but it is reminiscent 
rather than analytical. Tyler Dennett's Roosevelt and the 
Russo-Japanese War, 1925, and Edward Zabriskie's Ameri- 
can-Russian Rivalry in the Far East are dependable sources 


for questions involving Roosevelt's policies toward Korea 
and its neighbors in that period. Y. S. Kuno's Japanese Ex- 
pansion on the Asiatic Continent, University of California 
Press, 1937-40, is a frank discussion by a Japanese scholar 
of his country's aggression in Korea. George Vernadsky's 
Political and Diplomatic History of Russia, 1936, tells die 
story of Czarist intervention in Korea from Russian sources. 

Chapter V.- 
Mrs. Ethel Boyer Kamp has kindly supplied a lengthy ac- 
count of her memories of Syngman Rhee at Ocean Grove, of 
which the following are extracts: 

one day a slightly built, very aristocratic looking young man, 
probably five feet five inches tall, wearing a summer weight im- 
maculate black alpaca suit and white shirt with a black tie and 
also wearing sun glasses came out the side door of the house 
facing ours and sat down looking toward our porch. 

He sat intently watching us, but being used to scrutiny (as is 
every professor's family) we thought nothing of it. The next 
afternoon Mr. Rhee (for it was he) again took up his post of ob- 
servation. on the third afternoon Edwin came from the beach 
holding tightly to the hand of our new neighbor. Being the 
housekeeper of the family, I at once got him a chair. He told us 
he was attending George Washington University, so the talk 
ran of schools and the usual chatter of young people the world 

We liked Mr. Rhee very much and when he rose to go a few 
moments later, Mother asked him to come again. This he did a 
few days later, in company with my small brother, and with a 
kite in his hand. He asked me if I would like to go down to the 
beach to watch him fly a kite, since kite-flying was quite a pas- 
time in his country. The day was almost windless and the two 
men (he always treated Edwin gravely, as if he were a full 
grown person) had some trouble getting it aloft; even after run- 
ning swiftly along the beach. 

How Mr. Rhee's eyes shone when it finally took the air! It 


was a very graceful thing, oblong, white in background, with a 
round red ball in its center, part of which was cut out to allow 
the wind to pass through. There were guy strings from the four 
corners to the guide string held by the kite-flyer. Later I discov- 
ered it was modelled on the Korean flag. 

The boardwalk was practically deserted when they began to 
lift the kite into the sky, but soon a crowd gathered. Mr. Rhee, 
sensing my embarrassment at the stares of the spectators, sug- 
gested we take a walk up the boardwalk. Even there he at- 
tracted attention, people constantly turning to look at him, for 
he had a trick of holding his head very, very high and thrown 
back, as if he would catch every morsel of air in its passing. 
once when I asked him about ibis posture he startled me by 
saying that he had spent seven years in jail and was indeed 
breathing in all the air of freedom he could capture. . . . 

Mr. Rhee spent his entire time, with the exception of his walks 
to the post office or along the boardwalk, studying. He was 
very alert to every word I said, frequently asking of some phrase, 
"Is that what you call slang?" I would then elucidate the exact 
meaning and if he did not understand it, would use other words 
with which he was familiar. 

Syngman Rhee attended church faithfully every Sunday alone, 
tastefully attired in a cream colored silk suit and wearing a pan- 
ama hat. ... At the age of twenty-nine he was a dynamic, force- 
ful personality who had one goal in life the independence of 
his people, which goal he combined with a deep concern for 
their individual material welfare. His innate dignity commu- 
nicated itself to everyone, friend or stranger, so that he was al- 
ways spoken of, as well as to, as Mister Rhee. Never loquacious 
himself, he had a way of putting people at ease in his company, 
while his quiet reserve forbade undue impertinence from stran- 

He had the coveted power of shrewdly evaluating character, 
plus the ability of reading the unspoken thoughts of those with 
whom he came into contact. . . . 

one day he joined us while we were window-shopping along 
the walk, with a very radiant face. "What has happened to make 
you so happy?" I asked. "Letters from home/' was the answer. 


When we did not see him for several more days, he admitted he 
was answering them at once, since they took such a long time 
crossing the ocean. He used to speak often of his mother. once 
he mentioned her jewelry and told us his family was considered 
to be well off financially in his country. . . . 

I asked Mr. Rhee about his name and he explained that in 
Korea surnames are stated first, then one's given name. I asked 
him what Syngman meant, to which he replied that he did not 
know. Then I asked who named him, and he said, "My mother." 
"You must have been a happy baby to be called Sing Man," I 
jested. He replied, "I do not know about that, but my people 
are a happy race." 

A letter from Rev. Merritt Earl, who was Rhee's classmate 
at George Washington, casts some additional light on Rhee's 
personality during these years. Written on December 2, 
1949, the letter reads, in part: 

Mrs. Earl (formerly Miss Winfred King) and I attended 
Foundry Methodist Church and it was there that we became 
friends with President Rhee. I was President of the Bolgiano 
[Sunday School] Class and Mr. Rhee was a member. . . . 

Mr. Rhee visited us at various of our appointments later. one 
time he came to Waverly Methodist Church Parsonage, Balti- 
more, Md., and we all took a trip to Annapolis, taking our four 
children with us. What a trip it was in his big machine! He was 
attired in a white suit, for it was warm weather, and when he 
stopped on the way and got out to get some fruit we were ob- 
jects of interest to all on the road. That's one time when we felt 
quite important and favored. 

When he visited Miss King at her home he showed a special 
interest in their colored care-taker, named Jim Colson, and one 
day he missed Jim; then Miss King told him Jim was in the hos- 
pital. Mr. Rhee sent flowers or fruit, and visited him there, show- 
ing that he did not harbor race prejudice. 

He evidently distrusted cats, for he was always uncomfortable 
when "Skeets," the family cat, was around. He said: "You can't 
trust them, they are so treacherous." 


In the collection of Horace Allen papers in the New York 
City Library is a note in Allen's handwriting, dated May 
13, 1905, Seoul, copying a portion of a letter Allen had 
written to Hugh A. Dinsmore. It reads: "I refused to give 
Ye Sung Malm a letter to a single person in America and 
tried my best to keep him from going." No reason is given. 

A news story in The New Yorfc Times for August 20, 1949, 
reveals that George Washington University received a check 
for $1,100 from President Rhee to be used in furnishing a 
room in the University's hospital, in memory of the late Dean 
William Allen Wilbur. In the preceding June Commence- 
ment, the University had awarded President Ehee its annual 
Alumni Achievement Award. 

In an interview with Rhee in the Newark, N. J.> Morning 
Star for July 25, 1907, is a paragraph in which Rhee's views 
of Russian and Japanese methods of imperialism are pre- 
sented: 'The Japanese idea of absorbing the whole of Asia 
is not a bit different from that of Russia, but the method 
they use is different. Russia, too big-headed, didn't care 
much about the outside criticism during the hostilities with 
Japan (1904-05), but the Japs, realizing the necessity of good 
appearance, at least tried to cover their wolf nature with 
the sheepskin of Western civilization. Therefore, the 
former's blows sounded louder, hence hurt the public ear 
only, while the latter's gun shoots to the heart without 
noise. . . /' 

Chapter VI: 

one of Rhee's students at Chong-No Academy was Ben 
C. Limb, whom Rhee encouraged to come to America for 
study, and for whom a scholarship was secured at Mt. Her- 
mon School in Northfield, Mass. Following further study at 
Ohio State College, Limb became Rhee's secretary at the 
Korean Commission, and later Foreign Minister and Am- 
bassador for the Republic of Korea to the United Nations. 


The "Christian Conspiracy Case" is described in detail by 
Henry Chung in Chapter IX of The Case of Korea, and by 
F. A. McKenzie in Chapter XIII of Korea s Fight for Free- 
dom. The case is also discussed in the Annual Report on 
Reforms and Progress in Chosen (Korea), for 1912-13, com- 
piled by the Government-General of Chosen, on pp. 56-59. 
This report notes that of 121 arrested, 16 were dismissed for 
lack of evidence and 105 were found guilty of plotting the 
assassination of Count Masakataka Terauchi. After this 
judgment was rendered on September 28, 1912, an appeal 
was heard in the Seoul Court of Appeals, and on March 20, 
1913, 99 of the convicted men were found innocent and re- 
leased, while the terms of imprisonment of the remaining 
six were reduced. In still another hearing of the case by the 
Taegu Court of Appeals, the sentence of one of the prisoners 
was increased by two years and the other sentences were 
re-affirmed. In a concluding paragraph, "the absurd rumors 
spread abroad" about the torture used against the prisoners 
is denied: "As if such imputations could be sustained for one 
moment when the modern regime ruling in Japan is con- 

According to Merritt Earl, Dr. Rhee was the first foreign 
delegate ever to attend officially one of the quadrennial con- 
ferences of the Methodist Church. 

The Korean Compound School in Honolulu was located 
on Punchbowl Street, between S. Beretonia and Hotel 
Streets. Mrs. Loofborrow and Mrs. Zurbruchen were two 
American teachers in the school; their long presence on the 
staff helped Dr. Rhee establish his thesis that he was not 
furthering a "racist 7 * program by segregrating Korean stu- 
dents, but was rather trying to preserve Korean culture and 
the nationalist spirit. 

Walter Jhung, one of the students in the Christian Insti- 
tute (who became the Executive Assistant to the Prime 
Minister of the Republic of Korea) recalls that Dr. Rhee 


spoke frequently in the daily chapel services. The boys sat 
on one side of the central aisle, the girls on the other, and 
strict decorum was always observed. 

In 1916 Rhee opened his school on upper Liliha Street 
and in 1918 moved it to more commodious quarters on 
Waialae Avenue, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Mrs. 
Nodie Earn Sohn became Principal in 1920 and was later 
succeeded by Mrs. Won Soon Lee. In 1924 the school was 
moved to a still larger location in Kalihi Valley, where it 
remained until, in 1932, it was converted into a home for 
orphans and abandoned children. The school property rose 
in value to over $100,000. In 1952 it was sold, along with the 
Liliha Street Church properties, which brought over $200,- 
000. The combined sum, at Dr. Rhee's request, was used 
to start an International University at Inchon, Korea. 

Many of the Heunsadang members (including Chough 
Pyung-ok, W. P. Kim, John Myun Chang, Myo Mook Lee, 
etc.) were appointed by President Rhee to the cabinet of the 
Republic, after 1948, and to other high posts in the Govern- 
ment, in an effort to end the old feud and create a new 
spirit of unity. The factional division, however, has never 
been healed. 

Chapter VII: 

Gandhi used passive resistance as a political weapon in 
South Africa prior to 1919, but his famous bloodless revolu- 
tion against England in India began two months after the 
Mansei demonstrations in Korea. 

For an account of the background of the Mansei revolu- 
tion among the Korean patriots in Hawaii, see, "Korean 
Independence Activities of Overseas Koreans" by Walter 
Jhung, in The Korean Survey, Vol. I (December, 1952) 
pp. 7-10. For vivid portrayals of the preparation and conduct 
of the revolution inside Korea, see The Grass Roof by Young- 
hill Kang (Scribner's, 1932); My Forty Year Fight for Korea 


by Louise Yim (A. A. Wyn, 1951); and the excellent historical 
analyses by Chung, Cyan and McKenzie. 

The Chuntokyo Cult is described in The Culture of Korea 
by Changsoon Kim and Religions of Old Korea by Charles 
A. Clark. 

The Bright Moon Cafe in Seoul was not damaged in the 
successive sieges of the city in 1950-51. 

Valentine McClatchy was the publisher of the Sacramento 
Bee who wrote an eye-witness account of the Japanese 
brutalities against the demonstrators. 

Another eye-witness account was written by Sidney 
Greenbie, "Korea Asserts Herself/' for Asia, September, 1919. 

The letter by the anonymous American is given in full in 
F. A. McKenzie's, Korea's Fight for Freedom, which in 
Chapter XV offers considerable substantiating evidence of 
Japanese atrocities against the passive patriots. 

In the Annual Report on the Reforms and Progress in 
Chosen (1918-21), the "Independence Agitation" is described 
(pp. 157-160) in vastly different terms. It was limited to half 
a million agitators, according to this report by the Japanese 
Governor- General, most of whom were misled by a few 
leaders, and the Japanese reacted with force only when "the 
mobs assumed a more defiant attitude toward those in 

"In discussing the uprising of 1919," the report states, "it 
must be repeated again that it was planned by some Koreans 
at home and abroad who felt discontent at the Government. 
They were blind not only to the general trend of the world, 
but to the cast of world thought, and following the doctrine 
of self-determination of nations, which they could not fully 
comprehend, eagerly looked for the occurrence of some great 
political change. . . . For a time it seemed as if the populace 
were really responding to their cry, but the hold they gained 
was only fleeting, for the majority joining the movement 
scarcely knew what it was all about. . . 


"While the uprising was still in full swing most of the more 
thoughtful Koreans, though fully convinced of the folly of 
the Independence Movement, were compelled by force of 
intimidation to appear tacitly in favor of it. ... Furthermore, 
on all the facts of the Korean situation being more clearly 
made known to the world on the conclusion of the peace 
treaty at Paris, the utter futility of the movement became 
apparent to even the most ardent upholder of it, with the 
result that outside assistance almost completely ceased. 
Though there are still some rebellious Koreans secretly trying 
to mislead the people by scattering wild rumors or seditious 
writings, their efforts are foredoomed to failure, for the 
people are in no mind to be led astray by them . . ." 

In that same Annual Report, on page 232, it is noted that 
831,667 Koreans (out of a population at that time of 17,288,- 
989) were arrested as contrasted with 61,444 persons ar- 
rested in 1917. 

The story of the Mansei demonstrations was told by 
Korean participants in three pamphlets, Korean Inde- 
pendence Movement, Shanghai, 1920; Independence for Ko- 
rea, issued by the Bureau and League of Friends for Korea, 
Philadelphia, 1920; and Japanese Diplomacy and Force in 
Korea, issued by the Korean National Association, San Fran- 
cisco, May 1, 1919. A fuller account was written by Carlton 
W. Kendall, The Truth About Korea, published by the Ko- 
rean National Association, San Francisco, 1919, 

Koreans elected to the National Assembly of the Republic 
in Exile were: Mansik Lee, Yong-kiu Lee, Hun Kang, You 
Kim, Jun-ku Choi, Lai-soo Lee, Shik You, Myung-sun Kim, 
Syk Ki, Taik Kim, Hang-yung Park, Jong-wook Lee, Kun 
Lyu, Yik Ju, Ryun-jun Kim, Jang-ho Park, Ki-hun Song, Ji- 
hyung Kang, Sung-wok Hong, Dam-kio Jung, Yong-joon Lee, 
Dong-wook Lee, Sung Jang, Jooi Chang and Taik Park. 

Members of the first cabinet were: President Syngman 
Rhee; Premier Dong-whi Lee; Minister of Foreign Affairs 


Youngman Park; Minister of War-Pak-lin Low; Minister of 
Law-Liu-sin Shin; Minister of Communications Chang 
Pum Moon; Chief of Staff-Dong-ul Lew; Vice Chiefs of 
Staff-Nam-soo Han and Sei-yung Lee; Minister of Interior 
-Dong-yung Lee; Minister of Treasury Si-yung Lee; Min- 
ister of Education J. Kiusic Kimm; and Minister of Labor- 
Chang Ho Ahn. (Note: all these names are listed in the 
Western rather than Oriental style, with the surname last. 
Cabinet members are listed in order of precedence.) 

The local chapters of the League of the Friends of Korea, 
together with their Presidents, were as follows: 

Alliance, Ohio Dr. T. W. Bryan 

Ann Arbor, Michigan Dr. W. C. Rufus 

Mansfield, Ohio Rev. R. E. Tuloos 

Newberg, Oregon Dr. Charles F. Gibson 

Chicago, Illinois Senator J. S. Barbour 

Parksville, Missouri Senator Selden P. Spencer 

Fostoria, Ohio Dr. F. A. Wilbur 

Kansas City, Missouri Dr. Grant A. Robbins 

Washington, D. C. Admiral J. C. Watson 

Lima, Ohio Rev. T. R. Hamilton 

Findlay, Ohio Dr. W. W. Geyer 

Boston, Mass. Dr. L. N. Murlin 

New York City Dr. Charles J. Smith 

Columbus, Ohio Dr. William Houston 

Philadelphia, Pa. Dr. Floyd W. Tomkins 

Reading, Pa. Mr. Frank S. Livengood 

San Francisco, Cal. Dr. L. A. McAfee 
Upper Perkiomen Valley, Pa. Rev. Colvin M. Delong 

Youngman Park v/as assassinated in Peking in 1921. 

During this period every effort was made by Dr. Rhee to 
engage all possible help. An example is a letter which he 
wrote on September 3, 1921 to Mr. Young Han Choo, a poor 
but ardent partisan, who from that time devoted himself 
wholly to the cause of restoring the Korean nation. In 1948 


Mr. Choo was named Consul General for the Republic of 
Korea at San Francisco. The letter follows: 

"Your good letter of August 29 was received the other day and 
I was glad to hear from you. 

"As you have said in your letter, there are certain elements in 
Peking, Hawaii and even in America who are trying to over- 
throw or at least to undermine the Government which was estab- 
lished and has been maintained at the sacrifice of the blood of 
our compatriots. This is the time when all patriotic people of 
Korea should do their part in defending and supporting the 

"You who have been always true and loyal to me as your friend 
and as a leader of your people must cooperate with many others 
in their patriotic activities, for you cannot make your influence 
felt anywhere in any big undertaking unless you work with oth- 
ers. I want you to take part in the movement which our people 
in Hawaii and America and also in the Far East are launching 
now. Some may do it openly and publicly and some may do it 
quietly on a small scale, yet there are many activities going on in 
different parts of the world at this time, because the situation 
demands such an organized effort on the part of the good citizens 
of our Republic. 

"I have no money to send you anywhere or to support you 
while engaged in any part of the movement. Thousands of our 
compatriots at home are doing things for their country without 
having someone to support them or finance them. You will have 
to finance yourself while opening your way to such a place where 
your service will be most needed. 

"The people in Hawaii are talking about you and want some- 
one like yourself. They cannot send you your travelling expenses 
and promise you a certain sum of money for your support or any- 
thing like that. But if you go there, I know they wiU do all they 
can to use you and to work with you until you can make room 
for yourself and get a living and an opportunity to serve your 

"There are several things you can do in this country and you 


will find many who feel just as you do. I have no time to enu- 
merate them but you have some ideas of your own. 

"With no motive other than my desire to serve the Cause to 
my best ability, I appeal to your patriotism to take up some work 
which will help me and our common Cause. 

Yours affectionately, 
(signed) S. Rhee" 

The credentials wired to President Ehee from the Shang- 
hai Government, on September 21, 1921, read as follows: 

"Be it known that the Provisional Government of the 
Republic of Korea at its special session duly called and held 
on the 29th day of September, 1921, passed and enacted the 
following resolution, to wit: 

"Whereas, Syngman Rhee, the President of the Republic, 
has duly constituted and appointed a Commission with full 
plenary powers to appear before and make representations 
to and participate in the Disarmament Conference, to be 
convened at Washington, District of Columbia, United 
States of America, on die eleventh of November, 1921, with 
the following personnel: 

Syngman Rhee, ex officio, chairman 
Philip Jaisohn, vice-chairman 
Henry Chung, secretary 
Fred A. Dolph, counsellor 

with full and complete power in the persons named to add 
an additional member so that the full membership of the 
commission shall be five; 

"Now, therefore, be it resolved that this Congress under- 
takes to entrust and empower fully and completely the 
aforementioned Commission to the Conference to present 
the case of Korea at the Conference and to negotiate and 
contract any and all agreements, protocols, treaties and 
covenants arising therefrom, for and on behalf of the Re- 
public of Korea/' 

Dr. Syngman Rhee photographed in Washington, D.C., in 
March, 1947. (G. F. Wooten) 


The following note was written by President Rhee on 
January 8, 1954: 

7- /. WILLIAMS; I met him first in his office on Pennsylvania 
Avenue in April, 1919. It was the time when telegrams were be- 
ing received from Shanghai, Paris, Honolulu and elsewhere, re- 
porting the continuation of the demonstrations and of the terrible 
massacres by the Japanese gendarmes. I went upstairs to the 
office and introduced myself to him and showed him a couple of 
these messages. He at once pulled out his typewriter and wrote 
an article. The next morning the story was out in many papers. 
After that time I took all such messages to him and slowly and 
surely the stories spread all over the country. How fortunate I 
was to find a friend who could lay before the American public 
the story no pro-Japanese in America or anywhere would dare 

"Williams was the Hearst paper correspondent in Paris after 
the Paris Conference finished in 1919 and was returned to Wash- 
ington. Since that time his interest in Korean independence re- 
mained, even while every other newsman, or any other man for 
that matter, cared nothing for the dead issue of Korean inde- 
pendence. From then on he did everything to bring the Korean 
question before Americans and was a champion for the cause 
of weak nations. His never waning interest won my deep grati- 
tude and friendship, which remains even now." 

President Rhee wrote the following explanation of his 
election to the presidency of the exiled government, in a note 
dated January 8, 1954: 

"The Declaration of Independence was read on March 1st in 
the public squares of every large city and the Japanese started 
out to arrest and torture and commit wholesale murder. Boys in 
the street, dressed like newspaper boys went around and distrib- 
uted the mimeographed copies of the Independence News. The 
Japanese searched all over the city and finally found the place 
where the mimeographed copies had been made but found all 
had been moved away. The Japanese continued to look every- 


where but the new paper continued to appear consistently and 
the Japanese were helpless. 

"In the meantime, another group of patriotic leaders met se- 
cretly and organized a Provisional Government. A Constitution 
was drawn up and printed, setting out the organization and the 
general principles of the Government and the duties of the peo- 
ple, tax payments, laws, etc. This was distributed simultaneously 
throughout the country. Missionaries and other foreigners mar- 
velled at the set-up and the Japanese police were perplexed. The 
representatives elected Syngman Rhee as Jib Jung Kwan Chang 
Choi (Chief Executive). Most of the Cabinet members were 
chosen from those who were abroad with the exception of a few 
deputies and vice-ministers then in Korea and these immediately 
fled to Shanghai, secretly escaping the Japanese police. At that 
time Ahn Chang Ho was in San Francisco and he at once left 
America for Shanghai. I remained in America, knowing that Mr. 
Ahn was to establish the Provisional Government in Shanghai. 
Together with the Cabinet members, many Koreans came out 
from Korea and with the leading agitators from America and 
Siberia gathered in Shanghai. They set about electing the mem- 
bers of the upper and lower house for the Korean Congress. 
There they tried to elect Mr. Ahn as President, but the Seoul 
election was reported in newspapers all over the world and the 
people naturally attached more importance to the Seoul set-up 
than to that of any other organization outside of Seoul. The 
Congress in Shanghai debated for a long time on the question of 
whether they should ignore the Seoul set-up and organize another 
Cabinet or simply change the names of the Seoul Cabinet and 
follow that program. Finally the latter plan was approved and 
in order to make Shanghai the place of birth of our Government, 
Rhee was elected as President and not as Jib Jung Kwan Chong 
Choi because if they recognized the earlier title they would also 
have to acknowledge the earlier election. 

"In the meantime another group in Siberia held a conference 
and organized a Government with my name as President and 
Lee Dong Whi as Prime Minister, but when they received the 
news from Seoul they gave up and joined the Shanghai group. 
That is how Shanghai became the seat of the Provisional Gov- 


eminent, acknowledged by all Koreans both in and outside 

"Later, when the Japanese succeeded in keeping the revolu- 
tion under control and the money from Korea stopped flowing out 
to Shanghai, all the politicians began to quarrel over their posi- 
tions and titles and kept on quarrelling without end. Then the 
communist elements came into the Government by offering the 
members some funds, and it was interesting to notice in the Gov- 
ernment Bulletins during the years 1944 and 1945 that the Cab- 
inet included some Rightists, some Leftists and one Anarchist." 

The following note was written by President Rhee on 
January 8, 1954: 

"FREDERIC A. DOLPH: He was one of the outstanding law- 
yers and as a partner of a large law firm in Chicago was a well-to- 
do attorney-at-law. His legal briefs were generally short and 
convincing. During the influenza epidemic he lost all his family 
and he himself lost his voice and could no longer serve as a law- 
yer. I do not remember how I got to know him, but through 
friends he was introduced to me and he told me that the Korean 
question gave him new spirit. He asked to take up our cause as 
legal advisor with no compensation, as he knew we were not in 
a position to pay him any fees for his services. Thus he became 
legal advisor to the Korean Commission. He prepared many doc- 
uments, the most outstanding of all being the official brief he 
presented at the Disarmament Conference in 1921. 

"His early acquaintance with Secretary Hughes, Chairman of 
the Disarmament Conference, made it possible for him to present 
to Mr. Hughes, together with the Korean petition, a small pam- 
phlet printed secretly in Korea which contained the signatures of 
some three hundred of the most prominent leaders in Korea, rep- 
resenting every walk of life, petitioning the Disarmament Con- 
ference to give a sympathetic hearing to the appeal made by the 
Korean Commission. When this pamphlet was presented to Sec- 
retary Hughes he was asked not to reveal the names on the peti- 
tion to the Japanese. Mr. Hughes called the Japanese delegates 
while Mr. Dolph was in the next room and they told Mr. Hughes 


that he should pay no attention to the signatures as the Koreans 
were very clever at forging such papers. Mr. Hughes requested 
the Japanese not to punish those whose names appeared on the 
petition and they promised not to do so. Then Mr. Hughes called 
Mr. Dolph into the room and produced the signatures. Dolph 
testified that the petition was secretly brought to him and was 
authentic. However, the Japanese ruled that the petition could 
not be presented to the Conference and it was never presented. 

one evening, somebody knocked at the door of the small Ox- 
ford hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue where Dolph was living and 
as he opened the door the Japanese Ambassador introduced him- 
self and asked if he might come in. He told Dolph that he ap- 
preciated his interest in Korea but he was making a mistake by 
taking up the hopeless case of Korea and that he would more 
wisely be associated with the Japanese Embassy and help Korea 
through that channel. Dolph refused to accept this offer. 

"Dolph never severed his connection with the Korean Com- 
mission until he died in that small hotel. I owe him an everlast- 
ing debt of gratitude." 

During the early exciting days of the Mansei movement 
it was reported in Shanghai foreign newspapers that the 
Japanese Government had set a price on Rhee's head. His 
return from China was more difficult than his trip to Shang- 
hai, because all the boats plying between the Orient and 
America made a call at one of the Japanese ports and there 
was not a ship travelling directly from Shanghai to America. 
To be safe he could not visit any of the Japanese ports. 

Rhee consulted with an old friend, Dr. George Fitch, who 
asked Rhee if he could get into Honolulu without difficulty. 
Rhee told him he could and a couple of days later he bought 
a first class passage on the S. S. Columbia going to Manila 
from Shanghai, without stopping at Yokohama. He told 
Rhee not to say anything on the boat and to land in Manila 
and wait until the boat had sailed. 

The second day Rhee was on the S. S. Columbia he noticed 
a dignified looking American, whose name he later learned 


was Bergzole, who had been the U. S. Consul General in 
Seoul. He was so openly sympathetic with the Koreans dur- 
ing the 1919 revolution that the Japanese had requested 
the U. S. State Department to remove him from Korea, and 
he was travelling from Washington with his mother on his 
way to Canton, where he would serve as U. S. Consul Gen- 
eral. Evidently he got on the same boat with Rhee at 
Shanghai but, of course, they did not know each other. The 
day after the departure, he met Rhee on the upper deck and 
said, "Are you not a Korean?" Rhee answered yes and then 
Bergzole asked his name and he said his name was Rhee, 
"Are you Dr. Syngman Rhee?" he asked. Rhee told him 
quietly that he was travelling incognito. He was so excited 
that he went back to his stateroom, calling his mother, 
saying that President Yi Seungman was on the boat. His 
mother, an elderly lady, came out to shake hands with Rhee 
and they talked of many things. 

Finally the boat docked at the Manila pier and Rhee 
waited until all the passengers who were to land there had 
been checked by the Immigration Officer. Then Rhee went 
to him and told him quietly that he was a Korean and he 
wanted to see the city of Manila. He asked for Rhee's pass- 
port and Rhee told him that he had none. The official said 
he would have to stay on the ship. Mr. Bergzole stepped 
forward, showing his official credentials, told him Rhee was 
his friend and would go back to the United States after a 
short visit in Manila. Rhee was allowed to stay in the Manila 
Hotel with the understanding that he would appear before 
the Immigration Chief the following morning. There the 
Episcopal Bishop did all he could to help him remain for a 
few days. 

Chapter VIII: 

This chapter is based largely upon diaries kept by Dr. and 
Mrs. Rhee, which I examined in Seoul in the Spring of 1949. 


Some of the activities of Dr. Rhee during this period are 
indicated in the pamphlets, Korea Must Be Free, issued by 
the Korean Commission to America and Europe, Washing- 
ton, 1930; Korean Liberty Conference, issued by the United 
Korean Committee in America, Los Angeles and Honolulu, 
1942; The New Korea, issued by the Korean National Asso- 
ciation, Los Angeles, 1938; and in the book, Korea: Forgotten 
Nation by Robert T. Oliver, Public Affairs Press, Washing- 
ton, 1944. 

The data on Dr. Rhee's activities in Geneva are taken from 
his diary notes covering that period. 

In passing through Denver on his way home to Hawaii 
from Geneva, Dr. Rhee was interviewed by Francis Wayne, 
who wrote a long story for the September 12, 1933 issue 
of the Denver Post, which fore-tells with considerable ac- 
curacy the price the Western nations would have to pay for 
their acquiescence in the Japanese seizure of Manchuria. 

on April 24, 1938 the Koreans in Hawaii dedicated their 
new Church, a replica of Seoul's ancient and famous South 
Gate, on Liliha Street. Dr. Rhee, as Chairman of the Board 
erf Directors, conducted the campaign for funds for the new 

Speaking in Honolulu, on June 27, 1938, Dr. Rhee said: 
"In the interests of world peace, and particularly the peace 
of the Pacific, the people of the United States and the great 
democracies must become aware of Japan's true motives." 

The May 20, 1939 issue of The Senator, a weekly hotel 
magazine, quotes Dr. Rhee as saying: "Maybe this time I 
can get help for Korea. Anyway, I hope so. But I shall never 
stop fighting/' 

For a fuller account of the mistreatment of Koreans in 
Japan at the time of the Tokyo earthquake of 1923, see 
Oliver's Korea: Forgotten Nation. The Annual Report on 
Administration of Chosen, 1923-24, compiled by the Gov- 
ernment-General of Chosen, makes no reference to the events 


in Japan, but under the sub-title, "Protection of Koreans 
Abroad," it makes this interesting observation: "Among the 
Korean residents in Siberia, China, Hawaii, and the United 
States are found not a few who fled the country because of 
political discontent or despair at the time of annexation, and 
these cajoled or extorted money from their honest, hard- 
working nationals under the plausible pretext of raising funds 
for the independence movement. But neither their deception 
nor coercion appears to have influence any longer with the 
Koreans in general, who are already awakened to the utter 
futility of their movement, while the so-called Korean Pro- 
visional Government established at Shanghai in the spring 
of 1919 was recently compelled to disband by the French 
authorities. Though its members still continue their secret 
activity with Bolshevik backing, they have entirely lost 
credit with their own people and even among themselves 
are bitterly divided because of the lack of funds and the 
difference in views. It is believed that sooner or later they 
will disperse and be buried in oblivion/* Page 147. 

In summarizing the guerrilla activities sponsored by the 
Provisional Government, the Annual Report says: "Of late 
the Korean migration to Manchuria has been induced by the 
greater difficulty in gaining a living at home due to the high 
cost of daily necessities. [Sic] Among these settlers is a 
sprinkling of political outlaws, and these men, under the 
guise of patriotism, instigate or intimidate their peacefully- 
inclined compatriots into rioting, and plan nefarious actions 
in conjunction with the professional agitators in Shanghai 
and Vladivostok, taking advantage of being beyond the 
reach of the Japanese police. At times malcontents from 
across the Tumen and Yalu have invaded the frontier regions 
in armed groups and killed men and cattle, looted and 
damaged houses, and carried off hostages for ransom. More- 
over, they have frequently sent secret emissaries into the 
country to carry out some desperate designs. In September 


and October of 1920 a mixed band of some 400 Korean 
malcontents, Chinese bandits, and Russian Bolseheviki made 
descents upon Hunchun near Chientao, and destroyed the 
Japanese Consulate and other buildings, looted them, and 
massacred many inhabitants, and these sinister incidents 
became the incentive to further offensive activity by dis- 
affected Koreans in different parts of Chientao. The situa- 
tion at last obliged Japan and China to send punitive forces 
to the disturbed regions. After a campaign of a few weeks 
the expedition succeeded in sweeping brigandage from the 
scene, and seeing quiet fully restored Japan withdrew all 
her troops from the district in April of the following year/' 
Pages 146-147. 

A Korean account of this same "campaign of a few weeks" 
is presented by General Lee Bum Suk (who became the first 
Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, in 1948), under 
the title, "The Battle of Ching-Shan-Li," in The Korean 
Survey., Vol. I (October and November, 1952) pp. 7-10 and 
8-10. General Lee gives a vivid account, based on his own 
experiences, of how 2,800 Korean guerrillas harassed and 
decimated a Japanese force of 90,000 men before the Ko- 
reans were finally driven into the hills and dispersed. 

Chapter IX: 

Dr. Rhee's letter to Cordell Hull reads as follows: 

"You are familiar, I assume, with the many efforts I have 
made, as the representative of the Provisional Government 
of the Republic of Korea, to bring to the attention of the 
Government of the United States, especially since December 
7, 1941, the desire of the Korean people to be as active as 
are any of the participants in the war against Japan. 

"I feel I can address you, my dear Mr. Secretary, as a 
contemporary who has, as you have done, both dedicated 
and devoted his life to the cause of Democracy. 

"There have been times in the past when a representative 


of Korea could ask and be granted a hearing by the highest 
diplomatic officer of the United States, as Secretary of State 
Gresham, in the administration of President Cleveland, 
addressed on behalf of the President of this great Democracy, 
a sharp note of protest to the even-then menacing Japanese. 
He did this when the Korean Minister, invoking the Treaty 
of 1882 between our two nations, sought, under its terms, 
the intercession of the powerful Republic which had per- 
suaded Korea to forsake isolation and to permit trade and 
diplomatic relations to exist between our two countries. 
That Treaty has never been abrogated. 

"You are aware of the long and bitter fight of the Korean 
people to regain their liberty; you are aware of the revolu- 
tion of 1919 against the Japanese and the continuous struggle 
since then of a government-in-exile, the oldest government- 
in-exile in the world, to keep aflame the light of Democracy 
for 23 million people who have ever willingly continued to 
give their life's blood in its defense. 

"We have, Mr. Secretary, a national existence of more 
than 40 centuries and we are compelled to supplicate the 
world's greatest Democracy and to receive in nearly fifteen 
months of war against a common enemy no word of en- 
couragement, no deed of assistance, no sign that America, 
save for one fleeting reference by President Roosevelt, was 
aware of our existence, sympathized with us, wished to help 
us, or even cared to receive our offers of assistance. 

"I wish in this letter to go on record that, with the publica- 
tion of reported Russian aims to establish a Soviet Republic 
of Korea, your Department, more than a year ago, was 
warned, both by me and by American friends of Korea, in 
visits and talks with your aides that the inevitable con- 
sequence of the rejection of the Government of the Republic 
of Korea a government conceived in the ideals of Democ- 
racywould result in the creation of a communist state. 


"May I not beseech you again, my dear Mr. Hull, for the 
opportunity to come by and talk to you personally?" 

on March 6, 1942, three of Dr. Rhee's closest friends, Rev- 
erend Frederick Brown Harris, Chaplain of the United States 
Senate, Mar. John Wesley Staggers, a Washington attorney, 
and Mr. Jay Jerome Williams, Washington correspondent 
for the International News Service, wrote to President Frank- 
lin D. Roosevelt, setting forth a detailed plan which they 
had worked out with Dr. Rhee for the integration of Korea 
into the Allied war plans. Their letter follows: 

"Mr. President, despite all the onerous cares which beset 
you, we beseech you to give personal consideration to this 
matter. As American citizens, we feel it involves the honor 
of our country of 130 million people, and we know it involves 
the fate of the Korean nation of 23 million people. 

"May we state, with deep appreciation, that our efforts 
in behalf of the Korean people already have evoked a sym- 
pathetic and a realistic response from gentlemen high in 
your council, 

"We wish to register with you, sir, our thanks to Col. Wil- 
liam J. Donovan, the Coordinator of Information, to whom 
we first presented the Korean cause; the Hon. Frank Knox, 
Secretary of the Navy; the Hon. Henry L. Stimson, Secre- 
tary of War; and your assistant, the Hon. Lauchlin Currie. 

"The immediate utilization of the Korean situation may 
be accomplished by: 

1. Recognition of the Provisional Government of the Republic 
of Korea, request for said recognition having unofficially been in 
the hands of the Department of State since prior to December 7, 
1941, and officially since February 7, 1942. 

2. Designation of the American military mission now in Chung- 
king, China, to collaborate with Korean and Chinese military 
authorities in the further development of the Korean National 
Army in China. 


S. Designation of an existing agency, such as that of the Office 
of the Coordinator of Information, to collaborate with the Korean 
Commission here in Washington, to: 

A. Send to Chungking, accompanied by one or more Korean 
nations chosen by Dr. Rhee, experts in the use of ex- 
plosives and the art of incendiarism; 

B. These emissaries to train Koreans for infiltration and in- 
struction of patriots in the homeland; and 

C. Utilize to the full the short-wave radio both here in the 
United States and powerful standard wavelengths of cer- 
tain Chinese stations to broadcast direct to the Korean 
people the patriotic and preparatory messages of Dr. 
Rhee, Kim Koo and other leaders. (One such message, 
requested of Dr. Rhee by the Office of the Coordinator 
of Information, has, after six weeks of deliberation by 
the Department of State, failed to win the approval of 
that Department, we have been advised by the COI. 
The COI now asks if Dr. Rhee would be willing to pre- 
pare an address, for broadcast to both the Filipino and 
Japanese peoples on the Japanese rule of terrorism over 
the people of Korea.). . . 

"Specifically, the ingredients offered the United States are 
as follows: 

"1,000 Koreans for infiltration purposes. 

'Three divisions of Koreans, or approximately 40,000-45,000 
men who constitute the Korean National Army. 

"Another 250,000 Koreans impressed into the military service 
of Japan for duty in Eastern China primarily. These represent 
fertile ground for mutiny, desertion and sabotage. 

"Another 450,000 Koreans in conscript labor battalions through- 
out occupied China, Manchuria and Korea proper, representing 
additional manpower for desertion and sabotage. 

"Dr. Rhee assures us of the intense collaboration of the Chi- 
nese General Staff in all Korean espionage efforts. 

"The foregoing figures do not take into account the hun- 
dreds of young men who, hearing of the existence of a Ko- 


rean National Army in China, are leaving their homeland 
by stealth and are begging for the opportunity of military 
service against the Japanese. Nor do the foregoing figures 
apply to increments from the 2,000,000 or more Koreans 
resident in Manchuria, Siberia and occupied China. 

"In addition, Koreans now know what war industries and 
supplies have been moved to their country and Manchuria 
by the Japanese, to avoid bombing damage in Japan proper. 

"Thus the pattern of revolution which Dr. Rhee has en- 
trusted us to deliver to you. 

"Here [is] the opportunity to provide literally a blazing 
backfire in Japan's backyard. 

"Here [is] the inspiration to develop the Korean National 
Army to a force of more than 500,000 men who, with arms 
and munitions, will redeem their nation and drive the Jap- 
anese from it. 

"Here [is] the moment for a tremendously effective polit- 
ical offensive, for who are better able to refute Japan's 
[claim of establishing a] new order in Asia than that order's 
first victims, the Korean people? 

"Finally, here is the one chance for the Government of the 
United States to prove the American people's belief in the 
inviolability of treaties, to right the wrong we have done 
the Korean nation and to demonstrate forever to the people 
of Asia that the leadership we now enjoy is consistently just 
and consistently honorable. Let not the lofty ideals ex- 
pressed in the Atlantic Charter be inert. Let them march 
before and inspire our brave men in battle. 

'The undersigned, trustees of the American-Korean Coun- 
cil, are American citizens who, for more than a quarter of 
a century, have been interested in the Korean people, serv- 
ing without compensation and no hope of pecuniary gain." 

The Honorable Hollington K. Tong, Chinese Ambassador 
to Japan, assured me in August, 1953, that the Cairo pledge 


of independence for Korea was inserted in the Joint Declara- 
tion issued by Roosevelt, Chiang Kai-shek and Churchill at 
the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek. Harry Hopkins is pre- 
sumed to be the author of the specific wording, including 
the phrase, "in due course." 

Chapter X: 

The Case for Korea by Robert T. Oliver, was issued by 
The Korean-American Council, Washington, D. C., April, 

A circumstantial account of Lyuh Woon Hyung's deal 
with Governor-General Abe is presented in Chapter XV of 
Louise Yim's My Forty Year Fight for Korea. 

Chapter XI; 

Dr. Rhee's 27-point program, which became the basis tor 
the 1948 Korean Constitution, was as follows: 


(Outlined by Dr. Syngman Rhee in a nationwide broadcast 6 
February, 1946, and unanimously adopted by the Council 15 

March, 1946) 

1. To establish an independent Korean State based on the prin- 
ciple of political, social, economic and educational justice 
for all. 

2. To establish a permanent National Government by popular 
election as soon as possible. All men and women over 20 
years of age shaU have the right to vote and those over 25 
to have the right to be elected to public offices. 

3. To promulgate a progressive democratic Constitution guar- 
anteeing freedom of speech, of assembly, of religion, of press 
and of political action. 

4. To eliminate all influences of Japanese imperialism from the 
laws and institutions of Korea. 


5. To confiscate all the property of the Japanese and of their 
collaborators whether in public or private ownership. 

6. To inaugurate economic programs for rehabilitation of Ko- 
rean industry and commerce and to begin speedy production 
of all essential consumer goods. 

7. To nationalize all heavy industry, mines, forests, public util- 
ities, banks, railways, water power, fisheries, communication 
and transportation systems. 

8. To inaugurate state supervision of all commercial and indus- 
trial enterprises to insure fair treatment to consumers, trad- 
ers, and producers alike. 

9. To redistribute all confiscated agricultural lands to small 
farmers according to their capacity and ability to work them. 

10. To break up and redistribute large private estates to small 
farmers in accordance with the principles stated in article 9, 
with equitable payments to the present owners of said large 

11. To permit small farmers to repay the state for the redistrib- 
uted lands on a long term basis. 

12. To control terms and interest rates charged by private loan 
agencies and to abolish private pawn shops. 

13. To establish a sound and stable currency system. 

14. To control the prices of all basic commodities and to insure 
equitable distribution of all essential foods by rationing until 
such controls are no longer needed. 

15. To reform the tax system by reducing the tax burden on 
small farmers and by abolishing taxes entirely from poor 
laborers and peasants whose incomes are too small to afford 
taxable surpluses. 

16. To revise inheritance and gift taxation at a high degree of 
progressive rate. 

17. To establish a system of public-supported compulsory edu- 

18. To promote and encourage with public support the preserva- 
tion and development of Korean culture. 

19. To institute systems of Unemployment- and Social Security- 

20. To promulgate Minimum-wage laws. 


21. To institute State control of medicine and to provide ade- 
quate public health facilities for the benefit of all workers. 

22. To prohibit employment in labor of minors under 14 years 
of age. 

23. To establish a 6-hour day for all women workers and minors 
over 14; an 8-hour day for all adult male workers. 

24. To provide medical assistance and social aid for expectant 

25. To establish friendly relations with all freedom-loving na- 
tions, and to foster reciprocal foreign trade on the basis of 
equal treatment for all nations and special privileges for none. 

26. To forestall and prevent any domination of Korea by any 
nation or any group of nations. 

27. To establish an Army, a Navy and an Air Force for national 

Colonel Ben C. Limb's letter of November 7, 1945 to John 
Carter Vincent read as follows: 

Pursuant to our conversation concerning the procedure for re- 
storing self-government and independence to the people of Ko- 
rea, I have communicated with Dr. Syngman Rhee, who is now 
working with the political leaders in Korea as well as with the 
United States Military Government there and [with] the Korean 
Provisional Government for the establishment of an independent 
Korean Government. Allow me to present herewith the princi- 
ples collectively enunciated by the leaders of the Korean people 
and in which they, under the guidance of their revered spokes- 
man, Dr. Rhee, are determined to achieve immediate self-gov- 

1. That the capability for self-government can be demonstrated 
by a nation only by the actual practice of self-government. 

No one is now in a position to assert that the Koreans are un- 
able to govern themselves because no one has any proof to sup- 
port that assertion until the Korean people have an opportunity 
to administer their affairs. 

Therefore, it is imperative that the Government of Korea must 
be turned over to the people of Korea by holding a national elec- 
tion at once. 


2. The military occupation of Korea was instituted for the pur- 
pose of facilitating the surrender of the Japanese military forces 
there. Now that the task has been accomplished, the military 
forces of Russia will best be withdrawn from Korea by a mutual 
arrangement between the United States and Russia. 

3. Such withdrawal is essential for: 

(a) The unification of the nation both economically and polit- 
ically, which is manifestly impossible under the arbitrary division 
of the land as at present; 

(b) The freedom of communication and unhampered proce- 
dure for a nation-wide election for a government. 

4. The fact that Korea was under an enemy domination for 
thirty-five years is not a valid reason for denying her immediate 

Other nations have amply proved their ability to administer 
themselves, as exemplified by Bulgaria after the War of 1877 and 
by Poland after the World War. 

5. Korea has maintained an independent nationhood for over 
forty centuries, during which she has contributed much to the 
civilization of the world. She can at once resume her self-gov- 
ernment as soon as she is given a chance to do so. Any idea 
calculated to apply international trusteeship over Korea is de- 
structive to the true interests of the Korean people, for such a 
trusteeship by its very nature will divide up the people and coun- 
try and make unity and independence impossible. Article 73 of 
the United Nations Charter is obviously intended for uncivilized 
colonial peoples. Korea, with a history of forty centuries, is one 
of the most highly civilized and most homogeneous and literate 
nations on the continent of Asia. Any trusteeship is most def- 
initely inapplicable to Korea if the spirit of the United Nations 
Charter is to be honestly respected. 

6. The commanders of the American occupation forces in Ko- 
rea have repeatedly expressed their pleasure in having the co- 
operation and ability of the Koreans in the task of governing the 
country. The aspiration of the whole population, the thirteenth 
largest in the world, is definitely and unanimously for self-gov- 
ernment for their nation. 

7. The Chinese Government has always advocated immediate 


independence for Korea. The President and the people of the 
United States have unmistakably stood for the same end. Russia 
also has come out for it. Korea is ready, eager and able to take 
up self-government. There is no reason whatsoever why self- 
government should not be accorded to Korea at once. 

8. The sacred pledged word of the American Government to 
the Korean people-as exemplified in the Korean-American Treaty 
of 1882, the Cairo Declaration of 1943, the Potsdam Proclamation 
of 1945 and President Truman's declaration of September 18, 
1945-must be redeemed without any delay whatsoever, so that 
all the peoples of Asia may not lose their faith in the integrity 
of international pledges and in the national conscience of the 
great powers. 

9. The Korean people have ably governed themselves for many 
milleniums among great warring powers; they have determinedly 
fought against the rule of terrorism of the Japanese; they will 
never submit to any foreign rule or trusteeship; they will fight 
to the last to regain their absolute independence and self-govern- 

In the words of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek at Chungking, 
November 14, 1945, "Peace for East Asia and the world hinges 
upon the speedy achievement of independence for Korea. All 
East Asia is watching the fate of Korea." 

If there is to be peace in the Far East, therefore in the world, 
Korea must be allowed to administer her own independent gov- 
ernment. Any other arrangement by which Korea is prevented 
from attaining the paramount will of her 30,000,000 people will 
surely lead to another world war. Human consideration must 
prevail over expediency and all other considerations. Appease- 
ment in any form and sacrifice of justice invariably lead to 
war. Immediate independence and peace in Korea will greatly 
strengthen democratic institutions and peace in the world. 

Leaders of Korea's political parties adopted a resolution ad- 
dressed to the Allied Powers on November 2, 1945, at Seoul, 
declaring that they would refuse joint trusteeship of Korea or 
any other measure short of complete independence. 

In his foreign policy address of October 27, 1945, President 


Truman pledged the United States to twelve fundamentals of 

foreign policy. one of these is: 'Self-government for all peoples 

prepared for it without any interference from any foreign source/ 

Korea will present an acid test of the application of this policy. 

Chapter XII: 

The principal Korean newspaper in Seoul, Dong-a Ilbo, 
carried on July 23, 1946, the results of a poll conducted by 
the Korean Public Opinion Association, which asked 6,671 
passers-by on four street corners in different sections of 
Seoul: "Who will be the first president of Korea?" The an- 
swers were as follows: 

Dr. Syngman Rhee 1,916 persons 29% 

Mr. Kim Koo 702 persons 11% 

Mr, Kimm Kiusic 694 persons 10% 

Mr. Lynh Woon Hyung 689 persons 10% 

Mr. Pak Hur Yung 84 persons 1% 

Others 112 persons 2% 

Don't know 2,476 persons 37% 

Detailed supplementary accounts of the American Military 
Government in Korea are presented in Oliver's Why War 
Came in Korea; Meade's American Military Government in 
Korea; Green's The Epic of Korea; and McCune's Korea To- 

Chapter XIII: 

The United Nations' official summary of the situation in 
Korea between September 1947 and October 1949 is pre- 
sented in Background Paper No. 62, "The Korean Question 
Before the United Nations/' ST/DPI/SER. A/62, issued on 
May 18, 1950. 

The U. N. report on the elections of 1948, including the 
charges made by Choi Neung Chin, was issued on July 14, 
1948 under the code number A/563. 


Chapter XIV: 

A factual and statistical summary of Korean "Govern- 
mental Procedures during Two Years of Peace and Two of 
War" is presented in the form of summaries prepared by 
each cabinet ministry, in Korean Report, 1948-1952, Korean 
Pacific Press, 1952. A detailed description of developments 
under the Republic is set forth in Oliver, Verdict in Korea, 

A thorough examination of the expenditure of United 
States funds for the economic development of southern Ko- 
rea appears in the Hearings before the Committee on For- 
eign Aftairs of the House of Representatives, between June 
8 and 23, 1949; and in "Aid to Korea," the Report issued by 
the same committee on July 1, 1949 as House Report No. 

Mar. Kim Koo was assassinated in the summer of 1949 by 
a Korean Army lieutenant with whom he had been on 
friendly terms, and who explained his deed by saying he 
felt Mr. Kim had become an enemy of his country's freedom. 
Kim Koo was given a state burial and the lieutenant was 
found guilty of murder and executed. 

The detailed story of the election of 1952 is told by S. M, 
Vinocour in his unpublished doctoral dissertation, Syngman 
Rhee: Spokesman for Korea, Pennsylvania State University, 

Chapter XV: 

A comprehensive chronology and selection of official docu- 
ments relating to American-Korean relations from 1943 to 
1953 is Senate Document No. 74, 83rd Congress, 1st Session, 
entitled "The United States and the Korean Problem," issued 
July 30, 1953. The chief U. N. summations are contained in 
the successive annual reports issued by the U. N. Commis- 
sion in Korea. 


In a note written in December, 1953, President Rhee 
further explained the nature of his session with General Mac- 
Arthur at Suwon: "After the briefing and a talk with me, 
General MacArthur bade me good-bye and made an auto- 
mobile trip to the Han River. In spite of the advice of his 
staff officers not to do so, he went directly to the bank of the 
river, where the bridge had been blown up a few days be- 
fore. From the riverbank he observed the war situation in 
Seoul, then returned to the Suwon airfield, where I was con- 
sulting with the Korean General Staff. He told me then that 
the enemy had lost its chance and would not succeed. At 
the time I did not know what he meant, but when the 
United States troops and material began to pour in, I under- 
stood his meaning. The enemy should have pushed on south- 
ward immediately, but instead they spent nearly a week in 
Seoul, giving America time to send the essential aid. The 
success of the Pusan Perimeter was actually determined by 
that vital week of delay/* 

Abbott, Lyman, 54 

Acheson, Dean, 295, 298, 302 

Ahn Chai Hong, 231 

Ahn Chang Ho, 126, 128, 130, 


Ahn Chung Kun, 105 
Ahn Kyong Soo, 26, 39 
Allen, Horace, 11, 12, 26, 36, 45, 

80, 82, 96, 337, 345 
Allison, John, 240 
American gunboats, 31 
Ancestor reverence, 6, 8, 22 
Andrews, Arthur I., 106 
Appenzeller, Henry, 19, 39, 54 
Asbury Park Press, 103 
Assassinations, 169 
Austin, Warren, 241 
Avison, O. R., 22, 52, 65, 95 

Bankers Club, 45 
Eerie, Adolf, 178, 190 
Bible, 53, 63, 140 
Biddle, Francis, 180, 188 
Bok Ney, 36, 50 
Bond, Niles, 240 
Borah, William E., 151 
Borton, Hugh, 223-224 
Bothwick, William, 148 
Boyd, Mrs., 101 S 106 
Breckinridge, Clifton, 193 
Brewster, Owen, 199 
Brown, Arthur J., 118 
Buddhism, 8, 12-13, 21, 60, 135 

Bunker, D. A., 20, 52, 54, 64 
Butte, Montana Standard, 165 
Butterworth, Walton, 239 
Byrnes, James, 210, 217 

Cairo Conference, 190, 200, 369 

Calvin Club, 111 

Carlyle, Thomas, 24 

"Case for Korea", 195, 365 

Catholic persecution, 30, 32 

Chang Duk Soo, 214 

Chang Ho Yik, 67 

Chang In Myung, 105 

Chang Kee Young, 165, 176, 236 

Chiang Kai-shek, 156, 190, 196, 
210, 236, 293, 320, 365, 369 

Chin Kook, 130 

China, 13-14, 31-33, 83, 86, 120, 
132, 149-150, 162, 169, 171, 
186, 196, 199, 202, 205, 210, 
214, 233-236, 290, 296, 308- 
309, 341 

Chinese classics, 13-14, 21, 330 

Cho, Man-Sik, 215 

Cho, Queen, 29 

Cho, So-ang, 55, 210 

Choi, Chung Sik, 46-47, 51 

Choi, Eul Yong, 14 

Choi, Neung Chin, 258, 370 

Choo, Sang-ho, 45 

Choo, Young Han, 350 

"Christian Conspiracy Case", 118 

Christian Institute, 124, 166, 346 




Christian Science Monitor, 251, 

314, 322 
Christianity, 13, 18, 60, 62-63, 

98, 117, 135, 140, 187 
Chul-Jong, King, 29 
Chun Myung Woon, 105 
Chung Soo Ahn, 78 
Chuntokyo Cult, 12, 18, 135, 348 
Churchill, Winston, 156, 190, 

197, 198, 200, 201, 320, 330, 


Civil rights, 291 
Coalition Committee, 228 
Cold War, 296, 301, 309-310 
Columhia University, 109 
Committee of Thirty-three, 135, 

138, 139 
Communism, 150, 181, 193, 203, 

214-219, 226-228, 230, 295 
Conference of Small and Subject 

Nations, 144 
Confucianism, 3, 4, 12, 18, 21, 

60, 61, 70, 102, 135, 140, 187, 

264, 341 

Connally, Tom, 302 
Constitution, 272, 285-286 
Co-Prosperity Sphere, 44 
Coulter, John B., 312 
Cynn, Hugh Heung-woo, 14, 53, 

79, 339, 348 
Cynn, Keung-woo, 14 

Dean, William, 239 
Democracy, 18, 21, 58, 61, 94, 

267-273, 277, 281-293 
Denver Conference, 107-109 
Denver Post, 358 
Denver Republican, 108 
DeYoung, Henry Chung, 147, 

346, 348, 352 

Dinsmore, Hugh A., 81-83, 96, 

Dolph, Frederic A., 145, 153, 

352, 355 

Dong, Myun, 147 
Dong-Ji Hoi Society, 131, 166 
Donovan, William, 184 
Drummond, Eric, 161 
Drummond, Roscoe, 314 
Dulles, John Foster, 274, 315, 

316, 326 

Earl, Memtt, 97-98, 344, 346 
Economic Cooperation Adminis- 
tration, 280-281 
Eden, Anthony, 194, 217 
Eisenhower, Dwight D., 275, 313 
Elections, 256-260, 287, 370 
Eliot, Charles W., 104, 119 
Emherly, Mr., 46 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 24 
Erdham, Charles, 99, 109, 110, 


Eui, Wha, 80 
Eui Yul tan, 169 

Far Eastern Survey, 260 
Fitch, George, 356 
French attack, 31 
Fry, William, 123 

Gale, James S., 60, 95, 339 
Gandhi, 320, 347 
George, Walter F., 199 
George Washington University, 

97-100, 104, 112, 345 
Gilbert, Prentiss, 161 
Gillett, Philip, 116, 118 
Gillette, Guy, 176, 177 
God, Mamon and the Japanese, 

96, 337 



Goodfellow, M. Preston, 185, 219, 

Gregg, G. G., 115 

Hahn, Kiu-sul, 41, 73, 75, 81, 83, 


Hall, Ernest F., 109, 111 
Hamlet, 28 

Hamlin, Lewis T., 80, 89, 95, 97 
Han, Kilsoo, 171, 182, 196 
Hananim, 6, 135 
Harrington, Fred Harvey > 96 
Harris, Bishop, 118-120 
Harris, Frederick Brown, 180, 

232, 325-326, 362 
Harroyd, Miss, 53 
Harvard, 104-106, 112 
Hay, John, 82-83, 89, 113 
Henry, Patrick, 314 
Heungsadan, 126-127, 347 
Hermit Kingdom, 4, 16 
Hideyoshi, 30 
HiUdring, John R., 233-236, 238, 


Hirohito, 150 
Hirota, 148 

Hiss, Alger, 178, 188, 194, 199 
Hodge, John R., 202-204, 208, 

212-213, 218-222, 226-231, 

238-239, 242-247 
Hoffman, Clare E., 199 
Hoffman, Paul, 281 
Holmes, John Haynes, 164 
Hong, Chul Soo, 79 
Hong Jeung Sup, 77 
Hong Jong Wo, 50-51 
Hong Yung Sik, 53 
Honolulu Advertiser, 130, 166 
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 129, 130, 

Hoo, Victor, 186, 196 

Hornheck, Stanley, 175, 177, 178, 

182, 183, 188 

Hughes, Charles Evans, 151, 153 
Hulbert, Homer B., 20-21, 73-75 
Hull, Cordell, 178-179, 188, 194 

Independence, 25 
Independence Arch, 34 
Independence Club, 26, 28, 34, 

37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 53, 60, 

65, 66, 69, 72, 337 
Independence News, 142 
Interim Assembly, 228, 231, 238 
Ito, Marquis Hirobumi, 74, 105 

Jaisohn, Philip, 25, 27, 34, 36, 
53, 72, 85, 89-90, 144, 147, 
253, 258, 352 

Japan, 29, 30, 32-33, 39, 43, 45, 
47, 54, 55, 65, 66, 69-92, 102, 
104-105, 114, 116-120, 132- 
149, 158, 160, 161, 167, 173- 
174, 207, 216, 290, 319, 325, 
341, 345-349, 355-358, 363- 

Japan Inside Out, 44, 173 

Jefferson, Thomas, 24, 56, 62, 
155, 271, 323 

Jesus, 61, 62 

Jhung, Walter, 346 3 347 

Johnson, Louis, 302 

Joint Commission, 223, 238, 240 

Jones, George Heber, 66, 67, 101 

Jordan, David Starr, 91, 107 

Junkin, Edward, 183 

Kamp, Ethel Boyer, 101-102, 342- 


Kang, Younghffl, 253, 347 
Kennan, George, 70 
Kil, Sun Cho, 135 



Kil Yung-soo, 41, 42, 339 

Kim, Cora, 88 

Kim Chong-han, 40 

Kim Duk-ku, 43 

Kim, Frank, 88, 91 

Kim, II Sung, 253, 256 

Kim Koo, 170, 175, 193-194, 210, 

214, 217, 222, 228-230, 233- 

234, 237-238, 241, 371 
Kim Ok-kiun, 25, 337 
Kim Ok Pyun, 53 
Kim, Sung-Soo, 214, 262 
Kim Won Kun, 42 
Kim, Yak San, 170 
Kim Yun Jung, 80-81, 83, 88-91 
Kim, Yung Sun, 52, 53, 60, 67, 68 
Kimm, Kiusic, 19, 125, 135, 147, 

210, 214, 218, 222, 228, 241, 

244, 251, 253-256 
Kimosuke, Adachi, 153 
Kimsio, Kim-hai, 1, 3, 4, 11, 15, 

21, 23, 50, 60, 93 
King, Winifred, 98, 344 
Kipling, Rudyard, 107 
Knox, Frank, 362 
Ko Yung-Kun, 40 
Korean alphabet, 120, 188 
Korean- American Mutual Defense 

Treaty, 314-317 
Korean-American Treaty, 16, 29, 

33, 81, 84, 89, 102, 105, 153, 


Korean Clipper, 297, 302 
Korean Commission, 158, 164, 

166, 195, 220 
Korean Compound School, 122, 


Korean Congress, 145 
Korean games, 5 
Korean history, 16-17, 21, 23, 26, 

29-30, 31-34, 69-75, 134 

Korean Me, 3-6, 267-269 
Korean National Association, 126, 

131, 171, 198 

Korean proverbs, 9, 66, 242 
Korean Repository, 19 
Korean Review, 147 
Koreans in Manchuria, 160 
Kyonggi Province, 17 

Land reform, 281-284 
Lattimore, Owen, 184, 282 
Lawrence, David, 314 
League of Nations, 160-161, 162 
League of the Friends of Korea, 

147, 350 

Lee Bum Suk, 360 
Lee, Choong Chin, 52, 53, 76 
Lee, Chung Chun, 167, 170 
Lee, Prince, 59, 134n. 
Lee, Sang Sul, 103 
Lee, Yo In, 54 
Leigh, Howard, 76, 78, 79 
Leonard, A. B., 103 
Limb, Ben C., 148-150, 220-221, 

232, 239, 143, 248, 345, 367 
Lincoln, Abraham, 323 
Locke, Thomas, 24 
Los Angeles Times, 140, 165 
Low, Frederick F., 32 
Lyuh, Woon Hong, 214 
Lyuh, Woon Hyung, 204, 214, 

218, 222, 241, 365 
Lytton Report, 161 

MacArthur, Douglas, 201, 210- 
211, 227, 230, 233, 236, 263, 
301, 304, 307-308, 326, 372 

Maiyil Sinmun, 20, 25, 37, 54, 

Manchester Guardian, 323, 326 



Mansei demonstrations, 37, 132- 
142, 168, 229, 347-349, 356 

Marshall, George, 224, 234, 240, 

Mayfield, Harry L., 289 

McCune, George, 198, 370 

McMahon, Brien, 251 

Megata, 71 

Megooks, 17 

Menon, K. P. S., 247 

Methodist Printing and Publish- 
ing House, 19 

Min, Queen, 32-33, 35, 39, 75 

Min, Yong-whan, 35, 41, 73, 79, 
81, 83, 90, 337 

Minneapolis Convention, 119, 339 

Missionaries, 11, 16, 18, 20, 44- 
45, 52, 60, 66, 76, 82, 101, 109, 
117, 118-121, 141 

Miura, Viscount, 35 

Mobs, 38, 168 

Molotov, Vyacheslav, 217, 224, 

Moore, Wallace H,, 177, 184 

Mott, John R., 115, 118 

Muccio, John J., 293, 295, 297, 
303, 304, 312 

Mutual Friendship Society, 25 

Nagamori, 72 
Nashimoto, Princess, 134 
National Assembly, 258, 261, 272, 

283, 285-286, 288, 289, 291, 


Needham, Charles W., 80, 90, 97 
Nehru, Pandit, 320 
Nelson, M. Frederick, 341 
Neutrality as Influenced by the 

United States, 113 
New Republic, 260 
New York Times, 250, 345 

Newark Morning Star, 103, 345 
Noble, Harold, 18-19, 120, 248- 


Noble, W. A., 18, 120 
Nomura, Admiral, 169 
Norris, George W., 145 

Ocean Grove, 101, 103, 121 
Ohlinger, K, 20 
Orient, 165 

Pacific Pact, 294-295, 299 

Pacific Weekly, 131 

Pai Jai School, 14, 15, 18, 20, 21, 

24, 26, 39, 42, 46, 50, 60, 64, 


Paine, Tom, 56 
Pak, Hur Yung, 214 
Park, Dul Puk, 49-50 
Park, Young-ho, 44, 53 
Park, Youngman, 53, 55, 122, 

126, 128-129, 130, 133, 135, 

146, 350 

Pearson, Drew, 323 
Peddlers Guild, 41, 338 
Peoples Republic (North), 222, 

Peoples Republic (South), 204- 


Peterson, Howard, 235 
Pinson, W. W., 119 
Pittsburgh Telegraph, 100 
Poland, 301 
Police, 292 
Portsmouth Conference, 84, 85- 


Princeton University, 109-114 
Privy Council, 26, 43, 320 
Proclamation of Independence, 

135-140, 154 



Provisional Republic-in-exile, 142- 
145, 148-155, 156, 165, 167, 
209, 210, 229, 233, 237, 349, 
352, 353-355 

Quirino, Elpidio, 295 

Refugees, 226 

Representative Democratic Coun- 
cil, 218, 219, 228, 230, 365- 

Republic of Korea, 19, 79, 125, 
148, 219, 265, 267-293, 295 

Re-unification of Korea, 232, 248, 
253-256, 264, 306-309, 314- 
317, 367 

Rhee, Francesca Dormer, 163- 
164, 172, 205, 206, 207, 208, 
221, 252, 273-276, 288, 312 

Rhee, Syngman, age, 323-324; 
birth, 1; blinded, 10-12; cal- 
ligraphy, 172, 327; childhood 
homes, 7; characteristics of 
leadership, 270, 276-277, 310, 
328-329; decision to fight, 301- 
303; conversion, 61-63; church 
membership, 124-125; early 
marriage, 52; editor, 19-20, 
131, 165; education, 8-9, 13- 
15, 18-23, 93-114; Hawaiian 
residence, 124-131; inaugura- 
tion, 263-264; love of outdoors, 
10, 274, 275-276, 313; poems, 
4, 54-55; politician, 27, 267- 
273, 277-281, 284-287; public 
speaking, 34, 37, 40, 41, 64, 
77, 96, 98, 108, 218, 244, 261, 
263-264, 278-280, 287-288, 
290, 311, 314; reading, 13, 21, 
24, 104, 112, 276; reform lead- 
ership, 24-47, 98, 277-286, 

327; son, 2, 52; top-knot, 22; 
torture, 49; writer, 44, 55, 59, 
65, 113, 126, 173 

Rhee family geneology, 2, 3-4, 6- 
7, 337 

Rhei, Han-ho, 161 

Richards, Ray, 243 

Ridgway, Matthew, 309 

Roberston, Walter S., 313 

Rogers, Admiral, 32 

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 209 

Roosevelt, Franklin D., 156, 165, 
177, 181, 185, 190-191, 194, 
195, 197, 198, 201, 320, 330, 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 70-71, 73, 
75, 84-87, 89, 106, 320 

Root, Elihu, 73, 75, 83 

Russia, 29, 30, 38, 41, 43, 65, 71, 
175, 192-200, 205-207, 215- 
216, 220, 222-225, 234, 239, 
240, 247, 253-255, 290, 296, 
302, 303, 309 ? 327, 338 

Russo-Japanese War, 56, 69, 192 

Sacramento Bee, 140, 348 

Saltzman, Charles, 239 

San Francisco Chronicle, 165, 

167, 169 

Schufeldt, Robert W., 16, 33 
Sherman, Harry C., 45 
Shigemitsu, Admiral., 169 
Shin Taimu, 80, 83 
Shipley, Mrs. Ruth, 210, 211 
Sino-Japanese War, 34 
Society for Rapid Realization of 

Independence, 214 
Soh Jai Pil (See Philip Jaisohn) 
Sohn, Won II, 312 
Son Byung-hi, 135 



Soong, T. V., 195-196, 199, 205, 


South Korean Interim Govern- 
ment, 231 

Spencer, Selden P., 145 
Spirit of Independence, 55-59, 

65, 126, 339-340 
Staggers, John Wesley, 144, 147, 

176, 181, 182-183, 231 
Stalin, Joseph, 196, 201 
Stevens, Durham White, 70, 105 
Stimson, Henry, 160, 188, 190, 


Stripling, Mr., 45, 46 
Suh, Kwang Bun, 53 
Suh, Sang Dai, 46 
Supporters of the Emperor, 41, 

Taft, William Howard, 70, 84, 

85, 320 
Taft-Katsura agreement, 70, 71, 

Taiwunkun, 29-30, 31-33, 35, 65, 


Tanaka memorial, 44 
Taoism, 12 
38th parallel, 65, 105, 200, 201- 

204, 218, 222, 297, 299, 300, 

303, 306, 307, 311, 316 
Tokyo earthquake, 168, 358 
Tri-Lingual Press, 20, 73 
Truce, 310, 313-315 
Truman, Harry, 201, 295, 302, 

303, 306, 369 
Trusteeship, 217, 222, 223-224, 

238, 240 
Tsuchida, Captain, 170 

Um, Lady, 59-60, 80 
Underwood, Horace, 52, 99, 121, 

Underwood, Mrs. L. H., 22 
Union Theological Seminary, 109 
United Nations, 196-200, 209, 
224, 240-241, 243, 245-250, 
253-262, 265, 301, 306, 307- 
309, 315-316, 322, 341, 345, 

United States military aid to 
Korea, 295-297, 298, 299, 303 

Van Fleet, James A., 310, 325 
Vinacke, Harold M., 184 
Vincent, John Carter, 220, 233, 

235, 239 
Vishinsky, Andrei, 322 

Wadman, John W., 77, 84, 122, 


Waeber, Ambassador, 26, 36 
Walker, Gordon, 251 
Walker, Walton, 303, 309 
Washington, George, 323 
Washington Daily 'News, 164 
Washington Disarmament Con- 
ference, 151-155, 156, 158, 

352, 355 
Washington Post, 81, 87, 100, 


Wedemeyer, Charles, 202 
Welles, Sumner, 190-191 
West, Andrew F., 109, 110, 113, 


Whiting, Georgina, 20 
Wilbur, Dean W. Allen, 97, 100 
Williams, Jay Jerome, 147, 152, 

176, 181, 231, 251, 353, 362 
Williams, John Z., 233 
Wilson, Woodrow, 99, 110-111, 

113, 115, 121, 129, 132, 138, 

143, 145, 320, 326 

380 INDEX 

Witte, Count, 86 
Women's rights, 15, 22, 57 

Y. M. C. A., 115, 116, 118, 119 
Yalta, 200, 201 
Yamagata, I., 141 
Yi, Bong Chan, 169 
Yi, Choon-ku, 36 
Yi, Eun, 80 
Yi, Hwang, 7 
Yi Kyung-jik, 35 

Yi, Kyung-sun, 2-4, 8, 11, 15, 21, 
39, 40, 50-51, 66, 69, 93, 116 
Yi, Pyung Joo, 14 

Yi, Sang-Chai, 116, 135 

Yi, Wan Young, 39 

Yi, Yang Yun, 7, 8 

Yim, Louise, 232, 240, 248, 348, 


Yongf, 1 
Yoon, Pyung Koo, 77, 84-90, 107, 

164, 345 
Yu, Kil Joon, 55 
Yu, Sung Joon, 54 
Yuan, Shih-kai, 33, 34 
Jukdai Dokja, 1, 2, 10, 39 
Yun Bong Kil, 169 
Yun, Chi-ho, 34, 39, 43, 337