Covering the Period from December 15, 1949 to September 4, 1950
Analysis and Conclusions
A. Responsibility for the aggression. The invasion of the territory of the Republic of Korea by the armed forces of the North Korean authorities, which began on June 25, 1950, was an act of aggression initiated without warning and without provocation, in execution of a carefully prepared plan.
This plan of aggression, it is now clear, was an essential part of the policy of the North Korean authorities, the object of which was to secure control over the whole of Korea. If control could not be gained by peaceful means, it would be achieved by overthrowing the Republic of Korea, either by undermining it from within or, should that prove ineffective, by resorting to direct aggression. As the methods used for undermining the Republic from within proved unsuccessful, the North Korean authorities launched an invasion of the territory of the Republic of Korea.
B. Origin and nature of the conflict. The origin of the conflict is to be found in the artificial division of Korea and in the failure, in 1945, of the occupying Powers to reach agreement on the method to be used for giving independence to Korea. This failure was not due to anything inherent in the attitude of the people of Korea themselves, but was a reflection of those wider and more fundamental differences of outlook and policy which have become so marked a feature of the international scene.
This artificial division was consolidated by the exclusion from North Korea of the United Nations Temporary Commission, which had been charged by the General Assembly to observe the holding of elections on a democratic basis in the whole of Korea. In the circumstances, it was decided to hold such elections in South Korea alone.
Had internationally supervised elections been allowed to take place in the whole of Korea, and had a unified and independent Korea thereby come into existence, the present conflict could never have arisen.
C. Prospects of unification. The Korean people, one in race, language and culture, fervently desire to live in a unified and independent Korea. Unification can be the only aim regarding Korea. It did, however, appear to the Commission, before the aggression took place, that unification through negotiation was unlikely to be achieved if such negotiation involved the holding of internationally-supervised elections on a democratic basis in the whole of Korea. Experience suggested that the North Korean authorities would never agree to such elections.
It was hoped that, at some stage, it might be possible to break down the economic and social barriers between the two political entities as a step toward unification. That too proved illusory, as the North Korean authorities persisted ill their policy,' of aiming at the overthrow of the Republic of Korea.
After the consolidation of the division of Korea, propaganda and hostile activities on the part of the North Korean authorities accentuated tension which, in turn, stiffened the attitude of the Government and people of the Republic of Korea, and even further prejudiced such possibility, of unification by negotiation as might have remained. Notwithstanding the continued efforts of the Commission, it appeared on the eve of the aggression that the Korean peninsula would remain divided indefinitely, or at least until international tension had slackened.
D. Development of representative government in the Republic of Korea. The necessity to safeguard the stability. and security of the Republic of Korea from the threat from the North gradually became a controlling factor in all the major activities of the administration of the Republic, and absorbed energies and resources which were needed to develop the new form of representative government and to carry out the economic and social reconstruction programme.
The first two years of the new National Assembly reflected clearly the difficulties which it would be normal to expect in a body dealing with a new and unfamiliar political structure. It had become clear, long before the act of aggression occurred, that the Legislature was making good progress in its efforts to exert parliamentary control over all departments of government, and would not rest content until its relations with the Executive had been satisfactorily adjusted. The growing civic responsibility shown by the legislature augured well for the future of representative government in Korea.
At the elections of May 30, 1950, the people showed very considerable enthusiasm, and the electoral machinery functioned 'well. Among the cases of interference with candidates which occurred, some were explainable in the light of the stringent precautions which the Government found it necessary to take in order to safeguard the stability and security of the State against the threat from the North. Although there appeared to be little justification for interference in some other cases, the results of the elections, in which many candidates critical of the Administration were returned, showed that the voters were in fact able to exercise their democratic freedom of choice among candidates, and had cast their votes accordingly. The results also showed popular support of the Republic, and a determination to improve the Administration by constitutional means.
The division of Korea added to the economic difficulties that had arisen at the end of the Japanese domination, and made it most difficult for the Republic of Korea to become self-supporting. Funds which might have been expended for the execution of the social and economic programme of the Republic were consumed by heavy defence expenditures. Nevertheless, when the aggression occurred, substantial progress was being made with that programme.
E. Korean needs and aspirations. Serious problems of reconstruction and rehabilitation, particularly the grave refugee problem, already confront the country. To these problems will be added problems of yet greater magnitude when the military conflict comes to an end. It will be quite beyond the capacity of the country to provide from its own resources means for rehabilitation. A healthy and viable democracy in Korea cannot come into being unless very considerable aid and assistance are provided from outside Korea.
Finally, as the division of the country and the resulting antagonisms were artificial, the Commission believes that, when the conditions under which they arose disappear, it will be possible for the Korean people of both North and South to come again together, to live in peace and to build the strong foundations of a free, democratic Korea.
Done in a single copy in the English language at House No. 328 at Camp Hialeah, Pusan, Korea, this fourth day of September in the year nineteen hundred and fifty.
from U.S. Policy in the Korean Conflict, July 1950-February 1951, U.S. Department of State Publication No. 4263 (Washington: U.S.G.P.O., 1951), pp. 14-16.
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© Paul Halsall, July 1998