Between 1910 and 1945, the perception of Korea in American eyes shifted from that of a remote nation of little concern, to a perplexing problem of policy, and finally to the earliest testing ground of the Cold War. The one constant was the tendency of the U.S. to subordinate its Korean policy to other foreign policy concerns. Wilson's decision to compromise on Korean self-determination to keep Japan in the League of Nations failed when his own Congress decided not to join. Roosevelt's later attempt to set up a postwar order policed by a coalition of the U.S., Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union led him to defer to the increasingly ineffective Guomindang on Korean policy, thereby gaining nothing and hampering American efforts to unify the competing Korean factions in the U.S. Truman's decision to discard a key member of the coalition and keep the Soviet Union from dominating Korea backfired, leading to the establishment of a communist government on one half of the peninsula. The desire to contain communism in Korea then led the U.S. to support the dictatorial regime of the one Korean nationalist who was probably the least popular among American policymakers. In each case, the failure to treat Korea as an end in itself led to results quite the opposite of those intended.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 189-231
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.