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367 From Occupation to a Separate Government in Southern Korea Liberation and Division of Korea The years from 1945 to 1948 was a difficult and uncertain period in Korean history,onlytobefollowedbythecountry’sdivisionintotwoKoreas,theNorth and the South, in August and September of   1948. The three-year U.S. occupation of the area south of the 38th parallel was marked by the absence of a clearly formulated policy for Korea, intense rivalry and confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the polarization of Korean politics between the Left and Right.1 Americans, in particular, were ill-prepared for the task of governingKoreaand lacked any definite plan of action. Americans were even slow to draw up detailed guidelines for the nation’s military occupation. Nevertheless, the United States played a decisive role in the independence and formation of South Korea. Indeed, this momentous three-year period shaped the economy, society, and domestic politics of present-day South Korea. Although the division of the Korean peninsula into two occupied zones was temporaryatfirst,ameansof acceptingthesurrenderof theJapaneseforces,the deepening of the Cold War and the growing antagonism between the United States and the Soviet Union on the Korean peninsula made the division per9 LIBER ATION, DIVISION, AND WAR (1945–1953) 368 A History of Korea manent.Moreover,theAmericanandSovietapproachestoadministeringtheir respectivezonesweredifferententirely.Inthenorthernzone,Sovietauthorities used the indigenous people’s committees and enforced a policy of communization . In the southern zone, on the other hand, the 24th U.S. Army Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General John R. Hodge, established the U.S. Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK).The lion’s share of responsibility for the division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel was borne by the United States. U.S. officials had consulted no Koreans in making this decision, but the Korean people were still blamed for the political chaos that ensued. In particular, Korean political leaders, sharply divided along ideological lines, engaged in bitter confrontations, and were never able to reconcile their different visions of a future Korea. In the absence of mature leadership, the Korean peoplefailedtouniteinpresentingastrongalternativecoursetotheoccupying powers. The Korean People’s Republic With their surrender only days away, the Japanese in Korea had good reason to fearKoreanreprisalsaftertheendof colonialrule.Hopingtogetassurancesfor the safety of Japanese lives and property until Allied forces arrived, Japanese Governor-General Abe Nobuyuki, on 10 August 1945, took immediate steps to form an interim administration controlled by Koreans. Not surprisingly, there were few Koreans he could approach to run the administration who were moderate, commanded respect, and wielded informal power. Endo Ryusaku, Abe’s secretary-general for political affairs, sought to contact Song Chin-u, a rightist, but Song refused even to meet with Endo, fearing that leftists would label him a collaborator. The Japanese then approached left-leaning nationalist Yŏ Un-hyŏng, a well-known moderate figure with great prestige among Koreans based on his long anti-Japanese record. Before accepting responsibility for an interim administration, Yŏ demanded the release of all political prisoners and no Japanese interference in the maintenance of peace or with Korean efforts to gain independence. The Japanese accepted and designated him to head an organization to maintain public order. Yŏ organized the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CPKI) on 15 August, and his authority was accepted by most Koreans, including landlords, intellectuals, students, and professionals. With CPKI’s encouragement, local notables organized 145 people’s committees throughout the country, with associated volunteer police forces. The local people’s committees effectively maintained law and order Liberation, Division, and War 369 despite the lack of coordination with the central authority.2 The arrangement betweenYŏandtheJapanesemaintainedorder,withnoseriousviolenceagainst the Japanese, and by the end of August Yo was the unchallenged de facto leader of Korea. Until late August it appeared that Soviet forces might accept Japanese surrenderthroughoutKorea ,butinthelastweeknewscamethattheUnitedStates wouldoccupyKoreabelowthe38thparallel.Obviouslythisdevelopmentwould profoundlyaffectthepoliticalsituationinsouthernKorea,andsoYŏ’sCPKI and his followers called a national convention in Seoul on 6 September to provide his regime with the stamp of legitimacy by hastening the creation of a new government before the Americans arrived. At the convention, Yŏ proclaimed the Korean People’s Republic (KPR) as a de facto government, with a cabinet that included distinguished nationalists of all political persuasions, both rightist and leftist. Despite efforts to represent all sides, the cabinet was influenced mostly by the Left, but because of his reputation among Koreans, Syngman Rheewaselectedpresidentwithouthisknowledgeorconsent.Rheerefusedthe offer and remained an ardent anticommunist leader and a pillar of the Right. AlthoughtheKoreanCommunistPartywasrevitalizedasacoalitionof several communistfactionson11Septemberandwasquicklybuildingasubstantialfollowingamongworkers ,peasants,andstudents,rightistorganizationswerealso getting stronger as the United...


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