The Russian Scare
The progress of the Russian forces in their invasion of northern Korea was partially known through newspaper reports. Alarmed at the possible effect of the invasion on conditions farther south, Mr. Yamada of the Government General had gone to the headquarters of the 17th Area Army (Chosen Army District) on 13 August to discuss the possibility of proclaiming martial law. Such a step was quite in order, since "the Governor General has the right to demand the use of troops when he considers it necessary” and ”in certain cases they [the provincial councils] may directly request local commanders of Japanese Army detachments to use their troops against the Korean population.” Nevertheless, in this case martial law was not declared.
The Russian advance caused great alarm among the Koreans; many of them fled into the hills from the towns in the extreme north. On 15 August a pirate radio station operating on the wave length of JODK, the Seoul station, and believed by at least some of its hearers to have been operating from Russian-occupied Korea, announced that a provisional government would be set up immediately in Seoul and that the three chief members of the government would arrive at the capital on the following day by train. On 16 August crowds of Koreans went to the Seoul railroad station expecting to see these three men, but they were driven away by the police, and the expected officials did not materialize.
Rumors were current that the Russian forces would enter Seoul on 16 August, and that the Americans would arrive on the following day. The two forces were expected to occupy Seoul jointly. The extent of the Russian advance was of course enormously exaggerated in these rumors, for Soviet troops did not reach Songdo, forty miles north of Seoul and slightly south of the 38th parallel, until 25 August. The confusion regarding the whereabouts of the Red troops was reflected in American Military planning and newspapers. It was reported that the Russians had occupied Jinsen (Inch'on); this error probably resulted from a confusion of names between Jinsen and Gensan(wonsan), father north and on the east coast. General MacArthur considered it quite possible that the Russians might occupy Seoul before the arrival of the Americans, and even as late as September a widely read American magazine reported that Russian marines had occupied Seoul; this extraordinary statement probably resulted from a confusion between Kaijo (the Japanese name for Seoul) and Heijo (the Japanese name for Pyongyang, the second largest city of Korea, situated farther north) or Kaijo (Kaesong). As a matter of fact, no Russian units over entered Seoul.
During the few days immediately following the Emperor's proclamation of surrender, handbills and posters appeared. One of these, a small leaflet believed to have come from communist or possibly Russian sources. ran as follows;
Congratulations on the Independence of Chosen:
The Dawn of Democracy in the East
President -- Kim, Koo
Premier -- Rhee, Syng Man
Foreign Minister -- Lyuh, Woon Hyung
War Minister -- Kim, II Sawng
Chief of Staff -- Hwang, Wun
Then followed a song about the beauties of Korea, which has no particular significance.
The activities of the members of the Russian consulate in Seoul during this period were somewhat mysterious. The consul, Mr. Alexander Sergeievitch Poliansky, had not been interned after the Russian declaration of war. It is highly probable that he and his staff carried on communistic activities, and his exact relationship with the Korean communists later became one of the XXIV Corps’ Essential Elements of Information. It has also been stated, on rather dubious authority, that the members of the Soviet consulate maintained an efficient spy system in Seoul, encouraged disturbances during the period following the surrender, and printed handbills to be distributed through the city.
On 16 August communists were active in passing out leaflets which announced that Russian troops would soon arrive. However, when no such forces appeared it was rumored that the Provisional Government at Chungking would return to Korea with American troops. On 22 August some inkling of the division of Korea into an American and a Russian zone of occupation reached the people, and the possibility of a Russian occupation of Seoul, or even of all Korea, vanished.