The Communist Party
The history of the relationship between the other major political groups and USAFIK is less colorful perhaps than the stormy saga of the People's Republic, but equally significant. The Korean Communist Party which emerged from its underground activities first briefly in mid-August, then again upon the arrival of the Americans, had been one of the least known, most powerful, and best organized of all the parties. Tainted at first by the suspicion of having been subsidized, like the People's Republic, by the Japanese at the end of their regime, they, by their vigorous actions and characteristic singleness of purpose, established a place for themselves among Korean political parties. In the early days, as a party, they did not cause Military Government serious trouble, though small communistic radical groups and small groups of possibly irresponsible members caused the legitimate party to be blamed for many obstructive and violent acts. Also their affiliation with and support of the People's Republic brought them in the way of much criticism as public enemies. After the turn of the year, however, the true extensiveness of their activity and the extent to which they were influenced by non-Korean forces became evident and became increasingly troublesome to USAFIK.
Not until 20 September did G-2 report the name of the head of the one big regular Communist Party, the Korean Communist Party (Chosen Kong San Dang). His name was Pak, Hung Yung. The numerical strength of the party was then believed to be about 3,000. Later, in early January, Mr. Pak said it contained 10,000 south of the 38° and 20,000 north of the line. The first signs of admittedly "Communist" activity since the beginning of the occupation began to appear in mid-October when a poster entitled "Communist News" was found in Inch'on dated 15 October, and a handbill entitled "A Manifesto" signed by the Korean Communist Party was found in Seoul on 20 October.
The Communist groups were loud in their protests against the Korean advisors to Military Government, the interpreters, and against any things which they chose to consider as signs of a continuation of a reactionary tyranny over Korea. They attacked, particularly, the Korean Democratic Party, charging them with being pro-Japanese, reactionary, and traitorous.
The policy of the Korean Communist Party was often obscure, probably because of the efforts of its leaders to appeal to so many factions in the interests of unity and power. On 19 September the "Emancipation Daily News" (Hai Bang Il Bo) published the program of the party which said, in essence, that its aim was to lift up the laboring masses, to fight for the complete independence of the Korean people, and to establish a revolutionary democratic government. It said, also, that the purpose was to build a Communist society with no social strata , graft or oppression. Support of the People's Republic and condemnation of "such reactionary parties as the Korean Democratic Party" was also part of the program according to this paper.
Another statement of their aims appeared on 3 October. It included the organization of a free and independent country, a democratic settlement of the land problem, freedom of speech and assembly, the eight-hour day, compulsory education, higher standards of living for all laborers, and the franchise for all men and women.
On 31 October Mr. Pak granted an interview to a representative of the "Korea Free Press." When asked about the question of cooperation with Military Government, he replied:
We must cooperate fully with the American Military Government. Cooperation is only right. Even though protests and explanations may be made in the event of a disagreement with the authorities, none must oppose or clash with Military Government. We must not forget that the U.S. came to wipe out Japanese imperialism and to guarantee Korean liberation.
On 1 November Mr. Pak also granted an interview to a representative of Ma Il Sin Bo which was widely publicized. In this interview he expressed himself very vigorously in favor of the occupation and denied having told American press representatives that he favored the immediate withdrawal of American and Russian occupation forces. He was fulsome in his gratitude to the United States and the other Allies for the blood they spilled in the liberation of Korea and said that, until the Korean people practiced a little self-analysis and realized that their present liberty was due to these allies and not to the Koreans in exile, little progress would be made in achieving a united, independent, and democratic Korea.
When Dr. Rhee, Sung Man, through the medium of his Central Council for the Rapid Realization of Korean Independence, attempted to draw the Communist Party into the fold, he found them reluctant. Mr. Pak felt the executive committee of this organization was dominated by reactionary and pro-Japanese members of the Korean Democratic Party and Nationalist Party. Dr. Rhee agreed to eliminate the offending members and the Communist Party joined. A rift soon developed and became so pronounced by the end of November after the arrival of Kim, Koo that Pak withdrew from the Council. At this time Pak, in an interview with a representative of the Korea Free Press on 28 November, said that he believed unity was all-important but that it must be founded on the principles of a progressive democracy. In any case there should be no violence. The government should be formed by gathering the opinions of the whole people, not by a conference of a few political leaders.
Another indication that the publicly announced policy of the party was comparatively moderate may be found in an undated handbill distributed to Communist Party members in which Pak clarified the official policy. It included the following statement:
There is a rumor current that the Korean Communist Party advocates a proletarian revolution and the establishment of a socialist state. This is a misconception. The Party stands for and always has advocated the foundation of a bourgeois democracy as a necessary step toward full freedom for all classes.
Naturally the measure of a party's cooperation had to be taken by what it did rather than by what it said, and it was, in the early stages, difficult to determine to what extent the Communists were directly responsible for the highly obstructive acts of the People's Republic with which they were admittedly affiliated, and to what extent they were subject to outside non-Korean influences.
Several events involving the relationship of the Communist Party with the Americans should be considered before leaving the subject. One of these events took place when there was a meeting of the Korean Independence Promoting Central Committee held on 2 November in the Chun Do Kyo. the non-sectarian religious meeting hall where the Democratic Party had held its 16 September meeting. Fifty seven different political factions were present and the five major parties were each represented by their leaders. Dr. Rhee, Sung Man, who had arrived on 16 October from the United States, was chairman and sponsor of the meeting. The hall was heavily guarded both inside and out by MP's and Korean police. Though the meeting was spirited and almost violent, and though there were occasionally shouts and calls from outside the building, Dr. Rhee's prestige was such that the police did not have to be called.
The majority of the groups, and particularly Song, Chin Woo, leader of the conservative Korean Democratic Party, were chiefly concerned with drafting a resolution to President Truman, the State Department, Congress, the American people, England, China, and Russia, calling attention to the terrible blunder of the division of Korea at the 38 ° parallel for which they absolved the military commanders from blame but expressed their strong opposition to the blunder of the trusteeship which had been suggested by Mr. John Carter Vincent of the State Department, and which will be given full treatment in a subsequent chapter on National Issues.
In the midst of this meeting, swarthy, dynamic, Mr. Pak, head of the Korean Communist Party, delivered an impassioned speech insisting that "partition" and "trusteeship" were not serious problems. Although the majority finally adopted the resolution after it had been reworded slightly out of deference to its critics, the Communists Party, at a meeting the next day, decided that the resolution would create a misunderstanding and draw criticism from the Allied Nations, and that it was not a true expression of the will of the Korean people. Consequently, they prepared a counter-statement which:
... thanked the Allies for the gift of independence, hoping for the eradication of Japanese Imperialists, the impounding of Japanese land, the establishment of a progressive Democratic Government, and the withdrawal of the Allies once such a government is established.
This resolution was given the same distribution as Dr. Rhee's, much to the latter's annoyance, and signalized the beginning of a widening rift between the Communists and the Committee for the Rapid Realization of Korean Independence.
Another occasion when the Korean Communist Party appeared to be cooperating with Military Government was at the famous 23 November meeting of the Korean People's Republic. The more solid wing of the party under the leadership of Pak refrained from plunging with their radical wing brethren into the landslide which defeated the proposal to drop Kook from the name of the organization. By this restraint they clearly placed the burden of the blame for the defiance on the radical wing. The latter, however, quickly came back into the fold that very night by declaring what they were pleased to call a "developmental dissolution" and joined whole heartedly under Pak to eliminate intra-party strife at a time when the arrival of patriot Kim, Koo made unity seem vital.
Feeling this strength in unity, Mr. Pak made it quite clear early in December that he would have no further truck with the Committee for the Rapid Realization of Korean Independence, which in his mind was too full of men who had been collaborators. He also, while protesting support of national political unity, charged the so-called Provisional Government group with failing to respond to his approaches on the issue of unity. On 19 December Dr. Rhee struck back by using his regular Wednesday night radio time on JODK to blast the Communists. Though General Hodge had invited him as a non-party man to give a series of non-partisan stabilization speeches to the Korean people, he said:
Communists in Korea are responsible for concocted[concepted] stories, cheating, organized terror. . . They invented the name so-called People's Republic to show the world we are divided among ourselves.
Dr. Rhee finally urged all patriots to band together to fight "those people whose work is to destroy and prevent unity."
The Communists gave indications of being ready to fight back since it appeared to them that Dr. Rhee had practically declared war. The early press releases on the evening of 28 December, however, which told of the Moscow Conference decisions and indicated that a five-year trusteeship had been decided upon temporarily distracted the parties from a continuation of their mutual name-calling.
The question as to how closely the Korean Communist Party might be controlled from Moscow was of course of concern to the American occupation forces. The answer became increasingly clear to the cammand. General Hodge reported to SCAP on 2 November in part as follows:
Communistic activities are reaching point where they may get beyond control unless positive action is taken. Am sure most radical elements are Russian instigated but cannot get positive proof. Activities are hampering efforts to establish sound Korean economic system. .... Communist propaganda is so insidious and well handled as to have influenced materially the American press. ... The entire activity has the smell of being agitated by a well trained group of outside experts.
He reported again to SCAP on the tenth that Communistic activities were well organized and effective and that they were directed against the efforts of USAFIK to establish an effective government and a sound economy. He said also that he believed communism was backed "by both Soviet and Japanese activities in apparent effort to create chaos." There was a strong belief at Corps Headquarters that members of Mr. Alexander Sergeievitch Polyansky's staff at the Soviet consulate in Seoul carried on Communist activities in Korea. By December the State Department became sufficiently concerned over the possibility of the "existence of directive action inspired from without as against normal political activity" to request General Hodge through CINCAFPAC to send more information on this aspect of the Communist problem in Korea. There was also a belief that Russian Communist literature was being dispensed in Korea south of the 38th parallel by Soviet agencies. Pictures of Lenin and Stalin were sold at a memorial service held by radical groups in honor of the Korean martyrs of 1919, but the fact that two of the greatest Communist heroes happen to be Russian merely added to the impression of connivance without proving it.
General Hodge, though perfectly convinced in his own mind since early in the occupation found it very difficult to establish a firm proof of extra-political forces pulling the lead strings of the southern Korean Communists. On 30 November he summarized the situation as follows to SCAP:
Circumstantial evidence indicating possible outside assistance includes the following. (A) Presence of Russian Consul in Seoul. (B) Russian confiscation and withdrawal from circulation for possible use in Southern Korea all Bank of Chosen money in N. Korea and which is valueless except in Southern Korea. (C) Reports that Communists have received funds from outside sources presumably Northern Korea. (D) Reports that three [t]hundred Communist organizers are to be sent from Kanko in Northern Korea to Southern Korea. (E) Internal events show organization and direction beyond the estimated capabilities of local communist leaders.
On 3 December General Hodge sent a radio to SCAP saying that, although he still had no positive documentary proof of outside control and that proof would be difficult to obtain, he felt the evidence justified the conclusion that outside control of Communists in South Korea probably existed.
Communist public utterances certainly offered little help in establishing proof of sinister outside influences because, except for inspiring much of the campaign to palliate the reported atrocities north of 38°, lending generally their approval to the Russian administration, and discrediting U.S. Military Government, there was little said by the Communists which would indicate they advocated anything approaching old-fashioned party line communism of the Comintern type.
The relations of the XXIV Corps with the Communist Party and the popularity of the party itself among Koreans suffered a marked decline when their leader, Mr. Pak, wavered at first on the trusteeship question which came to a climax as a national issue on 30 Deceaber. In a personal interview with General Hodge on 1 January he indicated strong opposition to trusteeship and several Communist newspapers also objected to it. Then he was silent, hesitating to make a public statement. It appeared that he did not dare openly to take a definite stand on either side until he assured himself of the party line.
Instructions were issued on 3 January 1946 by the "Responsible Secretary of the Northern Korea Branch, the Korean Communist Party" to "Responsible Secretaries of ail levels and Branches of the Communist Party" relative to the Moscow Conference decisions. The instructions enjoined all Communists to support in every way those decisions.
A leftist parade of 3 January was first called as an anti-trusteeship demonstration then changed a few hours before hand to a pro-Moscow decisions parade.
Coming close on the heels of this evidence of outside influence came the much disputed and publicized 8 January interview between Mr. Pak and Mr. Richard J. H. Johnston of the New York Times. The nimble journalist maneuvered the Communist leader into making a number of statements concerning his support of a plan to sovietize Korea within ten to twenty years and concerning the Communist's preference for a one-power trusteeship under Russia. The fact that these statements were introduced by explanation of what he meant by soviet and were qualified by as insistence on absolute independence for Korea was lost in the general hue and cry which arose. Although supported by the Korean press, Mr. Pak made his position weaker by trying to deny what he had actually said and by requesting the expulsion of Mr. Johnston. There were no grounds for expelling Mr. Johnston for what he did not tell. The statements he did make were verified even by some American eye-witnesses who disagreed with his overall interpretation of the interview. Consequently, Mr. Johnston was officially exonerated by Corps after an investigation and Mr. Pak went into hiding. His enemies had placed a sum of 300,000 yen on his head.
This episode, which alarmed moderate and conservative Koreans as much as it alarmed Corps, was the beginning of the end so far as effective cooperation with the Communists was concerned. Other episodes only added to the cleavage. The refusal of the Communists to have any part in efforts at party cooperation by Colonel M. P. Goodfellow's Korean Representative Democratic Council, the sudden appearance of millions of brand new yen to replenish the dwindling party coffers when the Russian Commission came down from the north, and the discovery of letters on the person of at least one American soldier from Mr. Pak to American Communists thanking them for the vociferous sympathy they were arousing in the United States did little to raise the confidence of General Hodge in the honesty and sincerity of the Communists as an independent Korean political party. He believed furthermore in March that there was a considerable increase of Communist strength and activity in South Korea, which he reported to SCAP.
A further indication of a party unity, which extended at least beyond American occupied Korea into the northern zone, was the discovery of the apparently authentic document of instructions to all Communist leaders in South Korea, which has already been mentioned. The document was found on a Korean and emanated from Northern Korean Communist headquarters. It was dated 2 January 1946 and dealt with the party line attitude on the decisions of the Moscow Conference, but it also prescribed in detail the cheers, slogans, and speeched which were to be made in support of these decisions. In addition to this was the lengthening shadow of Kim, Il Sawng, leader of the Communist Party north of 38 degrees, believed to be impersonating the former guerilla leader who had been decorated by Stalin. His influence in Southern Korea had nearly eclipsed that of Mr. Pak by early spring.
General Hodge reported the growing strength of the outside influence and the lessening distrust of Russia among Koreans. He said this was evidenced by:
the newly intensified Communist campaign in South Korea and evidences of increasing Communist followings. It is also evidenced by the recent open call-out to the Russian trained and directed Communist by the so-called "leftist" Koreans leaders, who had previously avowed they were not Communists.
Later still more definite and specific proof of the far reaching tie-ups of the South Korean Communist Party came to hand when a "Communist Unit Journal" was discovered at the Communist Party Headquarters. The journal covered the period from December 1945 to May 1946 and revealed the connections which existed between the leaders of the party and Mr. Lyuh, the Russian delegates on the Joint Commission, the North Korean Communists, American military personnel, and the Soviet Consulate. The relationships between the latter and the Korean Communists was further established by the talkative Soviet vice-consul, Mr. A. I. Shabshin, who admitted to a Korean friend in confidence that he was the controlling leader of all Communists in South Korea and that Mr. Pak was his henchman.