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What Happened Sixty Years Ago?: ROK-US Deep Distrust between President Rhee and Eisenhower

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Park, Tae Gyun

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Institute of International Affairs, Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University
Journal of International and Area Studies, Vol.21 No.1, pp. 37-53
Syng Man RheeEisenhowerJohn Foster DullesRichard NixonKorean WarRelease of Anti-Communist Prisoners of WarArmistice Agreement
Many letters were sent between President Rhee Syng-Man and President Dwight Eisenhower

before and after the release of anti-communist POWs which was unilaterally ordered by Rhee.

According to these letters, President Rhee intended to use the release as a means to disturb the

armistice and Ike was furious to the point of devising another plan to replace leadership in South

Korea. According to the letters, the conflict between the two leaders was much more serious than it had

been already assessed by scholars.

Furthermore, Rhee's March North for Unification was another controversial issue after the

armistice. It was closely related to the political conference which was a critical provision of the

Armistice Agreement. The conference was to be held three months after the armistice was signed. Rhee

refused to attend the conference and wished to implement his policy in case the conference failed,

whereas the US government strongly opposed any military reaction against the communists. The

controversy continued until the end of the Rhee administration.

What caused these serious conflicts at the critical moment between two countries that in the end

signed a mutual security pact? According to the letters, the cause mainly stemmed from Rhee's hawkish

policy which rejected any peaceful solution of the Korean problem. However, this is a reflection of

Rhees disappointment not only at the change in the war policy of the UN and the US, but also at the

vague comments by President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles about Rhees request.
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