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Avatar of USinKoreaBy on March 26th, 2012 at 10:27 pm

NYT Archives–March 1960-Pres. Rhee’s Fall

Back home now, I’m using my old college library to look at old NY Times articles from periods in Korean history that are not accessible for free online.

I chose the period of President Rhee’s fall and subsequent rise of Park Chung Hee.  Like with previous efforts on the Russo-Japanese War (1905) and the March 1st Movement (1919), I’ll look month-to-month at what the press was reporting as events were unfolding.

Since I do not have much respect for the objectivity and accuracy of today’s media, I am not offering these excerpts as definitive evidence. 

I simply like history, and these old articles are a window into it…

Unlike previous events covered here – you will not be able to access the full article without paying in the NY Times Archives.  I’ll post links anyway…

1 Mar 1960

President Eisenhower said today that allegations that the United States supported dictatorships were ridiculous. 

This is datelined in Chile but includes notes on Korea.

2 Mar 1960

Pres. Syngman Rhee declared today that Japan had given no sign that it sincerely wanted to live with Korea in peace and friendship.

Dr. Rhee made the remarks in an official statement on the 41st anniversary of the 1919 Korean Independence movement against the Japanese.

During the next two months as things heat up against Rhee, there are many articles about Korea’s effort to forge better relations with Japan.

Dr. Rhee asserted that if Japan had honored South Korea’s property claims she “would have reduced Korean hostility and suspicion and established a basis for friendly relations.”

5 Mar 1960

The opposition Democratic party made public here last night what it alleged were secret instructions to the police to falsify returns in the Presidential election March 15.

The purported police instructions outlined methods for tallying 85 percent of votes for Dr. Rhee and Mr. Lee.  In case plans for the casting of the requisite votes should fail, special ballot boxes with ready-made ballots would be provided.

5 Mar 1960

The morale of US servicemen in Korea could be “a lot higher than it is,” Louis G. Feldman, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said today.

“Korea, whether justly or unjustly, is a penitential duty station so far as some of the men are concerned,” Mr. Feldman said.  “Men come out to Korea with a sour attitude and remain sour.”

He attributed the servicemen’s adverse reaction to Korea in part to the average serviceman’s lack of understanding of why he has to be there.  “He does not understand there’s a war on,” Mr. Feldman said.

6 Mar

Korean Students Held

An opposition legislator and about twenty high school students were seized for questioning tonight after 200 demonstrating students had clashed here with policemen.

…The presidential election, in which Pres. Rhee is unopposed, takes place March 15.

11 Mar    Korean Violence Rising

A mob killed an opposition political leader last night at Yosu in southwestern Korea in the most serious in a series of attacks on candidates opposing Pres. Rhee.

The police said a crowd beat to death Kim Yungho, chief of the financial section of the opposition Democratic party.  Another party member, the chief of propaganda in Yosu, was serious injured.

The police reported 800 students in Taejon and 200 in Suwon demonstrated today against the administration.

Pre. Rhee, 84 years old, is unopposed in his bid for a fourth term.  But voters can cast invalid votes to show their preference for another election.

13 Mar

South Korean voters are preparing to elect a president and vice president next Tuesday in an atmosphere one of the candidates described as “terrorized.”

The president, who will be 85 years old March 26, also instructed authorities to halt “practice voting with imitation ballots” conducted by local chapters of his Liberal party.

Numerous students and others are reported to have been beaten at anti-government rallies.  The beatings were administered, it is said, either by policemen or by hoodlums while policemen present “looked the other way.”

Dr. Rhee’s election to his fourth consecutive term as president was assured when his opponent, Dr. Chough Pyong Ok, died las month in the US after undergoing surgery at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington.

15 Mar    US Deplores Violence

The State Department called on Pres. Rhee to foster the “free expression of the popular will” in Korean elections.  The department said it “deplores any action contrary thereto.”

15 Mar     Tense Korea Set to Ballot Today

16 Mar     Bloodshed Mars Election of Rhee

At least 10 persons were reported killed in anti-government demonstrations in three cities last night.

The opposing Democrat party announced a court injunction would be sought within thirty days to invalidate the election, which they charged was won by intimidation and fraud.

Korean news agencies carried early accounts of rioting in Masan, a southern port city.  Less violent outbreaks were reported from Kwangju and Pohang.  Isolated assaults, including one stabbing, were said to have taken place in other localities.

Seoul was quiet except for small demonstrations by supporters of the opposition.  The streets were heavily patrolled by the police.

Home Minister Choi In Kyu said two members of the Opposition Democrat party had been killed and fifteen injured in Masan as a result of “warning shots” fired by the police.

The Hapdong news agency reported from Masan ten persons had been killed and forty injured as several thousand anti-government demonstrators surrounded and stoned city hall, where votes in yesterday’s election were being counted.  The crowd burned down a police substation and damaged another.

The voters were guided into booths in groups of three, a procedure the Democrats alleged had been devised by the Liberals so that marking ballots could be overseen by a government party worker in each group.  However, it was impossible for an outsider to see what went on inside the curtained booth.

17 Mar     Rhee’s Burdened Aide:  Lee Ki Poong

Of the Koreans to whom Pres. Rhee is the voice, soul and supreme authority, none stands closer to the aged patriot than Lee Ki Poong – the quiet little man who has been elected Vice President.  Since the days of the liberation of Korea from Japan in 1945, Mr. Lee has stood by Dr. Rhee’s side, often taking the buffetings intended for the older man and quietly slipping out of the limelight on occasions of triumph for the President.

“I look to the day when I can lay down these burdens,” he told a Western friend not long ago.  “I am weary, but as long as the President needs me I will stay.”

The article goes on to tell how he came to the US in poverty, earned a college degree, but still struggled in NY before returning home to find his parents dying.

He remained in Korea during the Japanese occupation.  He met Rhee – who he had met while in NY – at the airport when Rhee returned in 1945, and he remained in his service until the writing of the article…

Rhee had adopted Lee’s own son due to the fact Rhee and his Austrian wife were childless…  (Next month, we will see how things turned out for this man…)

17 Mar     Landslide Korean Vote Attests to Rhee’s Durable Popularity

After fighting against the ancient Korean monarchy and the Japanese rulers who followed, Dr. Rhee became one of the world’s most outspoken foes of communism. 

Since he became the republic’s first president in 1948, Dr. Rhee has often been condemned at home and abroad as despotic and over-aged for his job.  But yesterday he received endorsement by ballot for the fourth four year term from nearly half of his country’s entire population.

18 Mar     Seoul Opposition Acts

Opposition members of the National Assembly walked out in a body today in protest against alleged corruption in Tuesday’s national election.

19 Mar     US Said to Block Rhee Attack Bid

Pres. Eisenhower was reported today to have refused to acquiesce in a proposal by Pres. Rhee for a South Korean military attack on Communist-held North Korea.

Mr. Lee said Dr. Rhee told the group he had written to Pres. Eisenhower suggesting that if the US “does not intend to help” in expelling the Communist regime from NK, Washington should “keep silent or sit by” while Rhee’s forces attacked. 

26 Mar     Korea to Try Police

Hong Chin Ki, newly appointed Minister of Home Affairs, said today that criminal charges would be filed against policemen who had fired on thousands of demonstrators in Masan during the night of the Presidential election, March 15.

Mr. Hong said four or five policemen were involved in the gunfire that killed at least ten persons.  He told newsmen the policemen went too far. 

Hundreds of high school students in Pusan demonstrated today for the second consecutive day…

27 Mar     Rhee Marks Birthday

Pres. Rhee observed his 85th birthday today without much fanfare.  All public functions, including a rally and a military parade, were canceled in accordance with his wishes.



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