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The US-Korea relations: Summary
A brief history of the US-Korea relations prior to 1945
Kim Young-Sik, Ph.D.
10/31/2003

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[The following excerpt is taken from Kim Young-Sik's paper 'A brief history of the US-Korea relations prior to 1945.']

There is a Korean word - "sah-dae-ju-ih" - that loosely translates to - "Big Power Worship", "Cuddle up to a big power and you will be taken care of." This idea goes with an old Korean proverb: When two whales fight, many shrimps get crushed, unless the shrimps stick close to one of the whales. With the exception of Go-Cosun and Koguryo, which were big powers on their own rights, Korea has been a yak-so-min-jok (a tiny weak people) and has practiced sah-dae-ju-ih on and off with the big powers - Mongols, Chinese, Russians, Japanese, Germans, and Americans.

Thus, for example, King Kojong relied on China for protection, When China was defeated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1995), the King embraced Russia and America for protection. For over a year, King Kojong embraced Tsar's Russia as a savior and ruled Korea hiding out in the Russian legation in Seoul. Russia was defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War (1905), and the United States abandoned Korea soon after. The poor King Kojong believed that Uncle Sam would protect him from Japan and had placed dozens of Americans in key government positions to no avail.

America saw little use for its Korean 'friends' and looked the other way when Japan annexed Korea in 1910. King Kojong failed to grasp the stark truth of 'real politic' that every nation is on its own and ought to take care of itself. A nation's 'national interests' change and yester years' friends become mortal enemies today and foes become close allies eith time - all based on the needs of the present moment. America accepted Korea as a Japanese colony, and the Americans in Korea - missionaries, educators, businessmen, and government officials - acted accordingly.

US troops briefly occupied South Korea from 1945 to 1948. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the US troops returned not so much to save South Korea but to stop Communism from spreading. When the war dragged on, America decided to get out of Korea but Rhee Syngman forced America to sign a mutual defense treaty and leave behind a token force of about 40,000 men. Since the armistice of 1953, American presidents - Reagan, Bush, Sr., Carter, and Clinton - tried to get out of Korea But they were met by intense opposition from the Korean officials, who had would create bogus 'military crisis' and the threat of an "imminent invasion" from North Korea on occasion.

Today, President Bush is rethinking US troop deployments in Korea and other parts of the world. With modern weaponry, stationing ground troops in harm's way - within range of heavy guns and missiles loaded with WMD warheads - is not a prudent thing to do. Stationing nearly 40,000 US troops next to North Korean guns and missiles pleases Kim Jong Il but not US commanders. Plans are under way to pull back the US troops from the danger area - even completely out of Korea. When and if war comes, the troops would be relatively safe, and cruise missiles and other modern weapons will do much of the fighting.

If no war, then it is likely that America will leave Korea. There is no more Red menace and Korea offers little in the way of American national interests. Sooner or later, America will let the Korean people manage their own affairs on their own. The new breeds of Korean leaders want it that way and no more sah-dae-ju-ih for Korea. Korea wants to become a Big Power and regain the past glory of Go-Chosun and Koguryo.

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Appendix A: US Diplomats in Korea
Source: US State - Korea. (2003).

1883: Lucius H. Foote, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Feb 27, 1883 - Feb 19, 1885
1886: William H. Parker, Minister Resident/Consul General, Feb 19, 1886 - Sep 3, 1886
1887: Hugh A. Dinsmore, Minister Resident/Consul General, Jan 12, 1887 - May 26, 1890
1889: William O. Bradley, Minister Resident/Consul General, Mar 30, 1889 - Declined appointment.
1890: Augustine Heard, Minister Resident/Consul General, Jan 30, 1890 - Jun 27, 1893
1894: John M.B. Sill, Minister Resident/Consul General, Jan 12, 1894 - Sep 13, 1897
1897: Horace N. Allen, Minister Resident/Consul General, Jul 17, 1897 - Dec 10, 1901.
1905: Edwin V. Morgan, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Mar 18, 1905 - Dec 8, 1905
1949: John J. Muccio, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Apr 7, 1949 - Sep 8, 1952
1952: Ellis O. Briggs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Aug 25, 1952 - Apr 12, 1955
1955: William S.B. Lacy. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Mar 24, 1955 - Oct 20, 1955
1956: Walter C. Dowling. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, May 29, 1956 - Oct 2, 1959
1959: Walter P. McConaughy, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Oct 5, 1959 - Apr 12, 1961
1961: Samuel D. Berger, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Jun 12, 1961 - Jul 10, 1964
1964: Winthrop G. Brown, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Jul 31, 1964 - Jun 10, 1967
1967: William J. Porter, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Jun 9, 1967 - Aug 18, 1971
1971: Philip C. Habib, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Sep 30, 1971 - Aug 19, 1974
1974: Richard L. Sneider, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Aug 23, 1974 - Jun 21, 1978
1978: William H. Gleysteen, Jr., Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Jun 27, 1978 - Jun 10, 1981
1981: Richard L. Walker, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Jul 18, 1981 - Oct 25 1986
1986: James Roderick Lilley, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Oct 16, 1986 - Jan 3, 1989
1989: Donald Phinney Gregg, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Sep 14, 1989 - Feb 27, 1993
1993: James T. Laney, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Oct 15, 1993 - Feb 5, 1996
1997: Steven W. Bosworth, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Oct 24, 1997 - Feb 10, 2001
2001: Thomas C. Hubbard, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Aug 3, 2001

Kim Young-Sik is editor of Korea WebWeekly.

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