57 years ago, on April 19, 1960, the rule of the first South Korean president Lee Sung-man (known better under Westernised version of his name Syngman Rhee) came to an end. His attempt to falsify the elections of Vice-President caused South Korea to erupt, and Lee fled the country.
A country after a revolution is unstable, and this fully applied to South Korea of 1960: a poor country with a neighbor openly wanting to annex it.
This looked like a good opportunity for Kim Il Sung, and in this article I am going to present a few documents from the Soviet embassy which shed some light on North Korea’s policy at the time.
On April 19, 1960, Soviet counselor Torbenkov met Kang Hae-gu, the chairman of North Korean Academy of Science’s Party Committee and they spoke about the ongoing revolution in Seoul.
Kang mentioned that “comrade Kim Il Sung monitors the events in South Korea very thoroughly, he does it every day and gives necessary instructions on the issue.”
The next day another counselor, Pelishenko, talked to the chief of the North Korean secret police Pang Hak Se.
Pang said that “there were no special instructions to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to use its illegal residents in South Korea”, and that on the other hand, due to police control in the South, recently two qualified residents had been arrested by South Koreans.
However, by far the most interesting information comes from an interview the then-Ambassador Puzanov had with Kim Il Sung himself. Here is a full except:
Journal of Aleksandr Puzanov, ambassador of the USSR to the DPRK, June 13- June 28, 1960.
June 13, 1960
<…> Kim Il Sung talked in great detail about the situation in the South of the country and of the policy of the Party and of the government regarding the recent events, the South Korean People’s uprising against Lee Sung-man’s dictatorship. During these talks Kim Il Sung said that their line was to preserve their forces. Hence, the Party forces in South Korea (1000-1200 men), with a few exceptions did not take initiative in demonstrations etc.
But they actively supported laborers’ demands aimed to bring a downfall of the dictatorship of Lee Sung-man and his underlings. Thanks to such a tactic, said Kim Il Sung, they could preserve the existing forces in the South, with the exception of one city, where about 9 men ended up dead. Kim Il Sung also said that the WPK Central Committee restricted itself from putting revolutionary slogans, thinking that they are not appropriate for the time being and when in the South they started promoting the slogan calling for establishing of the people’s revolutionary republic, the Central Committee recommended to retract it.
At the present time our policy regarding the South, noticed Kim Il Sung, is to support the creation of new progressive parties and organizations. We support the idea of having nor just one mass party, put several ones. In the present, these parties are Socialist party, Socialist Party of the Masses and others. We have good connections with these parties’ leadership and they are under our influence. Kim Il Sung also said that some of the leading positions in the state are occupied by his people (named these positions and said that only his Party deputies know this, other members of the Presidium of the Central committee do not).
Our talks were conducted in a friendly and comradely atmosphere.
The parties mentioned in the document were not exactly influential: in the July elections that year the Socialist Party of Korea obtained 6% of the vote, while the Socialist Party of the Masses obtained only 0.6%.
While the document is insufficient to accuse both of the parties’ leadership of high treason, it certainly raises suspicions about where their loyalty truly lied.
The moral of the story is that even in 1960, North Korea had no chance of taking over the South.
By that time, the Southerners knew neither true democracy nor economic prosperity, and yet the vast majority preferred that to anything that resembled the loving grip of the Great Leader.
It is quite ironic that even now there are still South Koreans that fear a communist takeover, when even then, 57 years ago, even Kim Il Sung understood that it was impossible.
Featured image: Wikipedia Commons
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