March 26th will be the birthday of former President Rhee Syngman (March 26th 1875 ~ July 19th 1965). Former President Rhee Syngman was born during the reign of King Gojong. President Rhee was involved in the ‘Kojong Emperor’s Envoy Consipiracy Incident’ related to Park Young-ho at the age of 25 in 1899 and was imprisoned in Hansung prison for 5 years and 7 months until August 1904.
After he was released on August 9, 1904, he went to the United States at the age of 30 to petition for Korea’s independence with the help of Min Young-hwan and Han Hyu-sul.
After entering George Washington University in Washington D.C. with a two-year scholarship in February 1905, he interviewed with U.S. Senator Hugh Dinsmore and Secretary of state John Hayes, under the guidance of a missionary who came from Korea.
In August 1905, President Rhee met with President Theodore Roosevelt with the appointment of Secretary of State William Taft. At that time, he appealed for the preservation of Korea’s independence, but he failed to persuade the U.S. as it supported Japan during the Russo-Japanese War.
He completed his college degree in 1907, received a master’s degree from Harvard University, and then went to pursue a doctorate degree from Princeton University in 1910 at the age of 36. It was the year when Korea was under Japanese rule. In March 1910, Rhee joined the Korean National Assembly, which was a Korean-American organization; then he returned to Korea in August.
In April of 1912, when Rhee was under Japanese pressure for being involved in the ‘105-Man Incident,’ he returned to the United States on the pretext of attending the International Methodist Congress in Minnesota with the help of the Methodist Council. He worked in the United States for 33 years and 6 months until his return home in October 1945.
In February 1913, he moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. Since then, he continued the independence movement by petitioning for independence from abroad. This process created deep relationships with American politics.
Most people think that Korea obtained its liberation from Japan on October 15th 1945 when the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki and obtained its surrender to the Allied Forces, but the reality is different.
It was former president Rhee’s contribution to mobilize the American people and convince the 32nd former president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt.
Two years before Korea’s liberation, the Cairo Conference (November 22nd - 26th 1943) was held in Cairo, Egypt. The first round of talks was attended by President Roosevelt of the United States, President Churchill of England, and President Chiang Kai-shek of China, to decide on cooperation during World War II as well as talk about Japan’s territorial issues during the war, for which the ‘Cairo Declaration’ was announced on November 27th.
The content in the Cairo Declaration stated the following: First, the three countries, US, England, and China, should apply relentless pressure on Japan. Second, the three countries will stop the invasion of Japan and show no intention to punish or expand the territory. Third, Japan will be deprived of the Pacific Islands and ManchuriaᆞTaiwan and related countries will be returned to China.
In addition, the Cairo Declaration added special provision for Korea and stated that, “it will make Korea a free and independent country in the future.”
The ‘Cairo Declaration’ was the first international guarantee of Korea’s independence. This declaration was reaffirmed in the "Potsdam Declaration" on July 26th 1945. At that time, it was possible to bring Korea's independence to the draft of the declaration because the United States had taken the lead in drafting it.
Of course, it was fortunate for Korea that China was also cooperative. The drafting of the United States was significant because England was non-cooperative at the time.
We realize that when we are having important negotiations in our lives, we cannot do make it happen unless one of our strong partners pushes it hard. So, aren’t we lobbying and making international diplomacy? At that time, we were robbed of all sovereignty, jurisdiction, and even diplomatic rights to Japan!
In that sense, the contribution of former president Rhee, who was able to persuade President Roosevelt from behind the scenes, has significant value.
How many innocent people were killed unfairly during the 36 years of Japanese colonial slavery! How many independence movement fighters lost their lives?
We should all remember and mourn for former President Rhee Syngman as the founding father of Korea’s independence because we were able to achieve our independence thanks to his efforts to obtain aid from a powerful country such as the United States.
Look at North Korea now! Look at the communist country that has pursued social democracy! Have not 20 million Koreans so far been in hunger and oppression due to a wrong choice?
Let us take a look at the three-year course in which we were liberated from Japanese colonial rule in August 15th 1945 to the creation of a free Korean government in August 15th 1948. From December 16th to 25th, 1945, the foreign ministers of the United States, England, and the Soviet Union gathered in Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union, to hold a meeting in the ‘3rd Moscow Conference’. The results of the conference were announced on December 27th, 1945.
At that time, what was discussed in regards to Korea was firstly, a provisional government will be established to develop Korea into a fully independent country. Secondly, in order to establish the Korean Provisional Government, the ‘US – Soviet Union Joint Committee’ will be formed within two weeks as the representative of the ‘US-Soviet Union dual headquarters.’ Thirdly, the 5 year ‘Trust Plan’ will be discussed by the four countries of the US, UK, Soviet Union, and China, with the aim of full independence for Korea. At the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers, there was a disagreement over the Korean trusteeship between the United States and Soviet Union, and eventually it was adjusted to five years.
In the end, according to the ideology series, ‘Opposition movement’ and ‘prosperity movement’ were developed at the same time, causing internal confusion. Moreover, at the end of the twists and turns, the ‘May 10th general election’ of South Korea was held at the request of former president Rhee Syngman. Based on this, the sole government of South Korea was established in August 15th 1948.
On September 9th 1948, Kim Il-sung broke his agreement with Kim Koo, setting up a separate government in North Korea, saying, “I will also establish a government since you established it first.” If we hadn’t protected the Republic of Korea at that time, we would be living in a state of oppression and hunger in North Korea’s communist regime.
It was possible to defend the Republic of Korea in the fight against leftists in favor of the trusteeship and rightists against the trusteeship because of the leadership of the former president Rhee and the strong aid of the United States.
And how could the US immediately launch US troops and UN forces immediately after North Korea’s invasion of the Korean war? Immediately after the outbreak of the war, President Truman ordered the Navy and the Air Force to dispatch immediately, and the United Nations Security Council appointed North Korea as an invader.
After five days of war, UN Army Forces landed in Busan on July 1st. The reason for this rapid response and participation was all because Rhee Syngman was president at the time. This was all possible because it enabled a channel of communication and connection with the established US political system.
Let’s also take a look at the Armistice Agreement Process.
The former president Rhee Syngman succeeded in gaining ‘The Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty’ in return for agreeing to the armistice agreement after persistent negotiations with the United States using Kim Il Sung’s war of subversion.
The value of the Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty was first, to support Korea’s security and post-war reconstruction on the condition that it agreed with the armistice agreement under the pressure of the participating countries, including the US.
Second, Article 4 was added to allow the US forces to intervene automatically whenever the communist army recedes again on the Korean peninsula, and US forces were stationed in Korea and placed on the western front of Seoul. If US troops are attacked overseas, the US President will immediately and automatically join the war without the approval of the Congress.
Third, a total of 800 US dollars were provided in military aid and economic assistance. The South Korean military has been offered a dozen combat units, 79 warships and 100 fighter jets, in return for placing the Republic of Korea army under operational command of the United Nations.
Thanks to the Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty, we were able to keep our security until today. All these things would have been impossible without the persuasive insights and persuasive power of former president Rhee Syngman.
Whenever the country was in crisis, it could use the crisis as an opportunity to turn around and protect its security and economy. For this, former president Rhee Syngman should be respected and remembered as a national hero of this country.