Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

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Harry S. Truman
1945-1953


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Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.
  117. Special Message to the Congress Recommending Continuation of Economic Assistance to Korea  
June 7, 1949

To the Congress of the United States:

I recommend that the Congress authorize the continuation of economic assistance to the Republic of Korea for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1950.

The United States is now providing relief and a small amount of assistance in rehabilitation to the Republic of Korea under Public Law 793-80th Congress. The continuation of that assistance is of great importance to the successful achievement of the foreign policy aims of the United States. The authority of the present Act extends only until June 30, 1949. For this reason legislation is urgently needed and I am hopeful that the Congress may give it early consideration.

The people of the United States have long had sympathetic feelings for the Korean people. American missionaries, supported by American churches of many denominations, brought spiritual guidance, education and medical aid to the Korean people during their forty years of Japanese bondage. All Americans who have come to know the Korean people appreciate their fierce passion for freedom and their keen desire to become an independent nation.

Early in the war with Japan, it was resolved that Korea should be liberated. In the Cairo Declaration of December, 1943, the United States joined with the United Kingdom and China to express their determination that in due course Korea should become free and independent. This pledge was reaffirmed in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, with which the Soviet Union associated itself upon its entrance into the war against Japan in the following month. With our victory over Japan, it was hoped that the Korean nation would be reborn. Unfortunately, however, only the people of Korea south of the 380 parallel have thus far attained their freedom and independence.

The present division of Korea along the 380 parallel was never intended by the United States. The sole purpose of the line along the 380 parallel was to facilitate acceptance by the Soviet and United States forces of the surrender of Japanese troops north and south of that line. Immediately after the completion of the Japanese surrender, the United States through direct negotiations with the Soviet Union sought to restore the unity of Korea.

For two years these efforts were rendered unavailing by the attitude of the Soviet Union. When it became apparent that further delay would be injurious to the interests of the Korean people, the United States submitted the matter to the General Assembly of the United Nations, in the hope that the United Nations could assist the people of Korea to assume their rightful place as an independent, democratic nation.

By vote of an overwhelming majority, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on November 14, 1947, calling for an election, under the observation of a United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea, to choose a representative National Assembly for the purpose of drafting a democratic constitution and establishing a national government. The Soviet Union refused to permit the United Nations Commission to enter its zone. Consequently, the right of the Korean people to participate in a free election to establish a free government was confined to south Korea. As a result of this election, the Government of the Republic of Korea was inaugurated August 15, 1948.

The General Assembly of the United Nations at its next session considered the report of its Commission and in December, 1948, adopted a resolution holding the Government of the Republic of Korea to be the validly elected, lawful government of the area in which elections were held under the Commission's observation--and the only such government in Korea. The General Assembly established a re-constituted Commission to consult with the occupying powers on the withdrawal of their forces and to continue to work for the unification of Korea under representative government.

The United States terminated its military government in Korea upon the inauguration of the Government of the Republic of Korea and recognized the new government on New Year's Day, 1949.

The December, 1948, resolution of the General Assembly called on the occupying powers to withdraw their forces as soon as practicable. The United States has thus far retained a small number of troops in Korea at the request of the Government of the Republic to give the Republic an opportunity to establish forces adequate to protect itself against internal disturbances and external attacks short of an aggressive war supported by a major power. A military advisory group requested by the Korean Government for training purposes will be retained in Korea after the withdrawal of United States troops.

The debilitated state in which the Korean economy was left by the Japanese has been accentuated by the separation of the hydroelectric power, coal and metal and fertilizer industries of the north from the agricultural and textile industries of the south and by the effects of continuing communist agitation. The United States has furnished the people of south Korea with basic relief during the period of military government. Despite' such assistance, however, the Republic is still far short of being able to support itself, even at the present modest standard of living of its people. It is in urgent need of further assistance in the difficult period ahead until it can stand on its own feet economically.

The aid now being provided to Korea is essentially for basic relief. Without the continuation of such relief, its economy would collapse--inevitably and rapidly. Bare relief along, however, would not make it possible for the Republic to become self-supporting. The Republic would remain dependent upon the continuation of relief from the United States at a costly level into the indefinite future--and subject to the same inevitable collapse at any time the relief should be withdrawn. For these reasons the aid granted should be not for mere relief but for recovery. The kind of program which is needed is the kind which the Congress has authorized for the countries of Western Europe and under which those countries have achieved such rapid progress toward recovery during the past year. Full advantage should be taken of the broad and successful experience in Western Europe by continuing responsibility for the administration of the Korean aid program in the Economic Cooperation Administration, which has been administering aid to Korea since January 1 of this year.

Prior to January 1 of this year, aid to Korea was administered by the Army as a part of its program for government and relief in occupied areas. The Budget which I submitted to the Congress in January contemplated that economic assistance to Korea would be continued outside of the Army's program for government and relief in occupied areas. The needs of the Republic of Korea for economic assistance have been carefully studied in the light of the latest available information. I am convinced that the sum of $150,000,000 is the minimum aid essential during the coming year for progress toward economic recovery.

Such a recovery program will cost only a relatively small amount more than a bare relief program. Yet a recovery program--and only a recovery program--will enable the Republic of Korea to commence building up the coal production, electric power capacity and fertilizer production which are fundamental to the establishment of a self-supporting economy and to the termination of the need for aid from the United States. Aid in the restoration of the Korean economy should be less costly to the United States in the end than a continued program of relief.

The recovery program which is recommended is not only the soundest course economically but also the most effective from the standpoint of helping to achieve the objectives of peaceful and democratic conditions in the Far East.

Korea has become a testing ground in which the validity and practical value of the ideals and principles of democracy which the Republic is putting into practice are being matched against the practices of communism which have been imposed upon the people of north Korea. The survival and progress of the Republic toward a self-supporting, stable economy will have an immense and far-reaching influence on the people of Asia. Such progress by the young Republic will encourage the people of southern and southeastern Asia and the islands of the Pacific to resist and reject the communist propaganda with which they are besieged. Moreover, the Korean Republic, by demonstrating the success and tenacity of democracy in resisting communism, will stand as a beacon to the people of northern Asia in resisting the control of the communist forces which have over-run them.

The Republic of Korea, and the freedomseeking people of north Korea held under Soviet domination, seek for themselves a united, self-governing and sovereign country, independent of foreign control and support and with membership in the United Nations. In their desire for unity and independence, they are supported by the United Nations.

The United States has a deep interest in the continuing progress of the Korean people toward these objectives. The most effective, practical aid which the United States can give toward reaching them will be to assist the Republic to move toward self support at a decent standard of living. In the absence of such assistance, there can be no real hope of achieving a unified, free and democratic Korea.

If we are faithful to our ideals and mindful of our interest in establishing peaceful and prosperous conditions in the world, we will not fail to provide the aid which is so essential to Korea at this critical time.
HARRY S. TRUMAN

NOTE: On October 10, 1949, the President signed the Third Deficiency Appropriation Act of 1949, which provided for assistance to the Republic of Korea (63 Stat. 738). On February 14, 1950, the President signed the Far Eastern Economic Assistance Act of 1950 (64 Stat. 5).
 
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.