National Geographic : 1947 Jun
With the U. S. Army in Korea BY LT. GEN. JOHN R. HODGE Commanding United States Army Forces in Korea * A HUNDRED years before Columbus dis covered America, the Koreans led the world in printing. They were the first people to use movable metal type. Long before that, they had learned writing from the Chinese, and later in their develop ment they vastly improved upon the Chinese system by devising a simple alphabet and in troducing to the Far East its first simplified alphabetical script.f But despite this centuries-old literary back ground, the Koreans ran into difficulty when they came to translate the portion of the Cairo agreement of December, 1943, which related to their country. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek, who at that historic conference took up the liberation of peoples enslaved by Japan, agreed that "in due course" Korea was to be free and independent. Even in our language, "in due course" is indefinite. In the Korean language the phrase is extremely difficult to translate. It may mean "in a few days," "in a few weeks," "in a few years," or "in a few decades." Therein lies a stumbling block, for the Koreans translated the phrase in favorable ways. Most of them translated it as "in a few days." Upon one thing Koreans are thoroughly agreed. They all want their independence. More than forty years of Japanese domination, misrule, and oppression have only served to increase their desire for liberty. Every Ko rean from early childhood has been taught to live for independence. They hope that the time is not too far off when they can have a free, independent, and united country. 38th Parallel Cuts Korea in Two I arrived in Korea in command of the XXIV U. S. Army Corps in September, 1945, less than a month after V-J Day. My immediate task was to take the Japanese surrender of forces in South Korea, disarm the Japs, and establish orderly government of Korea below the 38th parallel-an area about the size of Indiana, which included the national capital, Seoul (Keijo). (Map, page 833.) Territory above the 38th parallel-an arbi trary dividing line-was administered by a Soviet Army of Occupation. This somewhat larger area is about the size of Louisiana. The 38th parallel is not a natural boundary. It cuts across more than 85 rivers and streams. It lies almost exactly between the Yalu River in the north and the Korea Strait in the south. In the Russian zone are located most of Korea's coal mines and heavy industry-steel and iron, aluminum and magnesium, chemicals and synthetic fertilizer. Most of the country's hydroelectric power is developed there. In the predominantly agricultural American zone is grown most of the rice and other foods of the Nation. Some coal mines, paper mills, textile factories, and related industries also are located in this southern section. Today this divided administration of Korea continues, creating a situation intolerable to the Koreans, both politically and economically. Korea's future is indefinite. As I write these words, I am in Washington for a review of the Korean situation. Incidentally, my re turn in February, 1947, marked the first time I had seen the United States for almost five years. Whatever is in store for Korea, and what ever may happen upon my return, I know that in my first 17 months of continuous serv ice there I saw written a chapter in the history of American foreign relations which always will be absorbing and unforgettable to me. We Inherit Japs from Russians One of our first objectives was to disarm the Jap forces, to get the Japs out of South Korea, and to bring back to their native land Koreans who had been taken to Japan and other Pacific areas by the Japs. We thought we had completed a good job early in 1946, by which time we had sent almost three quarters of a million Japanese civilians and soldiers to their homeland. But soon afterward thousands of Japanese refugees came across the 38th parallel into our hands from the Russian zone in the north. Little or no effort was made in the Russian zone to repatriate the Japanese until late in 1946. * General Hodge commanded the XXIV Army Corps in the Okinawa campaign. He was sent to Korea by Gen. Douglas MacArthur immediately after the Japanese surrender to command our occupa tion forces there. General Hodge was Assistant Commander of the 25th Division on Guadalcanal, Commander of the 43d Division on New Georgia, Commander of the Americal Division at Bougainville, and took command of the XXIV Corps in time to lead it at Leyte and Okinawa. t See "Jap Rule in the Hermit Nation," by Willard Price, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, October, 1945.