Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David E. Mark
For example, I had to learn how to behave at receptions, even really had to learn how to drink a cocktail, because I had been basically abstemious before then, not out of any principle but just because of not having been exposed very much to it.
Q: So you went through this basic training. And then what did they have in store for you?
MARK: Well, of course, there was a day, probably around November, maybe late October, in '46 when we were all notified where we were going, and I was told that I was going to Seoul, Korea. And I said, “Oh, my God. I'll never learn that language.”
And someone said to me, who I guess had looked into it, “Don't worry. They have an alphabet.” Well, it's true. The Korean language does have an alphabet, which now is used much more than it ever was in those days. But basically it is an East Asian language, structurally—what do they call it—syntactically very close to Japanese but, in vocabulary, totally different.
It was a little two-man office in Seoul of political advisor to the commanding general of U.S. forces in Korea, and I was to be the second man. I didn't know it at the time. There was a third man, William Brans, a captain in the Army who had been lent to the office because he had been a Foreign Service auxiliary officer at an early point in the war, and who later on became a Foreign Service officer himself, I think ending up as our consul general in Perth, Australia many years later.
But in any case, my chief was William Langdon, who was one of the real old-time heroes of the Japanese language service, and he had served at various posts in Japan, Manchuria, and even China (Chungking) during the war at one point. I think he was, until the Japanese came in, consul general at Mukden. But, in any case, at this point he was in Korea and trying to influence the course of our policy toward the middle road, which was difficult because the military was in control and not particularly interested in the subtleties of South Korean domestic politics. They were much more concerned about the fact that the Soviet Union had occupied the northern half of the country, and they preferred as leader a staunch anti-communist.
Q: Were you in the embassy, or were you in the military headquarters in Seoul?