Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David E. Mark
The most prominent group was, as it turned out, a sort of center-left grouping that had formed something called People's Committees, and the People's Committees in different places linked themselves up as some sort of central authority. It was very amorphous and tenuous, but, nevertheless, when our troops came in, they immediately disliked the name People's Committees because that was what the Soviets were implanting in the parts of Eastern Europe which they were occupying, and it sounded suspiciously as if the committees were communist entities.
Now, these People's Committees existed in the North, too. The Soviets found them when they got there. What the Soviets did was to keep the form of the People's Committees, but to purge them of everyone but the communist elements. What we did in the South was to argue against the legitimacy of these self-constituted groups, and we gradually forced them to dissolve, or forced them to transform themselves into a political party of a similar name, while we set up a South Korean adjunct of the U.S. military government that, in effect, used the sort of structure that the Japanese had had.
Q: Did we, in effect, do the same thing as the Soviets then, purge our political opponents from the Korean groups?
MARK: No, because we made the political groups become one or more parties, rather than keep them on as the semblance of a government, as the semblance of governmental authority, while we set up new authorities along the lines of the structure that the Japanese had left behind.
Q: Well, what about any communist or left-wing Koreans in the South? Were they allowed to participate in these parties?
MARK: Yes, they were, until the Communist Party itself got outlawed sometime during 1947, I believe—maybe it was even late '46—because they engaged in a lot of trade union activity and incited a large number of strikes, even general strikes in the country, so we just outlawed that.
Q: Who outlawed it? The military government?