Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with David E. Mark
MARK: They didn't want any communists there for sure. The State Department, and particularly my boss, were trying to promote a middle-of-the-road grouping. I remember a luncheon we had at his house not too long after I came there—it must have been in the spring of '47—in which we had a man who was center left, but, nevertheless, not a communist, and who had been very prominent, extremely prominent, in the people's councils, the People's Committees, earlier on. He was there at lunch in order to be persuaded that he ought to become an activist, the political activist of the center on the local political scene.
I remember that we served cornbread muffins for lunch, which was very important because Korea was short of food at that time. However, instead of handing out rice, which is what they wanted, we handed out corn. And the left accused us of feeding animal fodder to the Korean people. So, we wanted to show them that, indeed, we ate corn ourselves, and we had cornmeal muffins very prominently on the menu.
We also got hold of some of the State Department's confidential funds at the time to send this man, and a couple of other centrist people, down to the first all-Asian political meeting, which was in New Delhi at the time. I guess this was later on in '47 after India became independent, but it was the first meeting of peoples from Asian countries, countries that were independent or had just become independent, or were about to be independent. We got the money from Washington to send down this group of Koreans to Delhi, so that people would know that Korea was indeed a country and was participating in Asian politics.
There was no sense of Asian regional identity at the time. There's precious little of it right now, in spite of the passage of four decades. I mean, the Japanese have a kind of economic hegemony in our times right now, 1989, but there's still no kind of overarching political identity to the region; and there certainly was not even an awareness of who the players were back then when we inserted these people into the Delhi group.
But, with the failure of the second joint commission effort by the summer of 1947, it was clear that Washington wanted to get some indigenous authority established in our part of Korea; that is, South Korea, and we then began moving toward arranging elections in the South that would legitimate a new South Korean government. Indeed, we even got a U.N. General Assembly resolution passed to that effect.
Q: When precisely was this decision taken to move ahead separately in the South?
MARK: It was taken after the failure of the second round of U.S.-Soviet joint commission efforts; that is, sometime in mid-year 1947.