VII. The Contemporary Period, 1945–2000 > G. East Asia, 1945–2000 > 3. Korea (North and South), 1945–2000
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1943, Dec)
3. Korea (North and South), 1945–2000
Japan's defeat in World War II led to the dismantling of its colonial regime in Korea. Koreans quickly began imagining what their new liberty would entail, and the issue of earlier collaboration with the Japanese loomed large. In the last days of the war, the Japanese turned to Song Chin-u (1890–1945) to form a transition regime and keep order until the Allies arrived; he turned them down. On Aug. 15, the Japanese asked Y Un-hyng (1886–1947), and he accepted with the proviso that all political prisoners be freed, that food be provided for the next three months, and that there be no Japanese interference of any kind. Y next set up the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence, and soon numerous “people's committees” emerged nationwide, 145 of them by late August. By the end of the year, every village throughout the country had one. A representative council met (Sept. 6) in Seoul to create the Korean People's Republic (KPR), which was leftist-controlled but not necessarily a Communist front. SYNGMAN RHEE (YI SNG-MAN) (1875–1965) became chairman. Famed for his fidelity to the cause of Korean independence, Rhee, upon his return to Korea in the fall of 1945, attacked both the Soviets and the KPR for willingness to cooperate with Korean Communists.  1
Sept. 14
A platform of the KPR called for confiscation of all lands owned by the Japanese and collaborators for redistribution and the nationalization of major industries. All Koreans were to get the vote.  2
Having arrived on Sept. 8, the U.S. forces under the command of Gen. John Hodge refused to recognize the KPR and soon banned it. In its stead, they established the U.S. Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK), using the much-hated colonial bureaucratic structure.  3
Sept. 16
The Korean Democratic Party was founded by Kim Sng-su (1891–1955) and Song Chin-u; it was a moderate-to-conservative group that sharply criticized the KPR.  4
Dec. 27
The Moscow Conference, held by Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union, called for a provisional Korean democratic government under a five-year trusteeship of the three powers and of China. A joint Soviet-U.S. commission subsequently attempted to put this agreement into force but failed because of basic differences between the two parties concerning the definition of democracy. Korea thus remained divided into a largely agricultural south and a largely industrial north, with disastrous consequences to its economy.  5
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.