Anna Louise Strong

In North Korea: First Eye-Witness Report



THERE is a striking difference today in the two zones in Korea, which is noticed by all peoples of the Far East.

In the north, in the Soviet zone, the Soviet Army is withdrawing in the midst of tremendous popular demonstrations of the Korean people honoring troops which liberated them from Japan. Three hundred thousand Koreans turned out in Pyongyang, capital city, and hundreds of thousands in other cities, to bid farewell and thank the Soviet troops.

Meanwhile, in the south, American troops clearly intend to remain at the request of the local "government" which the Americans set up, but the Korean people show their displeasure by strikes and uprisings, including revolts of armed forces which are ruthlessly put down with the help of American troops.

Few facts about Korea are allowed to reach the American people. Information from South Korea is heavily censored by General MacArthur's Tokyo headquarters, while facts from North Korea never appear at all. This pamphlet is an attempt to bring such facts.

The most important present fact is that today two governments exist in Korea. The only government Americans are allowed to hear about is that of Syngman Rhee in Seoul. Rhee is an aged reactionary who spent his entire life outside of Korea, chiefly in America, and was brought back by American military plane. His government was confirmed last May by the "election" which most Korean political parties boycotted, leaving only Rhee's ticket, while voters were dragooned by the police and forced to attend the polls under threat of losing their land and ration cards. This election was held only in the American zone in South Korea because its forms and methods - devised by America - were refused in the north. All observers state that police terror was widely used.

[The United Nations General Assembly in Paris passed a resolution, strongly opposed by the Soviet Union, recommending the recognition of the Rhee Government, and giving the United States discretionary powers as to how long its troops should remain in South Korea. - Ed.]

In contrast was another election of which Americans heard little. It was held last August 25 in all parts of Korea. Preparations were made by two conferences, representing scores of political parties and public organizations from both north and south zones of the country - all parties dedicated to unity of the Korean nation.

In the northern zone the election took place peacefully and with tremendous enthusiasm. Many people went to the polls in the middle of the night in order to be first to greet the dawn of a new day at elections whose results should unify Korea, free for the first time in forty years. Over 99 per cent of the electorate turned out. In many places voting finished long before noon.

In the southern zone, Americans declared these elections illegal, but nonetheless they were held under harsh conditions of police terror. Unable to hold them openly, they were held partly by house to house canvas, partly by meetings in villages, and partly by underground meetings of trade unions and other public organizations. According to a statement made by Syngman Rhee himself to correspondents on September 2, many thousands of people were arrested for participating in these "illegal" elections. Because of police terror, these elections in South Korea were held in two stages. First, 1,080 delegates were elected by popular vote by various methods; then these delegates held a special congress in the city of Kaishu to select 360 deputies to represent South Korea in a joint Assembly of the entire country. That there were desperate efforts by the American military to stop this election is shown by the fact that of 1,080 elected delegates, seventy-eight were unable to reach Kaishu because forty-two were jailed and quite a number killed.

Despite all repressions, Koreans estimate that 77.5 per cent of the electorate of South Korea took part in choosing these deputies.

The "Supreme National Assembly" met September 2 in Pyongyang, consisting of 572 deputies, of which 360 were from South Korea and 212 from North Korea, thus representing in proper proportion the population of the entire country. In contrast to Syngman Rhee's Assembly which contains a handpicked group of landlords, capitalists and former Japanese puppets, the "Supreme National Assembly" meeting in Pyongyang contained a normal cross section of the population: 194 peasants, 120 workers, 152 white collar workers, 29 employers, etc.

This "Supreme National Assembly" adopted a Constitution for the entire country, elected a presidium for continuous administrative work and requested both America and the Soviet Union to withdraw their troops. The Soviet Union complied and began withdrawal, to be completed by January 1, 1949; and also exchanged ambassadors with the new Korean government. America, however, evidently intends to keep troops in Korea indefinitely to support Syngman Rhee who asks them to remain, since he could not otherwise keep power.

This is the reason why the Soviet Army, withdrawing, wins plaudits of the great masses of Korean people while the United States Army, remaining, finds opposition, unrest, constant strikes and uprisings against its armed control.

It is time the American people learned how their military representatives and the policies of their State Department are discrediting America in Asia. Manchuria and North China were the first lesson; Korea will be a second lesson, proving to all Asiatic peoples that American armed forces intervene to support reactionary rulers against the will of the people. The peoples of Asia also are learning another lesson - that American armed support cannot succeed in maintaining these puppet rulers against an outraged people's will.

Anna Louise Strong
November, 1948

Next: 1. From Many Witnesses