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Sunday, May 26, 2024

70 years of Korea-U.S. alliance celebrated with exhibition of historical documents at Nixon Library

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Los Angeles Consul General Youngwan Kim (right) examines a 1953 Korean document released by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the basement of the Nixon Library. [Hyoungjae Kim]
The document was sent to the White House by former President Syngman Rhee shortly after the signing of the Korean War armistice and the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty, which called for “rebuilding the Republic of Korea (ROK) under democratic and capitalist values.” At the time, the South Korean government sought economic support for postwar reconstruction while forging a military alliance with the U.S. administration.

On June 20, the Consulate General of Korea in Los Angeles and the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Richard Nixon Foundation, held a cultural event titled ‘Bridging the Past, Present, and Future: 70 Years of the ROK-U.S. Alliance’ at the Nixon Presidential Memorial Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.

During the event, organizers displayed exhibits related to U.S.-ROK relations, including photographs of then-Vice President Nixon’s visit to Korea in 1953 and his meeting with President Lee. The event also featured traditional Korean coming-of-age ceremonies and a Nanta performance. The late General Richard Whitcomb was awarded the Apostle of Peace Medal, and a seminar on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-ROK alliance was conducted.

In particular, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) displayed three documents exchanged between the South Korean government and the White House in late 1953 and 11 photographs of President Nixon’s visit to Korea, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the alliance.

NARA also unveiled the original Syngman Rhee Plan (December 10, 1953) and Vice President Nixon’s speech and itinerary for his visit to Korea (November 12-13, 1953) in the basement of the Nixon Library.

According to NARA and the Consulate General in Los Angeles, after the Korean War armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, the South Korean government was concerned about the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of U.S. troops. In response, President Syngman Rhee persuaded the Eisenhower administration to sign the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty on October 1, 1953.

A month after the treaty was signed, President Eisenhower dispatched Vice President Nixon as a special envoy to South Korea.

Arriving in South Korea on November 12, 1953, Vice President Nixon emphasized “blood ties” in his greeting, according to publicly available documents. “The courage of the Korean people in the fight against communism has impressed us,” he said. “Our two nations have given the precious blood of our young people to fight communism. Our alliance will never be broken, and we wish to convey to you the warm greetings of the American people.”

During their visit to South Korea at the time, the Nixons met with President Syngman Rhee, National Assembly Speaker Bong-am Cho, and General Sun-yup Paik.

A month later, President Syngman Rhee sent a 12-page document to the White House, requesting economic assistance from the U.S. government for postwar reconstruction. The document, titled THE RHEE PLAN, stated on its cover, “To rebuild the Republic of Korea on the basis of democracy and capitalism.”

The RHEE PLAN outlined the purpose of rebuilding Korea, a plan for repayment of reconstruction aid, management of government assets, and the benefits of U.S. companies investing in Korea.

“At the time, President Eisenhower entrusted foreign affairs to Vice President Nixon,” said NARA librarian Dorisa Martina. “Today, the Nixon Library holds more than 72 boxes (2,000 documents per box) of documents and other materials related to Korea.”

Meanwhile, the Nixon Foundation announced that it will exhibit copies of the documents and a photo exhibition of Vice President Nixon’s visit to Korea for three weeks.

BY HYOUNGJAE KIM    [support@koreadaily.com]