and South Korean soldiers also proved difficult. American soldiers often distrusted their South Korean counterparts, considering them to be infiltrated by communist “gooks.” A South Korean military officer interviewed for an army study pointed to a lack of patience and empathy by American military advisers, and “ignorance of each-others’ minds and liability to misunderstanding on account of differences in custom.” E.
This policy gained greater urgency as a result of the Chinese revolution of 1949, whose primary goal was to escape the yoke of Japanese and Western neocolonialism by spearheading industrialization and implementing land reform and collectivized agriculture along with programs of uplift for poor peasants. State Department internationalists pushed for connecting South Korea’s economy to Japan’s, in part to enable Japan to extract raw materials capable of sustaining its economic recovery, and in part to keep Japan in the Western orbit as a counterweight to communist China. In January 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall scribbled a note to Dean Acheson: “Please have plan drafted of policy to organize a definite government of So.
North Korea recovered its prewar levels of agricultural and industrial output by 1957 through the “superhuman efforts” of its population along with $1.6 billion in aid and technical assistance from the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern bloc countries. Though warped by rigid authoritarianism, including a purging of rivals to the Kim dynasty, the northern economy was more advanced than that of the South until the late 1960s. Presenting itself as the vanguard of world revolution striving for a fair international economic order, the DPRK provided free schooling and medical services, welfare for war invalids and families of the fallen, and sanctioned women’s rights. Over the long term, however, North Korea developed into a militarized garrison state, in part because the Korean War never officially ended.
Dropped into war zones, without knowledge of the Vietnamese language and with little, if any, understanding of local culture, U.S. soldiers had problems distinguishing enemy from neutral from friend. They often became frustrated when making no contact with enemy soldiers for long periods, then seemingly out of the blue were interrupted by violent surprise attacks. Daily treks through insect-filled jungles in the heat and humidity also took a toll on GI nerves. In numerous documented cases, their frustrations were taken out on civilians. The approved routine of burning of huts, destruction of villages, and terrorizing of residents could and did lead to unauthorized sexual assaults, random shootings, and even massacres such as that in My Lai. Heonik Kwon lists thirteen large-scale massacres, including some by South Korean troops; Nick Turse, in Kill Anything That Moves, documents more. Even in villages with decent relations with local U.S. forces, other mobile U.S. forces were known to violently intervene.
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