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  • r/thecampaigntrail - What if Ike picked Douglas MacArthur to be his running mate?
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Posted by2 months ago

SS: General Douglas MacArthur may have saved South Korean President Syngman Rhee. Here is how it happened.

At the beginning of 1950, North Korea saw an opportunity for unification with South Korea, but South Korean President Syngman Rhee rejected such offers of a unifying election because he was sure the Communists would be victorious. His government had enacted laws to curtail political descent in South Korea. Freedom of the press was restricted, leftist opponents were arrested and tortured, assassinations were a regular occurrence, and the Rhee government oversaw outright massacres. The fact that fifty-three percent of South Korean police officers had served in the National Police during the Japanese occupation only added to the terror. The situation worsened when a group of South Korean soldiers, sent to engage leftist rebels in an armed conflict, decided instead to turn against their government. They took control of the port city of Yosu and executed some Rhee supporters, but the South Korean army regained control within a week, causing many locals who supported the rebels to flee. Some remained, and government troops killed more than five hundred. Others were beaten and tortured. Syngman Rhee's army, backed by American advisors, killed an estimated six thousand guerrillas between November 1949 and March 1950, jailed thirty thousand suspected Communists, and enrolled 300,000 suspected sympathizers in what was called a "re-education" movement.

Through all this, General MacArthur supported Rhee, proclaiming: “In this hour, as the fortunes of righteousness advance, the triumph is dulled by one of the great tragedies of contemporary history - an artificial barrier has divided your land. This barrier must and will be torn down.” Meanwhile, the U.S. government continued to call for elections to reunite Korea, which Rhee repeatedly postponed, fearing the worst. It was not until Secretary of State Dean Acheson threatened to suspend aid unless elections were held on May 30, 1950, that Rhee relented, which proved to be a disaster. Ninety percent of eligible Koreans voted, resulting in 128 of 210 seats won by independents, while Rhee’s popularity continued to dwindle.

Rhee was at a point of desperation. His government was floundering; he could not match the military strength of the North, and the opposition he faced internally continued to grow. The U.S. was ambivalent and insisted on elections they knew would be unfavorable for him, demonstrating that the U.S. considered his small nation expendable. But he had one trump card left to play. MacArthur, who had nothing short of disdain for politicians, was on record saying he would help Rhee militarily against North Koran aggression. Then, six days before hostilities began, John Foster Dulles arrived in Korea, fresh from a meeting in Japan with MacArthur. He told the South Koreans they were not alone if the South Koreans continued to play their part, which they did.

Six days later the Korean War began, saving Rhee and keeping Korea from becoming a singular, Communist country.

Syngman Rhee and Douglas MacArthur
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