Read Part One HERE
With Soviet forces racing south through Manchuria and into northern Korea, General MacArthur had to scrounge together American units quickly and get them to Korea. The agreement hashed out with the Russians was that the Soviets would accept the Japanese surrender north of the 38th parallel and America would accept their surrender below it, in what was designed to be a temporary arrangement until democratic elections could be held. The Koreans were ready for their independence as they had suffered four decades of oppressive Japanese occupation in which, “the use of spies, police, and the army, the Japanese governors were able to exercise a tight rein over the political scene and to curb quickly and ruthlessly any signs of nationalistic unrest” (Sawyer, 5).
MacArthur had Allied Military Government (AMG) units already established to help the Japanese people, provide civil functions, and transition the island from the American military back to Japanese control. The unanticipated surrender of Japan in Korea forced him to re-deploy AMG to Korea, despite the members not having Korean cultural training or speaking the language (Cucullu, 21). AMG was doing its best despite some mis-steps, but meanwhile the Soviets were consolidating power in the North. The 38th parallel was turned into a permanent line of division and South Korean democratic elections were condemned by the North. In 1948, US military control over South Korea was ceded and the small group of advisors were left in country became the Provisional Military Assistance Group or PMAG (Sawyer, 35).
General MacArthur had been planning a gradual withdrawal of US forces from Korea but the North was increasingly menacing. The Soviets and the communist North Koreans seemed increasingly eager to see American forces leave the peninsula, while the North claimed that South Korea belonged to them and that their government was illegitimate. President “Syngman Rhee sent a plea to President Truman, urging that the United States maintain an occupation force in Korea until the Republic of Korea (ROK) forces were capable of dealing with any internal or external threat and that the United States establish a military and naval mission to help deter aggression and civil war” (Sawyer, 36). Despite increased tensions, US military forces were withdrawn with the exception of PMAG which came to be known Military Assistance Group-Korea (KMAG) in July of 1949 with the mission of further developing the South Korean military.