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The 12·12 Coup d'état of the New Military Faction in Korea and the U.S. Government's 'Wait-and-See' Policy in 1979

  • Korea and Global Affairs
  • Abbr : KGA
  • 2020, 4(2), pp.41-80
  • DOI : 10.22718/kga.2020.4.2.002
  • Publisher : Korea Institute of Politics and Society
  • Research Area : Interdisciplinary Studies > Interdisciplinary Research
  • Received : March 14, 2020
  • Accepted : April 3, 2020
  • Published : April 30, 2020

Shin Hyun-ick 1 Oh Young-dahl 1

1충남대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

Right after the coup took place in Seoul on Dec. 12, 1979, the Carter administration of the United States was alleged to maintain a policy of "non-intervention," contrary to the American public opinion, for fear of possible resistance from the chauvinistic Korean military and of a possible second Iranization of the Korean people. In this context, nobody was certain whether the United States was ready to pay the cost for its attempt to turn the tables here or whether the political leaders in Washington found it worthwhile to pay attention to the power struggle within the Korean military. This assumption leads naturally to the conclusion that the U.S. leaders apparently did not want to intervene in the political upheaval in Korea to such an extent as to further affect the reality. Satisfied with the status quo, the United States’ leadership seemed to have recognized the new Korean military leadership as the de facto power holders. It is evident that Washington took a "wait-and-see" approach to carefully watch the new military group in Korea, regarding it as a highly organized powerful group with the ability to take care of state affairs on its own, as a pro-Washington organization, and as a group with potential to safeguard and protect security and economic interests of the United States in Northeast Asia. Washington's decision to adopt a "non-intervention" policy, or a careful "wait-and-see" approach, turned out to be decisively conducive to the new military group in Korea putting an end to the upheaval without remarkable resistance and pulling off a successful coup in the end. Washington's "wait-and-see" approach resulted in supporting the stronger side in a situation where the new military leadership had no rival to compete with. Besides, it also seems that Washington sought to achieve the "largest effect with the minimum cost" based on the logic of "jumping on the bandwagon by rooting for the top dog." As it turned out, the United States toed the line for security and stability not to cause trouble by intervening in the upheaval in Korea.

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