The U.S. and Park Chung Hee’s Yushin Regime: An Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy towards South Korea, 1972-1979
Mac Donald, R.A.
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After the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, and the subsequent deployment of U.S. troops in support of the South Koreans, the relationship between the South Koreans and the United States had been tightly forged. The introduction of Park Chung Hee into the relationship complicated the situation for the United States, and specifically for the American presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, who were in office during Park’s Yushin regime, where Park had complete control and an indefinite term in office. Although the United States still had operational control of the military in South Korea, they were unable to get Park to dissolve the Yushin regime and have him return to democracy. Park’s undemocratic and human rights violating actions during the Yushin period strained the already tense relationship between the United States and South Korea, and therefore it was interesting to determine how Nixon, Ford, and Carter navigated this relationship during their presidencies. The resulting research question is as follows: How do the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations compare in their approaches to the US-South Korean relationship during the 1972-1979 Yushin (유신) period of Park Chung Hee’s presidency? In order to answer the research question, this thesis first looks at the time period leading up to the Yushin regime, and how the United States-South Korea relationship evolved from Park’s participation in the military coup that landed him in power until Park’s declaration of the Yushin regime in late 1972. Using the literature coding software NVivo, Nixon, Ford, and Carter’s primary documents from the Foreign Relations series of the U.S. Office of the Historian were coded and analyzed to provide conclusions regarding their approach to the U.S.-South Korea relationship. Following a comparison, it was identified that for all three American presidents, the security interest the Americans had in the Korean peninsula was more essential than a democratic South Korea, although each president had a different overall strategy towards South Korea. While Nixon, and to an extent Ford, was content ignoring Park, Carter was much more human rights focused and therefore was more discontent with his actions; this is among the factors identified as differences in their approaches. The thesis also looks into the impact Park’s usage of modernization theory, especially in justifying his authoritarian actions, had on the U.S.’s ability to dissolve the Yushin regime.