Compare the general in charge of U.S. occupation policy in Japan with his hapless counterpart in Korea.
Lt. Gen. John Reed Hodge was one of the most important people in recent Korean history. He served as the commander of the U.S. military occupation of southern Korea from September 1945 to August 1948, although he was far from being a prominent U.S. Army officer during World War II. His personal and professional background had a direct and negative impact on his implementation of instructions and his dealings with the Korean people and their political leaders. This article provides evidence that President Harry S. Truman’s decision to appoint Hodge as occupation commander was a serious mistake. His narrow experience and lesser command responsibilities caused him to make decisions that greatly increased political polarization in the divided country, creating the circumstances that would result in the outbreak of the Korean War.
SOURCE: James I. Matray, “Hodge Podge: American Occupation Policy in Korea, 1945-1948,” Korean Studies 19: 17-38
Japanese forces in Korea formally surrendered to Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge, the American corps commander, on September 9, 1945. Hodge was then appointed the commander of U.S. Armed Forces in Korea and tasked with the restoration of Korean independence.
In hopes of maintaining civil order, Gen. Hodge kept Japanese officials in charge of Korean civilian affairs. It was a mistake, and his statements and actions led to rioting in the south. To restore peace, Syngman Rhee, the exiled leader of Korea’s independence movement, was asked to return to his home country. Rhee, a nationalist since his days as a student in Seoul, had been jailed and tortured for his views. He escaped from Japanese-occupied Korea to Shanghai and set up the Korean Provisional Government. He was eventually elected president of the Republic of Korea.