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Digital Archive International History Declassified

January 02, 1951

J. BURGIN'S REPORT ON A TRIP TO NORTH KOREA

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    Burgin reports on the political and economic circumstances of North Korea during the course of war and addresses the question of Polish assistance to Korea.
    "J. Burgin's Report on a Trip to North Korea," January 02, 1951, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Polish Foreign Ministry Archive. Obtained by Jakub Poprocki and translated by Maya Latynski. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/114928
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TOP SECRET [stamp]

Embassy

of the Polish Republic

in Korea

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Independent Eastern Department

Head E. S?ucza?ski

Below I am giving a report from my first trip to Korea: […]

The war and the political situation.

No doubt many dimensions of the current situation will soon change. I am telling how it is currently, with the caveat that most of the data do not come from official statements of the Government of Korea, but instead from unofficial conversations with members of the government and the Party leadership.

At the time when India came up with the known sabotage on UN territory, a certain fear existed in Korean government circles whether this might not bring military action to a halt. A complex came about in some, even serious, Korean personalities: “who knows whether for considerations of higher politics they will not want to sacrifice half of our small country.” Even though they were being persuaded by a reliable source that this will not happen, nonetheless this event was a fact. It coincided with a short pause that came to be between the first and second inflows of volunteers.

The second wave of volunteers dispersed all fears. The preparations for a new strike lifted the spirits of the Koreans. During my stay in Korea, the second offensive was just beginning, and the situation on the front presented itself as follows.

The American “enclave,” which was created as a result of the surrounding of the X Corps in Heungnam district, was eliminated in a way that thanks to incessant attacks by the Koreans and volunteers, both during the day and at night, the Americans were forced to evacuate by sea. This is a serious strategic victory because the Americans had initially aimed to retain the Heungnam bridgehead at any price, so as to broaden it over time and use it as a base for sorties for a new attack, creating a serious center of threat from the northeast. The Americans defended this bridgehead with a large effort. The seriously strong ship artillery conducted an incessant barrage, shielding the cluster of the X Corps. The air force was attacking very intensively, attempting to prevent a massing of Korean and volunteer forces. Despite this, also this time the Americans were forced to give up on their cocky announcement that they would leave Heungnam whenever they felt like it. They incurred great losses in people and materiel and were forced to evacuate quite hurriedly. Although, before the evacuation they had destroyed literally everything that could be burned, exploded, killed.

After significant forces were amassed along the 38th parallel and the forces active on the rears of the enemy’s front (an Army was created comprising four divisions, not counting partisan units) were reorganized, a new offensive was begun. V[ice]-min[ister] of the Armed Forces,  Pak Don Co [sic], in sketching out the perspectives of the military actions that are already appearing now, declared: “We will conduct the war until its natural conclusion, which means until we clear our whole country of the enemy. I am able to say this because I know that our friends will go with us to the end.”

In assessing the war situation realistically, one should not expect the current offensive to result in this “natural end” to the war. Perhaps several more offensives will be necessary. And it seems that both sides conducting the war are aware of this. Still, it seems equally clear to both sides that if new elements do not enter the international situation with a much broader range of action, the further course of the war on this terrain is rather predetermined, thanks to the consistent advantage of land forces gained by the entry into the action of the Chinese volunteer formations.

Another possibility that exists for Korea that I mentioned above, namely the introduction of new elements, but this goes outside the sphere of Korean issues.

On 20-22 [December] the Plenum of the CC of the Party took place, The principal speech was delivered by Kim Il Sung and it covered the course of the war so far and sketched out the tasks for the current and nearest periods.

In his speech, Kim Il Sung divided the course of the war so far into three phases:

1. from the moment of the Syngman Rhee-ist attack until the battle of Busan. In this phase, the advantage was on the side of the people because the people’s armies proved not only militarily better prepared but also because the people trusted the democratic government completely.

2. A strong preponderance of the enemy marked the second phase, caused not only by purely strategic movements but also by mistakes made by the people’s camp. Underestimating the enemy backfired, as did the excessive rush to gauge the situation and underestimating the international aspect of the battles in Korea.

3. The third phase was begun by the entry of the Chinese volunteers into the action. This gave not only a numerical change in the relationship of the forces in the war, but also gave the ability to execute a reorganization of the People’s Army, a quick but broad training of reserves – over 10 divisions of the first rank. The political effects of these events were demonstrated above all in the activation of partisan fighting in the south.

Kim Il Sung subjected instances of panicking, which appeared here and there in the most difficult period, to sharp criticism. An analysis of the situation shows – despite individual cases of treason – the great cohesiveness of the national front, which passed the test victoriously.

Among the most serious tasks currently facing the leadership – other than continuing to lead the war – is the preparation of the agricultural year. The country is ruined. Fifty percent of cattle, which comprises the basic tractive force in agriculture, has been slaughtered. There are almost no supplies.

The reconstruction of the country is the second, no less important, issue. Industry is virtually destroyed. Only in the northeast a few small factories have survived until now. If assistance is not provided by friendly countries and nations, the population is threatened by hunger and the country by delays in development.

A rather clear picture of the current state of affairs in Korea emerges from conversations conducted by me and Dodin with several leading personalities in leading positions. The army is currently sufficiently supplied with weapons and clothing and food. But the population is deprived of both sufficient nutrition and clothing. There is a shortage of everything in Korea – this is probably the most precise description of the economic situation.

The question of assistance to Korea.

Already in my first conversation with v[ice]-premier Pak Heon-yeong [Pak Hon Yong], he let me know that Korea believes that the countries that are friendly to it will rush in with assistance. When I asked him whether he knew that Amb. Ree Zee Yen [sic] has presented to me the issue of sending aid to Korea, v[ice] min[ister] Pak Heon-yeong confirmed it and stated that he is repeating the plea presented by Amb. Ree. In the course of the conversation with vice-minister Pak Don Co [sic], the issue was made even more precise. It is namely a question of aid of a two-fold nature: for the population, which is threatened by formal extinction and for help in rebuilding the country. As for aid to the population, the following things are needed: clothing, underwear, everyday articles for the household, food and especially fats, meat, fish. Also cotton textiles, tools such as hammers, axes, saws and so on. Much of this could be acquired through collections to be organized by social institutions.

As for help in rebuilding, here it is a matter of means of production, railway cars, locomotives and so on, which Poland could deliver on credit in exchange for future deliveries from Korea to Poland. It would be a question of a two-year credit.

Because other countries are also undertaking actions of assistance to Korea, it would certainly be desirable to coordinate the efforts by reaching an understanding among the interested countries.

I believe that for transports from Europe one could use the sea route with trans-shipment in Dalian.

Korea’s diplomatic relations.

The following diplomatic representations are present in Korea now:

Soviet - embassy

Chinese -   “

Mongolian -   “

Polish -   “

Hungarian - mission

Czech -   “

Bulgarian -   “

Romania’s diplomatic representative has already received his agrément and will soon arrive in Korea.

During my conversation with Min. Pak Heon-yeong, it was determined that the Korean embassy will arrive in Poland probably at the end of January 51 with an initial staff of 6-7 persons. This number will later be increased.

Vice-min. Pak Don Co [sic] expressed the hope that Poland will send a military attaché.

The embassy’s organizational issues.

[…]

[signature]

J. Burgin

Ambassador of RP [Republic of Poland]

Beijing 2 I 1951

4 copies made

Receiving: MSZ [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] – 3 copies

a/a - 1 copy

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