Election Year in Republic of Korea
Doubts and Stresses on Eve of Election
On a day not yet specified in April or May, Syngman Rhee, who will then be 85 years old, will go before the voters of the Republic of Korea to ask and almost certainly gain election as President for a fourth four-year term. Rhee, at the helm of his country since it won the independence for which he had fought since his youth, has given it strong leadership through trying times. However, his renewed candidacy has been a source of some misgiving abroad. Age is not the only consideration. The lack of respect for democratic processes that has been evidenced not infrequently during Rhee's tenure has disturbed Western observers. Whether attributable to the difficulties under which the country labored or to its political immaturity, these lapses contributed to a feeling that search should be made for fresh leadership capable of strengthening the R.O.K. as a free nation.
Only massive military assistance from the West enabled South Korea to withstand and survive the Communist attack that hit the republic when it was barely two years old. When hostilities finally ceased, they were succeeded by an uneasy armistice that did not obviate the need to maintain large military forces. Division of Korea into two economically unbalanced parts already had complicated the task of making the R.O.K. self-supporting, and partition had set up political strains that presumably will persist to the remote day when reunification can be realized.
Efforts to improve the country's economic position have not been helped by the animosity shown by Koreans toward the Japanese, who were their masters during most of the first half of this century. Syngman Rhee's marked sensitivity on this score has made for bitter relations with the nation that now is the free world's strongest representative in the Far East. It is on the United States that the R.O.K. relies for the extensive economic assistance and military aid that are essential to its continued existence in freedom