Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

“Potsdam Revisited: Prelude to a Divided Korea”

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Scholarly debate about the reasons for Korea’s division at the 38th parallel in August 1945 has not been particularly intense. Early historical accounts accepted the U.S. government’s claim that the United States and the Soviet Union made a hasty decision to partition the country as a matter of military convenience to coordinate the acceptance of the surrender of Japanese forces at the end of World War II. By the early 1980s, however, new research had established that President Harry S. Truman planned to occupy all of Korea after using the atomic bomb, which was designed to force Japan’s surrender before the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War. But when Premier Joseph Stalin sent the Red Army into Korea, Truman proposed dividing Korea to prevent the Soviets from imposing Communist rule on the entire nation. Recently, some South Korean scholars have challenged this interpretation. Relying on new research, they contend that during the Potsdam Conference, U.S. and Soviet officials negotiated a secret agreement to divide Korea at the 38th parallel. This research note examines Won Bom Lee’s article making this argument, showing how it lacks evidentiary support to overturn the standard explanation for Korea’s division.

Affiliations: 1: California State University, Chico


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Collins J. Lawton. War in Peacetime: The History and Lessons of Korea . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
2. “"International: North & South of the Parallel",” Time , 3 July 1950, p. 15.
3. Millis Walter, Ed. The Forrestal Diaries . New York: Viking Press, 1951.
4. New York Times , September 1945–March 1946.
5. Papers of James F. Byrnes, Clemson University Library, Clemson, sc.
6. Ridgway Matthew B. The Korean War . Garden City, ny: Doubleday, 1967.
7. Stimson Henry L.,, and Bundy McGeorge. On Active Service in Peace and War . New York: Harper and Row, 1947.
8. Truman Harry S. Memoirs. Vol. i: Year of Decisions . Garden City, ny: Doubleday, 1955.
9. u.s. Department of the Army. Records of the u.s. Army Staff. Record Group 319. National Archives ii. College Park, md.
10. u.s. Department of State. “"Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender".” Bulletin Vol 13, No. 318 (July 29, 1945): 13738.
11. u.s. Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States. 1945 . Vol. vi: The British Commonwealth, The Far East. Washington, dc: u.s. Government Printing Office, 1969.
12. u.s. Department of State. The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) . Vol 2 Vols. Washington, dc: u.s. Government Printing Office, 1960.
13. u.s. Department of State. Records of the u.s. Department of State. Record Group 59. National Archives ii. College Park, md.
14. u.s. House of Representatives. "Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Korean Aid.”" 81st Congress, 1st Sess., Hearings on h.r. 5330, June 8–23, 1949.
15. Alperovitz Gar. Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam . New York: Vintage, 1967.
16. Appleman Roy E. South of the Naktong, North to the Yalu (June-November 1950) . Washington, dc: u.s. Army Center of Military History, 1961.
17. Berger Carl. The Korean Knot: A Military-Political History . Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957.
18. Bernstein Barton J., “"American Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Cold War".” In Politics and Policies of the Truman Administration . Bernstein Barton J., ed, 1577. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.
19. Cumings Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War. Vol. i: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945–1947 . Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1981.
20. Feis Herbert. The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War ii . Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1960.
21. Feis Herbert. The China Tangle: The American Effort in China from Pearl Harbor to the Marshall Mission . Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1953.
22. Feis Herbert. Contest Over Japan . New York: Norton, 1967.
23. Gaddis John Lewis. The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947 . New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.
24. Grey Arthur L.Jr. “"The Thirty-Eighth Parallel".” Foreign Affairs , Vol 24 (April 1951): 48587.
25. Henderson Gregory. Korea: The Politics of the Vortex . Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 1928.
26. Lee Chong-sik,, and Weathersby Kathryn. “"What Stalin Wanted in Korea at the End of World War ii".” Korea Focus Vol 1, No. 5 (September-October 1993): 4259.
27. Lee Wan Bom. “"The Potsdam Conference and the Role of the u.s. in the Division of Korea along the 38th Parallel North: August-11 Draft Theory vs. July-25 Conception Theory."” The Review of Korean Studies Vol 16, No. 1 (June 2013): 4788.
28. Matray James I. “"Captive of the Cold War: The Decision to Divide Korea at the 38th Parallel."” Pacific Historical Review Vol 50, No. 2 (May 1981): 145–68.
29. Matray James I. “"Korea’s Partition: Soviet-American Pursuit of Reunification, 1945–1948."” Parameters Vol 28, No. 1 (Spring 1998): 15062.
30. McCune George M., and Grey Arthur L.Jr. Korea Today . Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press, 1950.
31. Meade E. Grant. American Military Government in Korea . New York: King’s Crown Press, 1951.
32. Oliver Robert T. Syngman Rhee: The Man Behind the Myth . New York: Dodd, Mead, 1955.
33. Paul Mark,. “"Diplomacy Delayed: The Atomic Bomb and the Division of Korea, 1945".” In Child of Conflict: The Korean-American Relationship, 1945–1953 . Cumings Bruce, ed., 6792. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983.
34. Pogue Forrest C. George C. Marshall: Statesman, 1945–1959 . New York: Viking Press, 1987.
35. Sandusky Michael C. America’s Parallel . Alexandria, va: Old Dominion Press, 1983.
36. Schnabel James F. Policy and Direction: The First Year . Washington, dc: u.s. Government Printing Office, 1972.
37. Schnabel James F.,, and Watson. Robert J. The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . Vol iii: The Korean War. Wilmington, de: Scholarly Resources, 1998.
38. Shen Zhihua., Mao, Stalin and the Korean War: Trilateral Communist Relations in the 1950s . Neal Silver, trans. New York: Routledge, 2012.
39. Yong-ha Shin. “"Hanguk nambuk bundan ui wonin gwa Pocheudam miryakseol” [“The Origins of the Korea’s Division and the Theory on the Secret Agreement of Potsdam”]". In Haebang jikhu ui minjokmunje wa sahoe undong [National Problems and Social Movement in the Postwar Era]. Hanguk sahoesa yeonguhoe nonmunjip [Collected Essays of the Association for Korean Social History], Vol 13, nos. 11–12. Seoul: Munhak gwa Jiseongsa, 1988.
40. Slusser Robert M., “"Soviet Far Eastern Policy, 1945–1950: Stalin’s Goals in Korea".” In The Origins of the Cold War in Asia . Yonosuke Nagai, and Akira Iriye, eds., 12345. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.
41. Stoler Mark A. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century . Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
42. Stueck William. The Korean War: An International History . Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1995.
43. Yonghui Yi. "“Sampalseon hoekjeong singo: Soryeon daeil chamjeonsa e yeonhayeo” [“New Study on the Demarcation of the 38th Parallel: In Regard to Soviet Entry into War Against Japan”]". Asia Hakpo [Asia Journal] Vol 1 (December 1965): 40963.

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Journal of American-East Asian Relations — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation