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Development Delayed: U.S. Economic Policy in Occupied Korea, 1945–1948

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

On 9 September 1945, U.S. military forces landed at Inchon to begin American occupation of southern Korea. For almost three years thereafter, a U.S. military government under the command of Lieutenant General John R. Hodge was responsible for civil affairs south of the 38th parallel. Its policies resulted in delaying Korea's economic development. Early in World War II, the U.S. government had begun preparations for the postwar administration of military government and civil affairs. At first, the focus was on Germany and its occupied territories, but during 1944, training began for 1,500 army and navy officers to serve in occupied Japan. The program ignored Korea, with the exception of a one-hour lecture in some classes near the end of the war. Plans to prepare civil affairs handbooks summarizing conditions in target areas for over thirty nations did not include Korea. Not surprisingly, many civil affairs officers who served in postwar Korea had trained for duty in Japan. They knew nothing about the country they were to govern and of course did not speak the language. Historians have argued that this lack of preparation was largely responsible for the failures of the American occupation. But other factors were more important in explaining the lack,


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