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Participating in Nation-Building: The Role of the “Military Government Police” in South Korean Politics, 1946-1948

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This study analyzes the role of the “military government police” in South Korean politics during American military occupation, 1946-48. It stresses that the Korean National Police (KNP), many of whose members had served in the police under the Japanese, was not a mere instrument of the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) but functioned as an active participant in the creation of a rightist regime in southern Korea. More specifically, the police were the undisputed “vanguard” of the rightist Syngman Rhee-Korean Democratic Party (KDP) coalition. The police force also functioned as the “big brother” of the rightist youth organizations which shared values and ideology with them. Finally, the police served as the “midwife” in the creation of the Rhee regime in the Republic of Korea. In sum, the KNP was an important political player actively taking part in the political process during U.S. military occupation.


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