In Seoul, Habib gathered the senior embassy and military staff. “I know how things work here,’’ he told them. “They’re going to wait 24 hours, and if we don’t say anything, Kim will be killed.’’ After the CIA station chief ascertained that the KCIA was indeed the culprit, Habib told his staff to contact every Korean of importance they knew. If they weren’t in their offices, he said, go to their homes. If it was the middle of the night, that was better still - then they would know the United States meant business. [...]Somehow I doubt such actions would be described as an "act of terrorism" today, and it's certainly strong language for an ally, though as the article notes (read the entire thing), Ranard may have released that statement by bypassing the state department's top tier.
Habib himself met with the prime minister, Park’s number two, and told him straight: If Kim doesn’t come back alive, you are in deep trouble, although “trouble’’ was not the word that Habib, known for his scatological flair, used.
In Washington, my father worked on a statement with his deputy, Wes Kriebel. The wording would be critical. [...] Together, my father and Kriebel worked out the statement. In unusually strong language, it said the United States “deplored’’ the abduction, calling it “an act of terrorism.’’ Washington had a high regard for Kim and a great interest in his security. The statement invited Kim to the United States and called for his “imminent release.’’ There was no reference to the communist threat from the north or any of the other coded phrases that would tell Seoul, in essence: “We don’t like what you’ve done, but we’re not going to do anything about it.’’
This photo (originally posted here) was taken after his release:
I just stumbled across this interview with Richard Allen, former national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, who talks about his role in saving Kim Dae-jung's life (the second time).
Initially, Chun wanted a weaker punishment in exchange for attendance at Reagan's presidential inauguration, Allen said. "That was when I knew I had gained the upper hand,'' he said. "Because it was a silly, ignorant mistake.'' Traditionally, no heads of state have ever attended the inauguration of the U.S. president because it is strictly a private affair, Allen said. The security advisor compromised, instead offering that Chun could be received at the White House.This behind the scenes dealing was not known at the time, and the Korean public saw instead only scenes like these:
At first, Chun wanted Kim to still serve life in prison, an offer that was "unacceptable'' to Allen and Reagan. He later lowered the charge again to exile, which was officially labeled as "going abroad for medical treatment,'' according to Allen.
Then-ambassador William Gleysteen's book Massive Entanglement, Marginal Influence also spends a great deal of time discussing the deal with Chun to save Kim Dae-jung's life. Gleysteen complained about the timing of Chun's visit to the U.S., and the fact that Reagan dispensed with the planned criticism of Chun's regime and instead celebrated their anti-communist alliance.
In one of the more interesting stories of the diplomatic wrangling involved in saving Kim before Reagan took office, Chun told Gleysteen that there were those in the military whose support he needed who wanted Kim dead, and that it would be much easier for him to save Kim in the face of those who wanted him dead if the U.S. refrained from criticizing a guilty verdict at his trial (not too difficult - the U.S. hadn't been publicly criticizing Chun anyways, and Horace Underwood wrote that the "strong undercurrent of anti-American feeling" at the time was "compounded... by platitudinous statements for U.S. domestic and world consumption, which, when transferred back here, come out endorsing the status quo.") In Washington, however, Secretary of State Muskie wanted to publicly condemn Kim's death sentence (perhaps to appease domestic supporters of human rights), which Gleysteen tried to explain would be counterproductive. In the end, Muskie met with Richard Allen, and asked that "Allen join him in a public denunciation. Allen declined after consulting the president-elect."
The Times article details Allen's response to criticism of Chun's visit:
"(His) was an official visit; it was nothing more than that. It was not a state visit nor was he given a state dinner or any other trappings,'' he said. "I made sure of that.''Something I didn't know was that even Kim Dae-jung had apparently been unaware of the deal made to save his life [Update - this is considered highly unlikely; see below]:
Other criticisms were based on the belief that Chun was the first foreign head of state to visit the White House during the Reagan administration, granting him a sort of special recognition. Allen arranged the meetings, however, so that Chun would not be the first, but the second visitor, following the prime minister of Jamaica.
The secretive nature of the exchange for Kim's life prevented the truth from being leaked, which led to Kim openly criticizing Reagan for "coddling dictators,'' such as Chun.Not that the myth of U.S. involvement in Kwangju has gone away, of course. It's necessary to separate the U.S. actions (or lack thereof) during the Uprising (taking into account that Chun controlled the newspapers and actively tried to paint the U.S. as sharing responsibility for Kwangju) from the U.S. response to Chun post-Kwangju, which seemed (and was in many ways) supportive of Chun, as this cable suggests:
"So some years later, not even having met Kim Dae-jung in the first place, it occurred to me on one of my many visits to Korea that I should go to see him and straighten him out,'' Allen said. The former security advisor made a trip to Yeouido to meet Kim and his political party, to speak with him personally on the matter. After the details were relayed, Allen said the former president asked, surprised, if the story was true. After reconfirming, Allen was asked to visit his office the next day and the story was told publicly to the press.
"He sat next to me and was really straightforward,'' Allen said. "I really admire that kind of courage. Instead of perpetuating a myth, he obviously wanted to destroy it.''
More is said about this here, and it's worth noting Gleysteen's assertion that the missionaries could "not be counted on for support", especially considering that Mark Peterson wrote about a meeting between US citizens in Korea and the embassy in 1980 where Horace G. Underwood warned that “Chun is wrapping himself in the American flag. If the United States doesn’t do something about it, it will have ‘hell to pay’ in the future.”
The future was not long in coming. On December 9, 1980 the US Information Service in Kwangju was firebombed, starting a tradition of attacking symbolic targets of US influence and power.
1982: Busan American Information Center arson
1985 5.23-25: USIS in Seoul occupied by 73 students demanding US apology for Kwangju
1985 11.4: 14 students occupy US Chamber of Commerce in Seoul
The US Chamber of Commerce was last attacked by activists in 2002.
As for Kim Dae-jung, he spent three years in the U.S. before returning to Korea in 1985. It was only at some point after his return that he was finally able to visit the Mangwol-dong cemetery, where those killed during the Kwangju uprising were originally buried.
While anti-Americanism in Korea reached its peak in 1989, another spike occurred in 2002, at a time when Kim was president. While I've looked at the events of 2002 before (here and here), I'll leave further comment on it for another day.