The Republic of Korea’s PSYOP Battle
against Communist Guerrillas

SGM HERBERT A. FRIEDMAN (Ret.)

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South Korean Flag

North Korean Flag

When one studies the thousands of propaganda leaflets prepared by the United Nations forces during the Korean War a strange fact becomes apparent. Although the majority of the leaflets target the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (Usually identified as Chinese Communist Forces or “CCF”), there are a great number of leaflets that were designed for use against North Korean Communist guerrillas that were left behind as the victorious UN forces pushed the retreating Communist forces north.

I spoke to someone recently who believed that all the talk of left-behind Communist guerrillas was just a myth; a propaganda ploy used by the government. I assured this person that there were partisans left behind, in fact, thousands of them, with orders to sabotage and wreak havoc on the South Korean people and government. In fact, antigovernment guerrilla bands, some sponsored by North Korea were a problem long before the war began. It was estimated in 1950 that there were about 8,000 Communist guerrillas within the Republic of Korea. In this article we will very briefly discuss the military operations and the Republic of Korea officers and officials who appear on the various safe conduct passes and surrender leaflets, and then illustrate about a dozen of the leaflets. As I said above, I probably could show a hundred of them, but my intention is just to show those with interesting images. The leaflets depicted are from my own archives, military archives and the Albert G. Brauer collection in North Dakota State University.

Operation Rat Killer

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Operation Rat Killer was an extremely successful assault on North Korean Communist troops left behind after the North Korean People’s Army was driven north. The Republic of Korea Army expected to face about 3,000 guerrillas in the mountains and perhaps another 4,000 in nearby strongholds. They were sorely mistaken. Harry Summers says in the Korean War Almanac, Facts on File, NY, 1990:

In the final phase of the Operation, Task Force Paik again swept through the Chiri San area, and by the end of the campaign on 15 March 1951, some 19,000 guerrillas (over twice as many as had originally been estimated) had been killed or captured.

The Far East Command in Tokyo sent about 9,920,000 Rat Killer leaflets to Korea and so many were dropped that General Paik Sun Yup says in From Pusan to Panmunjom:

The whole enormous Mt. Chiri area was covered with them

The Communist guerrillas believed that Mt. Chiri could not be taken. Not only was it heavily defended, but the UN armies were still advancing in the north. Who could be sent against them? The South Koreans, realizing what a threat the guerrillas were in their rear area, pulled two divisions from the front lines (the 8th Division and the Capital Division) and sent them to clear the mountain area.

In phase 1, the Republic of Korea troops fought to the top of Mt. Chiri and then circled back down; guerrillas trying to escape were captured by police units guarding the roads and escape routes. The impregnable Mt. Chiri fortress was no more.

Phase 2 started 8 December 1951 when the Republic of Korea forces moved on the high grounds surrounding Mt. Chiri. Resistance was much lighter and close to 400 guerrillas surrendered.

Phase 3 began 15 January 1952. The surviving guerrillas had reassembled on Mt. Chiri so the Republic of Korea forces attacked and took it again. By this time, the Korean civilians realized that the Communists were no longer a power and began cooperating with the ROK Army. The guerrillas could no longer rely on their support, intelligence and food. They faded away. Operation Rat Killer was over and just mopping up operations by local authorities remained. The two Republic of Korea infantry divisions returned to the front lines and the real war.

There are different totals for the killed and wounded in that campaign. Official Korean Army records state that 5,800 guerrillas were killed and another 5,700 wounded. Official U.S. Army records say that 9,000 guerrillas were killed. One report we mention below says 25,000 killed or captured. The reader should understand that often these numbers are estimated from blood trails, the size of enemy units, or from a commander who wants a good body count to keep his superiors happy.

Not all of the anti-Guerrilla leaflets prepared by the UN and Korean forces were for Operation Rat Killer. That was one major campaign. There were numerous attacks and acts of sabotage by various smaller bands of partisans and leaflets were often prepared on a tactical basis just for those operations.

Some of the Republic of Korea officers and officials that appear on, or signed leaflets used against the Guerrillas are:

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GENERAL CHUNG IL-KWON

Chung Il-kwon was a Republic of Korea General during the Korean War. Chung graduated from the Tokyo Military Academy in 1940, then joined the Imperial Japanese Army and served in China. Following the Japanese surrender, he served with the Chinese nationalist army. He was Commander in Chief of the Republic Of Korea Army for much of the Korean War, including the Battle of Inchon in 1950 when General Douglas MacArthur landed his troops after being told that it was an impossible task. He left office after a series of embarrassing events occurred during his watch. In order for him not to “lose face,” he was sent to the United States to attend Ft. Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff College.

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Leaflet 8121

This leaflet shows a guerrilla who is already receiving good treatment welcoming a newly surrendering POW holding a propaganda leaflet. This leaflet was designed and printed by the ROK PSYWAR Section. It bears an Eighth Army code number and also Korean Army code number (KA-K-4). Some of the text is:

This partisan was smart to surrender. He washed his hands of the life of a hunted wild animal and chose freedom…Turn in your weapons immediately to the ROK Army or National Police. Show this certificate and start a new life….

Chung Il Kwon
Lt. Gen. of ROK Army
Commander-in Chief

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Leaflet 8116

This leaflet was designed and printed by the Korean Army PSYWAR Section. It was given an Eighth Army code number and a Korean Army code number (K-1). This leaflet, dated 13 March 1951 is a letter addressed to the guerrillas in Chulla Province. The front is all text, so we depict the back of the leaflet that bears a photograph of General Chung. Some of the text is:

Partisans: In the fields and valleys of our battlefield Motherland, spring has come. The severe cold which froze you fingers and swelled your faces has gone, along with the useless resistance of the People’s Army and the Chinese Communist Forces. Cease senseless fighting and come down at once.

Chung Il Kwon
Gen. of ROK Army
Commander-in Chief

Some other leaflets that bear Chung’s picture or signature are: 8126 (South-west guerrillas), and 8516. Chung’s signature appears on many more leaflets, but they are to North Korean regular forces and not guerrillas.

GENERAL LEE CHONG CHAN

Lieutenant General Lee Chong Chan was the Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea Army. In July 1952, Korean President Syngman Rhee dismissed the general because Chan refused to use his military power to help Rhee change the nation’s Constitution. Rhee ordered Chan to send two divisions to Pusan and Lee refused. Lee was later given the ROK 2nd Division, but felt it was a slap in the face since he was a former Chief of Staff. He eventually accepted the position.

He was replaced by Paik Sun Yup who later become the first South Korean full 4-star general.

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Leaflet 8189

The leaflet above depicts Guerrillas wandering in the mountains and thinking of their family at home. It was prepared by the ROK PSYWAR Section and printed by the Eighth Army Psychological Warfare Division G3. Some of the text is:

Partisans: You are suffering from hunger and cold. You are driven from the mountains to the valleys. Your parents, wives and children are eagerly waiting for your return...

The bearer of this leaflet is determined to become a true citizen of the ROK again, therefore I order the soldiers and police of the ROK Army to guarantee their life and treat them well.

By the wish of the President

Lee Chong Chan
Major General ROKA
Chief of General Staff

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Leaflet 8191

The leaflet above depicts a Guerrilla with giant guns aimed directly at him. It was prepared by the Republic of Korea PSYWAR Section and printed by the Eighth Army Psychological Warfare Division G3. The safe conduct pass on the back is dated December 1951. Some of the text is:

Partisans: Now you are the target of powerful weapons and the only way to survive is to come back to the Republic of Korea.

By the wish of the President

Lee Chong Chan
Major General ROKA
Chief of General Staff

Some of the Eighth U.S. Army leaflets that bear Lee’s picture or signature are: 8190 (You are like a mouse before a cat), 8192 (Letter from guerrilla Chao Chong Hyun), 8193, 8195 (Partisans who have been wandering in the mountains), and 8223 (Letter from guerrilla Paik Dong Ho)

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GENERAL PAIK SUN YUP

Paik Sun Yup entered Mukden Military Academy of Manchukuo. After graduation, he became an officer of the Manchukuo Imperial Army. He first engaged in Anti-Japanese resistance in eastern Manchuria, later joined the Japanese campaign on northern China for ten months from 1944 to 1945. At the end of the war he returned to Pyongyang but in December 1945 he saw the Communists taking power in North Korea and fled south. He was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Constabulary, the predecessor of the Republic of Korea Army. In April 1951, Paik was placed in command of the ROK I Corps in charge of eastern Korea. In November 1951, U.S. Army General James Van Fleet ordered Paik to mount a campaign against guerrilla activity in the Chiri Mountains of southwestern Republic of Korea. The guerrillas were conducting well-coordinated raids on rail lines and rear echelon installations. The Republic of Korea I Corps, later named Task Force Paik, began its campaign, dubbed Operation RAT KILLER, in December. When the operation finished in March 1952, Task Force Paik had captured or killed an estimated 25,000 guerillas (see other numbers above). In recognition of the success, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and Task Force Paik was transformed to the new Republic of Korea II Corps On July 23 1952, three and a half months after taking command of the II Corps, General Paik was appointed ROK Army Chief of Staff, the highest position in the ROK Army, replacing General Lee Chong Chan.

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Leaflet 8214

This leaflet depicts freezing North Korean soldiers on the front. The back is a formal safe conduct pass. The leaflet was designed by the Korean Army PSYWAR Section and printed by the Eighth Army Psychological Warfare Division G3. The text says in part:

THE WAY YOU SAVE YOUR LIFE

The weather is getting colder day by day and the number of partisans is decreasing day by day. The ROK forces are pressing the siege circle minute by minute and the weary partisans are dying hour by hour. …Is it my fate to die like a dog in these deep mountains?

Surrender with this safe conduct pass…Do not throw your arms away. Bring your arms on your back. Approach the soldier or police with your hands up raised and shout “Hurray for the ROK.” A reward will be given to those who surrender with their weapons.

Paik Sun Yup
Lt. Gen. ROKA
Commanding General

Because the Koreans were part of the Japanese Empire for many years, some of the leaflets replace the term “Hurray for the ROK” with “Banzai for the ROK.”

Some of the Eighth U.S. Army leaflets that bear Paik’s picture or signature are: 8180 (To Chiri San partisans), 8180A (To all partisans), 8181 (To all Communist sympathizers in Chiri San), 8182 (To the people of Chiri San area), 8185 (The Communists have employed human sea tactics), and 8219 (To partisans).

HOME MINISTER LEE SOON YONG

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Leaflet 8163

This leaflet depicts North Korean guerrillas holding a safe conduct pass and surrendering to a smiling National Policeman while thinking of their death had they stayed in the mountains. The leaflet was designed and printed by the Eighth Army Psychological Warfare Division G3 and sent to the Home Minister of the Republic of Korea, Lee Soon Yong, for his personal chop (signature). This same image and signature was used again on leaflet 8173, which is identified as a modification of leaflet 8163. Three paragraphs were added to the back of the second leaflet with the headings: Partisans; Comrades; and Friends. Some of the text on leaflet 8163 is:

Come over to our side without fear! We will give you good treatment!

To the Republic of Korea National Police: The partisans with this leaflet desire to cease resistance. Give them humane treatment in accordance with the provisions of International law.

Lee Soon Yong
Home Minister
Republic of Korea

General Leaflets to Communist Guerrillas without Signatures

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Leaflet 8140

This leaflet depicts the Korean Independence Gate and is in the form of a “Guerrilla Newssheet.” It was prepared by the Eighth Army General Headquarters. Some of the text is:

Independence Gate

Enter onto a road of light that promises you a united and independent Korea. Do not sacrifice your life in useless resistance.

Some of the stories in the newssheet are:

Kaesong – Progress of the UN – Communist peace talks.
United Nations reconstruction plans for Korea.
Communist purges on the Chinese mainland.

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Leaflet H-115

This Korean-made leaflet is also coded 8376 in the lower right corner. It depicts a noble fighter in classic early Korean dress defeating one bandit and watching two others that are running away. The text at the top of the leaflet is:

Defeat the Communists with the Spirit of Hwarang!

Note: Hwarang is a historical group of officers of one of Ancient Korea's kingdoms; Silla. South Koreans like to trace their historical roots to Silla since that nation unified Ancient Korea in the distant past. Silla was originally a Kingdom based in the Gyongsang Province, which is the south eastern part of Korea.

North Koreans like to trace their historical roots to Koguryo, the ancient Kingdom based on the Northern part of Korea. It was once very powerful, and fought off and conquered various barbarian tribes before being conquered by Silla.

The back of the leaflet is an extremely long text that we will not translate. A brief synopsis is that the leaflet discusses Silla and the three kingdoms and how the Hwarangs of Silla were able to overcome their adversaries. It tells the South Koreans that they are the descendants of the brave Hwarangs of Silla who unified Korea. It reminds them of the bravery and patriotism of their ancestors and asks them to report any sightings of the Communist bandits to the nearest police station. It criticizes the “grey action,” or inactivity due to fear of those who see the bandits but do nothing. It calls upon all people to act when they see any bandits or communists:

Do not taint the names of your ancestors. Report the Communists.

The official South Korean term for “bandits” is bbarchisan, a butchered pronunciation of the word “partisan.” The bandits seem to be a mixture of South Korean guerrillas that went feral and North Korean stragglers who were left behind after their forces were cut in two by General MacArthur’s Inchon landing operations.

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Leaflet 8193

This leaflet depicts a North Korean guerrilla reading a Propaganda leaflet. The leaflets was designed by the Korean Army PSYWAR Section and printed by the Eighth Army Psychological Warfare Division G3. Some of the text is:

The thought of dying senselessly as a traitor to our country and to our people disturbs me. I must rejoin our people and do my best to help in the rehabilitation of the Republic of Korea….

Other unsigned leaflets to the guerrillas are 8118 (Foolish death - waiting wife and children), 8134 (Guerilla newssheet), 8147 (How happy we would be if our soon came home), 8194 (Song of June 25th), 8200 (Letter from guerrilla Cha Il Pyoung), 8218 (ROKA leaflet – To Partisans – Come back!), 8221 (Special News – Guerrillas in Chulla Province), 8222 (Letter from guerrilla Lee Chung Yul), and 8231 (TF Paik - Letter from guerrillas Ryoo Min Woo and Choi Hong Nye).

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Leaflet C-198/CZ-27

I mentioned earlier in this article that there were a great number of leaflets aimed at the Communist guerrillas during the course of the war. Most of the leaflets above were produced in 1950-1951 as part of Plan Rat Killer. Even after that campaign, guerrillas continued to terrorize the citizens of South Korea. The leaflet above was prepared by the Korean Army and printed by the U.S. Army 1st Leaflet and Loudspeaker Company in August 1953. The shooting phase of the Korean War ended in an armistice on 27 July 1953. The leaflet shows a very dead Communist guerrilla leader after the end of the war so it is clear that the left-behind troops were fighting on. The text says in part:

Lee Hyun Sang is gone!

Lee Hyun Sang who commanded you through the joint conference of chairmen of all area parties has been killed. His corpse will be happily interred by a combined military and national police unit.

Give up your useless resistance and surrender to us!

This ends our brief look at Korean War leaflets aimed not at the North Korean or Chinese Armies, but instead at Communist guerrillas left behind in South Korea. The reader should understand that I have just mentioned a very few leaflets here. It is clear that there are many more and as I locate them in my files I might add more leaflets to this story. For the moment, this article is just meant to point out that the Korean War was more involved than most people think, with battles going on both in front of and behind the battle lines.

Readers who wish to comment on any aspect of this article are encouraged to write the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.