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Abstract

The overall objective of this project is to investigate the US-ROK military alliance’s influence on the political development of South Korea and the course of bilateral relations during the 1960s. This decade is of special interest due to its turbulent nature. The forceful changes of Korean governments in 1960 and 1961 ushered in a period of deep political uncertainty. Despite the ease of the May 16th, 1961 coup led by Major General Park Chung Hee, his military government experienced multiple shocks early on that threatened its existence. It was not until 1965 that Park could rule with relative confidence, which also initiated a honeymoon period of US-ROK relations under the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. The US, even before the military coup, sought to reevaluate its policy towards the ROK under the newly elected John F. Kennedy administration. The new administration pushed for increased self-reliance of its allies, which for the ROK, translated into potential cuts in military and economic assistance. Following the coup, both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations also contended with the rising nationalistic tendencies of the military regime. It was in this confluence of new leaders, new priorities, and new threats that the US and the ROK relied on the military alliance as the bedrock of stability.

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