Henry J. Hyde

Korea Policy Review – Harvard University

Volume II – 2006



An Interview with The Honorable Henry J. Hyde

By Justin Rhee
July 27, 2006


“The Honorable Henry J. Hyde was interviewed a week before an August 2006 U.S. Congressional Delegation to Asia and the Pacific.  His August 11, 2006 remarks at the Statue of General Douglas MacArthur in Incheon, Republic of Korea, follow this interview.”

MR. RHEE:  What led you to dedicate your life to public service?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY J. HYDE [R-IL]:  I can’t say that there was any single event, no bolt of lightning that struck me on the road to Damascus.  Because of my vocation as an attorney, I came in contact with political people.  I had a client, a woman, who was appointed by the Governor of the State of Illinois to her post as the public guardian of Cook County, and she retained me as her lawyer.  Since she was a political appointee, she suggested that I become more active.  I didn’t have a problem with that because I had always been interested in politics, party politics.

I lived in Chicago, which was a Democratic stronghold and still is, but I found a local Republican organization.  I just looked through the telephone book and got their address and went over there one evening and introduced myself and said I’d like to help.  They greeted me with open arms because they didn’t have an awful lot of volunteers, and I just worked the precinct in my neighborhood for the Republican Party in Chicago.  I didn’t want anything, but I was satisfying something that interested me.  Gradually, openings occurred, people passed on or left, and I was asked if I would be interested in running for Congress, and this was in 1962.  By that time, I had my own law office, and I would have the time and the opportunity, so I said sure.

I had gone to college in Washington before the war, and I finished up after the war – World War II.  One has to specify which war these days.  But my wife was from Arlington, Virginia.  She welcomed the prospect of moving there.  I agreed to run, and I did run.  I lost that election by about 10,000 votes, which was a remarkably good showing for a neophyte, for someone who had never run for office before and had no name identification.

I continued my work as a precinct captain in the 41st Ward.  Around 1968, an opening occurred in the state legislature in the Illinois General Assembly, and the leaders asked me if I would be interested in going to Springfield in the state legislature.  I said yes, and I got elected.

So I found myself serving in the state legislature in Springfield, Illinois and moving into politics gradually as a result of the course of events.

MR. RHEE:  You fought in World War II.  What was your experience as a young soldier fighting for democracy?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  Well, I was a young sailor.  I was in my freshman year in college at Georgetown, and I got a notice that I was about to be drafted.  I preferred the Navy, not for any particular reason, but I thought I would enlist in the Navy rather than be drafted into the Army, so I did that here in Washington, D.C.  November 11th, 1942, comes to my mind as the day that I enlisted.  They let me finish my freshman year, but then they put me on active duty and sent me to Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

So I reported to Duke University, put on a sailor’s suit and completed three semesters down there.  They then sent me to Notre Dame University for a 90-day intensive course in damage control, navigation, seamanship and all sorts of military and engineering courses.  Navigation was difficult for me.  I’m not much with mathematics, but I worked very hard.

So I got ordered to go to San Francisco and wait for transportation there to go to the South Pacific.  I got on board a ship in San Francisco and spent 30 days at sea going to New Guinea.  I was assigned to a ship and part of a flotilla of ships that were going to make the invasion of the main island in the Philippines, Luzon.

As we were being towed from New Guinea to Luzon, we got in a storm, and we nearly drowned.  The water was rushing over the bow of our amphibious ship and, the more they towed us, the more downward we went.  We were very busy, I remember.  I learned seamanship in a hurry and how to control my amphibious vessel and, for many months thereafter, day and night, we carried cargo and personnel from the ship that had to anchor way out because there were no piers.  We were towed up behind a liberty ship in a large convoy to Lingayen Gulf, which is on the west side of Luzon in the Philippines, and we made the initial landing there on January 9, 1945.

We were under attack, air attack by the Japanese air force, but luckily, we weren’t hit by anything.  I remember one time when the Japanese aircraft hit an ammo dump, an ammunition dump, which was located close to where I was.  It exploded for three days, just never quit.  I was too young and too inexperienced to realize how potentially dangerous everything was; we were just so busy.  The work that we were doing was important and strenuous, so we didn’t have time to sit around and dwell on where we were and what happened.

One of the great experiences of that tour was – I was ordered by the port director at Subic Bay, which was a base north of Manila – to go out into the South China Sea where a large cargo ship had run aground on some rocks and shoals that were not observable.  A typhoon was coming, and I remember going out there to unload the cargo ship.  Our ship was not an ocean-going vessel, but they sent us out into the South China Sea.  I had the orders.

So we went out into the sea, and I found the ship that I was supposed to unload, but we were escorted out by a destroyer escort.  I remember, as we got within sight of the cargo ship, the quartermaster on the destroyer escort blinking to us, “So long and good luck.” We tied up to the big ship, and they unloaded, and the typhoon hit.

I remember casting off the line of the big cargo ship, and we were swinging out to the right and getting hit by waves.  I thought I was at the top of a skyscraper and then the bottom fell out, vibrating seriously, and was wondering if the ship was going to hang together.  I spent all night on the bridge of the ship, and I think I was the youngest member of the crew.  I was the skipper.  I was an ensign.  I remember the crew, all with their life jackets on and asking, “Are we going to make it, skipper?”, and me reassuring them.  We did.

It was a great adventure, and I am glad I had it.

MR. RHEE:  What has been your view of South Korea and its relationship with the United States?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  South Korea has always been a friend.  It is a shame that Korea got divided to North and South Korea.  South Korea has been freer and more respectful of its citizens than the communist police state.  South Korea has gone through some changes itself, and there are times when they question America’s support and motives, but their friendship still remains steadfast, and the alliance is strong.  We will be there to defend Korea as long as Korea wants us to be there.

South Korea has shown what a thriving democracy can accomplish.  South Korea’s commerce and economy has been flourishing, and I think a free market system helps, and the automobile industry which has developed in South Korea is the prime example of rapid and sustainable development.

I visited South Korea some years ago.  Seoul is a thriving city with a lot of activity.  South Korea is in a very awkward position being right next to North Korea, which is an unpredictable and difficult neighbor and is showing no signs of moderation.  South Korea is still a good friend, and we have the military there, but we would leave if we were requested to leave.  There are those who describe Korea’s difficult past history as a dagger pointing at Japan.  But South Korea and Japan are linked with common aspirations of democracy, freedom and economic growth, and they are threatened by North Korea and China.  East Asia is an intellectually stimulating area of the world.

MR. RHEE:  Any suggestion on what the United States and South Korea could do to further foster their relations?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  I think the exchange of students, the exchange of members of parliament where you get to know each other and you get to understand their aspirations and hopes.  You can’t like people if you don’t know them, but if we get to know each other better – and I think these exchanges are part – I think we can understand each other better and be helpful to each other.

Also, I think exchanging of visitors is very important.  If people in the North get a chance to see the quality of life in South Korea and what it means to live under freedom, it ought to awaken them to the changes necessary for a decent life that is very hard to get in North Korea.  But it is important that all those countries located in South East Asia stay together and realize that a nuclear-armed North Korea is nobody’s friend.  As countries of the region can stay together and adopt common trade policies and sanctions, they can penalize North Korea perhaps effectively enough to get them to abandon their nuclear activities.

MR. RHEE:  You have been a free trade advocate throughout your career.  What is your view on the current FTA negotiations between the U.S. and South Korea?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  I support the Free Trade Agreement.  I think it will benefit both countries.  Those who oppose free trade are called protectionists, but I think history shows around the globe, where free trade agreement exists, it is a boost to the local economy, so I am a supporter of it.

All free trade agreements have a rough time because organized labor in principle has a protectionist attitude, and it’s difficult to have a clear understanding with union activists.  All free trade has a rough time getting through Congress because of the objections that organized labor has, but I believe free trade offers an opportunity to open markets to our advantage, stimulating growth and innovation.  I think both the United States and South Korea would profit from a free trade agreement.  South Korea offers a number of products for exports, and the consumers benefit by gaining access to good quality, low priced goods.  Competition is healthy.

MR. RHEE:  There are opponents of the agreement:  from auto workers in the United States to farmers in South Korea.  Do you have any recommendations on what both governments can do to address their concerns?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  You just have to point to the experience of various places where free trade agreements have been in operation.  Many times, this is a political issue, and the facts do not get in the way of an opinion, but I think statistics show, overall, free trade is a better economic system than a command economy if people will open their minds to the facts.

MR. RHEE:  North Korea has been making headlines by launching its missiles.  How do you think the U.S. and South Korea should deal with the North?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  I think there is probably no one successful way to do it.  I think it is important that we have lines of communication open to the North Koreans so that whatever happens isn’t the result of miscalculation or errors in judgment.  I think North Korea has got to be reminded of how offensive it is to launch missiles and threaten countries with war.  It is not in North Korea’s interest, it seems to me, to have her neighbors all armed to the teeth ready for war.  North Korea can have a better standard of living, have their economy improved by better relationships with her neighbors.  I think we should keep reminding them of that fact and showing them that free trade will improve a lot for their people.

There are arguments that North Korea wants to negotiate unilaterally with us.  Personally, I see no reason why we don’t talk to the North.  We can’t settle on these things unless you talk to people, and I don’t think, if we talk to the North, that would upset China or Japan in any way.  It is to get the tension lessened and the threat of nuclear missiles reduced.  It is worth the try.  The leaders of North Korea are very unpredictable.  Kim Jong-Il is unpredictable, but we have to keep trying.  North Korea cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.  It is hard to know what stage of weapon development Pyongyang has achieved, so the leaders of the free world have to have better intelligence to know what’s going on.

MR. RHEE:  You worked 32 years as a member of Congress.  What do you think is your most significant accomplishment?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  I have had a lot of legislation over the years.  The one I suppose I am most remembered for is the so-called Hyde Amendment which forbids federal funds to pay for abortions.  Abortion is evil in my opinion, killing human life after it has begun.  I’ve always felt that abortion is taking an innocent human life, and that life begins at conception, and, no matter how small or weak or vulnerable, it’s still a human life.  I think America, especially, and every country should recognize and treat human life with great respect and dignity.  When I got to Washington, I found that $50 million was appropriated every year for 300,000 Medicaid abortions, and I was able to put a stop to that with an amendment, and that has been the law ever since.  So the drying up of federal funds to pay for Medicaid abortions, I think, saves some lives, and I certainly hope so.

MR. RHEE:  Well, sir, thank you, and certainly you are a role model for all public servants and are respected internationally. Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to share with us for student readers?

REPRESENTATIVE HYDE:  I think they should never lose their sense of idealism and honor.  They should understand that representing people in government is a high honor and a burden requiring constant attention.  But they should be proud of where they are and what they are doing, continue to work toward freedom for everybody and equal protection of the law.  These situations will be helpful to maintain stability and peace and economic growth.

I think those of you inclined to a political career, by all means, should follow it.  Politics is very important, which says a great deal about the health of our democracy.

Remarks of The Honorable Henry J. Hyde following the Wreath-Laying at the Statue of General Douglas MacArthur, Incheon, Republic of Korea, on August 11, 2006

Mayor Ahn; Citizens of the City of Incheon; the People of Korea; National Assembly Member Yoo; Ambassador Vershbow; Representatives of United States Forces Korea; Members of the Diplomatic Community; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me thank His Honor, the Mayor, and the citizens of Incheon for inviting our delegation here today.  And let me also thank them for their efforts in restoring the statue of General MacArthur to its original state, a sign of their abiding friendship with America.

We have come here today to pay tribute to the memory of a great man, a man who, more than any other in military uniform, shaped the destiny of not only this peninsula, but of the entire East Asia/Pacific region during the century just passed.  I had the honor to serve under his command in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines in early 1945.

I have also come here from the United States Congress where, on April 19, 1951, the General gave an address which represented a fond farewell to the American people. Today, over a half-century later, his immortal words still echo in the hearts of his countrymen:  “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

Before this old Congressman joins his former Commander and also fades away, let me offer a few reflections on what General MacArthur’s legacy means to the people of the United States, the people of Korea, and the people of the Asia/Pacific.

Douglas MacArthur came from a military family.  His father, General Arthur MacArthur, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service to his country during the American Civil War.  His son was to receive the same honor for his service here in Asia, for it was on this continent that Douglas MacArthur had his own rendezvous with destiny.  As war clouds gathered over the Asian continent, Douglas MacArthur was sent to make preparations for the defense of the Philippines.

After that day of infamy – December7, 1941 — MacArthur, with the U.S. and Filipino forces under his command, made a valiant attempt from the fortress island of Corregidor to repel the invaders against overwhelming odds.  It was only a direct order from President Roosevelt that led MacArthur and his family to escape to Australia.  There they were welcomed with warmth and gratitude.  The great wartime Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, facing an immediate threat of war and invasion, turned operational control of Australian forces over to General MacArthur, whom he dubbed as “Australia’s savior.”

From that successful defense of the Australian Continent, General MacArthur moved forward to fulfill his pledge to the people of the Philippines, that “I shall return.”  I had the privilege of playing a small part in that victory.  And we all know the end of the story. A few weeks from now, on September 2nd, we will commemorate the Sixty-First Anniversary of the end of the greatest war in history, when General MacArthur accepted the surrender of Imperial Japan on the Battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  Finally, after more than a decade of war in Asia, the guns fell silent.  And the people of Korea joined those of Australia and the Philippines in breathing free without fear of militarist oppression.  For, in Korea, thirty-five years of bitter colonial rule had at last come to an end.

But this was not the end of the already illustrious career of General MacArthur.  Appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the occupation of Japan, MacArthur, in five short years, transformed a medieval, militarist society into a democratic nation.  General MacArthur is widely recognized as the chief architect of that strong, democratic system which led to the rebirth of a modern, peaceful and prosperous Japan.

Yet, even this achievement was not MacArthur’s finest hour.  No, it was here, in the harbor just beyond where this statue stands in lasting tribute, that General MacArthur reached the zenith of his distinguished career.  On September 15, 1950, the General directed those U.S., Allied and South Korean forces, who rode the crest of the high tides for which Incheon is world famous, to victory once again.

Sixteen nations responded, under the UN banner, to South Korea’s call for assistance by providing combat troops.  Three of those nations — Australia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom – are represented here today.  Five other nations provided medical assistance.  We express our thanks to all of these nations for their efforts in the common cause of Korean liberty.

For in this victory at Incheon, MacArthur, and the troops he commanded, delivered the people of South Korea from evil — the evil of that oppressive regime which lies a mere few miles to the North, where children still starve and Christians still suffer martyrdom for mere utterance of the words, “Deliver us from evil.”

And, so, I ask our good friends and allies in the Asia/Pacific — in Australia, in the Philippines, in Japan, and, most importantly, here in the Republic of Korea — to remember how the old soldier depicted in this statue touched their nations in his rendezvous with destiny.

I look at the gleaming office towers of Seoul, the modern highway which brought us here today, and this port city of Incheon, a transshipment point for that commerce which has made the Republic of Korea the eleventh largest economy in the world, and I say, “Thank God for General MacArthur.”

I view today a democracy in full bloom, where every South Korean citizen feels empowered to publicly voice his or her opinion, and say, “Thank God for MacArthur’s victory at Incheon.”  Such freedom was, of course, not free.  The price of that freedom which South Koreans enjoy today was paid, not only by the blood shed here in the battle of Incheon, but also by the blood of patriots who died in the streets of Kwangju.  Those who died in Kwangju are martyrs for liberty, just as were the American patriots who bled and died at Lexington and Concord.  And, so, we salute them.

I am well aware that there are those in South Korea today who take a different view of this battle site and of this monument.  There are those who even say that they wish General MacArthur had never come to Incheon, as Korea would then be united.  My mother’s family came from another divided country, Ireland, so I have some understanding of the pain caused by this tragic political separation.  But at what price should unity be purchased?  At the loss of peace and prosperity?  At the loss of liberty?

In his farewell address back in 1951, General MacArthur said:  “Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism.  The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description.  They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery.”

I ask the people of South Korea to remember these words and also to recall what the statue here of General MacArthur symbolizes.  This statue stands for more than just one man, great a man though he was.  It stands for fidelity.  In times of war and in times of peace, the American people have stood with you — in times of tension and in times of calm — in times of want and in times of plenty.

There have been sweeping changes in the world since the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended.  Korea has found new friends.  But there is an old American proverb which states, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver but the other is gold.”  General MacArthur’s legacy is pure gold.

Now the time has come for this old Congressman, who, like MacArthur, “tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty,” to offer his old Commander one last salute.

And I join General MacArthur in bidding you all a fond farewell.


Henry J. Hyde was sworn in as a member of the United States House of Representatives in 1975.  A member of the House Committee on International Relations (HIRC) since 1982, he has served as its Chairman since 2001.  As the Chairman, he has played a vital role in this Nation’s War on Terrorism.  Hyde’s leadership role on the Committee has been crucial in debates about not only how the country should respond to the terrorist attacks perpetrated on our Nation on September 11, 2001, but also how we must continue our efforts to protect the United States.  Through Hyde’s leadership, HIRC has been instrumental in cooperative legislative efforts to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all it can to protect its citizens.  Hyde also serves on the House Judiciary Committee and was its Chairman from 1995-2001.  During that time, he was the lead House manager during the Clinton impeachment trial.

Justin Rhee is a Legislative Fellow in the Office of Congressman Henry J. Hyde.  Rhee co-founded the Korea Policy Review while attending Harvard University and served as co-editor-in-chief on the inaugural edition.