Anna Wallis Suh (1900–1969), the woman generally associated with the nickname Seoul City Sue, was a Methodist missionary, educator, and North Korea propaganda radio announcer to United States forces during the Korean War.
Anna was born in Arkansas, the sixth of six children. After her mother and father died in 1910 and 1914, she relocated to Oklahoma to join a sister's family while she completed high school. She spent her early adult years as an office clerk and Sunday school teacher. Subsequently, she studied at the Southeastern State Teachers College, in Durant, Oklahoma, and the Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, Tennessee, graduating in 1930 with a B.A. in ministry. She spent the next eight years working as a member of the American Southern Methodist Episcopal Mission in Korea. As Japanese colonial authorities continued to restrict the activities of foreign missions, Anna joined the staff of Shanghai American School (SAS) in 1938. There she met and married fellow staff member Suh Kyoon Chul, in so doing losing her American citizenship. Late in World War II, she was interned by the Japanese for two years with other ethnic Europeans at a camp in suburban Shanghai. After release, she resumed work at SAS for a year, before returning to Korea with her husband in 1946.
The Suhs settled in Seoul, where Anna taught at the US Legation school until being fired in 1949 due to suspicion of her husband for left wing political activities. They remained or were trapped in Seoul during the North's invasion of South Korea in June, 1950. Anna began announcing a short English language program for North Korean "Radio Seoul" starting on or about July 18, continuing until shortly after the Inchon landing on September 15, when the Suhs were evacuated north as a part of the general withdrawal of North Korean forces. The Suhs participated in the political indoctrination of US POWs at a camp near Pyongyang in February, 1951.
Charles Robert Jenkins reported that, some time after the war, Anna Suh was put in charge of English language publications for the Korean Central News Agency. He also wrote that he saw her in a photo for a 1962 propaganda pamphlet, and met her briefly in 1965 at a department Store in Pyongyang. Jenkins stated that he was told in 1972 that Suh had been shot as a South Korean double agent in 1969.
She was born Anna Wallis to Albert B. and M. Jane Wallis in 1900 in Lawrence County, Arkansas. She was the youngest of six children.
Anna's parents died when she was young; her mother died some time between the 1900 and 1910 Census, and her father in October, 1914. Subsequently, she relocated to Oklahoma with a sister.Anna attended the Southeastern State Teachers College, in Durant, Oklahoma, before transferring to theScarritt College for Christian Workers, an institution dedicated to the training of Methodist missionaries, in Nashville, Tennessee. Ann graduated with a B.A. in 1930.
Korean mission and China
That same year, she was selected for a mission to Korea by the Southern Methodist Conference. There, she initially taught at a Methodist school. By the early 1930s, the Japanese colonial administration had largely banned foreigners from Christian proselytizing, and most Christian missions focused on education, medicine, and care for the indigent., She may have returned to the US in 1935 to visit a sister. In late 1936, she was appointed to serve at the Seoul Social Evangelistic Center, and in February 1937, visited Scarritt College during a missionary furlough.
In a move that may have reflected increasingly harsh Japanese measures against foreign missionaries in the late 30s, Anna relocated to China to join the staff of the Shanghai American School (SAS) in 1938. There she met Suh Kyoon Chul, who was hired to teach Korean and assist in school administration. She was dropped from the rolls of the missionary service and lost her United States citizenship after they married. She developed an interest in Korean politics, eventually taking up her husband's leftist views. The cosmopolitan Shanghai International Settlement and French Concession were likely a more accepting environment for the Suhs than homogeneous 1940s Korea would later prove to be, as suggested by the number of other Caucasian women on staff married to Asian men. In 1939, she visited San Francisco in an unsuccessful attempt to secure a US passport for her husband.
Americans in Shanghai began to depart that same year, slowly as tensions rose in the environs of the city, then en masse shortly before the US and Japan officially went to war. SAS remained open until February 1943, when the remaining foreign staff were forced into the ChapeiCivilian Relocation Center, a short distance away in the northern suburbs. This internment camp, one of several in and around Shanghai, occupied a three story dormitory on the grounds of Great China University (now East China Normal University), most of which was damaged or destroyed during the 1937 Battle of Shanghai.
Whether as a part of the remaining school staff or on her own, Anna also entered the Chapei center at this time, while her husband may have remained free as a colonial subject of Japan. During the internment, the SAS staff and parents took advantage of the school's books that had followed them to organize classes for the children. Supplies with which to maintain the internees grew short towards the end of the war, and a number of women married to citizens of Axis powers or neutral countries were released in late 1944. It is possible that Anna was among these.
With Anna's formal release from detention at the end of World War II, she joined the staff of the reconstituted SAS for the 1945-46 school year.
Unable to continue earning a sufficient living in post-war Shanghai, she and her husband returned to liberated Korea, where she tutored children at the US Diplomatic Mission School in Seoul. Her employment was terminated after her husband was investigated for left wing activities. Shortly thereafter, North Korea invaded the South in June, 1950.
The Korean People's Army occupied Seoul three days after the start of hostilities. The speed of the advance caught the majority of residents by surprise and unprepared to evacuate, in part due to ROK radio propaganda rather at odds with the actual situation. Anna and her husband remained as well, perhaps because he was unwilling to abandon a school for indigent boys that he administered. During a July 10 meeting in Seoul that included 48 to 60 members of the ROK National Assembly, the couple pledged their loyalty to the North Korean regime.
Under Dr. Lee Soo, an English instructor from Seoul University, Anna began announcing for North Korean "Radio Seoul" from the Korean Broadcasting System's HLKA studios, with daily programs from 9:30 to 10:15 pm local time, first heard as early as July 18. The Suhs had been relocated to a temporary home near the station. Suh's defenders gave the dull tone of her broadcasts as proof that she was being forced to make them.
Her initial scripts suggested that American soldiers return to their corner ice cream stands, criticized the USAF bombing campaign, and reported names recovered from the dog tags of dead American soldiers to a background of soft music. The G.I.s gave her various nicknames, including Rice Ball or Rice Bowl Maggie, Rice Ball Kate, and Seoul City Sue. The latter name stuck, likely derived from "Sioux City Sue", the title of a song initially made popular by Zeke Manners from 1946. Through the rest of the summer of 1950, her reports would announce the names of recently captured US airmen, marines, and soldiers, threaten new units arriving in country, welcome warships by name as they arrived on station, or taunt African American soldiers regarding their limited civil rights at home. Her monotone on-air delivery and the lack of popular music programming evidently left Ann's broadcasts less enjoyable for her intended audience than German and Japanese English language radio shows during World War II.
Radio Seoul went off the air at the start of a "Sue" program during an August 13 air strike on communications and transportation facilities in the city, as a B-26 bomber dropped 200 lbs fragmentation bombs adjacent to the transmitter. The station came back on the air a week or two later. The Suhs were evacuated north by truck after the Inchon landings, a few days before US forces entered the city. Mr. & Mrs. Suh indoctrinated UN POWs at Camp 12 near Pyongyang in Feb, '51, after which the POWs were directed to continue indoctrinating each other, with Korean supervision.
Fellow defector Charles Robert Jenkins made several claims about Suh in his book The Reluctant Communist that have not been independently verified. He reported that, some time after the war, she was put in charge of English language publications for the Korean Central News Agency. He wrote that he saw her in a photo for a 1962 propaganda pamphlet called "I Am A Lucky Boy", dining with Larry Allen Abshier, a US Army deserter and defector. Jenkins reported meeting her briefly in 1965 at the "foreigners only" section of the No. 2 Department Store in Pyongyang. Jenkins also stated that he was told in 1972 that Suh had been shot as a South Korean double agent in 1969.
Based on US law through the 1930s, citizenship for a married woman was almost exclusively based on that of her husband, particularly if they lived in his native land. Therefore, Anna Wallis probably lost her US citizenship when she married Mr. Suh in China. Mr. Suh, as well as all other native residents of Korea and Taiwan, were nationals of the Empire of Japan, which recognized itself as a multi-ethnic state.Anna may not have recognized her situation until the 1939 visit to San Francisco to secure a US passport for her husband. In addition to her status as a Japanese national, the US had almost completely frozen Asian immigration with the Immigration Act of 1924, which would likely have precluded his obtaining a passport.
Arbitrary application of Japanese and US law may have dogged Anna over the following years. When the Japanese interned most ethnic Europeans within the Empire during World War II, it is not clear whether she was forced into the Chapei Relocation Center, or entered it willingly, since she was not a foreign national. Later, during the US military occupation of southern Korea, an attempt was made to restore her US citizenship, an effort which fell through for unknown reasons. It is possible that she became a national of South Korea as the wife of Mr. Suh. The Korean nationality that became reestablished between the end of World War II and the formal independence of the ROK in 1948 didn't distinguish between spouses. Although US forces sought her out after retaking Seoul in September, 1950, officials recognized that it was unlikely that Mrs. Suh could be charged with treason by the US.
In popular culture
During the Korean War, USAF pilots improvised a spoof of the Zeke Manner's hit "Sioux City Sue" using the most popular nickname for Ms. Suh.
In multiple episodes of the TV series M*A*S*H a North Korean announcer calling herself "Seoul City Sue" is heard on the radio (rebroadcast over the camp's PA). In "Bombed" she tells the GIs that their wives and girlfriends are being unfaithful and they would have more prosperous careers as civilians. In "38 Across" she accuses Hawkeye Pierce of war crimes for performing an experimental technique to save successfully the life of a North Korean POW.