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Cablegate: Students' Views On Candidates' Foreign Policy

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DE RUEHUL #2180/01 2010728
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P 200728Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5622
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2857
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2968
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8162
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 2084
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 002180

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KS KN
SUBJECT: STUDENTS' VIEWS ON CANDIDATES' FOREIGN POLICY


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. In an informal survey of college students, we found that
the majority of students acknowledged the importance of
foreign policy in the upcoming presidential election. Most,
however, appeared to be utterly uninformed about the
candidates' policies. This outcome likely reflects the
conscious decision of the candidates to de-emphasize foreign
policy issues relative to domestic concerns. END SUMMARY.

----------
THE SURVEY
----------

2. Between June 21 and July 5, Political Section interns
surveyed 83 college students about their views on the
upcoming elections. We canvassed students from some of the
ROK's most prestigious universities, including Ewha
University, Korea University, Seoul National University,
Sogang University, Yonsei University and the Korea Foreign
Language University.

----------------------------------------
FOREIGN POLICY AS A MEANS OF COOPERATION
----------------------------------------

3. Most students, 55 out of 83, agreed that the foreign
policy of a candidate would play an important role in
determining support for that candidate. The two most common
reasons were that the ROK had to cooperate with the
surrounding superpowers to overcome the imbalance of
security, and that the ROK's domestic policy hinged upon
foreign policy, especially in the trade sector. Some,
however, believed that foreign policy was inconsequential.
Representative of this group, a Seoul National University
political science student argued that the president could not
be held responsible for Korea's foreign policy. "We have
powerful neighbors who act independently of Korea's
interests," she said. Accordingly, she was more interested
in the president's domestic agenda, which the president could
control.

--------------------------------------------- ------
FOREIGN POLICY MUST CONTRIBUTE TO NATIONAL INTEREST
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. In answering a question about which country was most
important to Korea's foreign policy, an overwhelming majority
answered USA, followed by the DPRK and China respectively.
"Whenever I see the word foreign policy, I immediately think
about which nation matters most to Korea's economic
well-being? My answer is America," remarked a 25-year-old
female graduate student of Seoul National University. A
Chinese major at Sogang University replied that she chose
China because China would eventually become Korea's largest
trade partner.

--------------------------------
CONTROVERSY ON UNCONDITIONAL AID
--------------------------------

5. When it came to foreign policy towards the DPRK,
two-thirds of all respondents criticized the ROKG's
unconditional aid policy. Of the critics, half wanted to
discontinue all aid, while the other half with a
middle-ground approach wanted to implement conditional aid.
Some responded that unconditional aid was a strategy for
maintaining an ROK-DPRK relationship independent of other
powers. "I am against the Sunshine Policy as it is now, but
I think humanitarian aid should continue with some kind of
monitoring or negotiation," replied a Korea University
student. "What I detest more is discontinuing aid just
because of US pressure on nuclear weapons."

-------------------------------------
LACK OF INFORMATION ON FOREIGN POLICY
-------------------------------------

6. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said that they did
not know the foreign policy of any of the candidates. Among
the informed students, more knew about Lee Myung-bak's
foreign than Park Geun-hye's. "I don't look for who has the
best foreign policy among the candidates," said a recent
graduate of Ewha Women's University, "I prefer Lee, so I know
more about his opinions including his foreign policy than
about other candidates' opinions." A student at Korea
University said, "I do not know the concrete details of Lee
and Park's foreign policy, but the direction of their policy
is predictable based on their political party." However, a
graduate student at Korea University disagreed: "None of the
candidates' foreign policy can be predicted based on their
party. Lee and Park now suggest foreign policy agendas not
unlike the candidates from the left. I have no idea what
their foreign policy is even if I know the policy line of
GNP."

-------
COMMENT
-------

7. Somewhat fatalistically, most students believed that
the foreign policy of the candidates mattered only in those
areas in which the ROK itself could promote change, such as
in North Korea. However, with regard to the ROK's North
Korea policy, students were generally critical of
unconditional aid. This finding tracks other polls noting
the growing conservatism of ROK youth.

8. This report was drafted by Embassy intern Jee-hye Kim.


STANTON

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