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Cablegate: Press Bulletin - December 30, 2008

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL MARR ECON KS US
SUBJECT: PRESS BULLETIN - December 30, 2008

Opinions/Editorials

1. "Breaking the Cycle"
(JoongAng Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Page 30)
2. "Massive Israeli Assault on Palestinians"
(Hankook Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Page 39)
3. "Israel Is Launching Indiscriminate Attacks for What?" (Hankyoreh
Shinmun, December 30, 2008, Page 27)


Features

4. Kim Jong-il's Leadership "Stable"
(Chosun Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Page 2)
5. Seoul Could Buy Release of S. Koreans in North
(Chosun Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Front Page)

Top Headlines

Chosun Ilbo
National Assembly Speaker Calls for "More Dialogue,"
with No Progress Made in Negotiations between Rival Parties
over Disputed Bills

JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, All TVs
Prosecutors Find an IOU Indicating That Former President Roh
Moo-hyun Borrowed 1.5 Billion Won from Taekwang Industrial Chairman
Park Yeon-cha, Who Has Been Indicted for Corruption

Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
National Assembly Speaker Proposes: "Bills to Support People's
Livelihood Should Be Passed This Year and
Contentious Bills Next Year"

Hankyoreh Shinmun
Justice Ministry Seeks to Enhance Prosecutors' Functions to Maintain
Public Peace and Order


Domestic Developments

1. The Unification Ministry, in a Dec. 31 New Year's policy briefing
to President Lee Myung-bak, will unveil its plan to provide North
Korea with cash and materials in return for the release of ROK
abductees and prisoners of war (POWs) still held in North Korea.
(Chosun)

2. Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong, meanwhile, in a Dec. 29
luncheon meeting with reporters, said that North Korea's leadership
is stable and that everything in North Korea is working normally.
(Chosun)

3. The Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS),
affiliated with the Foreign Ministry, predicted in a Dec. 29 report
that inter-Korean dialogue would likely resume in the second half of
next year. The IFANS also expect the ROK's troop deployment to
Afghanistan and ratification of the KORUS FTA to be bones of
contention between the ROK and the U.S. (Chosun)


International News

1. According to a recent report by the Center for the Study of
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) at the U.S. National Defense
University, Washington and Seoul are working on a measure to remove
North Korea's WMD by force, unless the North gives up its WMD.
(Hankook)


Media Analysis

Israel's Assault on Gaza
The Israeli actions in and around the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip
continue to receive wide coverage. The ROK media reported that
Israeli warplanes bombed 300 Hamas military facilities and security
compounds in the region yesterday, allegedly killing at least 310
Palestinians and injuring 1,400. The reports assess that the
strikes are aimed at incapacitating the symbols of Hamas power.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was widely quoted as declaring
on Dec. 29: "Israel will expand its military operation in Gaza until
all its goals are achieved. The operation will be 'all-out war.'"

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo editorialized: "Israel describes its
strikes as retaliation for Hamas's continued rocket fire into
southern Israel despite its repeated calls to stop. Even if that is
the case, retaliating for rocket fire with air strikes is like
responding to a slingshot with a cannon. Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert, with legislative elections coming up in February next
year, seems to be trying to clear away the roots of Hamas through
these attacks. He might reason that as long as Hamas remains, there
is no chance to achieve peace in the region. However, Prime
Minister Olmert must understand that the Israel-imposed economic
blockade, which threatens the lives of Gaza's 1.5 million residents,
strengthens support for Hamas. Israel's bombings cause rage and
resentment, and spread sympathy and support for Hamas across the
Middle East. Israel must abolish its policy of destruction in Gaza
and let humanitarian aid into the area. These moves will surely
weaken Hamas' power."

Moderate Hankook Ilbo's editorial, argued: "Israel blocked the Gaza
Strip, cutting the supply of living necessities to Palestinians in
order to pressure the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and to
check Hamas in Gaza. Accordingly, rocket fire by Hamas is nothing
more than the expression of its willingness to fight against Israel
and does not pose any great threat. Nevertheless, Israel launched
massive retaliatory attacks against Hamas, apparently to shake off
the disgrace it suffered in the fight against Hezbollah in southern
Lebanon in 2006 and to demonstrate its power to neighboring hostile
forces."

Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun stated in an editorial: "Israel does
not hide its intentions to remove Hamas. Its aim is to lay the
groundwork for dealing with the moderate Fatah, instead of Hamas,
expecting that the Middle East peace negotiations will resume with
the launch of the Palestine-friendly Barack Obama Administration.
Israel also seems to calculate Hamas will refuse to concede,
escalating the conflict and helping win the Obama Administration to
its side. Israel's general elections next year also play a role.
In short, Israel is gambling for political gains, taking the lives
of innocent Palestinians hostage."

North Korea
Conservative Chosun Ilbo reported on its front page that the
Unification Ministry is working on a plan to bring back ROK citizens
abducted by North Korea and prisoners of war still held there, based
on West Germany's policy of giving the East cash and materials in
return for the release of political prisoners. The report went on
to say that the Ministry will make the announcement in a New Year's
policy briefing to President Lee Myung-bak on Dec. 31. The Chosun
also quoted Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong from a Dec. 29
luncheon meeting with reporters, stating that North Korea's
leadership is stable and that North Korea is working normally.

Moderate Hankook Ilbo gave play to a recent report by the Center for
the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) at the U.S. National
Defense University, which said that Washington and Seoul are working
on measures to remove North Korea's WMD by force, unless the North
gives up its WMD.


Opinions/Editorials

"Breaking the Cycle"
(JoongAng Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Page 30)

"Israel describes its strikes as retaliation for Hamas's continued
rocket fire into southern Israel despite its repeated calls to stop.
Even so, retaliating for rocket fire with air strikes is like
responding to a slingshot with a cannon. Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert, with legislative elections coming up in February next
year, seems to be trying to clear away the roots of Hamas through
these attacks. He might reason that as long as Hamas remains, there
is no chance to achieve peace in the region. However, Prime
Minister Olmert must understand that the Israel-imposed economic
blockade, which threatens the lives of Gaza's 1.5 million residents,
strengthens support for Hamas. Israel's bombings cause rage and
resentment, and spread sympathy and support for Hamas across the
Middle East. Israel must abolish its policy of destruction in Gaza
and let humanitarian aid into the area. These moves surely would
weaken Hamas' power."


"Massive Israeli Assault on Palestinians"
(Hankook Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Page 39)

"Israel blocked the Gaza Strip, cutting the supply of living
necessities to Palestinians in order to pressure the West Bank-based
government, the Palestinian Authority, and to check Hamas which
controls Gaza. Accordingly, rocket fire by Hamas is nothing more
than the expression of its willingness to fight against Israel and
does not pose any great threat. Nevertheless, Israel launched
massive retaliatory attacks against Hamas, apparently to shake off
its disgrace suffered in the fight against Hezbollah guerrillas in
southern Lebanon in 2006 and to demonstrate its power to neighboring
hostile forces."


"Israel Is Launching Indiscriminate Attacks for What?"
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, December 30, 2008, Page 27)

"Israel does not hide its intention to remove Hamas. Its aim is to
lay the groundwork for dealing with the moderate Fatah instead,
expecting that Middle East peace negotiations will resume with the
launch of the "Palestine-friendly" (sic) Barack Obama
Administration. Israel also seems to calculate Hamas will refuse to
concede, escalating the conflict and helping win the Obama
Administration to its side. Israel's general elections next year
also play a role. In short, Israel is gambling for political gains,
taking the lives of innocent Palestinians hostage."


Features

Kim Jong-il's Leadership "Stable"
(Chosun Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Page 2)

By Reporter Ahn Yong-hyun

Unification Minister Kim Ha-joong on Monday said that the North
Korean leadership seems "stable." He based his opinion on a flurry
of official North Korean reports showing ailing leader Kim Jong-il
inspecting various sites.

The Unification Minister made the remarks at a luncheon meeting with
reporters on the Ministry beat, citing North Korean media reports
that Kim Jong-il has engaged in public activities on 22 occasions
since Oct. 4. "We should conclude that everything is normal in
North Korea," he added.

"In the new year, North Korea will understand our sincerity and come
to the dialogue table," the minister predicted. "We'll keep calling
for dialogue, no matter how much North Korea accuses us." He said
that, while some experts believed the hardline North Korean military
was behind the North's recent saber-rattling, "Others say that the
military is not involved in external affairs yet."

The minister said the government will continue to ask domestic
activists to refrain from releasing anti-Communist leaflets into the
North.

* This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.


Seoul Could Buy Release of S. Koreans in North
(Chosun Ilbo, December 30, 2008, Front Page)

By Reporter Ahn Yong-hyun

Seoul is to develop a plan to bring back South Koreans abducted by
North Korea and prisoners of war still languishing there. The
scheme will be modeled on the former West Germany's policy of giving
cash and materials to the East in return for the prisoner releases.
The Unification Ministry is to make the announcement in a New Year's
policy briefing at Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday.
The Ministry also will lay out plans to supply daily necessities to
help improve the quality of North Korean life in addition to food
and fertilizer aid to the North.

A presidential official said, "Including the families of the
abduction victims and POWs in reunion events for separated families
is not a basic solution. We've asked the Unification Ministry to
come up with a way to make some progress on this issue after
studying the German case."

Some 490 South Korean abduction victims and about 560 POWs are
believed by the ROK government to be still alive in the North. The
North denies their existence.

From 1963 to 1989, the West German government brought about 34,000
East German political prisoners to the West in return for 3.44
billion Deutschmarks (about W1.7 trillion, US$1=W1,279). At first,
Bonn gave cash but gradually replaced it with crude oil, copper, and
coffee. Regarding humanitarian aid to the North, an intelligence
agency official noted, "North Korea is in desperate need of daily
necessities, such as sanitary napkins and soap. If we provide such
goods, it will be well-received by North Korean residents."

The ministry apparently plans to use various contact channels with
the North to resume talks. If that happens, the government is
expected to expand inter-Korean economic cooperation, including a
gas pipeline from Russia. During the policy briefing, the ministry
also reportedly said that it will strengthen its efforts to persuade
people in order to prevent "internal conflicts in the South" over
Seoul's North Korea policy from intensifying.

* We have compared the English version on the website with the
Korean version and added some sentences to make them identical.


Stephens
1

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