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Cablegate: Presidential Candidate Chung Dong-Young Reaches

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #2189/01 2032224
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 222224Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5636
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2860
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2972
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA CC SEOUL KOR
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 2086
RHMFIUU/LCC SEOUL SEOUL KOR
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 002189

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

COMM CENTER PLEASE PASS TO COMUSKOREA SCJS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KN KS PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE CHUNG DONG-YOUNG REACHES
FOR THE MOON


1. (SBU) Summary: Former Unification Minister and Uri Party
chair Chung Dong-young was the guest of honor on July 11 at
the 170th Symposium on Korea's Foreign and Security Policy
hosted by the Asia-Pacific Policy Research Institute (APPRI).
Chung began his speech by criticizing not only his
competition in the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) but
also in the liberal camp. He claimed his experience in the
media and abroad gave him enough leverage to win in a
one-on-one standoff with any of the presidential candidates.
Chung then gave a lengthy speech highlighting his policy
agenda and answered questions posed by a panel of prominent
members in South Korean academia and media. The most popular
subject of the night was Chung's proposal to go "beyond the
peninsula and stretch out to the universe" by expanding South
Korea's aerospace industry and putting a South Korean on the
moon by 2025. This policy purportedly doubles as a way for
the ROK to strengthen its economy by providing much-needed
jobs, and to craft a reputation as a leader in science and
technology. The real meat of his policy agenda, however, is
firmly centered around his continuation of the "Sunshine
Policy" of engaging North Korea through dialogue and aid.
END SUMMARY.

--------------------------
FIGHTING STEEP COMPETITION
--------------------------

2. (SBU) Chung opened his address to a diverse audience of
media, academic, business, and foreign embassy officials by
unabashedly criticizing his competition in the upcoming
presidential election, focusing primarily on current overall
front-runner former Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak, who holds
about 35.2-40 percent popular support, and current liberal
front-runner former Gyeonggi Province governor Sohn Hak-kyu,
with 7.3-7.6 percent (Chung himself has 2.8-3.3 percent
support, according to Donga Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo polls
conducted on July 14). Chung claimed that the 21st century
does not require leaders who dig canals or make underhanded
political maneuvers, referring to Lee's Pan-Korea Grand
Waterway pledge and Sohn's jump from the GNP to the liberal
camp, respectively. He also expressed his displeasure with
the GNP candidates' current popularity ratings of roughly 70
percent combined, towering over the liberals', which stand
collectively at around 20 percent. Chung blames what he
dubbed "this unnatural phenomenon" to the current
administration's failure to unite the party and embrace
market-opening measures, surmising that the public is so
frustrated it had no choice but to support the opposition.
He was confident, however, that in a one-on-one stand-off
with any GNP candidate, he would win.

--------------------------------------
POLITICS OF MODERATION FAIL TO IMPRESS
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Chung asserted that the 21st century requires a
leader who can accomplish three goals: (1) solidify a strong
middle class; (2) foster the growth of small to medium-sized
companies and; (3) exhibit the capability to unify its
constituency through the "politics of moderation," or in
other words, establishing a moderate policy platform. Chung
explained that the average Korean's dream is to be in the
middle-class, and pledged to increase South Korea's middle
clas to 70 percent of the population (from 50 percent). One
of the ways to do this, he said, was to establish an order of
mutual growth and fair trade between the large companies and
small to medium-sized companies, with the government playing
an active role in the process. The expansion of small to
medium-sized companies, he said, would create "quality" jobs
as well, guaranteeing a decrease in unemployment and
generally aiding the country's welfare.

4. (SBU) In response to a question regarding his view on free
trade agreements (FTA), Chung claimed the ROK could only
expect to survive in the future by internally strengthening
the welfare system and externally expanding FTAs. He
commented further that it was essential for the ROK to
complete an FTA with the U.S. and Japan within the next four

to five years, and that the expansion of the ROK's free
market economy would work towards all three of his
aforementioned goals. The panelists, a collection of
academics and media representatives, however, criticized
these goals after Chung's speech for being replicas of
President Roh Moo-hyun and former president Kim Dae-jung's
own campaign pledges.

--------------------
TARGET: THE UNIVERSE
--------------------

5. (SBU) Chung, probably in a move to counter Lee Myung-bak
and Park Geun-hye's canal and ferry initiatives, introduced
his own plan to "catch up with Japan while keeping China at a
distance," by expanding South Korea's aerospace industry. He
claimed that in the 21st century, the country that controls
the air will be the one with power, and specifically pointed
to China and Japan's own space programs as opportunities for
the ROK to escape what he called its "sandwich mentality."
Chung's proposed plan, the "2025 Dream-Space Project," aims
to put a Korean on the moon by 2025, which he claims will
enable the ROK to be a formidable leader in a science and
technology society. Chung stated that the plan would also
help to revitalize the South Korean economy by creating
much-needed jobs. While the plan generally received a
favorable reception from the audience and panelists, one
panelist, after conceding that the plan was "better" than the
other candidates' initiatives, expressed skepticism at
Chung's ability to
convince the public of its necessity.

---------------------
NORTH KOREA POINT-MAN
---------------------

6. (SBU) During his speech, Chung highlighted his academic
and work history abroad as proof that he was the most
qualified presidential candidate when it came to foreign
policy issues. His main focus was on his experience in
dealing with North Korea during his tenure as Unification
Minister from 2004-2005. He expressed his hope that everyone
would visit one of ROK's "most important inter-Korean
projects," the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a project that he
facilitated as Unification Minister. Chung underscored his
experience with North Korea by attributing the September 2005
Joint Statement as a direct result of his own meeting with
Kim Jong-Il several months prior for which Chung traveled to
Pyongyang and engaged in a 5-hour meeting with North Korean
leader Kim Jong-Il. Despite the current prevailing sentiment
that North Korea's October 2006 nuclear test rendered the
agreement a failure, Chung claimed that history would
"vindicate" his agreement as a "Little Magna Carta" from
which all future inter-Korean policies would stem.

7. (SBU) Chung was a harsh critic of both the current
administration's and opposition candidates' North Korea
policies; he claimed it was a mistake of the Roh
administration to link North-South relations to progress in
the Six Party Talks, and an even bigger mistake for the GNP
to take a hard-line stance against the North. At several
junctures in his speech, Chung said that he welcomed the
GNP's recent change in attitude towards North Korea--a much
softer policy announced on July 4 that focuses on economic
support for the North with a long-term goal of
unification--but immediately questioned the party's motives,
denouncing the GNP as too "short-term" in its vision for the
future, and as politically motivated. Chung then discounted
the possibility of a GNP president being capable of making
significant headway in inter-Korean relations or North Korean
denuclearization.

8. (SBU) Chung put himself forth as the candidate most
capable of handling inter-Korean relations and keeping
hard-liners--not just in the opposition party but also, he
claimed, those in Japan, China, U.S., and the South Korean
public--at a distance. Chung's strongest policy agenda has
always been his North Korea policy, in which he advocated an

engagement-first approach towards the North, claiming that it
is only through dialogue and strengthened relations that
North Korean denuclearization can occur. Chung made an
appeal for reunification by asserting that Korea's only hope
for future energy security is through integration on the
peninsula. Dismissing skeptics in the audience who feared he
was supporting a "hasty" reunification, Chung emphasized that
as President he would make sure North Korea established
formal diplomatic ties with the U.S. and built a
fully-functioning inter-Korean economy by 2020 in order to
ensure a successful unification of the peninsula.

5. (SBU) During the question and answer session, an audience
member posed the question, "While a peace regime would of
course be welcome, how could you handle a regional or global
arms race?" Chung asserted that he believed close and
continued dialogue in this case would be the most effective
method, and supported the use of either a four-party or
six-party approach as a regional security system, even in the
case of complete North Korean denuclearization.

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

9. (SBU) Chung's 2025 Dream-Space Project is likely to be a
well-publicized fixture in his campaign, but does not appear
to be more than a publicity stunt to challenge his
competition. Chung's real ambition is to become the president
who spearheads unification on the Korean peninsula. His
other campaign promises, however, may sound too similar to
those of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun to an increasingly
jaded public. Thus, unable to distinguish himself from the
current administration, nor able to get much help from them,
Chung is likely to flounder in the polls and unlikely to beat
out his competition in the liberal camp in securing a win on
its ticket. It is probable, however, that he could remain
politically active by throwing his support behind the chosen
center-left candidate, and in the case of a liberal victory
could become an influential player on future North Korean
policy. END COMMENT.
STANTON

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