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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; August 17, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 SEOUL 001316

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; August 17, 2009

TOP HEADLINES
-------------


Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, All TVs
Hyundai Chairwoman Meets Kim Jong-il

Hankook Ilbo, Hankyoreh Shinmun, Seoul Shinmun
"New Flu" Claims Lives of Two Koreans


DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
----------------------

President Lee Myung-bak, in an August 15 speech to mark the 64th
anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese rule, proposed
inter-Korean talks to reduce conventional arms and to build an
economic community across the border. The president also stated that
Seoul will pursue a "new peace initiative" if the North shows a
resolve to denuclearize. (All)

According to the North Korean media, Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun
Jung-eun finally met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il yesterday,
after extending her stay in North Korea five times. (All)

North Korea, in an August 15 statement, denounced the ROK-U.S.
"Ulchi Freedom Guardian" military exercise, which is slated to run
from today through August 27, as a "maneuver for a nuclear war" and
warned it will react with "merciless retaliation." (All)

ROK health authorities yesterday confirmed the deaths of a
63-year-old woman and a man in his 50s from influenza A (H1N1) over
the weekend, marking the first deaths in the country from the new
epidemic that has killed almost 1,500 people worldwide since its
outbreak in May. (All)


INTERNATIONAL NEWS
-------------------

According to a source knowledgeable about North Korea-China
relations, the Chief Chinese Delegate to the Six-Party Talks, Wu
Dawei, will visit North Korea today to discuss the North Korean
nuclear issue. He is the first high-ranking Chinese official to
visit North Korea since the North's long-range rocket launch in
April and its second nuclear test in May. (Hankyoreh)


MEDIA ANALYSIS
--------------

-N. Korea
----------
President Lee Myung-bak's August 15 speech to mark the 64th
anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese rule received wide
press attention. The ROK media reported that President Lee proposed
inter-Korean talks to reduce conventional arms and to build an
economic community across the border. The president was further
quoted as saying: "Seoul will pursue a 'new peace initiative' if the
North shows a resolve to denuclearize."

Conservative Chosun Ilbo, in an inside-page report entitled "Relaxed
ROK, U.S. Policies toward North Korea," noted this proposal by
President Lee and August 14 press remarks by Philip Crowley,
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs - in which he said
the U.S. is willing to halt sanctions and resume dialogue with North
Korea if there is a "political commitment" by the North to meet its
obligations and to join in a dialogue - to argue that Seoul and
Washington seem to be retreating from their demand that North Korea
take substantial action to dismantle its nuclear program as
conditions for resumed talks and aid. The Chosun report portrayed
these ROK and U.S. moves as "preparatory steps" toward dialogue with
North Korea.

SEOUL 00001316 002 OF 006

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo editorialized: "President Lee's 'New
Peace Initiative for the Korean Peninsula' offers methods for
guaranteeing North Korea's existence and prosperity. ... The U.S.
has also proposed a comprehensive package guaranteeing the existence
of the North Korean regime and promising extensive economic aid on
the condition that the North abandons its nuclear program. This is
a rare opportunity for Pyongyang. North Korea is hoping to hold
talks with the U.S. through various channels, after freeing two
American journalists and an employee held in the Kaesong Industrial
Complex. However, the North, for its own sake, should come out with
a strong and clear message that it will discard its nuclear
ambitions and return to the Six-Party Talks."

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jung-eun's August 16 meeting with
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il - after extending her stay in North
Korea five times - also captured the attention of the ROK media.

The specific content of what the two discussed is not known, but
according to reports this morning by all TV networks, citing a joint
press release from Hyundai Group and the North's Korea Asia-Pacific
Peace Committee, which handles inter-Korean business ties, North
Korea agreed to resume inter-Korean tourism projects, facilitate
operation of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, and resume
stalled reunions of separated families from the two Koreas in Mt.
Kumgang on the day of Chusok (harvest moon day).

Conservative Chosun Ilbo gave attention to North Korea's state-run
Korean Central Television's report that the Hyundai chairwoman
"presented a gift" to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during the
meeting, and speculated that she might have promised "humanitarian
aid" in return for the release of a Hyundai Asan employee, who was
freed last week after 136 days of detention.

-Two Koreans Die of Influenza A
-------------------------------
All ROK media reported on the deaths of a 63-year-old woman and a
man in his 50s from influenza A (H1N1) over the weekend, marking the
first deaths in the country from the new epidemic that has killed
almost 1,500 people worldwide since its outbreak in May.

Carrying the identical headlines, "Flu Fears Return," most
newspapers reported that there is a high chance that the number will
soar once the weather gets colder. Conservative Chosun Ilbo, in
particular, cited a local expert in infectious diseases as claiming
that the rapid spread of the virus in the southern hemisphere, where
it is winter now, was a preview of what lies in store for the
northern hemisphere this fall. According to the Chosun report, in
Argentina, 404 people have allegedly died from influenza A, the
second highest fatality rate after the U.S., where 477 people have
died. In Brazil, 339 people died from H1N1.


OPINIONS/EDITORIALS
-------------------

BALL IS IN NORTH KOREA'S COURT
(JoongAng Ilbo, August 17, 2009, page 42)

The government's "New Peace Initiative for the Korean Peninsula,"
outlined in a weekend address by President Lee Myung-bak on the 64th
anniversary of national liberation, offers methods for guaranteeing
North Korea's existence and prosperity.

In particular, it presents detailed steps for cooperation, such as
implementing new development projects and holding high-level talks
for the realization of ROK-North Korea economic ties.

Lee also proposed that the two sides talk about reducing
conventional weapons. If the North shows a willingness to discard
its nuclear weapons program, the president said, the ROK would
cooperate in various areas, including politically, economically and
in military affairs.


SEOUL 00001316 003 OF 006


The North, eager to obtain assistance, has threatened the
international community by building up its nuclear and missile
programs. Its economic development strategy relies on the concept
of rehabilitation on its own strength. However, the development of
its nuclear weapons program over the past two decades hasn't
succeeded in propping up the country. One need look no further than
the food crisis in the mid-1990s, when hundreds of thousands of
people died. The North still faces serious food issues,
particularly in the area of distribution.

In conclusion, unless North Korea backs off from its confrontational
attitude against the international community, the country is headed
for catastrophic defeat.

In this vein, President Lee's stated hope that "the ROK and North
Korea will have a candid and frank dialogue about what it will take
for North Korea to give up nuclear weapons" attracts our attention.


The U.S. has also proposed a comprehensive package guaranteeing the
existence of the North Korean regime and promising extensive
economic assistance on the condition that the North abandons its
nuclear weapons program. This is a rare opportunity for Pyongyang.


North Korea is hoping to hold talks with the U.S. through various
channels, after freeing two American journalists and an employee
held in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

However, the North, for its own sake, should come out with a strong
and clear message that it will discard its nuclear ambitions and
return to the Six-Party Talks.

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


LEE ADMINISTRATION'S NORTH KOREA STANCE KEEPS ROK ON SIDELINES
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, August 17, 2009, page 27)

Following former U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to North Korea
earlier this month, nations concerned with the Korean Peninsula have
been moving quickly. It seems as though attempts to form a new
framework for negotiation are beginning in earnest. Despite these
efforts, the ROKG is bringing isolation onto itself by sticking to a
hardline North Korea policy that is already clearly known to be
unrealistic.

It has been said that Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, chief Chinese
negotiator for the Six-Party Talks with North Korea, will be
arriving in North Korea today. It appears that China, as the
host-nation of the Six-Party Talks, is stepping up efforts to create
an atmosphere to restart the talks. Moreover, two days ago, the
U.S. State Department stated that in terms of conditions for a
dialogue with North Korea, all that would be needed would be a
political promise from North Korea to respect its duty to
denuclearize and participate in the dialogue. This statement takes
one step back from the existing U.S. position of demanding concrete
denuclearization measures from the North Korean government. Every
other Six-Party Talk nation is busy coordinating views on the
methods to restart the Talks and North Korea-U.S. dialogue.

Our government's attitude, however, does not demonstrate either the
presence of mind or the will to lead in matters pertaining to the
Korean Peninsula. In his address to commemorate Independence Day
two days ago, President Lee Myung-bak explained his North Korea
policy, which is just more of the same Vision 3000 policy. He also
failed to make an offer to which the North Korean government would
be able to respond, including (failing to express the) will to carry
out the October 4 Summit Declaration and the June 15 Joint
Declarations. Indeed, the Lee Government is maintaining its
existing goal of "denuclearization first," although the appropriate
approach would be to advance denuclearization by supporting
inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation, and actualizing plans to

SEOUL 00001316 004 OF 006


advance peace. Lee's new demand for North Korea's reductions in
conventional arms at this time, when even basic trust is lacking, is
nothing but an empty verbal offensive.

Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, who left for Pyongyang on
Aug 10 for a scheduled three-day, two-night trip, extended her visit
four times. Meanwhile, things grew so entangled due to the fact
that our government has been waiting and holding out its hand for
unilateral North Korean surrender despite its advocacy for
pragmatism. As long as inter-Korean economic cooperation is unable
to operate apart from inter-Korean relations as a whole, private
companies cannot guarantee the safety and continuation of
inter-Korean economic cooperation on their own.

The ROKG is far behind international efforts to resolve the nuclear
issue. In inter-Korean relations, too, the contradictions of the
existing policy grow more profound as time passes. At this rate,
even if full-scale nuclear talks begin, the ROK will simply stay on
the sidelines. It is time for the Lee Administration to have a deep
awakening and to create change in its understanding of North Korea
policy.

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


ROK AS WORLD'S TENTH ECONOMIC POWER VS. NORTH KOREA AS LAND OF
DESPAIR
(Dong-a Ilbo, August 17, 2009, page 31: EXCERPTS)

In an August 15 speech commemorating the ROK's Independence Day,
President Lee Myung-bak stated that it will pursue a "new peace
initiative" for the Korean Peninsula. Under the Initiative, Seoul
will provide comprehensive support to North Korea in cooperation
with the international community if the North abandons its nuclear
program. This matches the basic principles of the Vision 3000
policy and the U.S.-proposed comprehensive package. The five
development projects for North Korea is a framework that goes beyond
giving mere support, but calls for overall cooperation in the
economy, education, finance, infrastructure and living quality, to
lay the groundwork for the North to sustain itself.

President Lee's proposal is noteworthy in that it is the first time
that an ROK president made a suggestion to hold high-level talks
aimed at reducing conventional arms and building an economic
community. However, the ROKG needs to pay attention to the opinion
that the reduction of conventional arms is not feasible due to a
lack of mutual trust between the ROK and North Korea. North Korea
had once insisted that Seoul and Pyongyang reduce their military by
100,000 troops. The reduction of conventional troops is a delicate
issue that should be pursued along with neighboring Northeast Asian
countries such as China and Japan.

The international community has tried in vain to resolve the North
Korean nuclear issue through dialogue for the past 10 years.
However, North Korea's schemes and brinkmanship tactics will no
longer pay off. The ROK, the U.S., Japan and even China have joined
in enforcing the UN Security Council's sanctions against North
Korea, which were imposed due to Pyongyang's second nuclear test and
missile launches.

The only way for North Korea to maintain its regime and save the
lives of its citizens is to discard its nuclear ambitions and revive
its economy by grasping the outstretched hands of its brethren and
the international community. The North is only bent on holding
direct talks with the U.S. but the Obama Administration reaffirms
that the U.S. intends to resume talks and give aid on the
precondition that Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions. The
U.S.-ROK alliance is solid enough to block North Korea's attempt to
talk with only the U.S. while bypassing the ROK. We expect that
North Korea will respond proactively to the ROKG's proposal aimed at
resuming inter-Korean talks and ensuring peace.

SEOUL 00001316 005 OF 006


FEATURES
--------

DIPLOMATIC SOURCE: "WHILE CONTINUING PRESSURE ON NORTH KOREA, THE
U.S. IS SEARCHING FOR NORTH KOREAN ENTITIES SUBJECT TO SANCTIONS"
(Dong-a Ilbo, August 15, 2009, Page 6)

By Washington Correspondent Ha Tae-won

The U.S. interagency team on North Korea sanctions will visit the
ROK, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore next week.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg stood on a platform at a State Department
briefing room on the afternoon of August 13 and made clear the
reasons why he took the platform. Goldberg, who leads a U.S.
interagency task force (involving the Departments of State, Defense,
and Treasury, the White House, and the National Security Council)
which was established to take full charge of sanctions on North
Korea for its nuclear and missile activities, has been carrying out
very noticeable activities since North Korea's second nuclear test
on May 25.

"Our overall goal is to achieve denuclearization of North Korea
through irreversible steps and to implement UN Security Council
Resolutions 1874 and 1718," he said, adding that to achieve this, he
and his team will be going to Singapore first early next week, then
Bangkok, Seoul, and then Tokyo.

The announcement is indicative of Washington's clear determination
to continue its pressure on the North after the USG, separately from
the UN Security Council Resolutions, imposed three independent
sanctions against North Korean entities, including the Treasury
Department's August 11 designation of Kwangson Banking Corp. as an
additional entity subject to financial sanctions. A diplomatic
source noted, "The U.S. is still looking for North Korean entities
which are subject to sanctions, and Washington has shown its clear
willingness to ferret out any activities related to nuclear and
missile programs."

Ambassador Goldberg also unveiled a plan to visit China, which holds
the key to the success of sanctions against North Korea. He said,
"We have agreed on a follow-up trip to China (after the U.S.' North
Korea sanctions team's visit to China in early July) with our
Chinese colleagues. We are still working on dates. It could happen
as early as later this month." Right after North Korea's nuclear
test, the team visited China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Russia, and
created a network of sanctions against the North through
consultations with European countries in Washington and at the UN
headquarters in New York.

Through his upcoming visit to the ROK, Japan, Thailand, and
Singapore, Ambassador Goldberg intends to have an opportunity to
look at each nation's implementation of sanctions and to share
information on the North's illegal activities. Ambassador Goldberg
mentioned, "Singapore and Thailand are key members of ASEAN.
Thailand, at the moment, holds the presidency of the organization.
And both countries are important maritime countries, as well as
commercial and financial centers," indicating that substantial
financial sanctions on the North and ways to inspect its sea cargos
will be high on the agenda.

He added, "In all of these countries, we will share thoughts, ideas,
and our impressions on inspections of air, sea, and land cargo. We
will review the financial provisions of the resolutions, and we will
share information when possible on specific cases."

While explaining the outcome of his previous visit to Asian nations
and Russia to discuss the implementation of sanctions against North
Korea, Ambassador Goldberg remarked, "When we visited other
countries, they were very interested in U.S. advisories, and they
sent advisories around to their banks."

(Editor's Note: The same story was also carried by Chosun Ilbo in
its Saturday edition. The article reports: "Ambassador Goldberg's

SEOUL 00001316 006 OF 006


announcement drew attention, especially given its timing and format.
Ambassador Goldberg held the briefing shortly after an ROK employee
at the Kaesong Industrial Complex was freed, following the release
of the Current TV journalists, who had been detained in the North
since March. Before this briefing, Ambassador Goldberg's overseas
activities were made public only through statements by the State
Department spokesman, but on August 13, Ambassador Goldberg himself
held the public briefing. The briefing on that day was designed to
prevent rosy prospects for U.S.-North Korea relations after the two
'hostage cases' were closed. He said during the briefing, 'There is
a clear path for North Korea if they want to rejoin the
denuclearization process. Otherwise, these measures will continue.'
Furthermore, by announcing a plan to visit China at the end of this
month, he stressed that there is no problem in U.S.-China
cooperation on sanctions against the North.")


RELAXED ROK, U.S. POLICIES TOWARD NORTH KOREA
(Chosun Ilbo, August 17, 2009, page 3)

By Reporter Lim Min-hyuk

We are focusing our attention on why the ROK and the U.S. are making
remarks to North Korea that call for relaxed conditions for resumed
talks and aid. Few disagree that international sanctions against
North Korea will remain in place. But a delicate change in
positions of the ROK and the U.S. can be interpreted as "preparatory
steps" toward dialogue with North Korea.

In an August 15 speech to mark the 64th anniversary of Korea's
liberation from Japanese rule, President Lee Myung-bak stated that
Seoul will pursue a "new peace initiative" if the North shows a
resolve to denuclearize. It seems that Seoul and Washington are
retreating from their demand that North Korea take substantial
action, including making progress on the Six-Party Talks,
international cooperation, and nuclear dismantlement.

Previously, when questioned during an August 14 briefing on whether
it won't take too long for North Korea to take all (required)
specific actions for denuclearization, Philip Crowley, Assistant
Secretary of State for Public Affairs, said that this could be a
technically complicated process but does not need to be a long
process. Crowley added that the U.S. is willing to halt sanctions
and resume dialogue with North Korea if there is a "political
commitment" by the North to meet its obligations and to join in
dialogue. The U.S. has reiterated that it. is willing to hold
dialogue with North Korea within the framework of the Six-Party
Talks if the North takes concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear
program. But (now) the U.S. is calling for political commitment,
not (concrete) action.

Observers say that the U.S. and the ROK are in a position to give
themselves and North Korea room to maneuver, since the U.S. and
North have been making contact behind-the-scenes through the New
York channel and making moves toward dialogue. An ROKG official
said that there is an understanding that they need to use a more
flexible expression rather than putting too much emphasis on
"strictness." Another diplomatic source said that (the ROK and the
U.S.) should allow a realistically larger exit than the (current)
narrow exit to lure North Korea back into dialogue, while putting
pressure on the North with international sanctions. Against this
backdrop, some observers say that the U.S. will dispatch a
high-ranking delegation to the ROK, China and Japan in September to
engage in full consultation for talks with North Korea.

The ROK and the U.S. firmly share the view that North Korea's
commitment to denuclearization should not be pursued in a reversible
way. In the past, North Korea repeatedly promised to seek
denuclearization even by citing the teachings of the late Kim
Il-sung, but reversed its position later after receiving benefits.

TOKOLA

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