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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; September 23, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SEOUL 001512

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; September 23, 2009

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

Chosun Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, Hankyoreh Shinmun,
Segye Ilbo, All TVs
Three Public Workers Unions Vote to Merge into Single Group and Join
Militant Umbrella Labor Organization

JoongAng Ilbo
KAIST Keeps Top Spot in University Rankings for 2009; Korea
University, Kyung Hee University, and Hankook University of Foreign
Studies Move Up in Rankings

Dong-a Ilbo
Prosecutors Launch Investigations into Irregularities
at Conglomerates

Seoul Shinmun
Prime Minister Nominee: "I Have
No Intention of Running for Presidency"


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

President Lee Myung-bak, in a Sept. 21 luncheon jointly hosted by
the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, the Korea Society and the
Asia Society in New York, said that the North Korean economy has to
improve before the two Koreas can consider unification. He went on
to say: "Unification with North Korea is important, but it's more
important for the two Koreas to live in peace." (All)

According to a report by the Missile Defense Agency affiliated with
the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. has classified the ROK as
one of the "nations expressing interest in missile defense," a
situation that deserves attention with regard to the future
establishment of a missile defense shield in Northeast Asia.
(Dong-a, Hankook, Segye, Seoul, OhmyNews)


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

According to Japan's Kyodo News Agency, North Korean leader Kim
Jong-il told visiting Chinese Presidential Envoy Dai Bingguo on
Sept. 18 that he would prioritize talks with the U.S. to resolve the
North's nuclear issue. (JoongAng, Segye, Seoul)


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

-N. Korea
---------
Most newspapers noted Sept. 21 press remarks by State Department
Spokesman Ian Kelly, in which he said: "There are no plans to meet
with any officials from North Korea (at the UN General Assembly) up
in New York. There's been no decision on whether or not Ambassador
Bosworth will accept the (North's) invitation to visit (the
communist state.)"

Conservative Chosun Ilbo juxtaposed these remarks with North Korea's
continued failure to confirm a meeting between Ambassador Bosworth
and Kang Sok-ju, the North's First Vice Foreign Minister responsible
for Pyongyang's diplomatic affairs including the nuclear issue, if
Ambassador Bosworth visits Pyongyang. Chosun headlined its story:
"U.S., North Korea Wage 'War of Nerves' Ahead of Bilateral Talks."

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo, conservative Segye Ilbo and moderate
Seoul Shinmun replayed a Sept. 22 Kyodo News Agency report quoting
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as telling visiting Chinese
Presidential Envoy Dai Bingguo on Sept. 18 that he would prioritize
talks with the U.S. to resolve the North's nuclear issue.

SEOUL 00001512 002 OF 003

-UN Summit on Climate Change
----------------------------
Most ROK media carried reports quoting President Lee Myung-bak as
proposing at the UN Climate Summit in New York yesterday that the UN
should create a "registry" to encourage developing countries to join
efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and monitor their related
programs. According to media reports, President Lee made this
proposal to mediate differences between developed and emerging
economies over a future climate change strategy.

Newspapers carried the following headlines: "China, India Take
Forward-Looking Attitude on Climate Change to Pressure U.S.; Obama
Urges Efforts from Developing Countries, but Fails to Mention
Emissions Cut Target" (conservative Chosun Ilbo); "(Chinese
President) Hu Jintao Pledges to Curb Carbon Dioxide Emissions"
(right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo); and "Same Bed, Different Dreams:
U.S., China Pay 'Lip Service' without Presenting Concrete Numbers or
Alternatives." (moderate Hankook Ilbo)


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

OBAMA SHOULD SHOW CAPACITY, NOT CHARM
(Chosun Ilbo, September 23, 2009, page 35: Excerpts)

By Senior reporter Kang In-sun

U.S. President Barack Obama appeared on five TV programs on
September 20. It seems that he intends to explain health care
reforms and the Afghanistan issue directly to the public.

But some are raising concerns whether President Obama is trying to
tackle all issues only with his charm. According to a recent Gallup
poll, Obama still scored high in personal leadership. 66%
respondents said that Obama is a strong and resolute leader and 64%
said that he understands pending issues well. However, in response
to a question whether Obama runs the government effectively, 55%
answered affirmatively, which is an 11% drop from this May's 66%.

At present, the primary factors for determining the Obama
Administration's success or failure concern health care reforms at
home and the Afghanistan issue abroad. These issues are so
complicated that his personal charm or communication capability
alone will not work.

His predecessors, including Roosevelt, Truman, Nixon, Carter, and
Clinton, wanted to deliver on health care reforms but failed.
Experts believe that the concept of government-controlled health
care system is not popular in the U.S. where the welfare system is
considered the weakest among the developed western countries.

The Afghanistan issue is more challenging. Despite Obama's strong
popularity in the international community, the U.S. is increasingly
bearing the sole burden. Even former President George W. Bush
shared the burden with the international society even though he was
criticized for the Iraq war. However, President Obama is only
receiving support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
in sending additional troops to Afghanistan. A commander in
Afghanistan has already warned that the Afghan mission will fail
without additional military presence.

It is said that a president's popularity is like vegetables which
wither even if they are well-stored. People may begin to feel tired
of Obama's low-tone voice. The international community as well as
the U.S. may want to say to President Obama, "Show us your
capability, not your charm."


PRECONDITION FOR PRESIDENT LEE'S "GRAND BARGAIN" IS RESTORATION OF
TRUST WITH N. KOREA
(Hankook Ilbo, September 23, 2009, Page 39)


SEOUL 00001512 003 OF 003


President Lee Myung-bak, who is visiting the U.S., has offered a
"grand bargain" on the North Korean nuclear issue during his speech
at a luncheon hosted by three organizations, including the Council
on Foreign Relations. Under the proposal, North Korea will be asked
to dismantle the core parts of its nuclear program in exchange for
security assurances and international economic aid. From a broad
perspective, this proposal is in line with President Lee's "Vision
3000: Denuclearization and Openness Plan," but in the sense that the
"grand bargain" emphasizes the simultaneity of nuclear dismantlement
and compensation, it can be said to be a development from the
previous policy, which stressed, "Compensation should come only
after nuclear dismantlement."

Although the opposition Democratic Party criticizes the proposal,
describing it as no progress or even retreat from "Vision 3000:
Denuclearization and Openness Plan," that is not necessarily true.
The Democratic Party and liberals need to remember that former
President Kim Dae-jung also strongly advocated a grand bargain on
the nuclear issue. Since the step-by-step approach toward the
nuclear issue took so long and alternated between progress, retreat,
and delay, it has failed to prevent North Korea from bolstering its
nuclear arsenal. This is why former President Kim also supported
the resolution of the nuclear issue through a grand bargain, and
President Lee's proposal is based on the same understanding.

The grand bargain, however, would be meaningless unless Pyongyang
reacts positively. Basically, a swap between nuclear dismantlement,
and security assurances and economic aid has asymmetry
disadvantageous to North Korea. Once the North Korean nuclear
program is dismantled, it is very difficult to restore it to its
original state, but its corresponding rewards are always possible to
withdraw. Therefore, in order to realize the grand bargain, we
should convince the North that it will not be betrayed after
dismantling its nuclear programs.

President Lee's proposal for the grand bargain can be seen as
expressing his intention to stop sitting on the sideline and take a
leadership role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. The
schedule of his visit to the U.S. is said to be part of the process
of taking such leadership. Still, if this is not accompanied by
efforts to restore and deepen trust with North Korea through the
improvement of inter-Korean relations, President Lee's initiative
could end up being an empty rhetoric. The answer is already out
there; it is a virtuous cycle of improvement in inter-Korean ties
and the resolution of the nuclear issue, which the ROKG has also
emphasized.


STEPHENS

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