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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; November 2, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 SEOUL 001739

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; November 2, 2009

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

Chosun Ilbo
Glut of Unsold Apartments Weighs on Regional Economies

JoongAng Ilbo
Survey: ROK's Top 30 Conglomerates
See the Economy Recovering

Dong-a Ilbo
Building Science and Business Belt in Chungcheong Province Emerges
as Possible Alternative to Sejong City Plan

Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, All TVs
Feud Intensifies in Ruling Camp over Sejong City Plan

Hankyoreh Shinmun
Survey: 59 Percent of Respondents Favor
Revising Controversial Media Reform Bills

Seoul Shinmun
Spending on Basics Back to Pre-Crisis Levels


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

According to an ROKG source, the ROK and the U.S. have completed a
joint operation plan in case of emergencies in North Korea. Under
the so-called "Operational Plan (OPLAN) 5029,"most operations will
be led by the ROK army, but the U.S. military will be responsible
for removing nuclear facilities and weapons. (All)

The U.S. welcomed the ROKG's plan to reinforce its civilian
reconstruction team in Afghanistan and send an unspecified number of
troops to protect them. White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs was
quoted as saying in an Oct. 30 statement: "This is an important
contribution to the international effort in Afghanistan and to
fostering reconstruction and stability in the region." (Hankyoreh)


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

Ri Gun, Director General of American Affairs at North Korea's
Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Oct. 30 after attending a
seminar in New York that he had useful talks with U.S. officials.
(Dong-a, Hankyoreh)

On Oct. 30, the EU and Japan submitted to the UN a draft resolution
on human rights abuses in North Korea for review for the fifth
consecutive year. The ROK co-sponsored the resolution for the second
year running. (Chosun, Dong-a, Hankook, Segye)


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

-Aid for Afghanistan
--------------------
The ROKG's Oct. 30 announcement - that it will reinforce its
civilian reconstruction team in Afghanistan and send an unspecified
number of troops to protect them - received wide press coverage on
Saturday. According to media reports, the specifics of the
dispatch, including its size and location, will be determined after
a government fact-finding team completes its on-site investigation.

Most media predicted difficulties in the ROKG receiving
parliamentary approval for the dispatch because of possible
objections from opposition parties, including the main opposition
Democratic Party.


SEOUL 00001739 002 OF 007


White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs was quoted as saying in an Oct.
30 statement: "This is an important contribution to the
international effort in Afghanistan and to fostering reconstruction
and stability in the region."

Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized: "The troops and police
officers to be deployed this time are not combat forces. Other
countries have also sent military and police forces for protection
when they sent their PRT to help with the rebuilding work in
Afghanistan. Currently, there are 68,000 U.S. troops and 100,000
military forces from 40 countries in Afghanistan. With battles with
militants, such as the Taliban, becoming increasingly fierce,
however, they are not in a position to ensure the safety of the PRTs
from each country. It is essential that the ROK deploy troops to
protect its PRT."

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo editorialized: "It is not easy to
accept the ROKG's explanation as it is. There may be unofficial and
indirect requests from the U.S. The ROKG said that it decided to
deploy troops, considering its own national interests, but it will
be difficult for the government to provide a direct explanation to
the people (for the troop deployment) because the issue is likely to
be contentious. Still, the ROKG's stance is understandable. We
support the Lee Administration's decision to deploy troops to
Afghanistan. ... The ROKG must find the best way to minimize the
sacrifice while maximizing efficiency."

Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun argued in an editorial: "Whether the
goal is to protect civilian workers or to engage in combat, sending
troops to Afghanistan is madness, given the country's current state.
... For the Lee Administration to rush into a decision on its
military deployment at this point in time cannot be read as anything
but an attempt to curry favor with the U.S. prior to U.S. President
Barack Obama's upcoming visit to the ROK. Seeing the government
endangering young lives by redeploying forces even as the U.S.
itself remains undecided on additional deployments, one cannot help
asking who the Lee Administration really represents. The Lee
Administration should cancel plans for redeployment."

N. Korea
Conservative Dong-a Ilbo and left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun today
quoted Ri Gun, Director General of American Affairs at North Korea's
Foreign Ministry, as telling reporters on Oct. 30 after attending a
seminar in New York that he had useful talks with U.S. officials.


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

CONSENSUS BEFORE DISPATCH
(JoongAng Ilbo, October 31, 2009, Page 34)

The Lee Myung-bak Administration announced yesterday that it has
formulated a plan to send a group of civilians to Afghanistan to
support the provincial reconstruction team and troops. Where in
Afghanistan and how many will be sent has not yet been finalized.
The government is considering sending around 130 civilians and a
300-strong contingent of troops. Afghanistan is where 23
missionaries from Korea's Saemmul Church were kidnapped in 2007 by
the Taliban. Two were murdered. The captives - aside from the two
who were murdered - were released after 40 days. The government has
since withdrawn its Dasan and Dongui medical support military units
from Afghanistan. Two soldiers from the units died in action. The
government has decided to send troops again to this high-risk
region, and there's bound to be some controversy and debate until
the deployment receives approval of the National Assembly.

The reason for the deployment lies in the need to solidify the
Korea-U.S. alliance by supporting the United States' military
campaign in the war-torn nation. The government, however, said
Washington did not make any specific demand for troops and Seoul
made its own decision to send personnel based on its desire to raise
the country's position in the international community. It is not
easy to accept the ROKG's explanation as it is. There may be

SEOUL 00001739 003 OF 007


unofficial and indirect requests from the U.S. The ROKG said that
it decided to deploy troops, considering its own national interests,
but it will be difficult for the government to provide a direct
explanation to the people (for the troop deployment) because the
issue is likely to be contentious. Still, the ROKG's stance is
understandable. We support the Lee Administration's decision to
deploy troops to Afghanistan. We agree with the government's
explanation that Korea must make a contribution to the international
community that matches its national power. Above all, we believe
the deployment is necessary, taking into account the gains that
Korea will see from the reinforced alliance with the United States.

Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young said at the National
Assembly on October 29, "There could be inevitable hostilities and
casualties." It was right for the ROKG not to hide any of the
dangers of the troop dispatch. The ROKG should give more convincing
reasons why Seoul should send troops to Afghanistan despite its
associated dangers. Where the troops will be sent should be
carefully selected based on security. Casualties may be inevitable;
however the deployment is not being carried out to fight in combat
but to provide support for reconstruction. Therefore, the ROKG must
find the best way to minimize the sacrifice while maximizing
efficiency. Based on such efforts, the government must persuade the
people and send the troops after winning a consensus from the
nation.

(This is a translation provided by the newspaper. We compared the
English version on the website with the Korean version and added
some sentences in English to make them identical.)


LEE GOVERNMENT MUST CANCEL TROOP REDEPLOYMENT TO AFGHANISTAN
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, October 31, 2009, Page 23)

Yesterday the Lee Administration and ruling Grand National Party
(GNP) announced their plan for assistance in Afghanistan, which
involves a large-scale increase in Provincial Reconstruction Team
(PRT) personnel and the deployment of soldiers to protect them. The
reason they are giving is that the deployment of soldiers is
inevitable to protect civilian workers, but anyone can see that
redeployment of military forces is at the heart of the assistance
plan. An emphasis on sending PRT personnel is merely a smokescreen
to avoid criticism of the deployment of more than twice as many
military troops than civilian workers. In essence, the Lee
government is acknowledging that this is a deployment without
legitimacy or justification.

Whether the goal is to protect civilian workers or to engage in
combat, sending troops to Afghanistan is madness, given the
country's current state, and it must be stopped. Since the whole
region has now been transformed into a battlefield, it cannot be
said that the South Korean troops being sent to provide protection
for PRT workers will not experience combat. From the standpoint of
Afghanistan's rebel army, all foreign soldiers deployed to
Afghanistan are enemies who should be killed. Given that more than
50 U.S. troops died in October alone, there is a very strong chance
we will see casualties among the South Korean forces. Even Defense
Minister Kim Tae-young said in his response to the National Assembly
the day before yesterday, "There could be inevitable hostilities and
casualties."

Deployments and losses are acceptable as long as the public's
sympathy for the justification has been established. However, the
Lee government has been unable to produce any worthy justification
thus far. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan says that South Korea has
an obligation to contribute to the war on terror in order to become
a "global Korea," and, in support of this, he says that assistance
in Afghanistan is necessary in order to establish conditions for the
continued stable stationing of U.S. Forces in South Korea, but this
is utterly unconvincing. The war in Afghanistan has long since gone
beyond the level of the "war on terror" to become a full-scale war,
and the talk about conditions for stationing USFK appears to be
nothing more than a cheap ploy to legitimize deployment by provoking
citizens' anxieties about national security. If some of the USFK

SEOUL 00001739 004 OF 007


are transferred to Afghanistan, it would be in accordance with the
"strategic flexibility" agreement between South Korea and the U.S.
and has nothing to do with the issue of South Korean troop
deployments to Afghanistan, something that Yu Myung-hwan surely
knows better than anyone.

For the Lee Administration to rush into a decision on its military
deployment at this point in time cannot be read as anything but an
attempt to curry favor with the U.S. prior to U.S. President Barack
Obama's upcoming visit to the ROK. Seeing the government
endangering young lives by redeploying forces even as the U.S.
itself remains undecided on additional deployments, one cannot help
asking who the Lee Administration really represents. The Lee
Administration should cancel plans for redeployment.

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


TIME FOR DIALOGUE NOT OPLAN 5029
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, November 2, 2009, Page 27)

OPLAN 5029, the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command operational
plan that serves as a blueprint for dealing with a "sudden change"
in North Korea's political situation, is once again becoming the
topic of controversy. Yesterday, the Yonhap News reported a
high-ranking source in the government as saying that the plan's
draft is based on five or six scenarios of upheaval in North Korea,
including the outflow of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass
destruction (WMD), a civil war resulting from a regime change or
coup d'etat, a South Korean hostage incident within North Korea, a
large-scale defection of North Korean residents, and a large-scale
natural disaster. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an
immediate denial statement calling the account "contrary to the
facts," while officials with the Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential
office in South Korea or Blue House) and Defense Ministry have
either refused to comment or have given an answer along the lines
of, "We have had an agreement with the U.S. regarding OPLAN 5029 in
place since last year." In other words, they have effectively
acknowledged that some exchange has taken place behind the scenes.
It also follows along with an Oct. 30 remark made by General Walter
Sharp, U.S. Forces Korea Commander, that the two countries have
agreed that, even after wartime operational command has been
transferred to South Korea., the U.S. military will take the
initiative in any elimination of North Korean WMDs and in any Marine
Corps assault landing.

Close cooperation and thorough planning between South Korea and the
U.S. to prepare for the possibility of internal strife in North
Korea are necessary. However, it is exceedingly dangerous to make
preparations that emphasize military operations. Even if some sudden
upheaval should arise in North Korea, it could settle down of its
own accord over time, and there are always ways to calm the
situation that do not involve military operations, including
international cooperation and inter-Korean dialogue. OPLAN 5029,
which presumes military operations in the event of an upheaval in
North Korea, could very likely shut off a path to a peaceful
resolution and provoke a war. There are also quite a number of
sensitive issues that need to be considered, including the lack of
agreement between the U.S. and its focus on eliminating nuclear
weapons and other WMDs, and South Korea and its focus on preventing
war, as well as the sovereignty dispute between the two countries
over operational command and the possibility of international
warfare resulting from Chinese intervention. It is for these very
reasons that discussions had been limited to conceptual plans
instead of extending into operational plans during the Roh Moo-hyun
Administration.

Currently, the trend in the political situation on the Korean
Peninsula has been to move away from sanctions and towards dialogue
following Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, whose rumored ill health the South
Korean government considered the most important factor influencing a
potential North Korean upheaval, has been confirmed through various

SEOUL 00001739 005 OF 007


channels to be quite well. Now is the time for our government to
focus all its energies on restoring inter-Korean dialogue in order
to avoid falling behind the international current, rather than
fixating on a revival of OPLAN 5029, which could easily lead to the
calamity of war.

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


WILL ROK AND U.S. PUSH AHEAD WITH OPCON TRANSFER?
(Dong-a Ilbo, November 2, 2009, Page 35)

USFK Commander Gen. Walter Sharp said last week that even after the
OPCON transfer and the dissolution of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces
in 2012, the U.S. military will be taking the initiative in any
elimination of North Korean WMDs and in a Marine Corps assault
landing. He stated at an international conference, hosted by the
Council on Korea-U.S. Security Studies and the Dong-a
Ilbo-affiliated Hwajeong Peace Foundation, "The ROK and the U.S.
recently reached the agreement, considering that the ROK does not
have the military capability to carry out such special operations."
In a situation where the ROK military is undergoing difficulty
securing its own sophisticated military capability, Gen. Sharp's
remarks considerably eased public anxiety over national security.

In the event of an emergency, we must destroy about 1,000 targets in
the North, such as nuclear arsenals, missile launch bases and major
command posts. Our military capability is, however, not enough to
hit these targets accurately and quickly. State-of-the art bombers,
aircraft and cruise missiles must be mobilized from all around the
world, including the U.S. territories and U.S. military bases in
Japan. Aegis destroyers and interceptor missiles are also needed to
counter a missile attack by North Korea. It is virtually impossible
to handle these high-tech weapons on the Korean Peninsula without a
U.S. commander. In that the ROK and the U.S. acknowledged the
realistic limits (of the OPCON transfer) and came up with military
alternatives, Gen. Sharp's statements are somewhat comforting.

Gen. Sharp noted, "If the operational control is transferred, the
ROK-U.S. combined army and navy forces will be led by an ROK
commander, and the combined air force will be led by the commander
of the 7th U.S. Air Force in Korea, both under the control of the
ROK Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff." This is a type of role
division. However, this means that the unitary command system under
the commander of ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC), a position
held by the USFK commander, will be separated into two systems in a
more multi-layered and complicated way. Even if the U.S. military
leads key landing operations and operations to remove weapons of
mass destruction, joint operations may not go smoothly in general.

The U.S. repeatedly declared that it would establish a new military
cooperation system in place of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command
and would continue to provide nuclear deterrence and complementary
war capabilities to the ROK. However, Gen. Sharp's statement
confirmed once again that the ROK's sole exercise of operational
control would be limited. Therefore, we wonder whether we really
need to push ahead with the early transfer of operational control.
It would likely only weaken the combined defense capabilities.

The ROK and the U.S. should confront our security situation and the
level of our military power and start again from the beginning in
reassessing the timing for the OPCON transfer.


GUARD FORCES ARE NOT COMBATANT FORCES
(Chosun Ilbo, October 31, 2009, page 31)

The ROKG announced on October 30 that it will increase the number of
Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) personnel to 150 from the
current 24 and send police officers and guard forces to protect
them. The ROKG did not reveal the size (of the contingent), but
sources say that 200 to 300 troops and police officers will be
deployed to Afghanistan. A Foreign Ministry Spokesman said that new

SEOUL 00001739 006 OF 007


PRT members will work to enhance the administrative capabilities of
the local government, rebuild the economy, establish social
infrastructure and provide humanitarian support. He added, "Troops
and police will devote themselves to defense and will not take part
in combat operations."

The ROKG sent 200 military medics and engineers to Afghanistan in
2002 but pulled them out of the country in late 2007. Early next
year, ROK troops will again be sent to Afghanistan to protect PRT
personnel.

Medics and engineers withdrew after 20 ROK missionaries were taken
hostage by armed rebels and two of them were killed. This is why
ROK people may raise concerns over redeployment of troops even
though they will be dispatched only for self-defense.

The troops and police officers to be deployed this time are not
combat forces. Other countries have also sent military and police
forces for protection when they sent their PRT to help with the
rebuilding work in Afghanistan. Currently, there are 68,000 U.S.
troops and 100,000 military forces from 40 countries in Afghanistan.
With battles with militants, such as the Taliban, becoming
increasingly fierce, however, they are not in a position to ensure
the safety of the PRTs from each country. It is essential that the
ROK deploy troops to protect its PRT.

The ROK ranks among the top 15 economies in the world and will host
the next G20 summit. What would have become of the ROK without
international support during the Korean War and afterwards? The
ROK, which is so indebted to the international community, should not
neglect to help others. We will not be able to play a leading role
(in international relations) and gain true international recognition
if we turn a blind eye to the world's most urgent issues such as the
war in Afghanistan.

The ROKG should make sure that its planned troop deployment is not
(intended) for military involvement but is aimed at helping rebuild
Afghanistan. In particular, we should be cautious not to incite the
Islamic nations. The National Assembly also should discuss this
matter while considering the safety of personnel being sent there
and the ROK's national interest.


FEATURES
---------

POLL: SIXTY PERCENT SAY CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING ON MEDIA REFORM
LEGISLATION IS WRONG
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, November 2, 2009, Page 5)

By Reporter Park Chang-ik

Research Plus poll shows that the Four Major Rivers Restoration
Project is the most unpopular Lee Administration project, and that
concern about protecting freedom of expression is spreading among
young voters

In the Oct. 28 National Assembly by-elections, the Grand National
Party (GNP) suffered complete defeat in strategic regions such as
the Seoul area and Chungcheong Provinces. In consideration of these
recent results combined with President Lee Myung-bak's relatively
high approval rating, there is an increased interest in the real
undercurrents of public opinion.

An opinion poll conducted Saturday by Research Plus at the behest of
the Hankyoreh put forward six controversial Lee Administration
policies and asked respondents to indicate which ones they found
most problematic. The overwhelming top choice regardless of region,
age or political party support is the Four Major Rivers Restoration
Project at 41.4 percent.

When broken down by age groups, 48.1 percent of those in their 30s
and 53.7 percent of those in their 40s chose the Four Major Rivers
Restoration Project as the most problematic. Those in their 50s and

SEOUL 00001739 007 OF 007


60s count the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project as the most
problematic, but at lower levels of 37.3 percent and 29.8 percent,
respectively. It is noteworthy that those in their 30s and 40s, the
age brackets that drive public opinion, are most strongly opposed to
the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project. The poll also confirms
that negative feelings towards the Four Major Rivers Restoration
Project increase in relation to an increase in education levels and
income.

The second and third choices are the handling of the media-related
legislation (11.2 percent) and the press policy that includes the
ousting of television hosts (MCs) Kim Je-dong and Son Seok-hee (8.9
percent). It is noteworthy that 19.8 percent of those in their 20s
and 16.7 percent of those in their 30s list the railroading of the
media related bills through the National Assembly as most
problematic. Some 15.8 percent of those in their 20s indicate the
ousting of Kim Je-dong and Son Seok-hee as the most problematic.
This reveals that concerns about violations of freedom of expression
have spread widely among those in their 20s and 30s. The remaining
list of problematic issues include the emphasis on pushing through
the reduced Sejong City Development Plan (8.5 percent), the handling
of the Yongsan tragedy (7.8 percent) and the labor policy that
includes the banning of wages to full-time unionists (5.6 percent).

This strong concern among young people about (possible infringements
of) the freedom of expression is also revealed in response to
questions about the Constitutional Court's recent decision on the
media reform legislation. Some 60.4 percent of respondents feel
that the Constitutional Court's decision was wrong. On this same
survey item, 74.7 percent of those their 20s, 71.8 percent of those
in their 30s and 66.8 percent of those in their 40s feel the
decision was wrong. Moreover, 71.3 percent of those currently
enrolled in a university and 67 percent of those with undergraduate
degrees or higher believe the decision was wrong, and 71.3 percent
of those making more than 4 million Won per month also believe the
decision was wrong. Opinions regarding the Constitutional Court's
decision on the media reform legislation grow more negative as
education levels and income increase.

On the policy of redeploying troops to Afghanistan, opposition (49.8
percent) was slightly higher than support (42.4 percent). Men and
women were at odds, with 54.4 percent of men supporting the troop
deployment and 41.3 percent opposing it, and 30.8 percent of women
supporting it and 58.0 percent opposing it.

The phone survey results are taken from a nationwide sample of 1000
adults, 19 years old and older. The results indicate a margin of
error of plus or minus 3.1 percent at a confidence level of 95
percent.

STEPHENS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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