Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; November 9, 2009
DE RUEHUL #1784/01 3130909
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 090909Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6172
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 9373
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC//DDI/OEA//
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC//DB-Z//
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0480
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6893
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6957
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1462
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5270
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 4216
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 7428
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1704
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3010
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2089
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2696
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 SEOUL 001784
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; November 9, 2009
Chosun Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
Work on Four-River Restoration Project to Begin Tomorrow
Labor Ministry to Blacklist Firms Paying Salaries
to Full-Time Unionists
Prime Minister and Five Other Heavyweights from Ruling GNP,
Government, and Blue House Meet
to Discuss "Sejong City Plan"
ROKG's Environmental Assessment for Four-River Project Criticized as
"Inaccurate and Incomplete"
A bipartisan group of 88 U.S. congressmen sent a letter to President
Obama on Nov. 6 urging him to expedite the process for the
ratification of the KORUS FTA prior to his Nov. 18 visit to Seoul.
Lawrence Summers, Chairman of the U.S. National Economic Council,
indicated during a Nov. 6 ROK-U.S. Business Council meeting in
Washington that (the U.S.) is preparing to ratify the KORUS FTA.
(JoongAng, Dong-a, Hankook)
12 U.S. congressmen from Michigan, the heart of the U.S. automobile
industry, meanwhile, called for a revision of the KORUS FTA on the
same day. (Dong-a, Hankyoreh, Segye, Seoul)
A senior ROKG official told Korean correspondents in Washington on
Nov. 6 that the U.S. will soon announce that Special Representative
for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth will visit Pyongyang to meet
with Kang Sok-ju, the North's First Vice Foreign Minister.
Jeffrey Bader, Senior Director for East Asian Affairs at the
National Security Council, said during a Nov. 6 seminar in
Washington that the U.S. is prepared for direct talks with North
Korea. (Dong-a, Hankyoreh, Segye, Seoul, MBC)
All ROK media on Saturday covered Nov. 5 press remarks by Special
Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth, in which he
said that the USG will "soon" decide on talks with North Korea and
that if he does visit the North, it would most likely be "within
weeks" after President Obama returns home from his Nov. 12-19 Asian
In a related development, right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo today quoted
a senior ROKG official as telling ROK correspondents in Washington
on Nov. 6 that the U.S. will soon announce that Special
Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth will visit
Pyongyang to meet with Kang Sok-ju, the North's First Vice Foreign
Jeffrey Bader, Senior Director for East Asian Affairs at the
SEOUL 00001784 002 OF 007
National Security Council, was also widely quoted as saying during a
Nov. 6 seminar in Washington that the U.S. is prepared for direct
talks with North Korea and that it is discussing the timing and
method of U.S.-North Korea talks with allies.
Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized today: "Prime Minister
Hatoyama does not deny the importance of Japan's alliance with the
U.S. He has repeatedly said that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the
cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy. However, it is clear that the
U.S.-Japan alliance, which has been hailed as the most solid
alliance in the world over the past 55 years, is going through
transitional pains. ... There is a new perception at play behind
Hatoyama's new diplomacy that with the U.S.-focused diplomacy alone,
Japan cannot find a new means of survival in the 21st political
environment marked by 'China's rise.'"
Berlin Wall - 20th Anniversary of Its Fall
Conservative Dong-a Ilbo editorialized: "The 20th anniversary of the
fall of the Berlin Wall is an occasion for people of both Koreas to
reflect on the stark reality of their national division. ...
Continued personnel exchanges and cooperation between both Germanys
laid the groundwork for reunification. ... Unfortunately, however,
the road to Korean reunification is growing increasingly rockier,
with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il seeking to transfer power to
his son while confronting the international community with nuclear
weapons. The North's population of 24 million, brainwashed by their
totalitarian government, is struggling with starvation. In the
early 1990s, the ROK's national income was six to eight times that
of the North, but the gap is now 38 times. ... Like in Germany, the
Korean Peninsula could also see an unexpected reunification. ...
Steady preparation is badly needed to minimize the costs and adverse
effects of Korean reunification."
ON CHANGING U.S. STRATEGY
(JoongAng Ilbo, November 7, 2009, Page 38)
The United States has decided to keep the headquarters of its Eighth
Army in the ROK, reversing plans to relocate it to Hawaii. Next
June, it will also form a new Korea Command, which will control the
U.S. forces stationed here. The move aims to minimize a gap in
security on the peninsula when wartime operational control is
transferred from the U.S. forces to South Korea in 2012. The U.S.
military wants to realign its units stationed here in accordance
with its global military strategy. And the new U.S. forces base in
Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, scheduled to be complete in 2015, could serve
as an overseas operational hub, a role currently assumed by the U.S.
forces in Japan. By giving strategic flexibility to the U.S. forces
in South Korea, the Pyeongtaek base would become an advance base for
the United States in Northeast Asia. Given South Korea's
geopolitical location neighboring North Korea and other regional
powers, the new U.S. plans would be beneficial to our security. But
there are some issues to deal with as well. The government must
prepare measures in response to the restructuring of the U.S.
First, there is the fallout from the transfer of wartime operational
command. In emergencies, the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Commander
would control the U.S. forces here, American reinforcements from
overseas and also the South Korean troops. Up-to-date U.S. military
intelligence from around the world and the country's combat
capabilities would be put to efficient use in that case. But by
shifting the wartime command, South Korean forces would operate
separately from their U.S. partners. That runs the risk of
compromising efficiency in the field. The ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense
Agreement stipulates automatic U.S. intervention in case South Korea
comes under attack, but that is only on a theoretical basis. The
combined forces command is there to ensure such protection. In
other words, it has real impact in minimizing the possibility of
SEOUL 00001784 003 OF 007
North Korean provocations. We need measures to prevent weakening of
such effect. The best solution would be to delay the transfer until
at least the peninsula finds peace and stability.
The forming of the new Korea Command would hinder our diplomatic
activities in the future. For instance, the presence of a U.S.
advance base here might affect our relations with China or Russia.
We can't avoid this possibility as long as we need U.S. troops in
the nation, but still, the government needs to exercise flexibility
to keep any negative side effects to a minimum.
Finally, we must keep the latest move - with South Korea serving as
the overseas base for the U.S. forces - from degenerating into an
international controversy. Some may charge that South Korea will
depend entirely on the U.S. armed forces. We must remember that
western European nations and Japan have accepted a similar role for
the sake of national security. We must keep in mind that
maintaining and strengthening our military alliance with the United
States is the wisest option to satisfy our security needs.
(This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.)
WHAT THE JAPAN-U.S. RIFT MEANS FOR NORTHEAST ASIA
(Chosun Ilbo, November 9, 2009, Page 35)
Tension between Washington and Tokyo is growing ahead of U.S.
President Barack Obama's visit to Japan this Saturday and Sunday.
The reason is Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's repeated
comments since his inauguration in September that Japan has relied
too much on the U.S. and will seek a more equal relationship.
Hatoyama told lawmakers on Oct. 29 a "comprehensive review" is
needed in U.S.-Japan relations.
Hatoyama's cabinet wants to revise a 2006 agreement over the
relocation of the Futenma air base in Okinawa. Some lawmakers in
the ruling Democratic Party want the air base out of Japan
altogether. That is threatening a U.S. strategy to reorganize its
troop presence in Asia.
The U.S. and Japan even canceled a foreign ministerial meeting
planned in Washington. Some experts are saying the rift is too deep
to patch up in a hurry. The U.S. government and media have said
recently that Japan is not what it used to be, criticizing it for
replacing China as Washington's "headache." The U.S. has considered
its ties with Tokyo the cornerstone of its diplomatic strategy in
Asia, which is why it is so sensitive.
But Hatoyama is showing no signs of backing down, saying he is
against the U.S. attempts to solve problems in Afghanistan by
military means. All the while, Hatoyama is looking for closer Asian
integration, proposing an East Asian Community.
Prime Minister Hatoyama does not deny the importance of Japan's
alliance with the U.S. He has repeatedly said that the U.S.-Japan
alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy. However, it is
clear that the U.S.-Japan alliance, which has been hailed as the
most solid alliance in the world over the past 55 years, is going
through transitional pains. These changes cannot be seen solely as
the result of Hatoyama's decisions. There is a new perception at
play behind Hatoyama's new diplomacy that with the U.S.-focused
diplomacy alone, Japan cannot find a new means of survival in the
21st political environment marked by "China's rise."
In August, Hatoyama claimed that the era of U.S.-led globalization
is coming to an end and the world is heading toward a multipolar
order. Washington is bogged down in two wars, and the global
financial crisis is testing its resources. Even under the Liberal
Democrats, Japanese officials worried whether Washington's
diplomatic policies favored Tokyo or Beijing. But Japanese
officials were shocked to see the Obama Administration raise its
relationship with China to a "strategic partnership." Until then,
Washington had viewed China as both a cooperative partner and a
SEOUL 00001784 004 OF 007
country to be wary of. The reason the Hatoyama Administration is
seeking to change Japan's 100-year-old diplomatic style by focusing
more on Asia is not just due to the threat to Washington's dominance
but to the need to adopt quickly to the shift in policies by the
It remains to be seen how Hatoyama's new foreign policy will shape
up and whether it proves no more than a temporary escape from
traditional policies. But it is clear that diplomacy in Asia, where
the interests of South Korea, China and Japan are closely
intertwined, will change. South Korea faces the task of preparing
for eventual reunification with North Korea and must fine-tune its
national strategy by accurately forecasting the changes from U.S.'s
decline and China's rise. The sounds of discord between Washington
and Tokyo should be taken as a wake-up call for South Korea in
shaping its national strategy in the increasingly fluid and complex
diplomatic landscape of Northeast Asia.
(This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.)
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES TRADE PACT WITH INDIA; NOW IT IS THE
KORUS FTA'S TURN
(JoongAng Ilbo, November 9, 2009, page 33)
The National Assembly yesterday ratified a Comprehensive Economic
Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India virtually unanimously (192
in favor with 5 abstentions), opening the door to the Indian market
with its 1.2 billion population starting early next year. The CEPA
is as effective as a free trade agreement (FTA). If the National
Assembly had failed to ratify the CEPA this time, we would have had
to wait another year to ratify the trade deal. Even though the
ruling and opposition parties have been mired in political
bickering, lawmakers ratified the CEPA by an overwhelming vote,
showing that they can cooperate on an issue of vital national
interest. It is praiseworthy that the National Assembly swiftly
ratified the CEPA before the deadline.
With the CEPA coming into effect next year, the ROK will be able to
gain an upper hand in the Indian market, which has the world's
fourth largest consumption power, over other competitors. This is
because the ROK is the first country, among India's major
competitors, to open the door to free trade with India. Now
attention is drawn to when the already-signed KORUS and ROK-EU FTAs
will be ratified. Since the recently concluded FTA with the EU does
not face much opposition in the ROK, it does not seem that it will
be difficult to get legislative approval (to ratify) the agreement.
However, ratification of the KORUS FTA, which was signed earlier
than the ROK-EU FTA, is facing difficulty both in the ROK and the
The atmosphere in the U.S. is, however, turning favorable after 88
Congressmen sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to
ratify the pact. White House Economic Advisor Lawrence Summers also
recently said, at the Korea-U.S. Economic Conference in Washington,
"The USG is preparing itself for the FTA's ratification," implying
that there was some progress in the ratification process. The
problem is that since the FTA bill passed the ROK National Assembly
Standing Committee this past April, the bill has not even been laid
before the plenary session of the National Assembly for six months.
The ruling and opposition parties approved the trade deal with India
under the spirit of "giving top priority to the national interest."
We hope that they will exercise the same spirit in persuading the
U.S. to ratify the ROK-U.S. FTA. That is what a hard-working
National Assembly should do.
U.S. AMBASSADOR STEPHENS SAYS THAT ROK HAS MADE IMPRESSIVE
IMPROVEMENT IN ITS BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT... G20 WILL SERVE AS
OPPORTUNITY FOR ROK TO BECOME GLOBAL HUB
SEOUL 00001784 005 OF 007
(Korea Economic Daily, November 9, 2009, page 33)
U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Stephens calls herself an "optimist."
When I entered the U.S. Embassy's office for interview, an Indian
ink painting, which is hung in the center of the wall, came into my
sight first. She said with a beaming smile, "When I visited Yesan
Middle school after thirty years, my students gave this (to me) as a
gift to celebrate my (appointment as Ambassador.) This painting is
my hometown in my heart."
When asked what she thinks about some opinions that the ROK's
cultural standards have not kept up with its economic growth,
Stephens said that the ROK's cultural standards were high in the
1970s. These favorable remarks show her deep love for Korea as the
first U.S. Ambassador to the ROK who has Korean name, Shim
Q. How was the first year as U.S. Ambassador to the ROK?
"When I first arrived here, I think (it was) a day or so after
Lehman Brothers collapsed. When I arrived, I had the economic
situation very much on my mind. I was impressed by the spirit of
determination I saw in Korea to approach the crisis in a very
resolute fashion. (When I first came to Korea in the 1970s,) I
certainly knew that Korea was changing very rapidly. Among Korean
people, there was even at that time a very deep desire for a modern
democratic country. Korea, I see today, exceeds in its economic
vibrancy and the health of its democracy, it exceeds even what were
my high expectations based upon two years of living in Korea in the
1070s. I think that Korea in a much closer time than thirty years
but in the coming years will play increasingly an important role not
only in the region but also on the world stage. Chairing of the G20
next year is one early sign of that."
Q. Is it true that you decided to become a diplomat when you worked
as a peace corps volunteer?
"I came to Korea in 1975 and (I had just) come out of the
university. I knew many young men who had been faced with the
question of going to Vietnam to fight in a war, which was dividing
our society. That was the context. I came to Korea and, as I lived
in Yesan, I thought that East Asia is very important to the U.S. now
and (will be) even more so in the future. I saw what was happening
in Korea, the sense of great potential going forward. It is even
more difficult to try to understand a country that has a very
different history and culture than your own. At that time, in
Korean schools, especially in the boys' schools with very large
classes of 70 students, they had to maintain order. Sometimes, some
teachers were very severe in the way they punished the boys.
Sometimes it was actually rather shocking (to see) a young student
being punished physically, very severely. What do you do about it?
Do you try to persuade the teacher that there is a better way? Do
you leave the (teacher's) room? There is no one answer. You have
to think about the situation itself and what you want to achieve and
then adjust your approach. I think that is what diplomacy is about
Q. Do you think the Lee Myung-bak Government has a good relationship
with the Obama Administration?
"Now we have two presidents, President Lee and President Obama, who
already have established a very strong working and personal
relationship. President Obama is very much looking forward to an
opportunity to visit Korea. This is his first visit to Korea as far
as I know. He has a great interest in Korea and great respect for
Korea and enthusiasm for what Korea represents in the world and what
it has accomplished. (U.S. government officials) are having
in-depth discussions with President Lee Myung-bak's staff on the
range of subjects (to be discussed during the summit.) We don't have
an agreed agenda. You can image what's on it. We have a lot of
things we are working on together including economic issues in
multilateral forum like the G20, very close coordination on next
steps related to North Korea, and a range of other bilateral issues
in which we want to cooperate more closely."
SEOUL 00001784 006 OF 007
Q. There has been little progress on the KORUS FTA even though it
has been two years since the ROK and the U.S. signed the trade deal.
Can we expect surprising news from President Obama during his visit
to the ROK?
"This is the agreement we all know that was agreed to and signed by
our two governments over two years ago now. Since then, we had
elections in both countries with a change of parties in power, we
had an economic recession of historic dimensions, and we had
historic turmoil in the automobile sector, particularly in the U.S.
So, given all that, over the last two years or so, maybe it was not
surprising that we are not a little further along in the FTA
ratification process. Since January with the Obama Administration
coming into office, our new U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has
met with his counterpart Ambassador Kim. They had good discussions.
In September I travelled around the U.S. with Ambassador Han
Duck-soo and talked about our overall relationship. The U.S. Trade
Representative earlier this autumn asked for comments from all
stakeholders on the FTA. My sense is that the (comments) were
overwhelmingly in favor of the FTA. It is no s-e-c-r-e-t that U.S.
auto companies have been very hard hit over the last year in this
recession. Korean auto companies have done relatively better. We
are pleased to see that Korean automakers are making an investment
in the U.S. We are committed to reengaging on this and finding the
right way forward. Both of our presidents have been very clear that
this is an FTA that has the potential for very significant
Q. Does the U.S. have any post-Kim Jong-il contingency plan or any
plan for a possible collapse of the North Korean regime?
"In June, our two Presidents agreed, and then put in our Joint
Vision Statement, our shared and deep desire to see reconciliation,
peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula in a manner
consistent with democracy and a free market. As an ally with the
ROK, we have responsibility to be prepared for any contingency
(including the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il). But, in
terms of what we do as diplomats, we deal with the situation we have
now, we deal with North Korea as it is now. That's why we are
trying to be very clear that there is a path that the leadership in
North Korea can take, which is a diplomatic path of returning to a
process of denuclearization, returning to a process of implementing
its commitments made (in the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement and
the February 13, 2007 agreement.) So, we are trying, together with
Seoul and the other partners in the Six-Party Talks, to make very
clear to the current leadership in Pyongyang that we want to see
progress now. We are not waiting for something else to happen.
We think it's very important that the leadership in North Korea now
make that choice towards a better future for its people and for its
Q. For some time, there was a perception among foreign firms that
Korea is a country that is really difficult to do business in. Do
you see any improvement or progress made since the inauguration of
the Lee Myung-bak Administration?
"In the 1980s in Busan, where I dealt with American businesses quite
a bit, I heard this kind of complaint quite a bit, that it was
difficult to deal with some of the Korean bureaucracies, rules were
unclear, and there was a lot of concern about possible unfavorable
treatment to foreign businesses. One heard many complaints like
this from foreign businesses, including American businesses. There
was (also) concern about the labor scene. I have been very
impressed since I came back last year... by how much that has
changed. So I think, in some way, that the perception that you just
described is still out there, that in some quarters (doing business
in Korea) is very tough. But, in fact, if you talk to the companies
who are actually doing business here I don't hear that complaint.
So I think the situation has actually gotten steadily better over
the years from the point of view of the international business
environment. Certainly President Lee Myung-bak and his
administration have done a number of things that have been
appreciated by the business community here, including President Lee
SEOUL 00001784 007 OF 007
coming to an annual reception of the American Chamber of Commerce
and giving a speech on his vision of business in Korea. That meant
a lot to the business community here. They really appreciated it.
They felt like it sent a very positive message throughout the
bureaucracy that we were working together and that the role of
foreign businesses, and American businesses, here play a positive
role. So I think the atmosphere is actually very good."
Q. There is a controversial issue about the ROKG resending its
troops to Afghanistan.
"The government of the Republic of Korea, as I understand it,
announced that it intends to prepare to send an increased number of
both civilians and troops to Afghanistan to assist the people of
Afghanistan and their efforts at stability and reconstruction. Many
countries, I think about 40 countries, are participating in that
effort. Speaking for the United States, we welcome Korea's
announcement that it intends to make an increased contribution. In
terms of the political process here that underpins that decision,
that is the democratic process of the Republic of Korea. Debate is
part of the process in any democratic society. Certainly, within
the United States, the way forward in Afghanistan is also something
that is being debated. We certainly will follow this with interest
as the Korean government moves forward with this plan."
Q. What are the areas you think that Korea should work more to
become a truly global leader?
"My own sense is that Korea's image in the world is quite strong
and has grown even more positive. People, especially in the U.S.,
know that Korea's economic success and its democratic success are
growing daily. I think it is important that Korea is participating
more actively in the international community and playing more of a
leadership role that reflects its economic weight such as chairing
the G20 ."