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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; November 10, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SEOUL 001794

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; November 10, 2009

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

Chosun Ilbo
Blue House Sought S-e-c-r-e-t Meeting with Heads of Big Four
Conglomerates; Attention Focused on Whether the Meeting was Related
to Sejong City Plan


JoongAng Ilbo, All TVs
ROKG Trying to Speed Up New Plans for Sejong City

Dong-a Ilbo
20 Former CFC Deputy Commanders Send Letters to Presidents Lee and
Obama Calling for Review of OPCON Transfer

Hankook Ilbo
New Flu Death of Actor's Son Causes Dread for Parents


Hankyoreh Shinmun
Main Opposition Democratic Party Seeks Legal Battle to Halt ROKG's
Four-River Restoration Project


Segye Ilbo
Education Ministry to Enhance Parent Participation in School
Management and Operation

Seoul Shinmun
Board of Audit and Inspection: "Misguided ROKG Public Rental Housing
Project May Trigger Oversupply and Supply-Demand Imbalance in Rental
Housing Market"


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

According to Blue House Spokesperson Kim Eun-hye, Presidents Lee
Myung-bak and Barack Obama will seek ways to move forward with the
ratification of the KORUS FTA during their Nov. 19 summit in Seoul.
(JoongAng, Segye, Seoul)

According to a military source, 20 former deputy commanders of the
ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) recently sent letters to
Presidents Lee and Obama urging them to review the planned transfer
of wartime operational control from the U.S. to the ROK. They also
asked the Presidents to discuss the issue during their upcoming
summit. (Dong-a)


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

-President Obama's Asia Trip
----------------------------
Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo, conservative Segye Ilbo and moderate
Seoul Shinmun ran inside-page reports quoting Blue House Spokeswoman
Kim Eun-hye as saying yesterday: "We are hoping that President Obama
will express a more forward-looking position on the KORUS FTA, and
are working toward that end."

Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized: "The U.S. has objected to
trade protectionism and led the solidarity among the major 20
economies in overcoming the global financial crisis. Accordingly,
it is unreasonable for the U.S., an advocate of global economic
recovery and trade expansion, to refuse to ratify the KORUS FTA, the
largest trade agreement for the U.S. since the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1992. ... The upcoming Nov. 19 ROK-U.S.
summit should put the ratification of the KORUS FTA before any other
agenda items."

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo argued in an editorial: "Conscious of trade

SEOUL 00001794 002 OF 005


unions, President Obama has taken a passive stance on free trade.
In September, he even raised tariffs on imported tires from four
percent to 35 percent to prevent cheaper Chinese tires from flooding
the U.S. market. If he hopes to reaffirm U.S. support for free
trade, he should prove it during his Nov. 13-19 Asia tour."

Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo carried an editorial entitled "Things
Obama Should Do during His First Asia Trip." It said: "President
Obama should focus on dispelling some concerns and misunderstandings
about U.S.-China relations by making sure that the U.S. and China
are strategic partners who share the burden for global issues. ...
Furthermore, President Obama needs to come up with a 'grand vision'
for Korean Peninsula issues, including the North Korean nuclear
issue. With discussions on regional integration gaining momentum,
the U.S.'s influence in East Asia will inevitably wane. ... If the
U.S. wants to remain influential in the Asia-Pacific region,
President Obama should use this visit to clarify his position and
actively participate in discussions on regional integration in East
Asia."

-N. Korea
---------
With regard to Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen
Bosworth's impending visit to North Korea, moderate Hankook Ilbo
editorialized: "Given the nature of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea
dialogue, it is difficult to expect the meeting to achieve
significant progress on the North Korean nuclear issue. U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State James Steinberg said on November 8 that
U.S.-North Korea dialogue 'is not a negotiation' and that
'substantial issues will be discussed through the Six-Party Talks.'
... However, the North, which has greatly desired bilateral dialogue
with the U.S., inevitably has high expectations of the talks. How
many of these expectations the U.S. will meet will determine the
outcome of the bilateral talks."


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

STEPS NEEDED TO RATIFY FTA
(Dong-a Ilbo, November 10, 2009, Page 35)

Korea and the United States signed a free trade agreement in June
2007. After delaying parliamentary ratification for more than two
years, the two sides have begun taking steps to get the deal
approved. The head of the U.S. National Economic Council, Lawrence
Summers, said Friday, "The U.S. government has prepared itself for
the ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA." The Obama Administration,
however, has taken a passive stance toward the agreement and certain
figures in Washington say Seoul must open up the Korean auto market
further. In that context, therefore, Summers' comment can
definitely be considered as significant progress. Seoul also plans
to discuss the matter with President Obama, who is scheduled to make
a two-day visit to Korea from Nov. 18.

A Korean proverb says, "Nothing is complete without the finishing
touches." The bilateral agreement is no different. Even if the
agreement benefits both nations, it is useless unless it is put into
effect. It would be a huge misfortune if the two nations cannot
benefit from their agreement designed to raise their exports and
strengthen their strategic partnership. Certainly, the two nations
have been preoccupied with the launch of new administrations and
dealing with the global economic crisis. Nevertheless, if they keep
hesitating on ratification, their determination to have the deal
take effect would be in doubt. If Washington fails to make a
sincere effort to ratify the accord, it has no right to urge the
expansion of global trade at the Group of 20 summit in Korea next
year.

Conscious of trade unions, President Obama has taken a passive
stance on free trade. In September, he even raised tariffs on
imported tires from four percent to 35 percent to prevent cheaper
Chinese tires from flooding the U.S. market. If he hopes to
reaffirm U.S. support for free trade, he should prove it during his

SEOUL 00001794 003 OF 005


Nov. 13-19 Asia tour.

When Korea and the European Union tentatively signed their free
trade agreement Oct. 15, U.S. media criticized the Obama
Administration, saying the world is moving forward while the U.S.
acts like Hamlet. According to a survey conducted by Washington, 92
percent of the industries to be affected by the agreement supported
it. Only a few, including automakers, opposed it. Moreover, 88
congressmen recently urged Obama to put the agreement before
Congress for ratification before his summit with President Lee
Myung-bak. Against this background, it is high time that Congress
deal with the accord.

Korea's National Assembly should also rush to ratify the agreement
at its plenary session. A free trade agreement between Korea and
India will take effect in January next year. Moreover, the Korea-EU
agreement will begin to be implemented next year in July and August.
So the Korea-U.S. pact should also take effect next year. When
Korea signed the agreement with the U.S., it was the envy of its
neighbors. If the National Assembly hesitates to ratify the accord,
the country's rivals will laugh at Korea.

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


UPCOMING KOREA-U.S. SUMMIT AN OPPORTUNITY TO RATIFY BILATERAL FTA
(Chosun Ilbo, November 10, 2009, Page 35)

With the leaders of Korea and the United States set to hold a
bilateral summit on Nov. 19th, 88 U.S. congressmen from both the
Democratic and Republican parties wrote to the White House last
Friday calling for prompt ratification of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade
Agreement (FTA). The same day, Lawrence Summers, Director of the
White House's National Economic Council, told a gathering of
American and Korean business officials, "The U.S. government is
preparing for the ratification of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade
Agreement."

Korea and the U.S. signed the bilateral trade pact in June 2007.
But two and a half years later, the FTA still remains unratified.
In January, a standing committee at the Korean National Assembly
passed the bilateral free trade pact amid violent clashes between
ruling and opposition parties and submitted it to the plenary
session of parliament for ratification. But in the U.S., the FTA
has not even been presented to Congress and has been on hold since
the 2008 Presidential election. U.S. President Barack Obama voiced
dissatisfaction over the FTA while running for the presidency,
saying the automotive and beef portions of the agreement were
"unfair." After entering office, Obama has put priority on health
care reform and other domestic issues, leaving the bill sitting in
Congress.

The U.S. has objected to trade protectionism and led the solidarity
among the major 20 economies in overcoming the global financial
crisis. Accordingly, it is unreasonable for the U.S., an advocate
of global economic recovery and trade expansion, to refuse to ratify
the KORUS FTA, the largest trade agreement for the U.S. since the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1992. The U.S. would
also miss out on real benefits of the FTA, such as the so-called
"first-mover advantage," where companies that are the first to enter
a particular market reap the benefits of investment and trade.
Korea has already moved forward in seeking similar international
trade agreements with India and the European Union. If ratification
of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement continues to be delayed and
other foreign companies enter the Korean market first, then U.S.
businesses will be the ones suffering losses. The upcoming Nov. 19
ROK-U.S. summit should put the ratification of the KORUS FTA before
any other agenda items.

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

SEOUL 00001794 004 OF 005


PREPARE FOR SITUATION FOLLOWING IMPENDING U.S.-N. KOREA DIALOGUE
(Hankook Ilbo, November 10, 2009, Page 39)

The schedule and format of U.S.-North Korea bilateral dialogue is
beginning to take shape. The rough picture emerging from Washington
is that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen
Bosworth will visit Pyongyang late this month or early next month at
the earliest and meet with North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister
Kang Sok-ju. It is reported that the U.S. Department of State will
soon announce the schedule for Bosworth's visit to North Korea.

The North and the U.S. engaged in a tense tug of war to the last
minute over the agenda and number of the meetings. The fact that
the announcement about the meeting schedule is impending indicates
that most contentious issues have been resolved. North Korea had
initially demanded that more than two meetings be held. However,
increasing the number of the meetings will only raise suspicion over
Pyongyang's intention to buy time and will not help resolve the
nuclear issue. It is desirable that the two nations should have
substantial talks at their first meeting and then move straight
toward the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

Given the nature of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea dialogue, it is
difficult to expect the meeting to achieve significant progress on
the North Korean nuclear issue. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
James Steinberg said on November 8 that U.S.-North Korea dialogue
"is not a negotiation" and that "substantial issues will be
discussed through the Six-Party Talks." This means that Washington
regards bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang as a stepping stone to
North Korea's return to the Six-Party Talks. However, North Korea,
which has greatly desired bilateral dialogue with the U.S.,
inevitably has high expectations of the talks. How many of these
expectations the U.S. will meet will determine the outcome of the
bilateral talks. If North Korea wants to get what it wants, it
should make clear its willingness to rejoin the Six-Party Talks.
Trust built between the U.S. and North Korea at their bilateral
talks will be an important factor in achieving progress at the
future Six-Party Talks.

The ROKG should try to prepare for the situation following
U.S.-North Korea dialogue. It should think about how it will take a
leading role when the Six-Party Talks restart, instead of remaining
on the sidelines. The ambitious "Grand Bargain" proposal is good,
but we should find a way to advance the Six-Party Talks in a
practical manner. Seoul needs a creative ability to identify the
demands of Six-Party countries, including the North, and mediate
their interests.


THINGS OBAMA SHOULD DO DURING HIS FIRST ASIA TRIP
(JoongAng Ilbo, November 10, 2009, page 46)

U.S. President Barack Obama will embark on his first Asian trip
since taking office. President Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore from November 14-15,
and also will visit the ROK, China and Japan. Obama's visit comes
at a time when East Asia is undergoing considerable changes such as
the rise of China, a change of power in Japan, a more precarious
situation on the Korean Peninsula and intense discussions on
regional integration. Therefore, his visit carries special meaning,
unlike visits by previous U.S presidents. Attention is also turning
to what approach the U.S. will take to develop relations with East
Asia, which is emerging as a global hub.

China's rapid rise necessitates a fundamental change in the U.S.'s
strategy for East Asia. The "G2," which refers to the U.S. and
China, has taken hold as an international political term. The U.S.
considers China a partner for cooperation rather than trying to keep
the country in check. In the wake of the global financial meltdown,
the economic symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and China has
deepened. President Obama should focus on dispelling some concerns
and misunderstandings about U.S.-China relations by making sure that
the U.S. and China are strategic partners who share the burden for
global issues.

SEOUL 00001794 005 OF 005

A strategic partnership between the U.S. and China is a new
challenge to the U.S.-ROK alliance and U.S.-Japan alliance. In
particular, with Democratic Party leader Hatoyama Yukio assuming
power in Japan, relations between the U.S. and Japan have been
unstable. Prime Minister Hatoyama wants to stand on an equal
footing with the U.S. Even though Hatoyama says there is no change
in his basic concept that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone
of Japan's diplomacy, he still claims that Japan has to lay the
diplomatic groundwork for a new East Asian Community to be centered
around the ROK, China and Japan in order to be less dependent on the
U.S. The U.S.-ROK alliance has changed from a defense alliance
against North Korea to a 21st century future-oriented alliance that
jointly addresses global issues. President Obama should lay out a
clear blue print for the rationale and role of the ROK-U.S. alliance
and U.S.-Japan alliance in the G2 era. Furthermore, President Obama
needs to come up with a 'grand vision' for Korean Peninsula issues,
including the North Korean nuclear issue. With discussions on
regional integration gaining momentum, the U.S.'s influence in East
Asia will inevitably wane. China, which aims to take the lead over
regional integration, wants to only include ASEAN, the ROK, China
and Japan in the East Asia community. Hatoyama has does not yet
have a clear vision of the scope of the East Asia community.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants the U.S. to join an Asia
Pacific Community (APC). Six Asian and Pacific countries are
members of the G20, and they will wield greater power as regional
integration speeds up. If the U.S. wants to remain influential in
the Asia-Pacific region, President Obama should use this visit to
clarify his position and actively participate in discussions on
regional integration in East Asia.


STEPHENS

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