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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; November 13, 2009

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RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1486
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RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2718

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SEOUL 001802

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; November 13, 2009

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


Chosun Ilbo
Math Score Expected to Determine Success or Failure
in Being Admitted to College

JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo
ROK to Allow Dual Citizenship on Limited Basis

Hankook Ilbo
Former Korea Express President:"I Gave Money
to Three Influential Figures of the Roh Administration"

Hankyoreh Shinmun
Court Rules Former KBS Chief's Dismissal Unlawful

Segye Ilbo
Korean Language, English Sections on College Exam
Get Tougher

Seoul Shinmun
Ruling, Opposition Parties in Tense Tug of War over Budget
for Four-River Restoration Project


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

The ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that the ROKG
remains unchanged in its plan to send civilian workers and security
forces to help reconstruct Afghanistan, despite attacks on ROK
companies there. (Hankyoreh)


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

North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said on November 12
that the recent inter-Korean naval clash was a "deliberate and
premeditated provocation" and warned that the ROK military "will be
forced to pay dearly" for the action. (All) It is noteworthy that
the North's criticism was only targeted at the ROK military
authorities, not the ROKG or President Lee Myung-bak. (Hankyoreh,
Seoul)

Japan's NHK reported yesterday that ROK Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee
met unofficially with Kim Yang-gon, the North Korean official in
charge of inter-Korean relations, in Singapore last month to discuss
an inter-Korean summit, but their talks ended without progress.
(Dong-a, Hankook)


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


-President Obama in Asia
-------------------------
Conservative Chosun Ilbo said on its front page that Obama's first
Asia trip will be tough for him because he will face challenging
issues, such as the U.S. base relocation in Japan, human rights
abuses in China, and the ROK-U.S. FTA.

-North Korea - South Korea
---------------------------
Most newspapers carried the November 12 commentary of North Korea's
state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun. It said that the recent
inter-Korean naval clash was a "deliberate and premeditated
provocation" and warned that the ROK military "will be forced to pay
dearly" for the action. Left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun said that it
is noteworthy that the North's criticism was only targeted at the

SEOUL 00001802 002 OF 004


ROK military authorities, not the ROKG or President Lee Myung-bak.

Conservative Dong-a Ilbo and moderate Hankook Ilbo replayed Japan's
NHK report that ROK Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee met unofficially with
Kim Yang-gon, the North Korean official in charge of inter-Korean
relations, in Singapore last month to discuss an inter-Korean
summit, but their talks ended without progress.

-Afghanistan
-------------
Most newspapers reported that U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl
Eikenberry expressed his reservations about deploying additional
troops to Afghanistan, worrying that the U.S.'s troop dispatch will
increase the Afghan government's dependence on U.S. support. Chosun
Ilbo reported that the U.S. will reconsider its additional troop
dispatch plan, with U.S. President Barack Obama having called on his
national security team to revise the options for the U.S. war
strategy in Afghanistan during the latest review of his Afghanistan
policy.

Hankyoreh Shinmun quoted a Blue House official as saying that the
ROKG remains unchanged in its plan to send civilian workers and
security forces to help reconstruct Afghanistan, despite attacks on
ROK companies there.

Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized: "It was confirmed that around the
time that the ROKG announced its decision to send troops to
Afghanistan, armed gunmen assaulted the ROK firm's road construction
site three times. This clearly shows how reckless the ROKG's
decision on troop redeployment was. ... We cannot but suspect that
the attack may have been designed to warn Seoul against troop
redeployment. Still, the ROKG rushed to say that it appears that
the Taliban was not behind the attack, which is an irresponsible
(approach) for a government that should protect its people. ... The
decision to redeploy ROK troops to Afghanistan must be retracted."


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

U.S.-JAPAN CONFLICTS AND THE HATOYAMA ADMINISTRATION'S TRUE
INTENTIONS
(JoongAng Ilbo, November 13, page 45: Excerpts)

By Yoon Duk-min, Professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and
Security

Japan has decided to stop refueling American warships in the Indian
Ocean starting next January. The Hatoyama Administration also wants
Futenma air base moved off Okinawa or pulled out of Japan
completely. This means scrapping a 2006 U.S.-Japan agreement over
the U.S. military's realignment in Japan. Hatoyama said during a
trilateral summit of the ROK, China and Japan that Japan has been
overly reliant on the U.S., adding that even though the U.S.-Japan
alliance is important, Japan wants to put more focus on Asia.
Hatoyama claims the U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of
Japan's diplomacy. However, he also calls for reviewing the
bilateral alliance in a comprehensive manner.

U.S. has reacted coolly. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said
during a press conference, "It's up to Japan to decide what kind of
relationship they want to have." Washington Post even reported that
Japan, not China, is the U.S.'s most problematic relationship in
Asia.

Why does Prime Minister Hatoyama say "No" to the U.S. especially at
a delicate time when Japan's national power is being eclipsed by
China's? Japan seeks to become a true sovereign country that acts
in its national interest by overcoming the lingering scars of the
defeat of war. To this end, Japan has expressed a preference for a
more equitable relationship with Washington, while placing more
importance on Asia. In addition, Japan wants to be free from the
burden of its historical past in dealing with the ROK and China.


SEOUL 00001802 003 OF 004


This position by Hatoyama offers a great opportunity to President
Lee Myung-bak, ahead of the ROK-U.S. summit. Some people say that
former President Roh had said all he wanted to say to the U.S.
However, the Roh Administration reaped little practical gains even
though it deployed 3,600 troops to Iraq. In contrast, former Prime
Minister Koizumi gained practical benefits by underscoring the
importance of Japan's relations with the U.S. The Hatoyama
Administration is hastily devising ways to provide 7 billion dollars
of aid to Afghanistan to patch up relations with the U.S., prior to
the U.S. -Japan summit. Dismayed by Japan's recent moves, President
Obama may need to hear a warm word from an ally. Practical gains
matter more than words. We expect that the U.S.-ROK summit will be
a place where the ROK strengthens its strategic alliance with the
U.S. and achieves practical gains in the KORUS FTA and North Korean
nuclear issues.


ATTACKS DEMONSTRATE NEED TO RETRACT TROOP REDEPLOYMENT PLAN
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, November 13, 2009, page 31)

It was confirmed that around the time that the ROKG announced its
decision to send troops to Afghanistan, armed gunmen assaulted the
ROK firm's road construction site three times. This clearly shows
how reckless the ROKG's decision on troop redeployment was.

The Lee Administration has argued that the ROK suffered no direct
casualties and said, "Since it was a minor attack or simple arson,
it is difficult to view it as the work of the Taliban." These
claims, however, are unconvincing. The militants did not demand
money or take items. They simply set fire to equipment and fired
warning shots. The attacks also took place in the period
immediately before and after the redeployment decision. We cannot
but suspect that the attack may have been designed to warn Seoul
against troop redeployment. Still, the ROKG rushed to say that it
appears that the Taliban was not behind the attack, which is an
irresponsible (approach) for a government that should protect its
people.

Presently, Afghanistan is in a state of extreme unrest, not only in
terms of public security, but in the political situation as well.
For this reason, even U.S. President Barack Obama is taking great
pains with the decision to put more forces there and arguing that
there are limits to the U.S.'s dedication to Afghanistan. This is
due to concern over the dangers that might arise from rash
deployments in a situation of high uncertainty, with the leadership
ability of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in doubt.

Despite all of this, the ROK government announced on Oct. 30 that it
would be sending in civilian reconstruction workers, as well as
soldiers and police officers to guard them. In total, some 400 to
500 people are being dispatched. As justification for sending
troops, the government cited the need to establish conditions for
the stable stationing of U.S. forces in the ROK and a responsibility
to contribute to the war on terror as a "global Korea." This is an
absurd rationale. The war on terror has long since lost any
justification it may have had. Even the Obama Administration stays
away from the term. The U.S. sent troops to Afghanistan to stamp
out Al-Qaeda, but the result has been that the entire national
territory has turned into a battlefield and some 40,000 residents
have lost their lives to date. In addition, the U.S.'s inability to
deal a decisive blow to Al-Qaeda has only succeeded in strengthening
Taliban forces and extremists in neighboring Pakistan, making the
region even more unstable. There is no reason for diving into this
powder keg and for placing our citizens' lives in danger.

Japan made the decision to end Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force's
refueling assistance for multinational naval vessels and to provide
economic support to Afghanistan and Pakistan instead. Moreover, no
other nation which has withdrawn forces has made the decision to
redeploy forces. Instead of sending our young people off into a war
without justification, a better plan for international service would
be to provide economic support that is of real help to the people of
Afghanistan. The decision to redeploy ROK troops to Afghanistan
must be retracted.

SEOUL 00001802 004 OF 004

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


STEPHENS

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