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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 1, 2009

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SEOUL 001880

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 1, 2009

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

Chosun Ilbo, All TVs
N. Korea Revamps Currency for First Time in 17 Years

JoongAng Ilbo
State-run Korea Labor Institute Locks Out Unionized Workers
as Strike Drags on

Dong-a Ilbo
Yongin City and Ulju County Ranked Top on Regional Competitiveness
Index List

Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo
Federation of Korea Trade Unions Softens Stance and
Suggests Changes to ROKG Labor Policies

Hankyoreh Shinmun
ROKG's Hard-line Response to Unionized Railway Workers' Legitimate
Strike Activity

Seoul Shinmun
Korail Unionists Face Arrest


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

According to the Daily NK, a Seoul-based Internet news site on North
Korea, North Korea has revalued and replaced its national currency
as of Nov. 30. According to the source, the exchange rate for the
new currency is 100:1, so old 1,000 won bills are being exchanged
for new ten won bills. (All)

Analysts saw this North Korean move as an attempt to control
inflation as well as to tighten the North Korean regime's hold at
home ahead of a power succession to leader Kim Jong-il's third son,
Jong-eun. (Chosun)


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

-N. Korea
---------
All ROK media gave attention to a report by the Daily NK, a
Seoul-based Internet news site on North Korea, claiming that North
Korea revalued and replaced its national currency yesterday at a
rate of one new won to 100 old won. According to media reports, the
revaluation was the first for North Korea since 1992.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo observed that there is speculation that the
latest currency reform may have been initiated in order to tighten
the regime's hold on power and to bring runaway inflation under
control amid apparent efforts to prepare for the succession of North
Korean leader Kim Jong-il's third son, Jong-eun.

Most media reported that ROKG officials were cautious about the
report since North Korea has yet to make an official announcement of
the revaluation as it did in 1992. An official at the Unification
Ministry was quoted as saying: "We cannot confirm the report."

Conservative Segye Ilbo and state-run KBS replayed a Nov. 30 report
by Japan's Sankei Shimbun that North Korea told the U.S. that,
during the upcoming visit of Special Representative for North Korea
Policy Stephen Bosworth to Pyongyang, it will announce when it plans
to return to the stalled Six-Party Talks. Segye Ilbo's sub-heading
read, "North Korea Seems to Have Decided to Give a 'Gift' Since
Direct Talks with U.S. Came True."


OPINIONS/EDITORIALS

SEOUL 00001880 002 OF 002


-------------------

BOSWORTH SHOULD MAKE SURE NORTH KOREA STOPS PLAYING NUCLEAR GAMES
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 1, Page 33; Excerpts)

By Former Vice Defense Minister Park Yong-ok

During his November 19 summit with President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul,
U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Special Representative
for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth will visit North Korea on
December 8. The U.S. is insisting that Ambassador Bosworth's visit
is simply a bilateral contact aimed at bringing the North back to
the Six-Party Talks. However, North Korea, which vowed to quit the
Six-Party Talks permanently, is unlikely to express its willingness
to return to the multilateral framework unless it receives
satisfactory rewards.

It remains to be seen what outcome Ambassador Bosworth's visit to
the North will produce, but the prospects are not that positive. It
seems that North Korea intends to decide whether to rejoin the
Six-Party Talks or other multilateral negotiations depending on the
outcome of bilateral talks with the U.S. The North also claims that
even if it returns to the Six-Party Talks, participants should first
discuss nuclear disarmament talks on denuclearizing the Korean
Peninsula and the world and a peace guarantee on the Korean
Peninsula, instead of the North Korean nuclear issue.

Therefore, without any prior guarantee from Ambassador Bosworth,
North Korea would have no reason to be willing to rejoin the
Six-Party Talks. If the North expresses its intention to return to
the Six-Party Talks during its dialogue with Ambassador Bosworth, it
would be due to one of two reasons: The North may have been
promised considerable rewards from the U.S., or it probably intends
to use the dialogue as an opportunity to raise its status as a
nuclear-weapons state and make it a fait accompli.

Whether or not the North returns to the Six-Party Talks, I am
concerned that the U.S. or other Six-Party Talks member countries
may once again dance to the North Korean tune at a bargaining table
arranged on North Korea's terms. Only when the ROK's independent
deterrence against the North becomes tangible will the Six-Party
Talks be successful. Ambassador Bosworth's visit to the North on
December 8 will be the touchstone of multilateral efforts to stop
North Korea from playing nuclear games.

STEPHENS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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