Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; December 10, 2009
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SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; December 10, 2009
College Entrance Math Test Likely to Become Easier;
Education Authorities See Difficult Math Tests
as Encouraging Private Education
JoongAng Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun
Taliban Warns against ROK's Troop Deployment
50 Years of U.S.-Japan Alliance Cooling; U.S. Puts off Meetings on
Broader Ties, with Japan Halting Talks
on U.S. Base Relocation
Study: Private Education Has Little Impact
on College Entrance Exam Scores
Top MBC Executives Tender Resignations; Suspicion that Lee Myung-bak
Administration May Be Aiming to Control MBC to "Establish
Pro-Government Broadcasting System"
College Entrance Test Score Gap Widens Between High Schools
The Taliban, in a Dec.9 statement e-mailed to international media,
warned the ROK against its plan to send troops to Afghanistan,
saying that Seoul must prepare for "bad consequences" if the troops
are deployed as scheduled. (All)
North Korea yesterday acknowledged the domestic outbreak of the H1N1
flu for the first time, saying that nine people were infected with
the virus. The ROKG will send a message to the North as early as
today to offer antiviral drugs and request information on the
Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea
Policy, seems to have met with the North's First Vice Foreign
Minister Kang Sok-ju yesterday to discuss the North Korean nuclear
issue. (Chosun, JoongAng, Segye, all TVs)
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley said
in a regular briefing: "We expect that they (Ambassador Stephen
Bosworth and the interagency team) probably did have meetings in
Pyongyang after they arrived. ... I would say that the primary
meetings that we expect on this visit will occur tomorrow (Dec. 9)."
-North Korea: Ambassador Bosworth's Visit
Most ROK media speculated that Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. Special
Representative for North Korea Policy, may have met with the North's
First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju yesterday to discuss the
North Korean nuclear issue. As support for this speculation, most
media quoted Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip
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Crowley as saying in a Dec. 8 regular briefing: "We expect that they
(Ambassador Stephen Bosworth and the interagency team) probably did
have meetings in Pyongyang after they arrived. ... I would say that
the primary meetings that we expect on this visit will occur
tomorrow (Dec. 9).
Most media also noted the North Korean media's silence about
Ambassador Bosworth's visit, in sharp contrast to their almost,
real-time reporting on former President Bill Clinton's visit in
August. In a related development, a senior U.S. official was quoted
as saying: "Bosworth and his delegation went into the dark side of
the moon." Conservative Dong-a Ilbo, meanwhile, quoted an ROKG
official as viewing the situation positively, saying: "The fact that
the North Korean media has refrained from reporting (on Ambassador
Bosworth's visit) can be seen as a signal that North Korea is
taking a prudent approach to talks with the U.S."
-Copenhagen Climate Change Conference
Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo editorialized: "It is fortunate that
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan to
regulate emissions of six greenhouse gases, including carbon
dioxide, on Dec. 7. This is because, with this announcement, the
USG has demonstrated to the world its determination to curb
greenhouse gas emissions, circumventing a Congress which has been a
major hindrance to such a move. This U.S. move must be good news
for the Copenhagen (Climate Change) Conference because it remains
uncertain whether the Conference can produce an agreement on
emission reduction targets due to differences between developed and
developing countries. ... In order to elicit cooperation from
developing countries, developed countries, which are mostly
responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, should act first. ... We
also urge the U.S. Congress to change its attitude."
Most newspapers carried reports saying that U.S-Japan relations are
cooling sharply due to the discord over the relocation of the
Futenma U.S. military base.
Newspapers carried the following headlines: "'If Japan Breaches
Bilateral Accord...' U.S. Signals Intention to Reject Bilateral
Summit with Japan Slated for Next Week in Copenhagen"
(right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo); and "50 Years of U.S.-Japan
Alliance Cooling; U.S. Puts off Meetings on Broader Ties, with Japan
Halting Talks on U.S. Base Relocation" (conservative Dong-a Ilbo)
CONFLICT OVER FUTENMA BASE COULD AFFECT OPCON TRANSFER
(Dong-a Ilbo, December 10, 2009, Page 3; Excerpts)
By Yoon Duk-min, Professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and
If Futenma Air Base is relocated to Guam as the Hatoyama
Administration wishes, it could have a serious impact on the safety
of the ROK. It means that in the event of an emergency on the
Korean Peninsula, U.S. Marines cannot be swiftly sent to the
Peninsula. Given the distance between Guam and the Korean
Peninsula, U.S. Marines in Guam will have difficulty carrying out
the readiness force missions that Marines at Okinawa do.
Furthermore, in light of the strategic value of the U.S. military
base at Okinawa, which is located midway between the ROK, China, and
Japan, downsizing or relocating the base will have a significant
effect on the ROK-U.S. alliance and the USFK realignment. It will
also create an environment where we have to review or adjust the
size and role of USFK, the transfer of wartime operational control,
and the direction of the ROK-U.S. alliance.
When it comes to the issue of moving Futenma Base out of Okinawa,
the ROK is a concerned party. For the sake of our safety, we should
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determine what the Japanese government is planning to do and whether
there is any alternative to the relocation plan.
WE WELCOME U.S.'S DECISION TO REGULATE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
(JoongAng Ilbo, December 9, Page 34)
The U.S. consumes over 25 percent of the world's energy and the U.S.
per capita carbon dioxide emissions are nearly five times the
worldwide per capita figure. However, the U.S. did not commit
itself to meeting obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. withdrew its support for the Kyoto Protocol, which 38
developed countries signed to prevent global warming. The Kyoto
Protocol calls for developed countries to reduce their emissions by
an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. said
that international cooperation is meaningless without participation
by China, which has overtaken the U.S. as the world's biggest carbon
dioxide emitter. China also passed the buck to the U.S. The U.S.
and China, as the world's biggest carbon dioxide emitters, pointed
fingers at each other, dealing a blow to global discussions on
greenhouse gas emissions.
But with signs of global warming becoming noticeable, the
international community felt a heightened sense of crisis. This is
why ahead of the Copenhagen Conference aimed at devising a new
framework for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, countries have set
emission reduction targets voluntarily. The European Union (EU) has
committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020
and Japan has announced the goal of cutting emissions 25 percent by
2020. Even though not obligated under the Kyoto Protocol, China and
India have taken positive steps, pledging to slow the growth of
their carbon emissions. The ROK also promised to cut greenhouse gas
emissions at the highest level recommended for emerging economies by
the United Nations (UN). However, the U.S. has proposed a mere 3
percent reduction below 1990 levels, which falls far short of the
targets set by other developed countries. Moreover, a related bill
is bogged down in the Senate. Therefore, this is somewhat
embarrassing for the Obama Administration, which vowed to actively
participate in the Climate Change Convention unlike the George W.
It is fortunate that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
announced a plan to regulate emissions of six greenhouse gases,
including carbon dioxide, on Dec. 7. This is because, with this
announcement, the USG has demonstrated to the world its
determination to curb greenhouse gas emissions, circumventing a
Congress which has been a major hindrance to such a move. This U.S.
move must be good news for the Copenhagen (Climate Change)
Conference because it remains uncertain whether the Conference can
produce an agreement on emission reduction targets due to
differences between developed and developing countries. As
indicated in a joint editorial by 56 newspapers from around the
world, including JoongAng Ilbo, in order to elicit cooperation from
developing countries, developed countries, which are mostly
responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, should act first.
Sticking to only one's own interests will lead to collective
destruction. We also urge the U.S. Congress to change its attitude.
JCS CHAIR RECONFIRMS US PLEDGE TO MAINTAIN CURRENT TROOP LEVELS IN
(Yonhap News, December 8, 2009)
The United States Tuesday reaffirmed its pledge to maintain the
current level of its troops in the ROK, dispelling media speculation
that some U.S. forces might redeploy to Afghanistan.
"We are very committed to 28,500 troops' presence in the ROK.
That's strongly reaffirmed by President Obama, both publicly as well
as his meetings with President Lee Myung-bak," said Adm. Michael
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Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a news conference
Mullen's statement came amid controversy over remarks Obama made to
American soldiers in Seoul last month. "The story of your service
goes beyond this peninsula," Obama said. "Others among you served
in Afghanistan. Others among you will deploy yet again."
Mullen himself said in October that discussions are underway about
rotating U.S. troops in the ROK.
ROK officials have said the remarks by Obama and Mullen should not
be taken as a (hint at a) possible troop reduction in Korea, but
rather a routine rotation of troops without reducing the number.
They added they have never discussed a troop reduction with the
Mullen, however, said the Obama Administration will follow up on the
strategic flexibility measures drawn up by the Bush Administration
for rapid deployment of U.S. troops abroad to conflict regions.
"The idea of strategic flexibility is one we are addressing with the
ROK leadership," he said. "We think it is very important, part of a
strategic concept for security both for the region and globally."
Faced with tough resistance from Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan,
Obama last week announced plans to send 30,000 more troops to the
war-ravaged central Asian state early next year to bring the number
of U.S. troops there to more than 100,000.
The ROK has said it will send a 140-strong Provincial Reconstruction
Team to Afghanistan next year, accompanied by about 320 troops for
More than 30,000 multinational forces are already operating in
Afghanistan in support of the U.S. effort against Al Qaida and
Taliban insurgents. NATO says it will soon send another 7,000
The ROK withdrew more than 200 military medics and engineers from
Afghanistan in 2007 after 23 ROK Christian missionaries were held
captive. Two of them were killed and the rest released after the
Seoul government pledged to withdraw the troops by the end of that
ROK Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan recently said that increased aid
to Afghanistan by the ROK is linked to the stable deployment of
28,500 U.S. troops in the Korean Peninsula, a legacy of the 1950-53
(WASHINGTON) COLLECTING OPINIONS FROM U.S. CAR INDUSTRY REGARDING
(Maeil Business Newspaper, December 10, 2009, Page 6)
By Reporters Jung Wook and Lee Chung-woo
Assistant USTR Wendy Cutler
(U.S.) Willing to Talk Anytime If ROK Requests Additional
"The U.S. is ready to listen anytime to ROK suggestions regarding
the KORUS FTA."
Assistant USTR Wendy Cutler, who was in charge of FTA negotiations
with the ROK, has said that if the ROK makes additional demands
regarding the KORUS FTA, (the U.S.) is ready to discuss them at any
time. This remark was made during a Dec. 8 interview in Seoul with
this paper's Economic Affairs Editor Yoon Kyung-ho, apparently out
of consideration of the deteriorating ROK public opinion following
last month's ROK-U.S. summit regarding additional discussions on
automobiles. Seemingly conscious of controversies in the ROK
regarding possible "renegotiations" (on the automobile sector),
Assistant USTR Cutler said that (the U.S.) has "never once used the
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word, renegotiation," adding: "The U.S has intended to "re-engage in
dialogue on pending issues raised."
Regarding additional U.S. demands on the automobile issue, she
stated that (Washington) has recently listened to public opinions
through the Federal Register, adding: "(We) have received about 300
opinions from various sectors and are closely reviewing them."
Assistant USTR Cutler said that the U.S. Congress has many bills to
address, adding that the (USTR) was (working with members) of
Congress on issues so that (they could) gain Congressional approval
in the future ratification process. This means that under the
current circumstances, conditions are not ripe for discussing the
ROK-U.S. FTA in the U.S. Congress, and therefore, it seems like it
will take some time until ratification of the trade pact. Regarding
her meetings with Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon and Chief FTA
Negotiator Lee Hye-min, she only noted, "I briefed them on the U.S.
situation following the summit and proposed leading dialogue in a
constructive manner, if it resumes in the future."
However, mindful of concerns expressed by the ROK, Assistant USTR
Cutler said that the number of (U.S.) autos exported (to the ROK)
should be determined by considering the differences in size between
ROK and U.S. markets. This indicates that she is not making an
issue of the number of U.S. cars imported by the ROK. Cutler added
that the U.S.'s position is that (the ROK) should take steps to
ensure U.S. companies from important industries compete fairly.
Assistant USTR Cutler said that not only U.S. industries but also
the USTR is reviewing what impact the ROK-EU FTA will have when it
takes effect early next year.