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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; January 4, 2010

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SEOUL 000005

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; JANUARY 4, 2010

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

Chosun Ilbo
All Roads Lead to Asia; Wealth Moves
from West to East in 21st Century

JoongAng Ilbo
Competent KAIST Professors May Keep Titles Longer

Dong-a Ilbo
Signs of Holding 3rd Inter-Korean Summit Appear

Hankook Ilbo
Political Reform Needed; National Assembly
Should Become a "Hall of Healing Conflicts"

Hankyoreh Shinmun
57 Percent Support ROK-led Inter-Korean Summit... President Lee's
Job Approval Rating Is 56.7 Percent

Segye Ilbo
World's Tallest Building Burj Dubai Opens in UAE Today

Seoul Shinmun
Low Birth Rate Hinders ROK's Growth


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

North Korea called on the need to "open the path for improving
relations between the two Koreas" in the New Year's message carried
in a editorial in three North Korean newspapers, increasing the
prospects for an inter-Korean summit. (Dong-a, Hankook, Hankyoreh,
Seoul, Segye) Experts say that a summit, if realized, may take place
in March or April at the earliest (Hankook) or around the August 15
Liberation Day or the Chuseok holidays. (Dong-a)

UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Vitit Muntarbhorn
is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on January 10 for a seven-day visit,
and U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Human Rights Issues Robert
King will also visit Seoul on January 11. (Chosun, Hankook, Segye)


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

Victor Cha, the Center for Strategic and International Studies
(CSIS) Korea Chair, said in a January 2, local time, interview with
JoongAng Ilbo in Washington, that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
would like to meet with businessman-turned-President Lee Myung-bak
and that the KORUS FTA will not likely be ratified until November.
(JoongAng)

The U.S. and Britain closed their embassies in Yemen on January 3 in
the face of al-Qaeda threats. (All)


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

-N. Korea
---------
Most ROK media covered North Korea's New Year's message calling on
the need to "open the path for improving relations between the two
Koreas." Conservative Dong-a Ilbo speculated that as North Korea
has shifted to a softer mode, it will brighten the prospects for an
inter-Korean summit, and a summit, if realized, will take place
around the August 15 Liberation Day or the Chuseok holidays (Sept.
21-23). Meanwhile, moderate Hankook Ilbo reported that the summit
may be held in March or April at the earliest.


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Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo had an interview with Victor Cha, the
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Korea Chair,
in Washington on January 2. Mr. Cha was reported to have said that
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who feels more friendly towards
businessmen than politicians, would like to meet with
businessman-turned-President Lee Myung-bak, raising the possibility
of an inter-Korean summit.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized: "North Korea, (in its New
Year's message,) may have adopted a conciliatory stance toward Seoul
in order to make progress in its relations with the ROK, a
precondition set by the U.S. for an improvement in the U.S.-North
Korea relations and for higher-level bilateral dialogue."

Moderate Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized: "North Korea's (New Year's
message) hints at two things: the North Korean economy is in
difficulty; and for the North, stability inside and outside the
country is very important now. ... The Six-Party nations should take
advantage of this situation to activate discussions about
denuclearization. ... We should also positively consider
negotiations about a peace regime (on the Korean Peninsula), which
the North emphasizes. Since North Korea's nuclear dismantlement is
directly linked with its security guarantee, denuclearization
efforts and the establishment of a peace regime should go hand in
hand. For the U.S., which must consider domestic public opinion,
the establishment of a peace regime may be less burdensome than a
complete normalization of relations with the North."

-U.S. Anti-Terrorism Efforts
-----------------------------
All newspapers reported on the closure of the U.S. and U.K.
embassies in Yemen in the face of al-Qaeda threats. Dong-a Ilbo
picked up U.S. President Obama's statement that "I think it is a top
priority for us to stamp out Al Qaeda once and for all." JoongAng
Ilbo interpreted the U.S.'s embassy closure as a prelude to its war
on terrorism.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo reported that Washington had sent David
Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, to Yemen to deliver
President Obama's personal letter to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah
Saleh and to discuss the issue of al-Qaeda in Yemen. On its inside
page, the daily carried a headline, "After Passage of Health Care
Bill, Obama Aims at 'War on Terror' Again."
Hankook Ilbo carried a headline, "Obama Officially Blames al-Qaeda
Affiliate for Airliner Attack for the First Time."


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

HOW TO ENGAGE N. KOREA IN DIALOGUE
(Chosun Ilbo, January 4, 2010, Page 31)

In his New Year's address on Monday, President Lee Myung-bak will
unveil a plan to improve relations with North Korea. Unification
Minister Hyun In-taek in a policy briefing to the president last
Thursday said, "All kinds of dialogue are possible, including those
involving the highest officials." At the start of the New Year,
there are signs of a potential thaw in inter-Korean relations, which
had been virtually frozen during the first two years of the Lee
Administration. There is even talk of an inter-Korean summit.

In a New Year's message on Friday carried by the official Korean
Central News Agency, North Korea said, "It is the consistent stand
of (North Korea) to establish a lasting peace framework on the
Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and
negotiations." The Choson Sinbo, a North Korean mouthpiece in
Japan, said the message was a precursor to "radical changes" this
year. It was markedly different from its New Year's message in
2009, when North Korea called the Lee Administration "fascist" and
called on South Koreans to rebel against their government.

This is not the first time that North Korea shifted its stance to
fit its needs. During the first half of 2009, the North was busy

SEOUL 00000005 003 OF 005


testing missiles and nuclear weapons, only to turn around during the
second half and start making peace overtures to the U.S. and South
Korean governments. North Korea has always used provocation and
dialogue depending on the situation, so there is no need to get
excited. Still, the shift is worth noting.

In the title for its New Year's message, North Korea called on its
people to speed up the development of the country's light
manufacturing and farming industries to achieve a "decisive
transformation." Those words demonstrate the seriousness of North
Korea's economic situation. Public anger over the revaluation of
the North Korean currency is said to show few signs of abating, and
the third-generation dynastic transfer of power to Kim Jong-un does
not seem to be going smoothly while the health of leader Kim Jong-il
remains in question. These troubles are probably the reason why the
North is seeking improved ties with South Korea and the U.S.

North Korea said in its message, "The fundamental task for ensuring
peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of Asia
is to put an end to the hostile relationship with the U.S." It may
have adopted a conciliatory stance toward Seoul in order to make
progress in its relations with the ROK, a precondition set by the
U.S. for an improvement in the U.S.-North Korea relations and for
higher-level bilateral dialogue. North Korea will use dialogue with
Washington to demand a peace treaty, which in turn could lead to
revisions in the South Korea-U.S. defense pact and cause changes in
the status of American forces in the South.

The uncertainties and complexities in inter-Korean ties could lead
to major opportunities, but also carry heavy risks. Seoul must not
regard a summit as a goal in itself but as a means to address the
opportunities and risks in inter-Korean relations.

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


S. KOREA'S RESPONSE TO NORTH KOREA'S TRANSITION AND IMPROVEMENTS IN
INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS
(Hankyoreh Shinmun, January 4, 2010, Page 31)

Unlike the previous year, North Korea avoided criticizing South
Korea in its joint New Year`s Day editorial issued on Friday.
Instead, its three major newspapers published an editorial stating
North Korea's intention to improve inter-Korean relations. At the
same time, the editorials (spoke of a desire to) end antagonistic
relations with the U.S. and emphasized the establishment of a peace
regime and denuclearization. This indicates (that North Korea is
taking) a flexible position and showing its willingness to expand
the dialogue and negotiations that have been taking shape since the
summer of 2009.

As indicated by the editorial headlines (in the three newspapers),
"Let Us Achieve a Definitive Transition in the People's Livelihood
by Spurring Light Industry and Agriculture," the focus was on
economic issues. This hints at two things. First, the North Korean
economy is in difficulty. In particular, due to the recent currency
reforms, the discontent among residents is likely to grow unless
(residents receive greater access to) necessary supplies (of
household goods.) Second, for the North, stability inside and
outside the country is very important now. The Workers' Party of
Korea celebrates its 65th anniversary this fall and there is a
possibility that the country's succession issues might be formalized
at that time. Advancements in relations with South Korea and the
U.S. reflect the present internal situation within North Korea.

The Six-Party nations should take advantage of this situation to
activate discussions about denuclearization. If they show
themselves to be willing to provide the help North Korea needs right
now, progress towards talks might proceed relatively smoothly. We
should also positively consider negotiations about a peace regime
(on the Korean Peninsula), which the North emphasizes. Since North
Korea's nuclear dismantlement is directly linked with its security
guarantee, denuclearization efforts and the establishment of a peace

SEOUL 00000005 004 OF 005


regime should go hand in hand. For the U.S., which must consider
domestic public opinion, the establishment of a peace regime may be
less burdensome than a complete normalization of relations with the
North.

Now more than ever, we need a change in the South Korean
government's policy approach. Past experience has shown that
inter-Korean relations and the nuclear issue move in tandem with one
another, and improved inter-Korean relations would have the effect
of encouraging discussions on a peace regime.

Yet by setting resolution of the nuclear issue as a precondition for
improving inter-Korean relations, the Lee Administration succeeds
only in (limiting progress) on inter-Korean relations and
denuclearization and in pushing South Korea to the periphery of
international discussions pertaining to the future of the Korean
peninsula. The Unification Ministry's 2010 policy plan contains no
mention of resolving pending issues such as the resumption of the
Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong tourism ventures, or of increasing
inter-Korean exchange and cooperation efforts. Given these
circumstances, an inter-Korean summit would be unlikely to produce
any real results even if one were scheduled to take place.

This 2010 year will mark a decisive turning point in discussions on
issues affecting the Korean Peninsula. The U.S., China and Japan
are all preparing for this, and North Korea is likewise responding
favorably. The South Korean government must not remain caught up in
its rigid thinking and allow this chance to pass it by.

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


TIME TO DISCUSS REVISING ROK-U.S. ATOMIC ENERGY AGREEMENT
(JoonAng Ilbo, January 4, Page 30)

After the ROK won a deal from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to
build nuclear power plants, it has become necessary for the ROK to
revise the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement. At a meeting held at
the National Assembly late last year, Minister of Knowledge Economy
Choi Kyung-hwan said that control of raw materials and reprocessing
provisions in the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement are "excessive."
Previously, in July 2009, some ROK politicians called for nuclear
sovereignty. With the agreement expiring in 2014, there is an
outpouring of opinions on this issue.

A call to revise the ROK-U.S. Atomic Energy Agreement is reasonable
in economic and environmental aspects. Most of all, since
high-level nuclear wastes stored in a nuclear power plant will reach
a saturation level in 2016, we should urgently come up with a plan
to reprocess spent fuel. To this end, ROK nuclear scientists
developed a new technology called pyroprocessing and eagerly wait
for a revision of the agreement. With the adoption of the new
technology, most of the spent nuclear fuel will be recycled to
generate nuclear power. This will reduce high-level nuclear wastes
to less than one twentieth. In addition, with this technology, it
will be hard to extract plutonium, which is used for nuclear
weapons. Therefore, we can minimize costs and side effects of
nuclear power generation.

Even though the pyroprocessing technology has paved the way for
peaceful use of nuclear power, the agreement prevents the ROK from
reprocessing (spent fuel.) The ROKG should make all-out efforts to
devise a strategy to persuade the USG to revise the agreement.

However, an argument for nuclear armament, which some ROK
politicians are raising, is very dangerous. This would ruin the
ROK's international status, potentially imperiling its survival.
The ROK cannot live isolated from the international community like
North Korea. In particular, we should be wary of this argument
because it may even hamper our efforts to utilize nuclear power
peacefully.

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STEPHENS

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