Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; January 22, 2010
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TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; JANUARY 22, 2010
Ruling GNP's Pro-Park Geun-hye Faction Turns "Positive"
on Holding National Convention at Early Date
Judges Come Under Fire for Leftist Influence
Fire Insurance to Become Mandatory for Public Places
Like Restaurants and Theaters
Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, All TVs
Conservatives Going Overboard against Controversial Court Rulings;
Chief Justice's Car Pelted with Eggs
Investigations Catering to Political Power...
Prosecution Is the Problem
Political Parties Politicize Judiciary Reform
The two Koreas agreed yesterday to hold another working-level
discussion on the North's Kaesong Industrial Complex on Feb. 1, but
they failed to settle on the agenda as the North renewed its
previous demand for higher wages for its Kaesong workers. (All)
The ROKG also plans to accept Pyongyang's proposal to hold talks on
resuming ROK tours to the North's Mt. Kumgang and ancient city of
Kaesong. (Dong-a, Hankook, Seoul)
According to the Foreign Ministry, Seoul will send some 200 troops
to Haiti as part of UN peacekeeping operations in the Caribbean
country devastated by recent earthquakes. (All)
U.S. Ambassador to the ROK Kathleen Stephens is active in conducting
"blog diplomacy." She is running her own Web blog called "Shim
Eun-kyong's Life in Korea" at "Cafe USA," an Internet community for
the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on the portal site Daum. (JoongAng)
Secretary Clinton's Speech on Internet Freedom
State-run Yonhap News Agency carried a report that Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton, in a Jan. 21 speech, singled out North Korea
as an example of a country that practices Internet censorship. She
was quoted: "In North Korea, for example, the government has tried
to completely isolate its citizens from outside opinions. This
lopsided access to information increases both the likelihood of
conflict and the probability that small disagreements could
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young's Jan. 20 remark, "The military must
prepare for the worst situation, which would be to have OPCON
(wartime operation control) returned to us (from the U.S.) in 2012,"
continues to elicit comments from newspapers.
Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized: "Experts have wondered if
there would be no problem with the ROK taking over OPCON from the
U.S. in 2012 as scheduled, in a situation where the North's
possession of nuclear weapons has become a reality and Pyongyang
has declared the year 2012 as the target year for building a 'great,
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prosperous and powerful country.' Furthermore, the ROKG's plan to
enhance its capability to collect information on North Korea is
making little headway due to financial constraints .... This is why
former defense ministers and generals took to the streets calling
for the delay of the OPCON transfer until the North's nuclear
problem is resolved."
Right-of-center JoongAng Ilbo carried an editorial entitled
"Readjusting OPCON Transfer Date Is Inevitable." It said: "The year
2012 is a very critical year. The ROK holds both general and
presidential elections in the year, and North Korea has vowed to
build a 'great and prosperous country' by that year, when its late
leader Kim Il-sung marks his centennial birthday. What turbulent
situation will unfold on the Korean Peninsula is anybody's guess.
In this situation, disbanding the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command,
the last resort for our security, is a very dangerous, military
Conservative Dong-a Ilbo filed a similar editorial calling for an
earnest review with the USG of the planned transfer.
IT IS NOT TIME TO TALK ABOUT NUCLEAR SOVEREIGNTY
(JoongAng Ilbo, January 22, 2010, Page 35; Excerpts)
By Senior International News Columnist Kim Young-hie
Some people argue that the ROK should have nuclear fuel reprocessing
facilities. However, this argument has nothing to gain, everything
to lose. If the ROK says that it wants to have a nuclear fuel
reprocessing facility, the U.S. would suspect that the ROK's true
intention may be to develop nuclear weapons. This is due to the
ROK's track record regarding nuclear programs since the 1970s.
Under the U.S.-ROK peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement, if (the
ROK) wants to change the shape and substance of used fuel from a
nuclear reactor built with the U.S. technology - specifically
speaking, reprocess used fuel - it should seek the consent of the
U.S. However, since the U.S. does not trust the ROK, and the global
trend after 1974 is to curb the proliferation of the uranium
enrichment and reprocessing technology, an agreement to allow the
ROK to reprocess nuclear fuel would not be approved in the U.S.
The North Korean nuclear issue also serves as a serious obstacle.
The nations involved in the Six-Party Talks, including the ROK,
pressure the North to abandon its nuclear programs. The key of the
September 19, 2005 Joint Statement is to halt North Korea's
reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. If Seoul has a nuclear
reprocessing facility while calling on Pyongyang to give up its
nuclear ambitions, the U.S. will oppose it. It is also economically
ridiculous for the ROK to have a nuclear reprocessing facility. It
costs over 10 billion dollars to build one facility, but using
imported uranium only requires hundreds of millions of dollars.
This is why Japan relies on imported uranium although it has its
nuclear reprocessing facility. It is just wishful thinking that the
U.S. would agree to pyroprocessing, a technology which does not
separate pure plutonium suitable for direct use in nuclear weapons.
U.S. mainstream scientists caution that pyroprocessing is not
The argument in favor of the ROK's nuclear sovereignty is just
hollow populism, which does not serve the national interest. If the
ROK has a nuclear reprocessing facility, it may satisfy its national
pride. However, it has so much to lose economically and
diplomatically. The argument for the ROK's nuclear sovereignty may
come out of patriotism but it will end up being unpatriotic. What
is most desirable now is to extend the U.S.-ROK peaceful nuclear
cooperation agreement at the current level without putting it up for
public debate. It would not be late to gain nuclear sovereignty
after the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved and having such
nuclear sovereignty becomes economically beneficial.
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READJUSTING OPCON TRANSFER DATE IS INEVITABLE
(JoongAng Ilbo, January 22, 2010, Page 34; Excerpts)
The agreement on the OPCON transfer was reached because the Roh
Moo-hyun Administration's fledgling sense of independence (from the
U.S.) matched up with the U.S.'s strategy to strengthen the mobility
of U.S. forces overseas. At that time, the Ministry of National
Defense explained that if state-of-the-art weapons are introduced
according to the mid-term national defense plan into which 151
trillion won will be injected by 2011, it will be possible to boost
the ROK's deterrence against North Korea. The ministry also
stressed that the ROK will continue to be under the U.S.'s nuclear
umbrella and be provided with U.S. reinforcements in the event of an
However, we are very concerned that those premises are being shaken.
Above all, (we must face) the budgetary issue. In order to secure
151 trillion won, the ROKG should increase its national defense
budget by over 9 percent every year. However, the defense budget's
growth rate, which recorded 8.7 percent in 2006 and 8.8 percent in
2007, plummeted to 3.6 percent this year. The defense ministry
predicts that there will be an estimated shortfall of 13.5 trillion
won by 2012.
In addition, the year 2012 is a very critical year. The ROK holds
both general and presidential elections in the year, and North Korea
has vowed to build a 'great and prosperous country' by that year,
when its late leader Kim Il-sung marks his centennial birthday.
What turbulent situation will unfold on the Korean Peninsula is
anybody's guess. In this situation, disbanding the ROK-U.S.
Combined Forces Command, the last resort for our security, is a very
dangerous, military adventure.
WHY IS 2012 'THE WORST TIME' FOR TROOP CONTROL HANDOVER?
(Chosun Ilbo, January 22, 2010, Page 31)
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young on Wednesday said 2012 is "the worst
time" for full operational control of Korean troops to be handed
over to Seoul from Washington. "The president and military are both
concerned about this," he added.
South Korea and the U.S. agreed back in 2007 to transfer wartime
operational control to the South Korean military in April 2012,
dismantling the Combined Forces Command. Military experts and
veteran military officers registered their objections to the move on
several occasions, but this is the first time the minister in charge
has commented publicly on the problems regarding the transfer.
The two sides concluded after joint combat training exercises last
August that the South's military is fully capable of defending
itself against North Korean aggression. U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates said he was "optimistic" about the process. But
experts have wondered if there would be no problem with the ROK
taking over OPCON from the U.S. in 2012 as scheduled, in a situation
where the North's possession of nuclear weapons has become a reality
and Pyongyang has declared the year 2012 as the target year for
building a "great, prosperous and powerful country." Furthermore,
the ROKG's plan to enhance its capability to collect information on
North Korea is making little headway due to financial constraint,
and the absence of an immediate U.S.-led counterattack as a
deterrent could embolden the North.
This is why former defense ministers and generals took to the
streets calling for the delay of the OPCON transfer until the
North's nuclear problem is resolved.
The incumbent defense minister's comments add weight to these calls.
If Kim's comments were based on a comprehensive review of the
situation, then the government must clearly explain to the public
why 2012 is the worst time for the transfer and what problems have
emerged so far.
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The agreement over the transfer of wartime operational control was
made when the U.S. government was mapping out ways to change the
structure of its troops deployed overseas, and the Roh Moo-hyun
Administration was bent on reducing South Korea's military
dependence on the U.S. There is no reason for Washington to
postpone the transfer simply to accommodate the needs of the South
Korean government. Seoul needs to look closely at a proper time and
ways to raise the issue for renegotiation. But if Kim's comments
were simply his way of expressing personal concerns and not based on
a thorough assessment of the situation, then it was inappropriate to
discuss the problem in this way.
(This is a translation provided by the newspaper, and it is
identical to the Korean version.)
DELAYING 2012 OPCON TRANSFER IS THE WAY TO REESTABLISH SECURITY
(Dong-a Ilbo, January 22, 2010, Page 31; Excepts)
(The defense minister's remarks) confirmed that the president and
the defense minister are making efforts to readjust the timing of
the planned OPCON transfer. The OPCON, if all goes as planned, will
be transferred to us in two years and three months. Time is running
short. The ROKG should promptly undertake an earnest review with
the USG of the planned transfer.
The Defense Ministry has said that there will not be a security
vacuum after the ROK's takeover of OPCON as scheduled, because the
U.S. will provide major capabilities until the ROK military is fully
prepared. However, the problem lies in (the ROK's) readiness
against the North's weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear and
biochemical weapons and long-range missiles. In order to thwart WMD
attacks (from the North,) the ROK should have strategic
information-collecting capabilities, such as satellites and airborne
warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft. However, it would be
difficult for the ROK to obtain such capabilities, on which the ROK
is dependent on the U.S. military, before 2012.
President Lee Myung-bak has expressed several times his desire to
readjust the timing of the OPCON transfer since he took office in
2008, as well as during his election campaign. However, it is no
exaggeration to say that there has been no substantial review (of
the timing of the transfer.)
North Korea has set the year 2012 as the target year for building a
"great and prosperous country." It is crystal clear that the North
is furthering efforts to develop nuclear weapons and long-range
missiles. The ROKG should exert active diplomatic and military
efforts in order to get the U.S. to agree to review the timing of
the OPCON transfer.
U.S. AMBASSADOR STEPHENS ACTIVE IN CONDUCTING "BLOG DIPLOMACY"
(JoongAng Ilbo, January 22, 2010, Page 31)
By Senior Reporter Oh Dae-young
"Haiti has received contributions and offers of support from
countries across the world, including Korea. I know the assistance
from Korea will be very welcome."
This is part of the blog entry that U.S. Ambassador to the ROK
Kathleen Stephens posted on her Web blog at "Caf USA," an Internet
community for the U.S. Embassy in Seoul,
(http://cafe.daum.net/usembassy), under the title, "Earthquake in
Haiti" on January 21.
Since the Ambassador was appointed to the ROK in September, 2008,
she has been running her blog called "Shim Eun-kyong's Life in
Korea." She gained the Korean name "Shim Eun-kyong" when serving
as a Peace Corps member in the ROK in the 1970s. The postings are
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uploaded both in English and Korean. The Embassy Press Office
noted, "When Ambassador Stephens writes an article in English, a
staff member translates it into Korean and posts it on the blog.
This is the first time a U.S. Ambassador (to Korea) has written a
blog post on a regular basis."
Up through January 21, 2010, a total of 58 articles have been posted
on her blog. She wrote 4 articles per month on average. Each
article was read by at least 200 people. Some articles drew more
than 2,000 readers. In her blog, the Ambassador mainly talks about
her personal feelings on special occasions, such as U.S. President
Barack Obama's visit to the ROK, the passing of Cardinal Kim Kim
Sou-hwan and biking in Jeollabuk-do.
She said on January 21, "It (the blog) was in fact a suggestion by
some of my Korean staff that, given the interest in my appointment
to Korea, there might be some interest among Koreans in hearing more
informally about what it's like to live in Korea again after so many
years, and particularly about the changes I see in Korea and in the
U.S.-Korea relationship. So I decided to try writing a blog,"
adding, "I usually try to think on Sunday evenings about what the
week has been like and what might be interesting to include in the
blog. Then I spend some time on Monday morning writing it." She
remarked, "My blog is becoming a place for communication where
people express their opinions or recommend Korean movies or
performances." In other words, her "blog diplomacy" is proving its
Her blog posts even contain some related photos, giving a sense of
realism to her articles. The article posted last August titled
"National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day" had a photo of General
Mark Clark, U.S. Army Commander in Chief Far East Command, signing
the Korean Armistice on July 27, 1953. The photo was from the
U.S.'s National Archives. In the article, while mentioning that
President Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring July 27,
2009, "National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day" and that,
therefore, all U.S. government buildings lowered their flags to
half-staff, she posted a photo of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul flying
the U.S. flag at half-staff.
Last November, she wrote about the story behind President Obama's
visit to Seoul. She noted, "It was also clear that President Obama
is no stranger to Korean food. Sinsello (royal hot pot) was new to
President Obama, and he was impressed. Like me, he liked trying all
the banchan, and was particularly taken with fried dry seaweed. I
think I'm going to have to send him some for the White House."
After watching a play "Jjamppong" and a musical "Bbalrae" at
Daehakro last September, she wrote on her blog, "Talking after the
performances about the themes the plays examined, like the Gwangju
Democratization Movement, I truly felt I was enjoying myself one of
the great fruits of Korea's democratic blossoming." She also
suggested, "I wonder if the technology exists to provide surtitles,
at least for the main lines, as is often done these days for operas.
These pieces have very high production values and the only thing
that keeps them from being accessible to non-Korean audiences is the
language. Even if only the song lyrics were surtitled it would be a
great addition to the Korean wave." Last November, the Ambassador
said, "One of my goals as Ambassador is to accelerate the
complicated process that will allow us to move the U.S. Embassy from
its current location to a modern, purpose-built Chancery that will
reflect the maturity and importance of the U.S.-Korean
Her posts draw many comments, such as "The pictures are nice" and
"Your warm-hearted articles are impressive," to which Ambassador
Stephens sometimes adds her own comments.