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Cablegate: Seoul - Press Bulletin; February 17, 2010

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RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 9712
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC//DDI/OEA//
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RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0792
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7287
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 7360
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 1786
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5628
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 4553
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 7768
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2023
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0105
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2394
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 3016

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SEOUL 000244

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR ECON KPAO KS US
SUBJECT: SEOUL - PRESS BULLETIN; FEBRUARY 17, 2010

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


Chosun Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, All TVs
ROK Wins First Winter Olympic Gold
in Long-Track Speed Skating;
Mo Tae-bum Wins Men's 500-Meter Race

JoongAng Ilbo
"Uniting People" is Focus of 2012 Presidential Election;
Although It's Too Soon to Tell, Most Political Leaders Surveyed Say
Former Ruling GNP Chairperson Park Geun-hye
Has Best Shot to Win

Dong-a Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo
From Obscurity to National Hero: Mo Tae-bum Wins
Korea's First Olympic Gold in Speed Skating

Hankyoreh Shinmun
Ruling GNP Seeks Revision of Law on Assembly and Demonstration to
Ban Rallies after 10 p.m.


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

According to The New York Times, in a major victory against the
insurgents, the Taliban's top military commander has been arrested
in a joint CIA-Pakistani operation in Pakistan. (All)


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

-Afghanistan
------------
Citing the foreign media, all ROK media covered the capture of
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who is reported to be the Taliban's No. 2
leader behind Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar and a
close associate of Osama bin Laden, in a joint CIA-Pakistani
operation in Pakistan.

Conservative Chosun Ilbo headlined its article: "Taliban's No. 2
Leader Captured; Afghan War Enters New Phase." Right-of-center
JoongAng Ilbo cited a New York Times report saying: "American
officials have seen indications that the Pakistani military and spy
services may finally have begun to distance themselves from the
Taliban. Mullah Baradar's capture, in this regard, could suggest a
new level of cooperation from Pakistani leaders, who have been
ambivalent about American efforts to crush the Taliban."

-U.S. Midterm Election
-----------------------
In a commentary, moderate Hankook Ilbo observed: "The Obama
Administration has taken a hard-line approach on China, as
illustrated by its decision to sell arms to Taiwan, criticism of
China's Internet censorship and pressure to appreciate the Chinese
currency, the Yuan. ... Given that President Obama is putting top
priority on winning the November midterm election, his hard-line
approach is in accord with the sentiment of U.S. citizens who want
(America's) hurt pride to be restored. ... ROK-U.S. relations will
also be affected by the upcoming U.S. election. ... President Obama
has underscored the importance of export growth and job creation
following his Jan. 27 State of the Union Address. We should be
prepared for possible stronger U.S. demands to renegotiate the KORUS
FTA, including issues on auto provisions."


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

IMPACT OF U.S MIDTERM ELECTION

SEOUL 00000244 002 OF 002


(Hankook Ilbo, February 17, Page 38)

By International News Editor Goh Tae-sung

President Barack Obama will meet Tibet's exiled spiritual leader,
the Dalai Lama, at the White House on November 18. The White House
said that the President looks forward to engaging in a constructive
dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The meeting is expected to irritate
China, which has been cautioning President Obama not to meet the
Tibetan leader.

President Obama has not "always" looked forward to meeting with the
Dalai Lama. He did not meet the Tibetan religious leader in October
last year when he came to Washington to receive a human rights award
from the U.S. Congress. Facing criticism from the U.S. Congress and
human rights groups, President Obama said it would be difficult to
meet the Dalai Lama before his visit to China (which was scheduled
in November.) It seems that the President was mindful of China's
(reaction.) (Therefore,) the Obama Administration's recent attitude
toward China signals a dramatic change. The Obama Administration
has taken a hard-line approach on China, as illustrated by its
decision to sell arms to Taiwan, criticism of China's Internet
censorship and pressure to appreciate the Chinese currency, the
Yuan. This is a big departure from the controversial passive
attitude the President took when he visited China in November 2009.

What made the U.S. change? There are different opinions on this.
Some observers say that the U.S. is taking a hard line with China
because it has shrugged off U.S. demands that China play a more
appropriate role as the world's second largest economy. In
particular, we believe that the U.S. (upcoming) midterm election is
the cause of the change in the attitude of the Obama Administration.
Given that President Obama is putting top priority on winning the
November midterm election, his hard-line approach is in accord with
the sentiment of U.S. citizens who want (America's) hurt pride to be
restored.

The midterm election began to have an impact (on the Obama
Administration) after Democrats lost the Massachusetts Senate seat
on January 19. President Obama opposed the Supreme Court ruling on
corporate spending in political campaigns. He took a swipe at Wall
Street for handing out big bonuses, saying that he wants to tax big
banks to recover taxpayer money spent to bail out failing firms at
the height of the financial crisis. President Obama's later comment
that the Wall Street bonuses are part of the free market system
represents an about-face (from his previous position) ahead of the
midterm election. Analysts believe that he could not continue to
ignore Wall Street, which provides political funds.

ROK-U.S. relations will also be affected by the upcoming U.S.
election. A good example is the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement
(KORUS FTA), about which President Obama seems to be sending mixed
signals. The prevailing opinion, prior to the midterm election, was
that President Obama would not take action to seek congressional
approval of the FTA. However, things have changed since he
delivered his State of the Union Address on January 27. The
President repeatedly made similar remarks after stressing the need
for a KORUS FTA in his State of the Union Address. In the State of
the Union Address, he said, "We will double our exports over the
next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in
America."

Therefore, observers in the ROK see brighter prospects for the
ratification of the KORUS FTA. But President Obama has underscored
the importance of export growth and job creation following his Jan.
27 State of the Union Address. We should be prepared for possible
stronger U.S. demands to renegotiate the KORUS FTA, including issues
on auto provisions. As demonstrated by a flurry of congressional
hearings on Toyota's recalls, the U.S. will resolutely deal with
areas of its interest ahead of the midterm election.


STEPHENS

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