Viewing cable 06SEOUL875
Title: AMBASSADOR'S MARCH 14 LUNCH WITH KIM GEUN-TAE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06SEOUL8752006-03-17 08:19:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Seoul
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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #0875/01 0760819
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 170819Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6673
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0288
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE PRIORITY 5126
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0376
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP// PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 000875 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KS KN
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MARCH 14 LUNCH WITH KIM GEUN-TAE 
 
 
Classified By: Amb. Alexander Vershbow.  Reasons 1.4 (b/d) 
 
¶1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Rep. Kim Geun-tae, a senior member of the 
Uri Party and a presidentiaQhopeful, told the Ambassador 
March 14 that U.S. and ROK officials needed to manage more 
effectively public portrayals of differences in Seoul's and 
Washington's approaches to the North Korea nuclear issue.  He 
stressed the symbolic and tangible impact of the Kaesong 
Industrial Complex (KIC) and called for the U.S.-ROK FTA to 
classify KIC-made products as "made in the ROK," as was the 
case under the ROK-Singapore FTA.  Turning to recent 
instances of rash behavior by Pyongyang, Kim believed that 
the DPRK would choose to be difficult on any number of issues 
in order to leverage each act into a card to be played at the 
negotiating table.  Finally, Kim strongly urged that 
Washington play a more active role to rein in Japan on 
Yasukuni and history issues. END SUMMARY. 
 
SIX PARTY TALKS 
--------------- 
 
¶2.  (C) During a lunch hosted by the Ambassador March 14, 
Rep. Kim Geun-tae warmly welcomed the Ambassador's arrival in 
Seoul, saying that the Korean people hoped that the 
Ambassador's previous experience in Russia and at NATO would 
prove useful in the effort to end the Cold War on the Korean 
Peninsula.  The Ambassador observed that it was time of 
transformation in the U.S.-ROK alliance and expressed hope 
that transformation would also be possible U.S.-DPRK 
relations. 
 
¶3.  (C) Kim noted that Washington and Seoul shared the same 
ultimate goal for the Six Party Talks, but "obviously" had 
different approaches.  Diplomats on both sides must work 
harder to minimize the appearance of these differences, for 
public confidence was being shaken by the proliferation of 
reports of differences between the two allies.  Moreover, we 
needed to be mindful that, while the United States and the 
ROK disagreed with each other on tactics and North-South 
relations were at a standstill, China was increasing its 
economic influence.  North-South engagement and, ultimately, 
North-South reunification would enable Korea and the United 
States to check China, Kim suggested. 
 
NORTH-SOUTH RELATIONS 
--------------------- 
 
¶4.  (C) Alluding to the phased reunification process 
prescribed by the Sunshine Policy, Kim said the two Koreas 
were currently aspiring to recreate a Korean identity as one 
people ("han minjok"), albeit living in two countries.  He 
asserted that reunification was the overriding ambition of 
the Korean people, who, Kim remarked, had been divided not of 
their own volition but by fiat of the Great Powers.  The wish 
for reunification thus made it difficult for the ROK to agree 
with certain U.S. policies and actions regarding North Korea, 
including President Bush's inclusion of North Korea in the 
"axis of evil." 
 
¶5.  (C) The Ambassador reminded Kim that the 38th parallel 
had been drawn in response to the situation on the groQ at 
that time, after Stalin's expansionist moves at the end of 
World War II.  Turning to the current situation, the 
Ambassador observed that Washington and Seoul might differ on 
tactics for promoting change on the Korean Peninsula, but not 
on the need for change itself.  He underscored that the 
United States shared the ROK's desire for a reunified Korean 
Peninsula, but observed that by pursuing its nuclear 
ambitions and engaging in other illicit activities, North 
Korea posed a threat not to just to the ROK but to the 
international community.  That said, the United States 
recognized that peace and stability was in its interest and 
therefore wanted to see the Six Party Talks lead to greater 
North-South exchanges, greater opening up in the North, 
establishment of a peace regime, and normalization of 
U.S.-DPRK relations.  We hoped for an early resumption of the 
Six Party Talks, the Ambassador said. 
 
¶6.  (C) Kim acknowledged that Pyongyang's behavior was often 
exasperating.  For instance, it had earlier in the week 
unexpectedly and inexplicably canceled a long-planned 
North-South ministerial.  But, Kim assessed, the North 
Koreans behaved in this manner because they were desperate to 
turn any issue into a possible point of negotiating leverage, 
beginning with their attendance at a given meeting.  This 
type of behavior was infuriating but, Kim said, a great 
country like the United States should try to be magnanimous 
in dealing with a small, desperate country like North Korea. 
The Ambassador responded by emphasizing the importance of 
reciprocity in North-South relations and elsewhere. 
 
¶7.  (C) Rep. Kim Hyeong-joo, who accompanied Kim Geun-tae, 
pointed out that North Korea was caught in a dilemma because 
it wanted to improve its economy while retaining its 
ideology.  China's solution had been to accept the argument 
advanced by certain Chinese scholars that early socialism 
allowed some capitalist traits.  The existence of different 
schools of thought had provided Chinese leaders with a create 
solution.  Unfortunately, Kim Hyeong-joo continued, the DPRK 
was mono-ideological, making it difficult for Pyongyang to 
change itself from within.  Moreover, the North Korean 
leadership probably feared that opening up the country would 
lead to the type of crisis of legitimacy that ensued after 
Gorbachev ushered in glasnost and perestroika. 
 
KAESONG INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX 
-------------------------- 
 
¶8.  (C) Turning to the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), Kim 
Geun-tae made a case for allowing KIC-made products to be 
classified as "Made in the ROK" for the purposes of the 
U.S.-ROK Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  If Washington were to 
agree to this, as Singapore had, it would send a positive 
signal to North Korea, Kim said.  He stressed that the KIC 
was symbolic in that, when completed, it would house a 
massive exercise in capitalism just over the DMZ, in North 
Korea's second- or third-largest city.  As the KIC expanded, 
the North Koreans would inevitably begin to compare 
themselves to their South Korean colleagues. 
 
¶9.  (C) The Ambassador noted that in addition to challenges 
related to meeting technical standards of South Korean 
content, the classification of KIC-made goods was made more 
difficult by growing concerns over wage and labor practices 
at the KIC. 
 
JAPAN 
----- 
 
¶10.  (C) Kim raised with the Ambassador the damaging effect 
wrought repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine by PM Koizumi and 
other Japanese Cabinet officials.  He urged that Washington 
take a more active and responsible role in censuring Japan's 
behavior in this regard.  Some seemed to believe that 
Washington was not involved in the Yasukuni issue, but, Kim 
asserted, "you are involved."  The Japanese prime minister's 
decision to pay homage to the 11 war criminals at Yasukuni 
was an act that challenged the legitimacy of the U.S.-backed 
war crimes tribunal that had convicted them, he observed. 
The Ambassador pointed out that Washington could not be held 
responsible for the actions of others, although we were not 
indifferent to the historical issues raised by Yasukuni. 
Nevertheless, we were concerned about the state of the 
ROK-Japan relationship and were seeking ways to help improve 
relations between our two allies. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶11.  (C) Kim Geun-tae is one of the National Assembly's most 
respected members and a perennial presidential hopeful.  A 
former dissident, he remains today a leader of Korea's 
progressive politicians and commands intense loyalty from his 
supporters.  Although he has been unable thus far to extend 
his voter appeal beyond his core base -- is struggling 
internally and externally to compete against Chung Dong-young 
-- he is widely acknowledged as a serious, thoughtful, and 
consistent voice on policy issues, especially unification. 
On this occasion, he was reluctant to engage on internal 
politics, joking that it would give him "indigestion" so soon 
after his loss to Chung in the election for Uri Party leader. 
END COMMENT. 
VERSHBOW