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07SEOUL1964 2007-06-29 06:33:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Seoul
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1. (C) Summary: In a June 26 luncheon meeting with the
Ambassador, former President Kim Young-sam (KYS) said that
the next ROK president would be a conservative from the Grand
National Party, either former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak or
former GNP Chairperson Park Geun-hye. Kim believed that Lee,
his own preference, would continue to lead Park in the polls
and become the GNP nominee. KYS was also strongly of the
view that the ruling camp could not field a viable candidate
due to President Roh Moo-hyun's lack of public support.
Koreans did not want to see "another disaster." KYS was
especially scathing in assessing the current government's
North Korea policy, which he characterized as "revisionist."
Because of such "confused thinking" from the Blue House, many
young Koreans did not know who started the Korean War. KYS
believed that the most important task for the new
conservative president was to reaffirm the paramount
importance of the U.S.-ROK alliance. KYS was also interested
in the status of the Six Party Talks and urged the U.S. not
to move too fast. End Summary.

2. (U) Former President Kim Young-sam, now an octogenarian,
showed none of the wear and tear from his 55 years in
politics, most of them spent in opposition. Looking fit and
trim, hair died jet black, KYS discussed politics, North
Korea, and himself for over two hours during a June 26
luncheon hosted by the Ambassador. As always, he was frank
and upfront in delivering his views.

Lee Myung-bak Will Win


3. (C) Characterizing former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak as
someone with deep business and management experience, KYS
said that he fully expected Lee would win the GNP nomination
and go on to be the next president. Opinion polls were very
accurate, Kim said. KYS himself had consistently led his
rival, Kim Dae-jung, in the 1992 race and went on to win by a
7-percent margin, the largest ever in Korean history. True,
Lee had stumbled somewhat in the last few weeks and had been
hurt by mud-slinging by the government and his GNP opponents,
causing some narrowing in his lead over Park Geun-hye; but,
KYS predicted, the former Seoul Mayor would prevail. KYS
assessed that Lee had been hurt by his cross-country canal
proposal, which has been attacked as an ill-designed,
uneconomical project, and he had recommended that Lee
downplay it.

4. (C) KYS had little to say on Park Geun-hye's candidacy
except to note that her father was Park Chung-hee, a dictator
whom he had fought for most of his political life. Park
Chung-hee's assassination, KYS said, took place two months
after the Pusan-Masan demonstrations in 1979, which were
triggered through KYS's leadership.

Ruling Camp: No Hope


5. (C) Kim said that there was no chance that a ruling party
candidate could win the presidency. None of the candidates,
including Chung Dong-young, Lee Hae-chan, Han Myung-sook and
Kim Hyuk-kyu, registered more than couple of percent in the
polls. How could they possibly win? Kim also dismissed
former Gyeonggi Governor Sohn Hak-kyu's prospects. Sohn had
bolted from the GNP because he had no support within the
party. Such desertions never paid off. Sohn would not find
support in the ruling camp either, Kim assessed.

6. (C) Fundamentally, KYS said, the ruling camp had to carry
Roh Moo-hyun, a failed president. Koreans no longer wanted
Roh's brand of progressive politics; they had tried it and
didn't like it. While the ruling camp would try desperately
to win votes through maneuvers such as a North-South summit,
Korean voters would see through them. In any case, KYS said,
there was no reason for Kim Jong-il to accept a summit,
because Roh could not pay for it, unlike Kim Dae-jung who
"bought" the 2000 summit for USD 500 million, which, in turn,
came from Hyundai Corp.

7. (C) Ten years of progressive rule, starting with the
election of Kim Dae-jung in 1997, had resulted in enormous
damage, KYS said. South Koreans were letting their guard

down against the communist threat from North Korea. Recent
polls showed that most young people did not know who started
the Korean War. This was not surprising in view of
Unification Minister Lee Jae-jung's wishy-washy response to
the question from the National Assembly on which side started
the war.

8. (C) The next South Korean president must return to the
basics, KYS said. The next government must recognize the
paramount importance of the U.S.-ROK alliance, without which
all of Korea would now be under communist rule. The next
president must also repair the damaged relationship with
Japan, which remained a key partner for both the United
States and the ROK. In regard to China, KYS thought that its
current influence and potential were exaggerated. China
still had enormous problems ahead because of its one-party
rule. China must modernize its political system if it was
play a greater role in the region and beyond. Taiwan, on the
other hand, looked like a prosperous and vibrant democracy.
Invited by President Chen Shui-bian, KYS was planning on
visiting Taipei in the coming months.

Six Party Talks


9. (C) Noting that there had been considerable developments
in the Six Party Talks, KYS questioned whether the U.S. was
moving too fast. The Ambassador assured Kim that the
negotiations were being conducted cautiously and deliberately
and that Washington would not normalize relations with North
Korea until it had completely and verifiably denuclearized.



10. (C) These are retirement years for Kim Young-sam, a
fixture in South Korean politics since the liberation until
the end of his presidency in 1998. While still popular in
his home town of Busan, KYS no longer has much of a role,
especially as his presidency ended under the dark cloud of
the financial crisis. This diminished role quite clearly
irks KYS, because his long-time nemesis Kim Dae-jung remains
very much in the game, capable of delivering a large chunk of
votes from the southwest Jeolla region. Still, KYS took
enormous pleasure in pointing out to the Ambassador that key
politicians, such as Lee Myung-bak and Sohn Hak-kyu, came to
see him to get his advice and blessing.