Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07SEOUL3465
2007-12-05 07:28:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Seoul
Cable title:  

REGIONALISM ALIVE AND KICKING IN SWING PROVINCE OF

Tags:  PGOV PINR PREL RS CH KN KS 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #3465/01 3390728
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 050728Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7600
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 3513
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3651
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//
C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 003465 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2014
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL RS CH KN KS
SUBJECT: REGIONALISM ALIVE AND KICKING IN SWING PROVINCE OF
CHUNGCHEONG


Classified By: POL M/C Joseph Y. Yun. Reasons 1.4 (b,d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 003465

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2014
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL RS CH KN KS
SUBJECT: REGIONALISM ALIVE AND KICKING IN SWING PROVINCE OF
CHUNGCHEONG


Classified By: POL M/C Joseph Y. Yun. Reasons 1.4 (b,d).


1. (C) Summary: Insistence among pundits in Seoul that
regionalism is declining falls on deaf ears in the swing
provinces of the Chungcheong region. The region is divided
into two provinces, North and South Chungcheong, in which
Daejeon, with its population of about 1.5 million people, is
the largest city. The region's political claim to fame is
that no presidential candidate who failed to win in North
Chungcheong has been elected president since 1967. In South
Chungcheong a recent newspaper poll puts Lee Hoi-chang, who
claims that province as his hometown, in a statistical
dead-heat with -- and only a couple percentage points behind
-- Grand National Party (GNP) candidate Lee Myung-bak.
However, North Chungcheong polls show Lee Myung-bak with a
commanding 20 percentage point lead and odds are Chungcheong
voters will again vote for the winner this year.


2. (C) Despite the selection of Daejeon as the relocation
site of some of the ROKG's administrative functions, people
feel "alienated" by the choice of other cities for large
government investment projects. As in the rest of the
country, economic issues take top billing in this election,
though, when queried, policy toward North Korea and
educational reform were also important. In the end, all
politics is local and the people of Chungcheong will decide
their votes based on perceptions of which candidate is most
likely to promote growth for their region. End Summary

--------------
About the Region
--------------


3. (C) On November 20, poloff traveled to Daejeon to meet
with politicians and academics in the centrally located
"swing state" Chungcheong Province. The region has seen
significant growth in the last decade (thanks in part to the
KTX train which makes the trip from Seoul in under an hour),
but the provinces still remain comparatively rural. South
Chungcheong province, in which Daejeon is located, was the
home of two capitals of the ancient Baekje kingdom. The

province will host part of a capital again, as the government
is planning to relocate select administrative functions to a
new administrative city northwest of Daejeon. Daejeon
considers itself the science and technology hub of Korea, due
largely to the presence of one of Korea's premier engineering
schools, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and
Technology (KAIST).


4. (C) All three camps -- GNP, United New Democratic Party
(UNDP),and People's First Party (PFP) -- agreed that
regionalism is still alive in Chungcheong. A local reporter
told poloff regionalism was still a factor as was nostalgia
for the Park Chung-hee (1961-1979) regime. In Daejeon the
population is divided almost evenly between people from
Korea's other regions who tend to remain politically
affiliated with their hometowns. The reporter speculated
that most people understand that regionalism should not be a
factor in deciding the election, but in reality the choice
between the candidates is narrow. Lack of significant
differences in candidates' policies may be driving more
people back to regionalism.

--------------
Capital Relocation
--------------


5. (C) In the 2002 election campaign, candidate Roh Moo-hyun
pledged to pursue capital relocation -- a policy on which he
and rival Lee Hoi-chang differed. Roh kept his word, and the
National Assembly passed legislation approving the move on
December 29, 2003. The relocation of the capital to the
Daejeon area was intended to relieve congestion in Seoul and
balance regional development. The plan was later downgraded
to move only some administrative functions to Chungcheong,
with key government agencies like the Blue House, the
National Assembly, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
Trade all staying in Seoul. According to the local UNDP
office, when the project was first discussed, the ROKG agreed
to contribute KW 12 trillion and the private sector would
contribute another KW 26-30 trillion. They are currently
within budget at an estimated KW 42 trillion and the offices
are scheduled to open in 2012.

--------------
Lee vs. Lee
--------------


6. (C) Lee Myung-bak still maintains a narrow lead in
Chungcheong polls, but his primary problem is his opposition
while Seoul mayor to relocating the capital to the region.
In a campaign stop there on November 28, Lee Myung-bak
reversed his stance saying that he no longer opposes the
relocation. Nevertheless, the entry of Lee Hoi-chang, who
claims Yeasan in South Chungcheong as his hometown,
significantly diminished local support for Lee Myung-bak.
Park Geun-hye, popular because of nostalgia for her father's
regime and because her mother hails from the region, helped
the GNP's regional support ratings by throwing her support
behind Lee Myung-bak. Nevertheless, Lee Myung-bak is still
vulnerable in Chungcheong.


7. (C) Regional PFP candidate and former South Chungcheong
Shim Dae-pyung's support is small and local, largely because
his platform consists mainly of promoting the capital
relocation project. A Shim adviser told poloff that Shim
would wait for the results of the BBK investigation before
deciding which candidate to support. However, after
initially indicating he would join the GNP, on December 3
Shim announced his support for independent candidate Lee
Hoi-chang. Shim said GNP arrogance had changed his mind,
while the GNP said Shim made unreasonable demands regarding
the divvying up of nominations for the April 2008 National
Assembly elections.


8. (C) Meanwhile, the UNDP sees opportunity in the split
conservative vote. The fact that the number of undecided
voters has increased significantly, they maintain, makes it
possible for Chung Dong-young to move from third place to
second place. The UNDP plans to emphasize Lee Myung-bak's
early opposition to the capital relocation in order to
attract more swing voters. Chung Dong-young's camp also told
poloff that Chung's values have not been highlighted enough
-- his belief in democracy and peace and resolution of social
bipolarization gives Chung an edge. They will also launch a
negative campaign against the two Lees, targeting Lee
Hoi-chang for claiming to be from the region, but he is
actually from North Korea -- only his father's grave is in
Chungcheong.

--------------
Comment
--------------


9. (C) Chungcheong has always prided itself as having the
"casting vote" in presidential elections. This is not just a
boast, because Chungcheong can vote with either the southwest
(Jeolla) or the Southeast (Gyeongsang) voters. The
possession of the casting vote has also given local political
bosses considerable leverage, as displayed by Kim Jong-pil
for several decades. Kim was influential in electing both
Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung. Chungcheong votes also made
the difference in electing Roh Moo-hyun. This time around
there is no political figure comparable to Kim Jong-pil. The
best Chungcheong can do is Shim Dae-pyung, whose polls are so
low that national newspapers no longer report them. Shim's
support for Lee Hoi-chang will probably make only a small
difference, which most probably means that Chungcheong will
go with a winner again -- Lee Myung-bak.
VERSHBOW