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Full text of President Lee Myung-bak's address

President Lee Myung-bak's address for on the 66th anniversary of liberation


(Yonhap News)
(Yonhap News)

Fellow citizens, decorated patriots who fought for the nation’s independence, distinguished guests from home and abroad, our brethren in the North and seven million compatriots residing overseas,

I join all Koreans in celebrating the 66th anniversary of liberation today. Liberation has allowed us to breathe in the air of freedom; it has allowed us to shape our nation’s destiny.

I would like to reflect here on the vision held by our patriotic forefathers who sacrificed their lives for this country.

The dream all of them and all of us had was to build a nation and live decent lives by casting off the shackles of repression and poverty.

The dream has finally come true. In the 60 years since liberation, the Republic of Korea has undergone remarkable changes. The image of a destitute Korea devastated by division and war is now nowhere to be found.

The Republic of Korea has a per capita income of over US$20,000 along with six other countries that has a population of more than 50 million. The Republic of Korea successfully hosted the G20 Summit; as a member of the G20, it also took the initiative in proposing the development agenda for the first time. The Republic of Korea laid out the vision of green growth and became a global leader in proactively responding to climate change. The Republic of Korea will have hosted all the major sporting events—the summer and winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and the World Championships in Athletics—along with four other countries by winning the bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. The Republic of Korea is now enchanting millions of young people around the world with its K-pop.

But this wasn’t always the case. Just sixty years ago, the international community eyed the Republic of Korea with sympathy and pity. However, some six decades later, Korea has seized the global spotlight, and nations around the world are eager to become our friends and partners. A country that had to depend on the international community for survival has been transformed into a country that is helping others around the world. This Administration put forth the vision of a Global Korea and to becoming a leading, advanced country; such vision is now being realized.

The world likes to call our achievements as “miracles” but it is “history” written with sweat and tears. It was a history of overcoming numerous crises over and over again.

When the foreign exchange crisis erupted in 1997, the Korean people had to endure unspeakable hardships. Nonetheless, the Korean people came together. We overcame the crisis. People voluntarily donated their gold – wedding rings, necklaces, bracelets and whatever they had – in order to help the country weather the storm. When the global financial crisis struck in 2008 we rallied together yet again. We did not create these crises but we did our best to scale it and we did it successfully.

 Unfortunately, more challenges remain. Major countries are facing fiscal difficulties but we will face this challenge as well. The Korean people have always turned crisis into opportunity. Through this, we have built this great country. Now, we will march toward becoming a greater Republic of Korea.

Fellow Koreans,

The world is experiencing a mix of both progress and crises. With the advent of the IT revolution, everyday life has become more convenient. In addition, democratization has brought freedom to an increasing number of people. Newly emerging countries that make up the majority of the global population are now on the threshold of full-fledged development.

In contrast, however, uncertainties are higher than at any time before. The symptoms associated with crises are spreading. It is hard to see even an inch ahead in the current economic fog. The global fiscal crisis is throwing the world into turbulence. Food and energy crises are devastating millions around the world. Countries are suffering from soaring prices. Many countries are fighting against widening disparities in wealth and high unemployment. The fate of the planet is at stake depending on how we respond to climate change, and we still have a long way to go.

It is disconcerting to see that the advanced countries we tried to emulate in the past are now all mired in the same trouble. For this reason, not only we but all the peoples around the world are deeply concerned. Young people, who will shoulder the responsibility for the next generation, are particularly uncertain about the future.

To solve the global problems of today and build a world of peace and prosperity of tomorrow, we must come up with new ways of thinking. The shift in the international consultative mechanism from the G7 to the G20 is of immense historic significance. The G7 was an exclusive gathering of rich countries where only those countries with power were given the right to decide major issues. The G20, however, is symbolic of the world where advanced, emerging, underdeveloped countries as well as all the five continents gather to try and solve problems together.

The G20 was created out of an urgent understanding that it would be difficult to solve the crises facing the world today with the existing approach. It manifests itself in highlighting the importance of global governance, which will make coordination, agreement and action possible on a global scale.

In this regard, the existing market economy must evolve. What is now being demanded is a new model of the market economy that evolves from greedy management to ethical management; from the freedom of capital to the responsibility of capital; and from the vicious circle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer to mutual prosperity. Accordingly, politics should evolve as well. There is also an expanding consensus on the necessity for change from politics centering around one nation to global democracy and from the “politics of ideology” to the “politics of life”.

In the process, such values as “humanity”, “creativity” and “responsibility” are emerging as central values. Through these values, we have to make a society that cares about people living harmoniously together, a society that is overflowing with creative innovation and a society that shares responsibilities.

The world must take a path toward sustainable growth that will enable us to avoid destructive risks and all-embracing growth that will help reduce disparities.

The Korean Government, too, has endeavored to live up to such demands of the new era. I have stressed the need to establish new ways of thinking and new ways of behaving.

That is why I put forth a vision of green growth, a pro-working class policy based on centrist pragmatism and a belief in a fair society.

Our vision of green growth is the first time in our history where a global issue is recognized as our own. It is also pivotal to our mission of becoming a greater Republic of Korea.

When hit by the unprecedented financial crisis in 2008, the Government employed measures that were totally different from those that were used during the 1997 foreign exchange crisis. At that time, an extensive restructuring of businesses was carried out to address problems. As a consequence, about 20,000 businesses went under and around 2 million people lost their jobs, which in turn aggravated the polarization of society.

During the 2008 financial crisis, we shared the pain believing that the united efforts of 10 people would make it easier to help one person. Through the “job-sharing” program, which is not found in other countries, and intensive assistance for small and medium-sized enterprises, Korea was able to ride out the crisis without massive layoffs and a chain of bankruptcies.

This arduous process helped bring home to us the fact that the top priority of Government policy should be placed on low-income families in the face of crisis as they suffer the most. Against this backdrop, one policy direction of this Administration has been aimed at providing help for low-income families as well as building up the middle class.

Last year, the Government put forth ‘fair society’ as a vision for running state affairs to give hardworking people hope by curbing corruptive practices and the misuse of privileges. The ultimate goal of the new vision is to sever the vicious cycle of the economic gap leading to a social gap, which often ends up in the disparity of opportunities.

This vision has yet to take firm root in our everyday lives. The Government is listening carefully to the concerns that such a vision is not being felt by the people.

However, when we read the trends in the shift of world history and if we aim to build Korea into an advanced nation standing tall in the global arena, we should never falter in implementing policies aimed at promoting green growth, a pro-working class centrist pragmatism and a belief in a fair society. Through these policy measures, we have to strive faster than other countries to find solutions. To this end, my Administration will endeavor to pave the way for such changeovers and lay the necessary foundation.

My fellow Koreans,

The path ahead is clear: we have to come up with a new development mechanism through which the preservation of the global environment can go hand in hand with economic prosperity; growth with an improvement in the quality of life; economic progress with social cohesiveness and national progress with individual progress.

When it come to progress, quality is as important as quantity. Progress needs to be a proper response to climate change while at the same time solidifying  the foundation for our survival. Such progress should not widen the gap but narrow it. Instead of jobless growth, it has to help create more job opportunities. It has to be conducive to building a warm society where people take care of one another.

In each stage of the extended period of a lifetime, people should be able to pursue happiness free of any restraint. 

This is what Ecosystemic Development is all about.

Recently, there have been some promising developments. In the first half of this year, the number of newly created decent regular jobs amounted to 600,000. Though many people are complaining of difficulties, Korea has recorded the lowest unemployment rate among OECD member nations. Particularly, the youth unemployment rate is far lower than those of other advanced nations. The number of new businesses, including one-person businesses, venture companies and social enterprises, has reached a record high. Income polarization has shown the first signs of alleviation in eight years. The size of the middle class is gradually increasing.

For its part, the Government will do all it can do. The welfare budget this year, in the amount of 86 trillion KRW, accounts for approximately 30 percent of the total, the highest amount ever. Given the fact that a super-aged society is now just about to arrive, there is no other choice but to increase the welfare budget to provide necessary benefits to those in need.

In some countries, competitive welfare populism by lawmakers brought about national bankruptcy. We have to avoid repeating the same mistakes. If the state budget is depleted, it would be impossible to continue implementing welfare policies. In addition, we should not make the error of giving financial aid to those who are well off, thus preventing such assistance flowing into the hands of those in desperate need. We have to remain vigilant so that policies formulated for present convenience do not become an unmanageable burden for future generations.

We have to ensure that the recent global fiscal crisis teaches us a lesson. Unlike other crises, fiscal crises are the most dangerous as we do not have the proper means to tackle them. It is instrumental to maintain fiscal soundness to properly respond to any crisis. Amidst the 2008 financial crisis, Korea was able to fare well compared to other nations thanks to our sound fiscal condition. In this connection, I will do my utmost to realize a balanced budget by 2013 when my term in office comes to an end.

While striving to achieve a balanced budget, my Administration will see to it that the funds earmarked for tailored welfare and the improvement of the quality of life will increase. It will also redouble efforts necessary for promoting “Ecosystemic Development”.

In this connection, it is encouraging that businesses have recently begun to open its doors to high school graduates. The Government will endeavor to make sure that such practices are widely spread to state-owned companies and other private businesses, including financial companies. With full scholarships and joint industry-academia programs for students attending Meister high schools and other specialized high schools, the Government will provide more opportunities for graduates from these schools to get a job first and continue their studies later on, if they wish. 

Finding reasonable solutions to problems stemming from discrimination against irregular workers is also one of the Government’s top concerns. The Government will soon come up with comprehensive countermeasures to improve the conditions of irregular workers. The focus will be laid on minimizing the discrimination faced by irregular workers, even though they do the same work as regular workers.

Through various policy measures, the Government has exerted efforts to give a helping hand to self-employed people. It lowered transaction fees on credit cards and expanded microcredit and gift certificates that can be used at traditional markets. The Government will further strengthen measures that will be more beneficial to self-employed people and help protect small shops by helping boost domestic consumption. 

At the moment, it is of paramount importance to stabilize consumer prices. Curbing price hikes is not something that can be addressed by our country alone. For this reason, I have been seeking hard to find a solution to the problem for a long time. The Government will mobilize all possible policy measures within its capacity to stabilize prices. Among other things, it will increase the supply of small-sized rental houses to stabilize the market for rental and long-term lease units and help lower housing expenses of low-income families.

Abnormal weather conditions that used to occur once in a century have now become routine. The Government will drastically enhance standards for disaster preparedness to make sure that the general public can go about their everyday business without fear. Starting next year, this will be reflected in the budget plan without fail.

Fellow Koreans,

A win-win growth strategy constitutes a critical component of Ecosystemic Development. Only when a healthy business environment is established can the benefits of growth be shared equitably.

That is the only way to create good jobs.

That is the only way to improve the finances of ordinary people.

That is the only way to revitalize regional economies.

Ultimately the win-win growth strategy will enable both big and small businesses to strengthen their competitiveness and bases for survival. The Korean people know the great contributions the large corporations have made in the course of the nation’s economic development. In accordance with the changing times, however, the roles required of the large corporations have changed as well. The social responsibilities of big businesses have become much larger. They are asked to help make the nation’s business environment healthy. They are asked to create jobs proactively. They are asked to actively assume the responsibility of enhancing the quality of life. By doing so, the big corporations have to create an environment in which they will be respected by the public.

Let us all have confidence in ourselves. We have to utilize our elevated national prestige and strong economy as the catalyst for Ecosystemic Development. Ecosystemic Development cannot be realized by the efforts of the Government alone. Concerted efforts are required on the part of the Government, all actors in the market, the political circle, the civic community and labor and management. We have to join forces. And we must work together so that we can become an example for others around the world.

My fellow citizens,

What we have to do to survive as a nation is to venture into the global market. In this context, our core strategy is to secure free trade agreements.

Our country has signed more FTAs than any other country in the world. The benefits exceed our expectations. In just seven years of signing an FTA with Chile, two-way trade has tripled. The four-year old Korea-ASEAN FTA bolstered bilateral trade by 60 percent. One year after Korea and India signed an FTA, the two countries saw their two-way trade boosted by 40 percent this year.

On July 1, the Korea-EU FTA went into force. When the Korea-U.S. FTA is ratified, Korea will become a global FTA hub both in name and substance. There has been a report that the Korea-U.S. FTA will bolster the country’s GDP by 5.7 percent and create 350,000 new jobs. Another important benefit of the Korea-U.S. FTA will be the strengthening of the bilateral alliance.

If we lose more time, we may lag behind competing nations. The Government has prepared remedial measures to address some relevant issues. The treaty must be ratified for the future of the Republic.

My 70 million fellow compatriots,

We have yet to resolve the greatest issue in modern Korean history. That is the issue of national reunification. Reunification would be the perfection of national liberation.

Over the past 60 years, the South and North have lived in conflict. Now is the time to overcome it and open up an age of peace and cooperation.

To this end, it is incumbent for the two sides to build up mutual trust with responsible deeds and a sincere stance. Nothing can be accomplished through provocations. The two sides should bring about peace based on mutual trust, pursuing common prosperity through bilateral cooperation.

Humanitarian assistance for children in the North will continue. Humanitarian support to help it recover from natural disasters will also be continuously carried out.

The Korean Government has all along striven to maintain mature relations with Japan.

For the sake of the future relationship, Korea will not be bound by the unfortunate past. But at the same time, the Korean people can never forget the history of the recent past altogether.

Japan has a responsibility to teach its young generation the truth about what happened in the past. By doing so, we can then allow young people in Korea and Japan to forge ahead into the new era with a correct recognition and understanding of history. This kind of cooperation will greatly contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world as well as Northeast Asia.

My fellow Koreans,

In a few days, the World Athletics Championships will be opened in Daegu. Winter Olympics and the Athletics Championships are international sporting festivals that are usually held in advanced countries. We have to host the Athletics Championships successfully without fail, demonstrating our remarkable capabilities.

The Republic of Korea is strong, especially in adversity. In crisis, the Korean people tend to become solidly united. There are indications that more financial trouble may be ahead; the Government is going all out to be prepared for any contingency. I urge all the citizens to join forces to this end.

It is imperative that we should all endeavor to build a country that makes us proud and happy. All of us should feel fortunate to have been born in Korea. My hope is that all of us are genuinely happy to live in this country and that we are proud of raising our children in this country.

We have created the Korea of today by overcoming ceaseless challenges and making achievements for the past 60 years. In the same manner, as we strive to achieve “Ecosystemic Development”, we will make an even happier Republic of Korea in the years to come.

Let us all work together to open an age of proud Koreans and build up an even greater Republic of Korea in the community of nations. In this way, our great success stories will go on.

Thank you very much.

 

 

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