The Korea Herald


Yoon stresses freedom, growth as he begins 5-year term

Yoon says door to dialogue open for the North to resolve nuclear threat

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : May 10, 2022 - 12:17

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President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers inauguration speech in front of the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers inauguration speech in front of the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol prioritized liberal democracy and market economy, believing freedom and rapid growth can resolve the multiple challenges the nation faces in his inaugural address on Tuesday. He also pledged to strengthen North Korea’s economy if it embarks on the denuclearization process.

The inauguration ceremony was held at the National Assembly at 11 a.m. and had around 41,000 people in attendance, including former presidents and the family members of deceased former leaders, parliamentary and government officials, diplomatic envoys and the invited public.

“It is our generation’s calling to build a nation that espouses liberal democracy and ensures a thriving market economy, a nation that fulfills its responsibility as a trusted member of the international community, and a nation that truly belongs to the people,” Yoon said.

The new president said many countries, including South Korea, are faced with multiple crises, including fast-evolving trade regimes, armed conflicts and wars, record-low growth, rising unemployment, polarization, internal strife. He believes freedom is the most important core value to overcome the challenges.

“Freedom is a universal value,” he said. “Every citizen and every member of society must be able to enjoy freedom. If one’s freedom is infringed upon or left uncorrected, this is an assault on everyone’s freedom.”

By the presidential office‘s count, he used the word “freedom” 35 times in his inaugural address, the most of any word mentioned, followed by citizens and the public 15 times, each.

Individual countries must do so, but global citizens must also come together in solidarity to address these injustices if and when they arise, he said.

“Hunger, poverty, abuse of power and armed conflict strips away our individual freedom and robs us of our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness,” Yoon said. “We, as global citizens who enjoy real freedom, must never turn a blind eye when freedom is attacked.”

Yoon believes division and social conflict plaguing Korean society and threatening freedom and liberal democratic order can be overcome with rapid and sustainable growth.

“Rapid growth will open up new opportunities,” he said. “It will improve social mobility, thereby helping us rid of the fundamental obstacles that are aggravating social divide and conflicts.”

The president said it was critical that the nation achieved rapid growth and that it would only be possible through science, technology and innovation.

“Science, technology and innovation -- they will protect our democracy, expand freedom and our inalienable rights to let our people enjoy a sustainable life of dignity.”

He also called for the denuclearization of North Korea for peace on the Korean peninsula.

While North Korea’s nuclear weapon programs are a threat not only to South Korea’s security and that of Northeast Asia, “the door to dialogue will remain open” to peacefully resolve this threat, the president said.

“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people.”

Yoon believes North Korea’s denuclearization will greatly contribute to bringing lasting peace and prosperity to the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

“I solemnly pledge today that I will do my utmost to elevate Korea into a country that truly belongs to the people,” he said. “A country based on the pillars of freedom, human rights, fairness and solidarity; a country that is respected by others around the world. Let us embark on this journey together.”

The new president began his presidential term midnight Monday by receiving a report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the situation room of the National Crisis Management Center located in the basement of the presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul.