By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporters Jeong Won-shik, Kim Ka-hee
President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea said, “The significance of passing the Minimum Living Standards Act during the 15th National Assembly resonates ever more strongly.” Speaking at the National Assembly on July 16, 2020, Moon also referred to Korea’s effort to control the on-going COVID-19. He said, “Our capacity to combat COVID-19 today was accumulated and nurtured through various legislations introduced by this chamber to boost people’s livelihood.”
Then he said, “By guaranteeing minimum standards of living, education, and healthcare through institutional means, we were able to protect the lives of the people and lay the foundation for welfare even while going through the financial crisis.”
On the Administration’s support of the effort s of the National Assembly, Moon said: “The government will also provide maximum support to the National Assembly’s journey of serving the people. We will not insist on a certain form of dialogue and instead work to expand our dialogue with the National Assembly through various means, including the resumption of the tripartite standing consultative meeting. We will meet regularly to build trust, and use it as a springboard to discuss and act on the issues at hand.
I sincerely hope the values of inclusiveness, mutual prosperity, solidarity, and cooperation will take off from the 21st National Assembly to take deep roots in the Korean society.:
Excerpts from the speech of President Moon follow:
Fellow Koreans, The Honorable Speaker Park Byung-seok, The Honorable Deputy Speaker Kim Sang-hee, Distinguished Members of the National Assembly,
Together with the people, I would like to offer my congratulations on the opening of the 21st National Assembly. It has been a bumpy ride just to reach the starting line, but I do hope that the 21st National Assembly will now shrug off all the past troubles, take some time for introspection and embark on a brand new start.
The 21st National Assembly saw the highest number of women elected in history, while the number of members who are in their 20s and 30s has also quadrupled, compared to the 20th National Assembly. The lawmakers who have been elected will be able to represent a wide-ranging group of people, including those with disabilities, workers, firefighters, nurses, athletes, artists, and others.
This chamber must be reborn each day to lead us all towards a nation in which everyone prospers together. It is also the very engine of this country that will not tolerate even a moment’s rest. Led by Speaker Park, a leader who brings people together serving his 6th term, and Deputy Speaker Kim, the first woman to occupy this position in our history, this hallowed chamber will be a venue where experience meets exuberance, veterans blend in with freshmen and debates and compromise exist in harmony. This is the very hope I share with the Korean people.
Drawing from the traditions of solidarity and cooperation, the National Assembly thrived in each crisis. During the Korean War, even in the midst of its exile in Daegu and Busan, the National Assembly still held sessions to discuss people’s livelihoods and stood together with them by assisting refugees and encouraging soldiers. Even in the midst of expulsion and house arrest, older generations of lawmakers kept the flame of democracy alive and triumphed over dictatorship.
As we continue our fight against COVID-19, the significance of passing the Minimum Living Standards Act during the 15th National Assembly resonates ever more strongly. By guaranteeing minimum standards of living, education, and healthcare through institutional means, we were able to protect the lives of the people and lay the foundation for welfare even while going through the financial crisis. Our capacity to combat COVID-19 today was accumulated and nurtured through various legislations introduced by this chamber to boost people’s livelihood.
Tasked with the mission of building a fair and just nation, the 20th National Assembly also made efforts to enhance people’s lives and safety during the three years of my administration. Thanks to the legislative success achieved by the 20th National Assembly, we were able to lay the foundation of an innovative and inclusive nation. The 20th National Assembly also played a big role in our fight against Japan’s export restriction measures last year. It also strived until the very end to combat COVID-19 by quickly passing the two bills for supplementary budgets. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the 20th National Assembly for their service.
Unfortunately, I also have to tell a few home truths as well. In spite of its hard work and subsequent achievements, it is hard to deny that the 20th National Assembly was held in very low regard by the Korean people. Political awareness of the public continued to grow, but the political reality was slow to catch up.
The biggest letdown was the failure of cooperative governance. Before my inauguration, I visited the four opposition parties first, and I invited to party and floor leaders to the Blue House for talks 10 times during the 20th National Assembly. I also convened a tripartite standing consultative committee involving the government and both the ruling and opposition parties. Moreover, I strived to communicate on numerous occasions, including through my speech at this very chamber.
Each time, we promised cooperative governance in front of the people but failed to deliver. It takes two to tango, and the same goes for cooperative governance. No finger-pointing here, as I have to admit that the blame must be laid squarely on all of us, including myself.
The 21st National Assembly must rise above the politics of confrontation and hostility and usher in an era of cooperative governance. In the face of the global crisis and the upheaval of the post-COVID-19 era, cooperative governance assumes even greater importance. We must live up to the people’s expectations for bipartisan cooperation to overcome the national crisis. I sincerely hope to see us attempt to outdo each other only through better politics and policies.
No period in our constitutional history had been insignificant, but this is an extraordinarily important time on which the future of this country hinges. A virus completely upended the lives of the whole humanity and toppled the global economy. It is now restructuring even the global order.
All Koreans are also going through great difficulties in their everyday lives, and we have also grieved over the loss of 290 lives. We are beginning to see the full force of the shocks to our economy, including in terms of exports and employment. In the midst of it all, one consolation for us is that we were able to rediscover Korea in the course of responding to this crisis.
My neighbors protect my safety and we are all in it together to protect each other – this is the kind of social trust we have built. Through solidarity and cooperation, we can overcome any hardship, and such common experience and collective memory is now etched deep inside us. We no longer underestimate our own abilities, and more than ever before, we now take pride in having joined the group of most advanced nations.
As we emerged from colonization and war and played catch-up with advanced countries, we never grasped the full extent of our abilities, but now, we are able to look at our true selves through the eyes of the international community and also in comparison with the countries we had once envied. Korea’s response to COVID-19 has set the benchmark for the whole world. Moreover, the Korean people are blessed with world-class abilities in many other areas, including democracy, economy, culture, and social fields.
When countries around the world chose to postpone or abandon nationwide elections, the Koreans demonstrated the highest form of civic virtues to blend democracy with disease prevention measures and successfully staged the elections – thus becoming a unique case in the whole world. Not a single infection among the 29 million voters and 300,000 staff who helped with the logistics and management – this is the miracle we pulled off.
As each person played a central role in disease prevention, we were able to expand individual freedom to freedom for all and broke new grounds in our democracy. The international community praised the Korean people for showing how real democracy works and sought to learn from our experience of successfully holding the elections in the midst of a pandemic.
Just when the global economy was retreating to a lockdown, we led the global cooperation and demonstrated that it is possible to harmonize the pursuit of disease prevention and economic recovery. In the spirit of ‘solidarity and cooperation’, we provided quarantine equipment such as diagnostic kits and face masks to numerous countries, and are also cooperating beyond borders to develop vaccines and therapeutics.
Cultural products ranging from K-Pop to K-contents as epitomized by BTS and the movie ‘Parasite’ respectively are apt illustrations of the Korean people’s marvelous and awe-inspiring depth of talent and strong civic consciousness.
Now is the time for politicians to step up in support. Korea that has been rediscovered by the people should now be placed on a firm foundation. Channeling the energy lent by the people towards overcoming COVID-19, and building a nation that plays a leading role on the international stage – this is the calling given to the 21st National Assembly.
I hope the 21st National Assembly becomes the fulcrum of national integration which will be essential if we are to achieve this historic feat.
The government will also spare no effort to this end. So, let’s stand together to overcome the national crisis, navigate the post-COVID-19 era, and achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula, which will be a true inflection point in history.
Overcoming the prevailing crisis is the most urgent task facing our nation at this moment. It is time to mobilize every ounce of our national capacity to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.
We proved ourselves to be the quickest and the smartest in the world in overcoming the COVID-19 crisis. The principles of transparency, openness, and democracy that we had adopted in the course of taking disease prevention measures have now become the global model. We have been more successful than any other country in harmonizing disease prevention measures with everyday lives, all thanks to the strong civic awareness and the sense of community demonstrated by the people as well as the dedication of medical professionals.
As we continue our fight against the virus, even with no end in sight, my government will not waver in taking rigorous disease prevention measures. I hope to count on the National Assembly’s support through legislation. In particular, we need to further strengthen our disease control system as COVID-19 continues to spread all over the world.
I hope you will be able to quickly approve the bill to restructure government ministries, including the plan to upgrade the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
We are also faring better than other countries in terms of economy. As the global economy continues to register negative growth, it is a common assessment of international organizations such as OECD and IMF that Korea’s economic growth rate is the highest among OECD member countries. They are citing my government’s decisive stimulative measures coupled with efficient disease control efforts as the reason.
Indeed, unlike other countries, we have been able to efficiently curb the spread of the virus without taking drastic measures such as border closures or regional lockdowns while maintaining economic activities. In this way, we were able to minimize the negative repercussions to our economy. Bold and unprecedented moves made by the government, such as disaster relief assistance which was provided for the first time in history and three supplementary budgets have contributed towards protecting small business owners and job retention and bring forward the timeline for economic recovery. Thanks to the efforts made by the people who are adhering to preventive measures in their daily lives and are engaging in normal economic activities, Korea’s economic indicators are beginning to show signs of improvement.
After reaching our lowest ebb in April, the following months of May and June saw the generation of momentum for economic recovery in terms of exports, consumption, and employment. We must act decisively to sustain this momentum. Cooperation from the National Assembly will be a huge boost to our efforts to overcome the economic crisis. We need all hands on deck to ensure a swift economic rebound. My government will spare no effort to this end. I ask the National Assembly to follow suit.
The whole of humanity is facing a colossal challenge that we have not experienced before. In the aftermath of the outbreak of COVID-19, the world is becoming fundamentally estranged from the world we once knew. If we do not respond to this gigantic change in a proactive way, we will not be able to sail into the future. We will forever be consigned to a seat at the second tier among nations. If such a change is indeed unavoidable, my government will choose to play a leading role in instigating such changes and utilize it as a springboard for a further leap forward. We hope to usher in a new era in which the Republic of Korea plays a leading role on the global stage. I hope the National Assembly will join hands in our journey to the future.
The Korean New Deal will be the key that unlocks the future of new promise. It is a national development strategy that will enable us to take the leap to become an elite nation.
It will be a declaration of our commitment to fundamentally change the nation - from an economy that sets the pace instead of playing catch-up, from a carbon-dependent economy to a low-carbon economy, and from an unequal society to an inclusive society. This is Korea’s blueprint for the next 100 years.
The Korean New Deal will be based on the foundation of an inclusive nation and driven by the twin engines of the Digital and Green New Deal. Digital Civilization and Green Revolution represent the future that the world should aspire for. We will stay ahead of the curve in the face of tumultuous tides of world history. As a country that plays a leading role in the post-COVID-19 era, we will write a new chapter in history in which Korea no longer languishes in the periphery and instead occupies center stage.
This is not a pipe dream. We already possess global competitiveness in the digital sector and are ranked No. 1 in the world in terms of ICT and semiconductors. As such, we are equipped with requisite technology and the capacity to lead the digital revolution. There is fertile ground for intact industries to blossom, while the boom in innovative startups is creating a dynamic economy. If we could apply our digital prowess into all industrial fields, we will be able to transform our economy into playing a pace-setting role instead of catch-up. We can turn our dream of building a top-notch digital nation that leads the world into reality.
If we could also utilize our strength in terms of the green economy, there is limitless potential for further growth. We already possess world-renowned solar power companies and technologies and we are also spearheading hydrogen economy by producing world-class hydrogen cars. We also rank among the best in the electric car and battery industries. Although there are many fields in which we still lag behind, we will be able to create a giant tide of green revolution if we use our strength in digital technology as a platform. This will enable us to lead the global order of solidarity and cooperation geared towards resolving the climate crisis and also enhance our industrial competitiveness in the midst of ever-tightening international environmental regulations.
The Korean New Deal is a new social contract in Korea. It is a pledge to take advantage of the prevailing crisis to further strengthen employment and social safety nets. We will break the equation that ‘crisis begets deepening inequality’. The government will take the lead in doing so. We will incrementally expand the employment safety net for all our citizens to reinforce the safety net for new types of laborers including freelancers and platform workers. We will repeal the rule concerning family support obligation by 2022, and introduce sickness allowance that will enable workers to take leave when they fall ill. We will expand our investment in human resources to facilitate a successful transition to the digital era and green revolution. We will reinforce our efforts to nurture talents and provide vocational training and also focus on channeling our investment towards solving the digital divide.
My government has pledged to invest in the Korean New Deal at an unprecedented level. Money from state coffers will be directly injected into this project – 49 trillion won by 2022 and 114 trillion won by 2025. When we take into account local governments and the private sector, the total will reach 68 trillion won and 160 trillion won respectively. As a result, vast number of new jobs will be created - 890,000 by 2022 and 1.9 million by 2025. Such a bold investment by the government will lead Korea beyond the current crisis to embrace new changes. It will open up opportunities for Korea to become an elite nation. We will be able to dramatically upgrade people’s quality of life and provide them with new job opportunities.
There is also great interest abroad in the Korean New Deal. Recently, the OECD singled out Korea as a ‘notable outlier’ whose dip in growth rate for this year has only been marginal. In particular, the OECD opined that the Korean New Deal centered on digital and green will bring higher improvement in employment and investment figures than initial outlooks.
National Assembly’s cooperation will be indispensable for the Korean New Deal to succeed. I truly hope that the government and the National Assembly will form a strong solidarity to this end. Using the New Deal as a springboard for national development, I hope we will be able to walk the path that equips Korea to become a global leader. My government will live up to our burgeoning role and responsibilities. I call on the National Assembly to do the same. A new era calls for new norms. I ask you to work together to cut red tape that hinders our efforts to embrace the new era. I hope you will speed up the efforts to improve the system in accordance with the evolving environment. The National Assembly also assumes an important role in mediating conflicts of interest that could impair our future-oriented endeavors and in encouraging integration. I ask for your special attention on the legislation for strengthening social and employment safety nets that have become increasingly important.
The Korean New Deal will continue to evolve in the future. It will be spread to different regions and to the private sector and instigate dynamic changes in Korea. In particular, the Korean New Deal will be linked to various forms of New Deal projects taken up by local communities. It will provide the impetus for transforming the region to digital space and green villages. I have no doubt that your active role will be of great help. If the National Assembly comes up with a sound idea of spreading the New Deal to each region, the government will provide full support, regardless of any partisan considerations. The Korean New Deal has just taken off. With the help of the National Assembly in filling the gap, the Korean New Deal will be further developed and made whole.
The government and the National Assembly must also swiftly answer the calls of the people regarding their livelihood and fair economy. The biggest legislative challenge that concerns people’s livelihood at this moment is the real estate policy. The global trend dictates that we are flush with liquidity more than at any time before, while interest rates remains at the lowest level in history. We cannot protect end users without suppressing speculative demand that is flooding the real estate market. My government will explore all available tools necessary to control speculative investment and stabilize housing prices. By increasing the burden of owning houses for those with multiple homes and significantly spiking up capital gains tax on real estate sales, we will make sure that you can no longer earn a windfall through speculative investment in real estate.
On the other hand, we will alleviate the burden of families residing in the only property they own and also push forward with strong measures to achieve housing stability and aid average folks and young people hoping to purchase homes. We will also listen closely to the voices of the opposition parties calling for the expansion of housing supply and actively explore necessary measures. I look forward to counting on active cooperation from the National Assembly as well. If the government’s real estate policies including the three bills on lease are not backed up by the National Assembly’s legislative efforts, they will always end up falling way short of achieving their desired effect.
Moreover, to protect small businesses and promote mutual prosperity of large companies and SMEs, I do hope that the 21st National Assembly will be able to swiftly enact or amend bills such as, “the Commercial Act,” “the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act,” “the Act on Supervisory of Financial Group,” “the Act on Collaborative Cooperation between Large Enterprises and SMEs,” and “the Distribution Industry Development Act.”
Peace on the Korean Peninsula is still a fragile prospect. The progress in inter-Korean and U.S-North Korea relations that took monumental efforts to achieve still remain incomplete. Managing inter-Korean and U.S-North Korea relations is still akin to skating on thin ice. Now is the time to rise above partisan interests to pool our wisdom for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Peace is the very foundation of sustainable prosperity. Peace is also indispensable in our quest to lead a safe life in the post-COVID-19 era. We must not halt our march towards peace. Dialogue is the only way to build trust between the two Koreas. Thanks to the power of dialogue, separated families were reunited, peace economy sprung up in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and Mt. Geumgang, Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games was successfully held as Peace Olympics, and a first-ever US-North Korea Summit took place.
All along the way, the Korean people have overcome countless hurdles in our journey towards peace. Even if there is another hurdle to surmount, surmount we will without fail. We will do our best to jointly implement the three principles of renunciation of war, mutual security guarantees and co-prosperity that we had agreed upon with North Korea. I ask the National Assembly to stand together with the government in such endeavors. If irreversible progress in inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean peninsula can be guaranteed by the National Assembly, it will make the foundation for peace-building on the Korean Peninsula much stronger. Legally formalizing all the outcomes of previous inter-Korean summits and staging the first-ever inter-Korean parliamentary meeting are the fruits of the 21st National Assembly that I really look forward to seeing.
When the two Koreas cooperate in trust, it will benefit both of us. Merely connecting the roads of South and North Korea to link them with the continent will bring enormous economic benefits to the two Koreas as a logistical hub. Above all, peace will bring infinite opportunities for new jobs. If the 21st National Assembly could join forces together, we will be able to realize an East Asian community of peace, security and life with a spring in our step. This could be a way of perpetuating denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and responding to epidemics such as COVID-19 through regional cooperation.
These days, even if the National Assembly and the government swiftly upgrade laws and institutions, we often find ourselves outpaced by reality. National Assembly must accelerate its legislative efforts. I hope the National Assembly could provide the impetus for the government to ensure that the policies that benefit the people will be implemented in a timely manner.
I also hope the National Assembly will play a leading role in upholding the value of fairness that captures the spirit of the times. Innovation that is ingrained in our DNA can truly flourish when we put our faith in a ‘fair society’. 20-year old reform agendas, such as the laws on establishing a Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) and on granting police more investigative power have been passed at the 20th National Assembly, moving us a step closer to the reform of key organs of state power.
The date for launching the CIO as required by law formulated by the National Assembly has already passed. The government has already completed its preparatory work including the modification of subsidiary legislations. However, the National Assembly is yet to process a number of decisions, including the appointment of the Director of CIO. I ask you once again to complete the recommendation procedures within the current session and convene a confirmation hearing before the deadline. I hope the 21st National Assembly completes the task of reforming key organs of state power.
The government will also provide maximum support to the National Assembly’s journey of serving the people. We will not insist on a certain form of dialogue and instead work to expand our dialogue with the National Assembly through various means, including the resumption of the tripartite standing consultative meeting. We will meet regularly to build trust, and use it as a springboard to discuss and act on the issues at hand.
I sincerely hope the values of inclusiveness, mutual prosperity, solidarity and cooperation will take off from the 21st National Assembly to take deep roots in Korean society.
In great hopes, I want to once again congratulate the opening of the 21st National Assembly together with the Korean people.