In his 2021 New Year’s address on Jan. 11, President Moon Jae-in said, “Korea will expand exchanges and cooperation with our New Southern and New Northern Policy partner nations by expediting FTA negotiations with the Philippines, Cambodia and Uzbekistan.”
President Moon said that ongoing FTA talks over services and investments with China and Russia as well as negotiations with Brazil and Argentina and other MERCOSUR members and those with Mexico and other Pacific Alliance states will be expedited.
“We will also give positive consideration to joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and continue to strive for forward-looking Korea-Japan relations,” said President Moon.
The following are key excerpts from his 2021 New Year’s address.
In 2020, a new infectious disease threatened the lives of humanity and upended daily routines. We were no exception. The world economy also experienced the worst recession since the Great Depression. Our economy could not avoid negative growth either. Everyone had a difficult and trying time. Our people had to endure inconveniences throughout the year. Nonetheless, we were never disheartened. In fact, the Republic of Korea shone amid the crisis. Medical professionals devoted themselves to attending to patients, and citizens voluntarily took on the role of principal agents for epidemic prevention and control.
Our people demonstrated to the entire world, through astounding deeds, the very plain truth that the safety of our neighbors is our own safety. Creative methods initiated by the people for epidemic prevention and control were promptly applied on the frontlines. Korea’s diagnostic kits, “drive-thru” testing and such anti-epidemic supplies as masks were introduced to other countries, thereby greatly contributing to protecting humanity from COVID-19.
Korea’s response to COVID-19 has been built on the dedication and sacrifice of every single one of our citizens. For the first time in the world since the pandemic, we successfully held nationwide elections and the College Scholastic Ability Test. We have also curbed the spread of the virus as much as possible without imposing a lockdown and emerged as one of the most exemplary countries among OECD members in the fight against COVID-19. All of these are invaluable achievements made possible by our people that no one can disparage.
Our people’s spirit of mutual benefit has served as the most powerful driving force in overcoming the economic crisis. The Good Landlord Campaign has led to the movement to help microbusiness owners by paying upfront for future visits and a campaign to purchase pre-packaged farm products. We have sought ways to live together with neighbors in need. Workers have been at the forefront of surmounting the economic crisis, and businesses have retained employees to the maximum extent possible.
With the highest growth rate among the OECD members last year, the Korean economy is projected to join the world’s top ten in terms of GDP. Moreover, our per capita income is anticipated to surpass that of a G7 member state for the first time in history. In addition, Korea’s benchmark stock index KOSPI exceeded the 3,000-point mark for the first time in 14 years after breaking the 2,000-point mark, recording the sharpest rise among the markets in the OECD. All of this points to a bright outlook for the Korean economy even amid crises. The Republic of Korea has never come to a halt. All our people have worked their hardest amid difficulties and proved the Republic of Korea’s crisis-resilient potential.
The end of the dark tunnel is now finally in sight. As uncertainties have largely dissipated, we are now able to plan based on predictions and forecasts. This year, we will leap forward as a pace-setting nation in the new era by fully restoring daily routines and achieving a fast and strong economic recovery. Even with the improvements in the national economy, however, it will take more time for employment to rebound and for mircobusiness owners and the self-employed to recover from the losses they’ve sustained. More than anything else, it is important to accomplish an inclusive recovery that eases the disparities deepened further by COVID-19.
The development of homegrown vaccines will continue to be encouraged. Securing vaccine sovereignty will ensure that our vaccines enhance our people’s safety and global health cooperation.
A fast, resilient recovery will be achieved on the economic front as well. Our economic growth has already returned to positive territory since last year’s third quarter. Exports in December exceeded US$50 billion for the first time in two years – a record high for that month. Keeping up this momentum will enable our economy to return to its pre-COVID-19 state in the first half of this year.
Enhanced efforts will be made to promote innovation in local economies. We will speed up innovation by designating new regulation-free zones along with financial support that utilizes special grants for central-local government cooperation, among others. In addition, we will accelerate large-scale, pan-regional projects for balanced national development and increase investments in neighborhood infrastructure, thereby further improving the quality of local residents’ lives. If the Korean New Deal permeates our lives through the Regionally Balanced New Deal and produces synergy with existing plans for balanced national development, we will be able to take huge strides toward becoming the innovative and inclusive country we’ve envisioned.
The Government will strive to create a New Deal fund and establish an institutional foundation to ensure the private sector’s active participation. We will swiftly push key legislation related to ten representative areas of the New Deals, including the transition to a digital economy, climate change responses and balanced national development. Communication and cooperation with businesses will be enhanced. I hope the people will also actively participate.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of South and North Korea simultaneously joining the United Nations. The two Koreas should join hands and together prove that a peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula can also contribute to the international community. A peaceful Peninsula free of war and nuclear weapons is what we are obliged to pass down to the Korean people and posterity. The Government will strengthen the ROK-U.S. alliance in step with the launch of the Biden Administration. At the same time, we will make our final effort to achieve a major breakthrough in the stalled North Korea-U.S. talks and inter-Korean dialogue.
In 2021, our goals are clear: recovery and resurgence. I would like to add inclusiveness. This year will be a time when we restore our daily lives, recover the economy and narrow disparities.
The era of the Korea discount is over, and we will move along the path of resurgence to become a pace-setting nation in the era of a Korea premium.