Fellow Koreans, residents of Chungcheongnam-do Province, citizens of Asan and the 150,000 police officers across the country,
With the Police Human Resources Development Institute, the Korean Police Investigation Academy and the Korean National Police University clustered here, Asan is a truly multidimensional city of police. In the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, Chungcheongnam-do and Asan residents warmly embraced the Koreans returning from Wuhan. The police provided its Police Human Resources Development Institute as a temporary quarantine facility for the returnees. The spirit of sharing and caring initiated in Asan has served as a steppingstone leading to the success of Korea’s response to COVID-19. Asan, now known as the police’s city, has become a special municipality – never to be forgotten by the people.
It is very meaningful to hold the ceremony commemorating the 75th Police Day in Asan, the city of sharing and caring, and here at the Police Human Resources Development Institute, which symbolizes the police’s selfless service and dedication. I take this opportunity to express my respect and gratitude once again to Asan citizens and the 150,000 police officers who have instilled our people with the confidence that we can prevail over COVID-19.
Today’s event was opened by a brief video that featured police officers guarding and working on islands at Korea’s very edges: Dokdo to the east, Marado to the south and Gageodo to the southwest. It is truly reassuring that police officers are present wherever there are people across our homeland. While said to be in an extreme job because of the nature of the work, our police officers are helping to create “the safest country” by overcoming difficulties with a sense of duty and responsibility.
Especially this year, they have become a source of great strength for our people by steadfastly fulfilling their duties in the face of the national challenge to surmount COVID-19. When enhanced social distancing was imposed, the number of COVID-19-related reports phoned into the 112 police hotline reached 130 a day, more than double the typical average. During that period, our police officers engaged in various support activities – totaling 240,000 man-days – for epidemic prevention and control to protect the lives and health of the people, all while carrying out their regular duties.
During massive rallies on a public holiday that raised serious concerns about the resurgence of COVID-19, our police officers strictly dealt with allegedly unlawful collective actions while minimizing infringements on people’s basic rights. I highly praise the hard work of police officers who responded flexibly in manners suited to the situation on the ground and kept COVID-19 from resurging.
I am also very proud of the fact that our police officers’ capabilities are being recognized globally. The epidemic prevention and control activities of our police are drawing attention to the extent that we share our know-how with the United Nations and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). International police cooperation is also contributing significantly to the globalization of Korea’s response to COVID-19. Our police’s open and communicative response to rallies and demonstrations, such as deploying Korean-style “dialogue police officers,” are exemplary administrative innovations that have made public-security content a part of Hallyu.
To combat this summer’s unusually long downpours and the successive typhoons, our police officers reliably safeguarded our people by patrolling flood- and landslide-prone areas, directing traffic on risky roads, aiding recovery in flooded areas and other lifesaving activities.
Like the officer who did not hesitate to jump into the sea to save a life during his honeymoon and the officer who saved numerous neighbors through the organs donated after her tragic accidental death, our police officers remain dedicated even off duty with a sense of mission as “police officers of the Republic of Korea.” I extend special encouragement to all 150,000 police officers and the families who have quietly stood by them.
Many of our heroes left us in the line of duty: Inspector Yoo Jae-guk died while searching for a missing person in the Han River, and Senior Inspector Lee Jong-woo died carrying out a mission on Uiam Lake. However, we will never forget their noble sacrifices and dedication. I would also like to express my deepest sympathy to the bereaved families who may be burying the longing in their hearts.
The respect and love of the people are by far the greatest rewards for those officers who rush in first whenever and wherever someone is in need of help. To be reborn as “respected and beloved police officers,” they have made ceaseless efforts to reform themselves this year.
The police established a special investigation headquarters to respond to digital sex crimes, arresting 2,000 suspects and imprisoning 185 of them.
The police also formed a child abuse inspection team along with related organizations to identify children in crisis who have fallen through the cracks in provided care and intensively kept an eye on 8,500 children who could suffer abuse again. It is also a great achievement to steadily reduce the number of deaths from traffic accidents every year while working to ensure that “people-centered” traffic practices take root.
“Recuperative policing” is also being expanded. Our police remain committed to building a country where everyone prospers together by expanding the scope of their duties to include helping victims recuperate fully and perpetrators adapt to society. I hope victims of crime in need of help at any time visit one of the police departments specially designated to aid them across the nation.
Intense self-innovation is raising public trust in the police. To date, the police have carried out 330 tasks for police reform and institutionalized human rights-based investigations by devising provisions which ensure rights. The adjustment of investigative rights between prosecutors and the police helped lay the groundwork to make police investigations more independent and accountable.
The national headquarters for investigations, which will be pivotal for the nation’s investigations, will be launched soon. It will become possible to strike a balance between “responsible investigations” and “democratic control” while further strengthening political neutrality and the ability of the police to conduct investigations by separating police detectives from those in charge of administrative affairs.
As legislated reforms bring the police’s long-cherished desire closer to reality, I urge you to establish a responsible investigation system based on fairness and expertise as “responsible police officers standing tall.” If we can refine the soon-to-be-launched national headquarters for investigations further, the people will have more confidence in the police’s ability to investigate crimes.
I support the ROK police officers who have challenged themselves to change to meet the expectations of the people. Public safety should be guaranteed not only from crimes but also from various disasters and dangers that can arise anywhere in our daily lives. I would like to underscore the importance of preemptive and proactive “preventive policing.”
In order to respond to COVID-19 hastening the dawn of a contact-free society, we need to accelerate “digital police innovation” across all areas of public security. The police are already opening a new horizon for digital policing by expanding contact-free and online services.
If AI, big data and other state-of-the-art technologies are applied to policing, this will significantly strengthen public security capabilities out in the field through the entire process – from crime prevention and 112 emergency calls to dispatches and investigations.
With the cooperation of the National Assembly, an autonomous local police system will be implemented before long. The aim is to meet expectations for local autonomy and decentralization and to strengthen the public security of local residents in their daily lives. It will, however, also fundamentally change police operations that have been in place for the past 75 years. It may seem unfamiliar to the people and police officers on the ground, and there can be confusion in the actual operation. I ask you to actively embrace change and make thorough preparations in order to minimize confusion so this can lead to transformation and a leap forward.
When anti-espionage investigative authority is transferred to the police, the weight that national security places on your shoulders will become heavier as well. I ask you to do all you can to ensure that no breaches occur while protecting people’s safety and national security by nurturing your ability to conduct national security-related investigations and by strengthening your anti-terrorism capabilities.
The Government will never forget the police’s laborious effort and will do its best to guarantee appropriate treatment. We will accompany you so that you can steadfastly walk the path of democratic police that promote human rights and people’s livelihoods with a sense of duty and pride commensurate with high risks and broad responsibilities.
Above all, the Government will become a reliable supporter for police officers patrolling neighborhoods. We will do all we can to help you protect your own lives and safety. We will become a source of strength for you by allowing leaves of absence for treatments and covering related expenses if you are injured while on duty.
We will revise legislation and relevant systems to support responsible law enforcement. We will push ahead with plans to increase the number of police officers by 20,000 while providing support to improve the seniority-based promotion system to which all 150,000 police officers have long aspired.
Fellow Koreans, residents of Chungcheongnam-do and Asan and police officers,
During the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, the late Mokpo Police Senior Superintendent Lee Jun-gyu refused an order from the military dictatorship to carry out a bloody crackdown. He saved Gwangju citizens’ lives and safety by ordering his officers to not fire on citizens. However, Senior Superintendent Lee was taken to Army Security Command and suffered 90 days of imprisonment and harsh torture. He was then dismissed and disgraced – accused of dereliction of duty as an incompetent police officer.
Forty years have since passed. Not even the passage of time can bury truth and justice. Senior Superintendent Lee finally returned to us posthumously in 2020 as a police hero. Senior Superintendent Lee being lauded as a hero is a promise from the police not to repeat that dark history ever again but to unwaveringly walk the path of democratic police, compassionate police that protect human rights and reliable police that safeguard people’s livelihoods.
The role of the police is more important than ever to build a society in which safety becomes commonplace and fairness is accepted as a given. If each and every one of you walk the honorable path of police with pride as police officers of the Republic of Korea, the people will reciprocate by giving more respect and affection. I will join you on that path.
Congratulations again on Police Day, and I wish all officers good health and happiness.