Let me begin the 29th Cabinet Meeting.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has changed the status of Korea from a developing to an advanced economy. It is the first time since its establishment in 1964 that UNCTAD has moved a country into the highest classification. This is truly a proud achievement for us. The unanimous decision made by U.N. member states constitutes international recognition that the Republic of Korea is irrefutably an advanced country.
Korea has grown into one of the world’s top 10 largest economies, and its international stature has been heightened and role expanded as evidenced by the country’s hosting of the P4G Summit and being invited to the G7 Summit for two years in a row. Also in Korea’s response to COVID-19, our people’s remarkable capabilities and strong sense of community have been praised as a global best practice. Now with the dignity of an advanced nation, the Republic of Korea will continue to move toward taking off as a pacesetter while faithfully fulfilling its responsibility and role in the international community. Our people should take pride in this proud achievement made through their sacrifices and struggles.
At today’s Cabinet Meeting, the act on compensation for business losses will be promulgated. It is very meaningful – for the first time, an institutional framework has been put in place to systematically compensate microbusiness owners for commercial losses incurred as a result of government-imposed anti-epidemic measures. Even though it will not be easy because no pertinent legislative examples can be found in any other country, I urge you to do your best to precisely draft specific targets, criteria, compensation amounts and other details in the relevant ordinances. Implementation should be thoroughly prepared so that compensation can be disbursed swiftly and seamlessly.
The National Assembly needs to pass the second supplementary budget bill quickly to facilitate this legislation’s stipulated compensation and provide support for damage incurred before its promulgation. I urge the National Assembly to promptly deliberate on and pass the bill so that people and businesses in need can receive assistance as early as possible. As pump priming for the economic recovery, fiscal spending is serving as a buttress to protect people’s lives. Active fiscal spending is significantly mitigating the market income inequality being worsened by the uneven recovery, improving income distribution and promoting economic growth. Fiscal spending has led to tax revenue increases in a virtuous cycle, contributing to improving fiscal soundness. Expansionary fiscal policy is killing three birds with one stone. This supplementary budget will also play a significant role in revitalizing our economy and people’s livelihoods.
The revised Government Organization Act, which creates a Vice Minister for Energy within the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, will also be promulgated today. The new vice minister will be in charge of accelerating our energy transition for 2050 carbon neutrality and fostering future energy industries, including hydrogen. Carbon neutrality has become an inevitable new international order. My Administration has presented the Green New Deal as a key pillar of the Korean New Deal – our strategy for emerging as a pacesetting country – and has pushed transitioning to a low-carbon economy in all sectors, including manufacturing, construction and transportation. In particular, we declared our goal of 2050 carbon neutrality in line with the global trend. The Government plans to raise our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) goal even higher and announce a detailed blueprint for 2050 carbon neutrality in October. Each ministry and agency should seize the establishment of a Vice Minister for Energy as an opportunity to cooperate closely and vigorously push energy innovation.
We have to expand use of renewable energy drawn from solar and wind power and the foundation of a hydrogen economy-based industrial ecosystem. Establishing smart power grids to improve energy efficiency, making industrial complexes highly efficient and low-carbon and stimulating green industries are other important tasks.
Meanwhile, during the energy transition, we must do everything in our means to promote a just transition that minimizes the impact on and damage to existing industries and allows quick responses to changes in the job market.
The Act on the Cooperation Council between Central and Local Government is also very meaningful. The council, comprising the president, all provincial governors and municipal mayors, will meet for the first time next year. This will serve as an opportunity for local governments to establish themselves as partners in the state affairs in name and substance, while deliberating on major policies related to autonomy, decentralization and balanced national development. My Administration has done its best to further promote and expand decentralization. Although the relevant constitutional revision did not pass, the rate of the VAT-based consumption tax distributed to local areas was raised to 21 percent, and state-subsidized projects have been converted to local government general projects. In this way, local governments’ financial resources have been significantly increased and their autonomy and accountability strengthened.
The act to collectively transfer administrative authority from the central government to local governments was also enacted. This will help local governments more quickly assume responsibility for and implement policies closely related to their residents’ lives. In particular, by fully revising the Local Autonomy Act for the first time in 32 years, the sovereignty of residents has been augmented, allowing them to propose ordinances on their own. Moreover, the full adoption of a strengthened autonomy system is bolstering local legislative power and granting local councils more independence in personnel decisions.
The municipal police system, which goes into effect this month, is being pushed as part of law enforcement agency reforms and the efforts to promote autonomy and decentralization. This will enable public security to be managed in ways that meet local needs, thereby helping people sense the benefit of security services in their lives. The role of local governments will become more important going forward when dealing with national issues that the world is facing together, such as low birthrates, aging populations, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and climate change responses. We will do everything possible for mutual benefit between central and local governments and between the Seoul metropolitan area and other regions.