It is very fortunate that we have been able to safely airlift to Korea the Afghans who helped our country as well as their families. I am proud of the hard work and meritorious service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the military and the other relevant officials who successfully completed their missions while carrying out a rapid, perfectly choreographed operation. My compliments go to them all. I am also deeply grateful to the residents of Jincheon and our people for warmly welcoming the Afghans, who will stay in Korea as People of Merit to the Country. The success of the airlift operation as well as the openness and inclusiveness of our people have been highly praised globally.
Meanwhile, it is very sad that many people have lost their lives due to the terrorist bombing at Kabul Airport. I extend my deepest condolences. The Korean Government strongly condemns it as an unpardonable crime against humanity. We will continue to work with the international community to help bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. For the first time in the history of Korean diplomacy, we have – out of our own volition – sent military transport planes into an area of conflict to airlift a large number of foreign nationals and resettle them into our country. I hope this will serve as an opportunity for Korea to evolve into a dignified country that helps and embraces people in countries in need as a strong advocate for human rights, fulfilling its humanitarian responsibility.
Throughout the twists and turns of our modern and contemporary history punctuated by colonization, war, poverty and other hardships, many of our people suffered as refugees, immigrants and migrant workers. The displacement and separation of the Korean people still persist. We can sympathize with the Afghan people’s current tribulations as if they were our own. I look forward to our people extending open hearts and warm helping hands to the Afghans, who need to start new lives in a foreign land.
There is a considerably large number of children; they account for half of those airlifted. While paying special attention to arranging a proper learning environment for these children, the Government will devise comprehensive support measures to help them adapt and live well in our society.
Autumn is already drawing near. The entire nation has long been undergoing hardships due to COVID-19. However, we are keeping the number of cases from soaring, and our confirmed cases and fatality rate are among the lowest for major countries. This is thanks to our people, who have endured and demonstrated mature civic awareness, and our quarantine and medical professionals, who are devoted to epidemic control and vaccination. Current developments with the outbreak of infections provide some hope: Even as the number of confirmed cases fails to drop quickly, the spread might gradually dwindle as long as we don’t let our guard down with epidemic prevention and control.
The inoculation is also gaining speed. With an optimal vaccination plan in line with the supply of vaccines and active public participation, we expect to fully achieve our goal of giving 70 percent of the population their first shot before the Chuseok break and their second shot by the end of October. Furthermore, if eligibility for the vaccine is lowered to age 12 and those unvaccinated receive their shots, our vaccination rate will approach 80 percent. Then, we will be able to register a high vaccination rate that surpasses those of other countries. In accordance with the advice of experts and disease control authorities, we will start administering booster shots before it is too late – starting with high-risk groups, including the elderly, anti-epidemic professionals and medical personnel – and will gradually be expanded.
The Government will make all-out efforts for thorough epidemic prevention and inoculations. Our goal is to move up the timetable for restoring daily routines even by one day if we can by becoming the country most secure from COVID-19 – an exemplary nation in both epidemic prevention and vaccination. Meanwhile, for the people who are undergoing hardships due to the COVID-19 situation and epidemic prevention measures, the Government will further strengthen its role as a buttress and implement the measures prepared to stabilize people’s livelihoods around Chuseok without disruption.
The related projects from the second supplementary budget, including the financial assistance for microbusiness owners and the self-employed and additional subsidies for low-income households, are being implemented swiftly. The emergency relief payments worth 250,000 won per person will also be provided to the majority of citizens starting next week. The timetable for disbursing Earned Income Tax Credit refunds and child allowances for low-income working families has been moved up by over one month, and an average of 1.14 million won per household has begun to be provided to 4.68 million families. We will do our utmost to alleviate management-related burdens by extending tax payment deadlines for microbusiness owners and SMEs and deferrals for social insurance contributions. Support will be expanded for the livelihoods of the underprivileged, and customized assistance will be strengthened so that the marginalized are fully protected.
The Government will maintain thorough epidemic prevention and medical response systems by devising special anti-infection measures for the time around the Chuseok break. While doing so, we will do our utmost for a generous and warm Chuseok that rekindles household and local economies.