Let me begin the 42nd Cabinet Meeting.
The spread of COVID-19 increasing in the wake of the Chuseok break as feared is cause for concern. There are still many people who cannot feel the warmth of the recovery even though macroeconomic indicators continue to show noticeable signs of an economic turnaround. That’s because we haven’t been able to return to our uninterrupted everyday lives. The Government will do everything possible to help overcome the COVID-19 crisis completely and achieve a more inclusive recovery and reconstruction. It is the unavoidable destiny of my Administration to fulfill its role as a government dedicated to helping surmount the crisis until the end of my term. Keeping this in mind, we will attend to state affairs with a heavy sense of responsibility.
On another front, with the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating and the climate crisis becoming a reality before our eyes, we are facing the era of a great transformation toward a digital and a green civilization. This is not the philosophy or choice of my Administration but a global trend.
During the remainder of my term – in the belief that the nation’s fate depends on it – the Government will consider firmly establishing the foundation for such a transformation as the call of our times. With a proactive attitude to be at the forefront, we will take the initiative in forging through the era of a new human civilization. At least to this end, I ask all government ministries and agencies to put aside the fact that my term is nearing an end and renew their initial commitments as if setting out as a nation for the first time.
Together with the people, the Government has so far weathered crises successfully. We have managed to protect the lives and safety of the people from COVID-19 better than any other countries. Korea is also evaluated as a country that has accomplished the fastest and strongest economic rebound amid the crisis. As a leading country in epidemic prevention and control, the Republic of Korea has set an example for overcoming the economic crisis as well – which has helped boost our global status. It is a national achievement made possible by the Government, the people and businesses pulling together, and we all deserve to be proud of ourselves.
It is fortunate that the pace of job recovery, which has been slower than the economic rebound, is also accelerating. The number of those employed has increased by more than 500,000 for five months in a row, last month reaching up to 99.6 percent of the pre-COVID-19 level. If this trend continues, we also expect to see employment return to the levels before the pandemic within this year.
However, there still are many people whose livelihoods are threatened as they have yet to emerge from the COVID-19 tunnel. In particular, I would like to offer consolation once more to those in the face-to-face service industry, including microbusiness owners and the self-employed, who are enduring ever increasing hardships due to the prolonged COVID-19 situation. The Government is doing all it can to provide support for their commercial losses and ease debt burdens. In order to give relevant assistance promptly, we will make meticulous preparations with regard to the scope of support and those who are eligible in accordance with the Act on Compensation for Commercial Losses, which takes effect on October 8.
The surest way to ease the difficulties people have making ends meet is to proceed as early as possible toward a daily routine recovery stage where epidemic prevention and control, vaccination, people’s livelihoods and the economy can be balanced. At a time when microbusiness owners and the self-employed can no longer deal with their accumulated losses, we cannot afford to keep delaying the introduction of a phased recovery of daily routines. However, the recent extraordinary spread of COVID-19 serves as a stark reminder of how difficult such a phased recovery will be. The Government has to manage the situation within the capacity of our epidemic prevention and control and medical systems while concentrating all of our capabilities to quickly thwart the spread of COVID-19. We must raise the speed of the inoculation to further increase the vaccination rate. This is the way to head toward recovering our daily routines. We also ask the public to actively participate and cooperate in the epidemic prevention and vaccination efforts.
The Republic of Korea’s ability to achieve a grand transformation stems from innovation. The international community recognizes our innovation capabilities’ unmatched potential. Recently, the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization in its annual Global Innovation Index moved Korea up five places from last year to fifth in the world. It was the biggest rise among the top 20 innovative countries and highly praised as an astounding leap. In June, in the EU’s European Innovation Scoreboard, Korea ranked first for the ninth consecutive year among ten of the Europe’s global competitors such as the United States, Japan and China. Korea also proudly came first in the world in the Bloomberg Innovation Index.
The Republic of Korea’s solid status as an innovation powerhouse will be the strongest force behind our leap forward as a pacesetting nation in this era of grand transformation. Using innovation as a weapon, the Government will strongly push grand digital and green transitions and accelerate the transformation of economic and social structures and industrial innovation. We will steadily lay the institutional foundation for establishing an innovation ecosystem while spurring the nurturing of new industries and technologies. Innovation’s vigorous steps toward grand transformation will serve as the driving force ushering in a new era.