Let me begin the 14th Cabinet Meeting.
I am very sorry for not being able to attend the ceremony that day, but I join all Koreans, overwhelmed with excitement, in commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government. I intend to reflect on its significance with all of you here and renew our commitment.
I bow my head low in profound reverence and gratitude to all of those who devoted themselves to the cause of independence, including the Provisional Government officials. They helped create today’s Republic of Korea by aspiring to self-reliant independence and a new nation.
The Provisional Government is the root of the Republic of Korea and the driving force that has forged what this country is today. Born of the March First Independence Movement, the Provisional Government fulfilled its mission as a rallying point for the self-reliant independence movement against Japanese imperialists until the liberation of Korea.
The Provisional Government set its sights on building a new country that would transcend liberation and independence. Shifting from the Great Han Empire to the Republic of Korea, the history of a democratic republic began with the Provisional Government. From within, it declared popular sovereignty and the people’s basic rights, and from without, it proclaimed its intent to contribute to the culture and peace of humanity. A noble ideal was contained in the official state name “the Republic of Korea.”
The Government of the Republic of Korea that was formed after Korea’s liberation inherited the principles of popular sovereignty and a democratic republic in their entirety along with the Provisional Government’s state name, national flag and year of foundation. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea clearly stipulates that the Republic’s legitimacy lies in the cause of the Provisional Government with a pledge to carry on and realize our ancestors’ yearning for democracy and peace.
Over the past century, the Republic of Korea has pulled off remarkable achievements. This miraculous feat is unprecedented in the world. Overcoming dire poverty, it has grown to emerge as the world's 11th largest economy. It has become the seventh country in the world to join the 30-50 club of economic powerhouses with a population of over 50 million and per capita income exceeding US$30,000. The other six countries all began to develop their economic strength by ruling colonies in the past. Korea is the only one to have joined this club as a country that had newly achieved independence following World War II.
Actually, however, we often fail to properly recognize our own merits. "Made in Korea" used to mean low- and mid-priced products with relatively good quality for the price, but now it stands for excellent products and a refined culture represented by the Korean Wave that has taken the world by surprise.
Also remarkable is the nation's history of realizing popular sovereignty and advancing democracy. From the April 19 Revolution, the Busan-Masan Democratic Protests, the May 18 Democratization Movement and the June 10 Struggle to the candlelight revolution, the people have played a leading role in developing democracy. People around the world marvel at our ability to advance democracy – how our people have written a new chapter in the history of democracy.
The Republic of Korea that successfully achieved both economic development and democratization: this is the way people around the world identify us. Many countries yearn to learn from our economic growth and development. We fully deserve to be proud of ourselves. Building on this foundation, we are now forging ahead toward the future, rising to new challenges.
It is truly unfortunate that, instead of viewing our history as it is, some people are showing a tendency to disparage the 100 years of accomplishments that the people have achieved. Denigrating the achievements of the Republic of Korea is tantamount to relinquishing our pride on our own. When we have positive thinking based on our past historical achievements, we will be able to make headway toward a better future.
Our Government is the first government to start another century by inheriting ideals and aspirations set forth by the Provisional Government one hundred years ago. Since the significance is exceptional, our resolve needs to be exceptional as well.
The national achievements that have been obtained over the past century under the name of the Republic of Korea now should be brought to fruition for the lives of the people. The fruit of national accomplishments attained by the people’s blood and sweat should return to all the people. This constitutes an era in which the people are rightful owners and the people thrive. Society should no longer force the people to sacrifice. We should step forward to build a society in which everyone prospers together by removing the shadow of economic inequality and polarization. This is why we intend to establish the basis for another century – to build an innovative, inclusive nation in which innovation leads growth and everyone, through inclusiveness, enjoys the benefits together.
Fair opportunities must be guaranteed for everyone. We should, without fail, end the era of privilege and deceit in which the privileged conspire, collude and pursue a symbiotic relationship with each other and cause frustration and inflict hardships on the daily lives of the people. A just and fair society constitutes a strong foundation for the coming century.
The next one hundred years should advance in a way that creates a new century that is qualitatively different from the past. We need to usher in an era of peace and prosperity by standing in the center of history, not the periphery. This will be the Korean Peninsula’s new era. Now, we are doing all we can to advance the peace process on the Peninsula. I will visit the United States tomorrow for a Korea-U.S. summit. I will do my utmost to help North Korea and the United States resume dialogues as early as possible and produce tangible results.
For another century, we will inherit the commitment of our forefathers and accept the calling requested by the new era. We will audaciously step forward together with the people to make the Republic of Korea an innovative and inclusive nation; a nation of justice; and a Korean Peninsula of peace and prosperity.