Fellow Koreans, distinguished guests,
I wish you all happy New Year.
Following the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement and the founding of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government, we have entered a significant year, one that heralds the beginning of another 100 years for the Republic of Korea.
Here at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry that has lived the history of Korea’s commerce and industry from its infancy to development, I join you in looking back at the past year. As I send the people my New Year’s greetings for the Year of the White Rat, I renew our commitment, starting with me personally.
The March First Independence Movement and the establishment of the Provisional Government helped transform Korea from a monarchy into a democratic republic. Two astounding leaps – economic growth and democratization – have enabled us to build the Republic of Korea we see today.
Throughout the past year, we prepared for a new growth surge, building on that foundation while envisioning a prosperous country for all where the economy is democratized as well.
Standing up to Japan’s export restrictions, we achieved the localized production of key materials, parts and equipment as well as the diversification of their import sources. Beginning with Gwangju-type jobs, mutually beneficial local jobs were created in Miryang, Daegu, Gumi, Hoengseong and Gunsan. There were mutually-supportive efforts between small and medium-sized enterprises and large businesses as well as compromises and cooperation among labor, management, civic groups and local governments.
The people dynamically participated in the changes made, speaking out in diverse voices. They inspired hope and laid out new tasks for completion.
The next leap forward that we must achieve in the New Year is one that is mutually beneficial.
Last year, we were able to confirm that proceeding together is faster even if it appears to be a little slow. It hit home once again that the fundamental resolution of economic inequality and polarization will be possible only when we grow together and that genuine national unity can also be achieved only upon that foundation. The conflicts and suffering experienced last year can become a good lesson if we take them as an opportunity to look at ourselves from the other person’s perspective.
In 2019, we could see tangible results from the path we chose for ourselves, coming to gain self-confidence. In the New Year of 2020, we will ensure that the people can sense and relate to such outcomes more clearly. The vision of a country where everyone prospers together will become more palpable.
Over the past year, we overcame a variety of difficulties inside and outside the country and laid the foundation for a country where all thrive together. It was the year when we took large strides toward an innovative, inclusive nation.
Korea commercialized 5G technology for the first time in the world and ranked first consecutively in the ICT national competitiveness index, rising as a leader in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The number of unicorns – unlisted startups valued at US$1 billion or more – greatly increased to 11 with the addition of five such enterprises last year alone. The amount of investment in new business ventures and the number of newly-established corporations have both reached record highs as well.
Through November last year, the number of newly employed people exceeded 300,000 for four consecutive months, and the numbers of those permanently employed and those eligible for unemployment insurance have both steadily increased. These attest to marked improvements in the quantity as well as quality of employment, and the youth employment rate reached a 13-year high.
The monthly child benefit, extended after-school daycare programs for elementary school students and implementation of free high school education have helped ease the burden of raising children. With health insurance coverage significantly strengthened, the burden from medical expenses has been greatly reduced, especially for those in need or those with severe diseases. Over the period of about two years, dementia care centers have been established in all community health centers across the country, fulfilling our promise to implement a state system to take care of dementia patients.
In the face of a rapidly aging population, household income has increased evenly in all classes, and income distribution has improved as well. Vigorous implementation of the three key projects designed to protect the lives of the people has helped greatly reduce the number of deaths from traffic and industrial accidents.
I am confident that these trends will continue going forward.
Changing the overall framework for the administration of state affairs is a very arduous task, but it is the path that we must take. I am most grateful to the people for having endured inconveniences, and I’m very proud of the fact that the achievements made so far were the result of mutual concessions.
In the New Year, we will make changes that are more tangible. Reforming law enforcement agencies and reforms for a fair society will mark the start.
No law enforcement authorities can reign over the people. When everyone is actually equal and treated fairly in front of the law, social trust can be formed, and that trust constitutes the basis for mutual benefit and national unity.
We will never stop making legal and institutional reforms until law enforcement organizations win public trust. I look forward to those agencies voluntarily taking the initiative to reform. As a popularly elected president, I, too, will fully exercise my authority in accordance with the Constitution.
What underpins innovation, the driving force behind growth, is confidence in fairness.
Since the inauguration of my Administration, our drive to promote a fair economy has had some achievements: the issue of large business groups’ cross-shareholdings has been nearly resolved, and unfair trade practices have been significantly rectified.
However, the reforms needed for a fair society that live up to the expectations of the people across the board, including education, society and culture, still have a long way to go. Having acutely realized the high demands of the people, especially young people, who aspire to equal opportunities and fair competition, we will meet their expectations without fail.
We will strive to ensure that fairness takes root in our society. With the determination that no mutually beneficial leap forward can happen in the absence of a fair society, we will make improvements in unfair practices that exist in all areas of our lives, ranging from education and job recruitment to tax evasion, military service and the workplace.
In order to achieve a mutually beneficial leap forward, we will focus more on economic innovation in particular in the New Year.
I am confident that the Korean economy will make a fresh leap this year if government support in the interest of fostering new industries and regulatory innovations is added to the efforts of the private sector, which is working hard to revitalize the economy.
The Government will help further encourage investment through large investment projects worth a total of 100 trillion won in both the public and private sectors and through such incentives as three tax-benefit packages to promote corporate investment.
We will build a foundation in the so-called DNA economy that nurtures the data, network and artificial intelligence industries and boldly invest in three new industries – system semiconductors, biohealth and future cars. Regulations that protect vested rights, which hinder the entry and growth of new technologies and new industries, will be reformed more drastically.
The year 2020 is also the first year for investing more than 10 trillion won to build neighborhood infrastructure. We will actively cooperate with local governments to create mutually beneficial local jobs and local government-led youth employment as well as implement new deal urban regeneration projects in order to promote balanced national development while improving the quality of life of local residents.
Following the year 2019 when 17.5 million tourists visited Korea, setting a record high, we will help usher in an era of 20 million tourists visiting the country in 2020. We will expand and make the most of Korean Wave-related infrastructure.
We will strive to solve the issue of stagnant employment among those in their 40s and within manufacturing – the mainstay of our economy. We will also take a close look at the lives of those living alone as demographic and household structures are changing.
Fellow Koreans and distinguished guests,
We will achieve without fail a peaceful community of mutually beneficial prosperity together with the people’s aspiration for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Last year, too, we moved forward little by little toward peace on the Korean Peninsula while keeping pace with the international community. The North Korean and U.S. leaders continue to maintain their commitment to dialogue.
Peace does not come without action. The international community is showing increasing interest in and support for our proposal at the U.N. General Assembly to transform the Demilitarized Zone into an international peace zone. Cooperation with ASEAN has also been strengthening following the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit. In inter-Korean relations, we will also make efforts by further expanding our room to maneuver.
This year, the second P4G Summit and the Korea-China-Japan Summit will be held in Korea. For the MIKTA, involving Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia, we became the chair country. We will be able to more actively realize the era of a new Korean Peninsula for mutually beneficial prosperity while fulfilling our responsibility in the international community.
Trees grow firmer in the winter.
In the midst of the internal and external hardships of low growth and global economic downturn, the people have chosen to thrive together through mutual benefit. I believe that this path will lead to the further strengthening of our economy.
Like the white rat of the year 2020, we will accomplish abundance and realize hope with wisdom and perseverance. Our people will become the citizens of a country where everyone prospers together without fail through a mutually beneficial leap forward.
May the New Year be a year for businesses, workers and households to further expand their hope for the future.
This year, I would like to see the people’s achievements lead to the Government’s and the Government’s accomplishments in turn lead to the people’s.