Fellow overseas Koreans, I am glad to meet you all.
I am pleased to congratulate you on the 12th World Korean Day this year.
Today’s event is all the more meaningful because it is being held alongside the World Korean Community Leaders Convention. I send my deepest gratitude and respects to the leaders and members of Korean communities abroad for helping greatly raise our sense of pride as Koreans across the globe.
I believe you have visited your homeland this year with an extraordinary feeling. We are now moving toward a peaceful Korean Peninsula, rising above the era of division and confrontation. I would like to say that the overseas Koreans’ affectionate efforts have helped make it possible for us to take that path.
I remember our meeting one year ago. At that time, tension surrounding the Korean Peninsula reached its peak. Ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, there were many worries about whether it would become an Olympics of peace.
All the Korean citizens and overseas Koreans, however, came together with an ardent wish to turn the PyeongChang Olympics into an opportunity to change the destiny of the Peninsula and establish peace once and for all.
What happened thereafter was like a dream. The wind of peace blew from all over the world. Our overseas Koreans were at its center.
Koreans in athletic fields residing in the Philippines, Brazil, Hong Kong and New Zealand took the lead in organizing promotional events for the PyeongChang Olympics. Every time I met with members of Korean communities during my trips abroad, their leaders turned the meetings into events sponsoring a peace Olympics. Those in Indonesia and Austria formed delegations to visit their homeland and gave life to the PyeongChang Olympics. A great amount of donations for the success of the Olympics were also collected.
A CBS morning news show in the United States introduced PyeongChang as well as Seoraksan Mountain, Jeongseon’s traditional five-day market and the Daegwallyeong sheep ranch on six different occasions. This achievement was attributable to the passion of a Korean-American broadcast professional.
Every step of the way was made possible by our overseas Koreans’ voluntary participation. You have vividly shown the world how desperately all Koreans aspire to peace.
It was the united enthusiasm of the Korean people and overseas Koreans that opened a door to peace on the Korean Peninsula. On behalf of the people, I gratefully applaud you for ushering in the peace Olympics and an era of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
My proud Koreans from abroad,
The history of the Republic of Korea cannot be discussed without mentioning the contributions of overseas Koreans. During the Japanese colonial rule, Koreans in China, the Russian Maritime Province, the Americas and Europe participated in the struggle to achieve self-reliant independence. After independence, their efforts for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula continued in tandem with the endeavors for the democratization of the Republic of Korea.
The story of how 7.4 million Koreans came to settle in 179 countries coincides with the tumultuous history of the Republic of Korea. The history of Korea, from the deprivation of its sovereignty and the gaining of independence to economic development and democratization, is interwoven into the fabric of the lives of overseas Koreans, evident in the varying reasons they ended up around the world: exile, labor migration, adoption, international marriage, academic study abroad and business in foreign markets.
The Convention's slogan this year makes it clear: the Republic of Korea and overseas Koreans are inseparable. The Republic of Korea and Koreans overseas have shared and lived through the same joys and sorrows.
The Republic of Korea's growth has filled our diaspora with pride. The growth of overseas Koreans has led to the advancement of the Republic of Korea. The history of the Republic of Korea that we are carving out together makes me feel very proud and reassured.
Distinguished overseas Koreans,
The 7.4 million Koreans overseas have provided the Republic of Korea a significant source of strength. Whenever I travel abroad, I am encouraged and energized by my encounters with many overseas Koreans.
Regrettably, however, the Korean legal system has yet to provide Koreans overseas with support commensurate with their contributions to the progress of the homeland. My Administration will first do what it can in its capacity to change this, while working with the National Assembly to help pass related legislation.
The attitude of the Government toward overseas Koreans has to be renewed. The Government will see to it that relevant policies are formulated and implemented thoroughly in the interest of Koreans abroad. More attention will be paid to your opinions.
Natural disasters, terrorist acts and crimes are on the rise all over the world. The Government will protect your lives and safety in a more active manner. To this end, the budget for overseas Koreans has significantly increased. Related organizations and personnel have also been expanded to a great extent.
Just a few days ago, an earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia, resulting in many casualties. All possible efforts will be made so that every single person affected will be able to return home safely. Yesterday there was news that a missing Korean was among the dead. I express my deep condolences for the victim and his bereaved relatives.
The Crisis Management Division was opened in May. It monitors various incidents and accidents occurring around the world 24 hours a day and immediately provides safety related information to Koreans in real time.
The infrastructure at overseas missions is being upgraded. A system that can instantly address complaints online will be put in place to reduce the inconveniences of everyday life.
This marks a beginning. The Republic of Korea will be a homeland that all of you here can turn to first as the greatest source of strength in times of trouble.
Your children are the Republic of Korea’s children and grandchildren. Education about our culture, history and language will be expanded to keep your descendants from forgetting their homeland.
Assistance will be given so that they can settle into the social fabric of your adopted countries with dignity and pride as Koreans.
Fellow Koreans from abroad,
I hope to dream a bigger dream with all of you who made PyeongChang a place of peace and harmony.
The dream of South and North Korea becoming one in permanent peace, the dream of you and your children visiting your homeland by car or train, the dream of achieving shared prosperity not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in Northeast Asia and around the world are the dreams I sincerely expect to accomplish with you.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement and the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. South and North Korea agreed to jointly celebrate the Movement’s centennial with great fanfare next year. I hope that it will become a celebration of the Korean people, encompassing both Koreas and the 7.4 million Koreans overseas. It will be a great opportunity to restore a sense of common identity between the two Koreas. It is my hope that the leaders of Korean communities present here today will seize this initiative.
Gazing down from the plane during my recent trips between Pyeongyang, Samjiyeon and Seoul, I could not find a divided land. There was only our land joined as one.
Now the Korean Peninsula needs the united strength of the Korean people. As all of you here have stood tall in a foreign land and become the pride of the Republic of Korea, I hope you will serve as a driving force that helps turn a crisis into an opportunity and the impossible into the possible.
Fellow Koreans, let us create a greater unity together and write a new chapter in the history of the Korean people.