Cadets of the 68th class of the Republic of Korea Air Force Academy, I congratulate you on your graduation and commissioning.
Despite this grave and difficult situation, I have come here to extend my congratulations personally. I am certain that in your commanding presence, the people will sense the formidable strength of our security.
Many young people are applying to the Air Force Academy, and they must go through intense competition and rigorous testing to be admitted. Over the past four years, you have successfully completed demanding military training and academic courses, ranging from the first year drills as fledglings to the harshest gravitational force tolerance training. Now, you have become imposing, mature hawks.
I also applaud the nine cadets graduating with honors, the ten newly commissioned female officers and international cadets from Algeria, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for their exceptional achievements.
Now you are about to leave the Air Force Academy and vigorously soar into the skies and outer space. I would like to commend Superintendent Park In-ho and the faculty for their hard work nurturing 158 reliable young officers. My congratulations also go to the cadets’ relatives who are unable to attend today’s ceremony.
Special guests have also joined us here: the granddaughter of Gen. Choi Yong-duk, a founding member of Korea’s Air Force; the son of Gen. Kim Doo-man, who highly distinguished himself by accomplishing 100 sorties for the first time in the history of Korea’s Air Force during the Korean War; and the relatives of the late Maj. Park Myeong-ryeol and Cpt. Park In-cheol, the father and son who gave their lives to the country across generations. I pay my deepest respect to their devotion and sacrifices.
Today, you are standing here to carry on the dedication of your predecessors who devoted their bodies and souls to their homeland and skies.
I believe you will become members of the Air Force whom the people can rely on and young officers who can inspire trust and hope in the midst of the ever-changing security environment.
Newly commissioned young officers,
Today, the front of this platform is flanked by an F-51D Mustang, the first combat fighter of the Republic of Korea, and a KF-X, the next-generation Korean fighter jet. Located in the center are our young officers. The chapters of our Air Force’s splendid history have been brought together here.
One hundred years ago, Gen. Roh Baek-rin established the Korean Aviation Corp in the U.S. state of California, aiming to nurture the first Korean aviators in order to prepare for a war of independence. That was the beginning of the Republic of Korea Air Force.
Gen. Choi Yong-duk of the Liberation Army’s General Headquarters under the Provisional Republic of Korea Government launched the Air Force Design Committee, upon which the Republic of Korea Air Force was founded in 1949.
During the Korean War, members of our Air Force achieved truly remarkable feats. With just one-week training, our pilots got into P-51 Mustangs and made a total of 14,000 sorties, creating a legendary story symbolized by “the red scarf.” They are your predecessors, the Korea Air Force Academy’s first commissioned pilots.
The words “no retreat in battle,” “national reunification” and “conviction,” which were written on the Korean national flags that were tied on the shoulders of the pilots from the Academy’s first class by their juniors in its second class, are still vividly engraved on the hearts of the members of our Air Force.
The ROK Air Force, which had only 20 light aircraft and approximately 1,600 airmen at the time of its founding, has now grown into a core combat capability for national security with more than 700 high-tech aircraft and about 65,000 airmen and airwomen.
As President and also as one of the people, I am very proud of our Air Force’s history. I’m convinced that you, the future leaders of our Air Force, will write new chapters in history with pride in yourselves.
Newly commissioned young officers,
A calm sky can be suddenly engulfed by a raging storm. The skies are ever changing, making it almost impossible to predict what is coming straight ahead.
The same is true for the security environment. The challenges ahead of us will be a far cry from those of the past.
We should be able to respond to various cross-border threats and prepare for future wars such as “scientific warfare,” “information warfare” and “aerial warfare.” We have to stand squarely against new threats posed by unmanned aircraft and drones in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
With war, both victory and deterrence depend on innovation in the Air Force. Our Air Force has developed a “dronebot combat system” as part of its manned-unmanned hybrid combat system. It has also introduced an “intelligent flight simulator” and is conducting pilot training through virtual reality technology.
The “Smart Air Wing” will develop such new technologies as digital control towers and unmanned alert systems. If we incorporate our advanced information and communication technologies into Air Force power, we will be able to achieve our vision of a “strong and smart Air Force” and bring about significant growth both in national defense and the private sector
Young officers will fulfill their duties in various fields as pilots, air defense weapons controllers, mechanics or administrative officers. I hope you will perform your responsibilities with pride in yourselves as the principal agents of the Republic of Korea’s “Smart Aerospace Force.”
This is a meaningful year that marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War and the 20th anniversary of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration. Looking back on the tragedy of the War, we will use this year as an opportunity to renew our commitment for security and peace.
We should be able to determine the Korean Peninsula’s destiny by ourselves. Gunfire should never be heard again over the sky, land and sea of the Peninsula. Your role is very important in protecting and building peace through impenetrable security.
In the 21st century aerospace era, “whoever controls the sky will rule the world.” A peaceful sky above the Korean Peninsula now lies in your hands.
Peace necessitates strong power. My Administration – from its launch – has continued to steadily increase the defense budget, and this year, we ushered in the era of a 50-trillion-won defense budget for the first time in history. The funds allotted for improving defense capabilities alone amount to as much as 16.7 trillion won.
The adoption of Global Hawk aircraft and the project to develop military reconnaissance satellites have allowed us to increase surveillance and reconnaissance assets. The newly introduced aerial refueling tanker has enabled long-distance aerial operations to last over two hours, compared to half an hour in the past. Now, we have the ability to defend not only our sovereign airspace but also the entire Korea Air Defense Identification Zone.
Today, we observed a magnificent congratulatory flight with a 390-degree midair rotation by the state-of-the-art F-35A stealth fighter. I feel reassured by the imposing presence of our Air Force. Our people must feel proud as well.
We promise to further strengthen the security capabilities of our Air Force through Defense Reform 2.0 and Smart Air Force strategies.
People come first even within military life. We will endeavor to improve military culture and service conditions so that the uniform worn to guard our homeland becomes a source of pride and self-esteem. The medical support system in the military will also be drastically upgraded. We will look after the life of each and every soldier more attentively.
Fellow Koreans and young commissioned officers,
The sky of our homeland is vast.
The future of the Republic of Korea is bright, and there are infinite opportunities ahead for you as well.
Our dream is to crisscross the vast sky unfettered and build a peaceful Korean Peninsula with our own hands. Someday, we will head toward space, moving beyond the blue sky.
As in this passage from the Air Force anthem, “Sprinkle the blood boiling in your heart into the sky,” I ask you to unfurl the dreams overflowing in your hearts against the skies and stand at the forefront of realizing our dream fixed upon an uncharted world.
May your path ahead be full of honor and glory.