Korean citizens living abroad, ethnic Koreans overseas, it is good to see you all. Every time I meet you while traveling overseas, I have been moved and gained immense encouragement. I am very glad to greet you all via videoconferencing today.
When Korea was struggling with the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the heartwarming outpouring from Koreans overseas greatly boosted our homeland. Some 200 Koreans in Madagascar sent heartfelt donations. Other sources of strength in that trying time were the 60,000 face masks supplied to us by Koreans in Hong Kong and the masks that the Korean Association in Ho Chi Minh City donated to 300 Korean nationals quarantined in Vietnam.
One Korean doctor gave up his seat on a charter flight back home and stayed behind in Wuhan for the Koreans there. Despite their own difficulties, the primary concern for many Koreans abroad was our homeland, and they worked to promote friendship between Korea and their countries of residence. They are all proud ambassadors of the Republic of Korea. The spirit of solidarity and cooperation demonstrated by all of you is inspirational not only to Koreans but also to people around the world. Once again, I am deeply grateful.
Now it is the nation’s turn to repay your efforts. We have a duty to protect the lives and safety of our citizens and of ethnic Koreans abroad. The Government has done everything in its power to bring Koreans back home safely when other countries closed borders and imposed regional lockdowns. Our chartered flights have enabled over 40,000 Koreans in 117 countries to return safely.
A military aircraft carrying 293 Korean workers from construction sites in Iraq is scheduled to arrive at Incheon International Airport soon. Many Korean workers still remain in Iraq, but it is fortunate that we have been able to bring back the first of those who wish to return.
Meanwhile, the Government has helped 16,000 Koreans with urgent business matters secure special permission to enter 17 countries. Last year, the Act on Consular Assistance of Protecting Overseas Korean Nationals was enacted to provide more systematic services. The establishment of a Crisis Management Division under the Office of Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs has helped strengthen safety measures considerably. The Division has been playing many roles during this time.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomatic missions have been dedicating themselves behind the scenes and working very hard. MOFA staff is at the forefront of the Republic of Korea’s services for overseas and ethnic Koreans. I extend my special gratitude and ask you to continue to work with pride and a sense of calling.
The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic is aggravating economic hardships and security situations in many countries. I urge you to double your efforts to take better care of the safety and lives of Koreans overseas.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Republic of Korea’s international stature has actually risen. We have succeeded in effective infectious disease prevention and control without closing our borders, imposing internal lockdowns or stopping the economy. More than anything else, the world is envious of our mature civic consciousness. As the principal agents of epidemic prevention, we are also rediscovering ourselves while overcoming COVID-19.
The international community is now taking note of our exemplary epidemic prevention and control measures and trying to learn from us. Since the outbreak, I have had over 40 phone conversations with heads of state and government and – through videoconferencing – have taken part in the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit, the Republic of Korea-EU Summit and the G20 Extraordinary Virtual Leaders’ Summit. Korea is being asked to participate in major international meetings. This can all be attributed to our people and overseas Koreans who have practiced solidarity and cooperation while protecting their safety and that of their neighbors. Since this is a special event bringing together overseas Koreans, heads of diplomatic missions and MOFA employees today, please feel free to discuss any difficulties or anything the Government can be of help with. Your wellbeing equals the wellbeing of the Republic of Korea.