I am glad to meet you all. This is the fifth time that I’ve invited the five heads of our constitutional institutions to Cheong Wa Dae. Today, the National Election Commission’s new Chairperson Noh Jeong-hee joins us for the first time. I’d like to welcome and congratulate you on becoming the NEC’s first female Chairperson and the first female head of any constitutional institution. I have met National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug on several occasions, but this seems to be the first time to have him here at Cheong Wa Dae. I am pleased to see you.
We are currently in a tough time by many counts. We have suffered hardships throughout the year and keep struggling with difficulties in the final stretches. More than anything else, the COVID-19 situation makes things difficult, which in turn aggravates the economy. Because of this, microbusiness owners, the self-employed, young people and other low-income households find their livelihoods devastated. Fortunately, we have responded well, when it comes to epidemic prevention and control, to the extent that Korea is being called an exemplary country. I am convinced that our citizens’ high civic awareness and sense of community will continue to help us successfully overcome COVID-19.
Recently, there have been many concerns regarding vaccine procurement. As vaccines were developed with considerable financial and administrative support, the countries involved are bound to prioritize their own citizens’ inoculation. We are among the other countries making appropriate preparations in the belief that we will be able to vaccinate our people without a noticeable delay.
On the economic front, negative growth is inevitable this year due to COVID-19. Fortunately, however, our growth has declined the least among the 37 OECD member states, placing us first in terms of this year’s growth rate. If next year’s projected growth outlook is factored in, our country is forecast to be one of the very few able to return to a pre-COVID-19 state. We will do all we can to help the economy recover faster and stronger.
It is particularly regrettable that, even though macroeconomic and business conditions are gradually recovering, the aftereffects of the hardships that microbusiness owners and the self-employed have been suffering are expected to persist for a very long time. In addition, I believe employment-related difficulties will also linger for quite a while as job recovery is bound to come very slowly even in the wake of an economic rebound. This is what weighs most heavily on my heart. All-out efforts will be made to help the vulnerable recover from hardships and to revitalize employment. I hope that as heads of constitutional institutions, you will be like-minded and pull together so our society can overcome these difficulties.
On the diplomatic front, as you all know, the new Administration of President-elect Joseph Biden will be launched in the United States next January. This transitional period has both North Korea-U.S. and inter-Korean dialogues at a standstill now. However, we are managing the situation well to prevent it from deteriorating further. I’m hoping that the launch of the new Biden Administration serves as an opportunity to provide more impetus to talks between North Korea and the United States and between the two Koreas and further advance them – particularly if no unforeseen situations occur before he enters office. We will work very hard to this end.
Meanwhile, there are many conflicts related to reforming law enforcement agencies these days. I believe that these will serve as a good opportunity to develop a more mature democracy – one sustained by checks and balances based on the spirit of our constitution. However, conflicts have consequently arisen at the moment, and tasks still remain to help these reforms take root and flourish into a complete system. I ask the heads of constitutional institutions to pay special attention and join forces to this end.
Next year marks the fifth year of my Administration. That is normally the time to properly conclude state affairs. What is different with my Administration is that we have embarked on new tasks – such as the Korean New Deal and 2050 Carbon Neutrality – for the great transformation of the economy of a new Republic of Korea. Therefore, work must be done to properly settle and push these goals in the remaining period and establish the groundwork so the changes will continue to be successfully implemented in the future. I hope you provide generous support so that my Administration can fulfill its responsibilities until the end of my term. I would like to once again say how pleased I am to invite you to Cheong Wa Dae today.