Distinguished Chairperson, heads of state and government, I am glad to see you all.
For the first time in history, the leaders of APEC member economies are gathered in this beautiful Pacific island country of Papua New Guinea.
Each and every member economy has demonstrated the strength of solidarity and cooperation in the process of preparing this event. I am grateful to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for successfully organizing this meeting.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, the socio-economic divide and economic inequality have become cross-border problems. There have been concerns raised over progress in digitization further widening social gaps. At this juncture, it is meaningful to be able to discuss the digital future and inclusive growth at the APEC meeting.
Korea achieved rapid economic growth and democratization, but the socio-economic divide and economic inequality have worsened in the process.
To tackle the problem at its root, the Korean Government has set a new national vision: an innovative inclusive state where everyone prospers together.
What the Korean Government is pursuing is an inclusiveness free of exclusions, ranging from inclusive growth to an inclusive society and democracy.
It is an inclusiveness in which all citizens can thrive, fair opportunities and just results are guaranteed and not a single member of the nation is discriminated against regardless of gender, place of origin, class or age.
Such inclusion is also important in relations between countries. Only when APEC member economies narrow gaps among ourselves and assure fair opportunities and mutually beneficial cooperation can we all be better off and forge ahead together.
Last year, APEC leaders agreed on the APEC Action Agenda on Advancing Economic, Financial and Social Inclusion. We decided to achieve a more inclusive APEC community by 2030 by setting goals for improving inclusion in economic, financial and social sectors.
Advancing inclusion is a common task for APEC member economies.
I hope that the inclusion policies and best practices of those countries that have taken the initiative in relevant efforts will be shared among all member states, and I propose compiling a collection of inclusion policies for the sake of achieving a more inclusive APEC community. This casebook will be of help to member states when indentifying APEC cooperation projects or formulating policies to advance inclusion.
We have also begun discussions on the APEC Post-2020 Vision. I hope that the concept of inclusion, which is about building a community where all member states prosper together, will be reflected as a core value in the discussions.
In the digital age, "non-exclusive inclusion" is all the more important. A digital divide can lead to economic gaps and polarization. I particularly want to emphasize the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises, education and consumer protection.
First, SMEs' digital capabilities for innovation have to be improved. Enhancing SMEs’ digital capabilities will create a driving force for inclusive growth as they account for 97 percent of all businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.
This year, Korea hosted the APEC Global Networking Program for Young Entrepreneurs. Korea is planning to hold an APEC forum on enhancing SMEs' abilities in Big Data and artificial intelligence next year. I hope this forum will make significant contributions to exchanges and cooperation among SMEs in the region.
Second, digital education for the vulnerable should be strengthened.
Korea has continuously operated the APEC e-Learning Training Program since 2006 to bolster the digital capabilities of the socially disadvantaged in developing countries.
Educational programs need to be customized appropriately for the digital era. At the end of this month, Korea and the Philippines will co-host the APEC Future Education Forum. I hope that a new vision for digital era education will be discussed.
Third, consumer protection is an important task in the digital era.
In an era when cross-border e-commerce has become commonplace, international cooperation for consumer protection is essential. Korea will host an APEC workshop on promoting consumer protection in the digital economy next year. There, active discussions about forming a safe digital environment for consumer protection are expected to take place.
Distinguished heads of state and government,
We agreed on the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap last year. Now, the time has come to gather wisdom in order to implement it.
Korea supports the roadmap implementation mechanism offered by the chair country. In addition, Korea proposes the establishment of the APEC Digital Innovation Fund to facilitate implementation of the Roadmap.
The fund is expected to encourage participation from economic stakeholders in various countries and become a pump primer to help strengthen the capacity of developing nations. Korea promises to contribute to the establishment and management of the fund in a constructive manner. I am looking forward to support and participation from many member economies.
Our cooperation and endeavors will help lead the future of the digital era toward inclusive growth, hopefully narrowing the digital divides among different countries and bringing about common prosperity.