Let me begin the 9th Cabinet Meeting.
With vaccinations proceeding seamlessly, we have taken our first step toward the long journey to return to normal everyday life. This is only the beginning. The Government will prepare thoroughly for all possibilities and work to achieve herd immunity by November without a setback.
Korea’s vaccination infrastructure is better than that of any other country in the world. As seen in the administering of annual influenza shots, the speed and rate of our vaccinations are unparalleled. If the people trust the Government and actively participate in the inoculation drive according to set prioritization, we will – just as we were with our response to COVID-19 – be able to become an exemplary country in terms of vaccinations and herd immunity as well. In particular, the Government promises and takes responsibility for the safety of vaccines, no matter where they are produced. I ask statesmen and the media to actively cooperate for the stable progress of vaccinations while guarding against any fake news that may foment public anxiety.
Vaccinations mark a turning point toward the return to daily routines, but we need more time to reach the finish line of herd immunity. Until then – just as we have done so far – we must not let our guard down on epidemic prevention efforts. The Government will do everything possible to chase and catch two rabbits, vaccinations and infection control, at the same time. I hope the people will work as one until we achieve our goal.
Even though vaccinations have begun and exports have also continued to perform well, the prolonged-COVID-19 pandemic and extended anti-epidemic measures have further aggravated the hardships people are facing with livelihoods and employment. Funds for a fourth round of emergency relief payments totaling 19.5 trillion won have been allocated following consultations between the Government and the ruling party. This amount has come from a supplementary budget of 15 trillion won in addition to the 4.5 trillion won earmarked in the budget for the current fiscal year.
The supplementary budget proposal will be submitted to the National Assembly in early March for the second consecutive year. This is because the COVID-19 crisis affecting people’s livelihoods and employment is more serious than ever and because resolving this is becoming the most urgent task for the Government and the National Assembly. It also clearly shows the Government’s determination to overcome the crisis through action.
This round of emergency relief payments will be the largest compared to the three previous COVID-19 relief payments. We have worked especially hard to provide a significant amount of funds to broadly support those hit hard and minimize blind spots. The funds to buttress microbusiness owners have been greatly expanded to 6.7 trillion won, greatly expanding the number of eligible people to 3.85 million. In addition, payments have been raised to a maximum of 5 million won per person. The measures also include assistance for exempting microbusiness owners from paying electricity bills for three months. Every effort has been made to find those who may have gone undetected such as street vendors, the working poor and households no longer able to make ends meet. Moreover, emergency employment measures were added so the employment crisis could be quickly dealt with. We have also earmarked funds for epidemic prevention and control, including the purchase of vaccines and free inoculations for everyone. I urge the National Assembly to expedite deliberations and pass the proposal so that the fourth round of emergency relief payments will be distributed to people in need at the earliest date possible.
Last week, the National Assembly passed several meaningful bills. Bipartisan agreement on the revision of the Special Act on Discovering the Truth of the Jeju April 3 Incident and the Restoration of the Honor of Victims represents truly significant progress in that it specifies responsibility for state violence and lays the foundation for reparations and compensation for the victims. The Kim Dae-jung Administration enacted the Special Act on the previously taboo Jeju April 3 Incident and opened the door to the truth. Roh Moo-hyun was the first sitting president to acknowledge the state’s responsibility and make an official apology. I find it truly rewarding that yet another huge step that builds upon those two administrations’ efforts has been taken under my Administration. I extend my appreciation to the National Assembly.
It is a country’s natural responsibility to shed light on the truth, restore honor and provide remedies and reparations to people who have been unjustly victimized. Moreover, such measures facilitate reconciliation, unity and closure going forward. Most of all, I believe that our national standard has now risen to this level. The Government will fully employ the significance of the revised Special Act to stipulate fair and reasonable standards for compensation and reparations for the Jeju April 3 victims. Also, additional fact-finding investigations, special retrials and other follow-up measures will proceed as planned.
It is also very meaningful that proposals to ratify some fundamental conventions of the International Labor Organization have passed the National Assembly. Thus, Korea has ratified seven out of the eight fundamental ILO conventions. Since the launch of my Administration, we have made it a key administrative priority to achieve a society where labor is respected. After revising labor relations laws in December last year following an Economic, Social and Labor Council-led social dialogue, core ILO conventions have been ratified. This has laid a stepping stone for raising Korea’s labor rights to the level of advanced countries. This achievement has come just 30 years after Korea joined the ILO in 1991.
Raising Korea’s international status by a notch in regard to respecting labor rights will contribute to improving the nation’s prestige and sovereign rating. In these circumstances with the international community, including the EU, putting forward labor rights, I anticipate such measures will be of great help in reducing potential trade disputes. I hope that this proves an opportunity for our interest in labor rights to spread to recently emerging types of workers and even to labor relations within a new labor reality.