Today, we have two outside experts joining us to discuss items on the agenda – Korea Startup Forum Chairman Choi Sung-jin, who’ll arrive shortly, and KRFTON’s Chairman Chang Byung-gyu, who chaired the Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Please welcome them with a round of applause.
Nothing is easy in this world, but nothing is impossible if we work to the best of our ability. We will surely be able to achieve our goals if – with a sense of urgency – we set clear objectives, courageously take on challenges and persistently carry them out. The Government has clearly announced our goal for the remaining year of my term; we will take vigorous steps toward recovery, inclusiveness and a leap forward beyond the COVID-19 crisis. With such a sense of urgency, we will draw up detailed plans that will be completed and implemented in an expeditious and bold manner.
First and foremost, everything possible will be done to maintain epidemic prevention and control. We will do our best to administer vaccines as scheduled and to move up the timetable, albeit slightly, for returning to normal daily routines. I will use my forthcoming visit to the United States as an opportunity to enhance bilateral cooperation on vaccines and enable Korea to emerge as a global hub for vaccine production. On another front, all-out efforts will be made to ensure that our swift and strong economic recovery will spread in ways that broadly touch people’s lives.
Our robust economic rebound has continued to last. The Government is determined to keep up this momentum and to do everything possible to actually surpass a 4 percent growth rate rather than merely wish for it.
What is more important at this juncture is to link growth and income distribution and keep reducing the inequalities that COVID-19 has widened further. Full-fledged economic recovery will come only when people genuinely feel that their lives have improved. More than anything else, it is imperative to ensure job recovery as that has the most direct bearing on people’s lives. Fortunately, jobs are recovering at an increasing pace. In April, 650,000 more people were employed than in the same month last year – the largest increase in six years and eight months. The private sector accounted for more than half of that increase, and the number of young people employed saw the largest spike since August 2000 – both very positive changes.
However, employment has yet to reach pre-COVID-19 levels. Several more months of job recovery are needed to exceed that mark. In particular, the top priority will be private-sector job creation. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the performance of Korea’s KOSPI and KOSDAQ has outperformed the global stock market, demonstrating our private sector’s growing vitality.
While pursuing the great transformation to a pacesetting economy, demand has outpaced our supply of software and AI professionals. Many more will be needed for such national strategic industries as semiconductors as well as future industries tied to digital, green and innovative business ventures. We will significantly strengthen the foundation for creating quality jobs, for instance, by cultivating manpower and expanding education and trainings in ways tailored to corporate needs. The focus will be on quickly resolving the mismatch between job openings and job seekers. Through this, we will do our utmost to provide more and better future-oriented job opportunities for the young who have serious concerns about employment and for those who need to alter their career paths.
We will also redouble our efforts to create a work environment that allows people to better balance their work and family lives and focus on their jobs without career disruptions. The employment safety net will be strengthened further, and we will continue to implement public-sector job programs – a natural government undertaking for vulnerable people who need jobs right away.
An economic recovery is complete when everyone’s life has recovered. The results of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey for the first quarter, which shows changes in distribution indicators, will be released soon. Amid adverse conditions with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating inequality, the Government has been doing everything possible to protect the vulnerable and improve income distribution. When the outcomes of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey are announced, we will closely analyze the results and strive for an inclusive recovery, for instance, by taking additional countermeasures, until the end of my term.
Today, in particular, I ask civil servants to show initiative when carrying out administrative duties with a focus on where the policies are actually implemented. As the new Prime Minister has always emphasized communication with those out in the field, I would like all ministries and agencies to identify problems and seek answers on the ground with the Prime Minister playing a central role. This emphasis on field work is not intended just to solve problems facing businesses and enhance economic vitality.
These days, it is very regrettable and sad to hear reports of deaths caused by industrial accidents occurring in many parts of the country. The Government completely revised the Occupational Safety and Health Act for the first time in 30 years to reduce accidents in the industrial sector. Moreover, we have significantly expanded related budget and organizations to greatly enlarge the number of industrial safety supervisors while increasing on-site inspections and supervision through mobile units. Despite this, such backward industrial accidents as falls and being crushed continue to cause deaths, breaking people’s hearts. I ask you to keep in mind once again that the key to solving a problem is not found in countermeasures devised at a meeting but out in the field.
Most of all, I urge you to find answers where the problems exist – determine the cause of accidents and come up with safety measures to keep them from recurring. It is very important to prevent accidents but dealing with them in a sincere manner is equally important. I ask you to always work in good faith to solve problems while sensing the pain of the families that have lost a child.