Honorable patriots and veterans who served the nation with distinction, the families of fallen heroes,
Thank you for your valued presence today.
I am very pleased to see you in good shape here at Cheong Wa Dae for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, it is all the more meaningful for me to confer in person orders and medals of civil merit. I am deeply grateful to the four honorees for their dedicated service to the country in the prime of their youth and their lifelong adherence to the spirit of sharing and mutual benefit.
Also joining us are newly decorated honorees who received orders and medals in 2019 and 2020 and the families of servicemen who died in defense of the West Sea. These heroes and warriors sacrificed themselves to safeguard our territory on land and sea. On behalf of the people, I salute them and extend my deepest sympathy to the bereaved families. We must not forget for even an instant that protecting our people’s safety and peace is the only way to reciprocate for the sacrifices of the West Sea heroes.
On May 21, during my visit to the United States, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance. My heartfelt appreciation goes to President Kim Jin-ho and Vice President Kim Hee-jung of the Korean Veterans Association as well as the members of the Association’s U.S. Eastern Region Department gathered their immense strength to construct the Memorial Wall of Remembrance. The Government will continue to honor the noble sacrifices of Korean War veterans, pass down their spirit to posterity and further solidify the ROK-U.S. alliance.
Decorated patriots and veterans and the families of the fallen,
Today, I have greeted you with due respect as if welcoming state guests. Patriotism is the Republic of Korea’s root. In the face of national crises, patriotism has always helped unite us and provide the confidence needed to overcome any hardship.
During last year’s ceremony to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of its start, I noted that “the Korean War made ‘the most ordinary people’ the ‘greatest patriots’,” and that we must “turn it into a historical experience we all share that unifies generations and ideologies.” We have come together to confront and prevail over the ravages of war, thereby being reborn as the genuine citizens of the Republic of Korea. We have nurtured our strength to safeguard the values of liberty and democracy and come to realize how invaluable peace is.
Patriotism has served as the foundation for us to triumph over poverty and rise to the ranks of the world’s top 10 economies. It has provided the courage to secure democratization from dictatorships and a driving force to build peace through mighty national defense capabilities. And now, it is playing a pivotal role in the Republic of Korea overcoming COVID-19 and emerging as a pacesetter.
During the G7 Summit held last week, our people reaffirmed the enhanced status and prestige of the Republic of Korea. Nine of the eleven countries participating in the Summit had assisted us during the Korean War. Alongside those countries that shed blood and sweat during the War and for the postwar recovery, the Republic of Korea discussed humanity’s common tasks. I conveyed what the Republic of Korea had to say as a responsible middle power for the sake of democracy, human rights, peace and prosperity – everything needed to surmount COVID-19, respond to the climate crisis and achieve an open society. Now, the Republic of Korea has become a nation that can determine its own destiny and engage in mutual support and cooperation with other countries.
The Republic of Korea’s growth is providing encouragement to developing countries that were near the same starting line with us – showing that they, too, can do it. Likewise, today, we are overcoming COVID-19 and achieving a rapid economic recovery, thereby also becoming a milestone of hope for people around the world. The world now calls the Republic of Korea a country resilient to crisis. This achievement came about through our patriotism. I hope that everyone will take pride in the Republic of Korea made out of our people’s sweat and tears.
Decorated patriots and veterans and the families of the fallen,
My Administration elevated the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs’ head to the level of minister and has increased its budget annually to reach as much as 5.8 trillion won this year. Compensation and benefits will continue to be raised to assist the lives of people of national merit and the families of the fallen heroes and improve their real incomes. We will go beyond treatment when needed and make responsibility to provide lifelong healthcare part of our mindset. The number of hospitals entrusted with serving them and veterans’ nursing homes will be increased so that they can comfortably receive treatment and care at a facility near them.
So far, the Government has attached national merit nameplates to the houses of more than 348,000 decorated independence and pro-democracy activists and war veterans. By next year, we plan to increase the number of those entitled to the same benefit by a total of about 222,000. They will include soldiers and police officers who died in battle or the line of duty, the volunteer army of Korean students from Japan and persons who distinguished themselves during special missions as well as victims of the April 19 Revolution and the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement. In addition to the nameplates, we will shed light on the lives of people of national merit so that we can fill local communities and future generations with pride. Last year, two veterans affairs centers opened, and four veterans’ associations have moved in. We will continue to push the construction of veterans affairs centers in areas that do not have one or where the existing centers are outdated.
Distinguished patriots and veterans and the families of the fallen,
Today, patriotism is being practiced in the form of sacrifices for and devotion to communities. Moreover, it is becoming the foundation for a love of humanity that enables solidarity and cooperation with the international community. For a stronger Republic of Korea, I hope to see people of national merit and the families of the fallen pass on the legacy of patriotism for many years to come. The Government will forever treat your sacrifices for and dedication to the country with the utmost respect. I hope that you all will remain by the people’s side in good health always.