It is regrettable and worrisome that sporadic infection clusters are occurring one after another primarily in the Seoul metropolitan area. Under these circumstances, however, I find it fortunate that no infections have occurred at schools and in-person classes are proceeding uninterrupted. All the credit should go to the teachers who, like our medical professionals, have done their utmost and the students who have thoroughly complied with epidemic prevention guidelines. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who has cooperated on infectious disease prevention and control at schools, which is crucial.
The hot weather is straining medical professionals and epidemic prevention and control workers on the frontlines, exacerbating their fatigue. I urge everyone to pay keen attention and provide support. In particular, I look forward to you all taking extra care of the health of those mentioned by adjusting the operating hours of screening centers and helping to install air conditioners promptly.
It is concerning that recent infection clusters in the Seoul metropolitan area started among young people and have spread to senior citizens. For the safety of the elderly, who have high mortality rates, I ask you to preemptively prepare by carefully monitoring facilities for seniors and securing a sufficient number of hospital wards as well.
I also hope you do everything you can to prepare the elevation of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. I urge you to make sufficient preparations in advance to ensure swift organizational restructuring and additional personnel assignments as soon as the National Assembly passes the relevant bill. There should be no setbacks as we put in place a regional response system while revamping the Center for Infectious Diseases Research into the Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and reinforcing the functions of the National Institute of Health to enhance its expertise.
It has been proven that epidemic prevention and control efforts equal the economy. Following the IMF, the OECD also forecast that Korea would suffer the least negative economic growth amidst this year’s global downturn – to the point of being extraordinary among the OECD member states. The Government’s strong measures to revive the economy through its expansionary fiscal policy have garnered positive reviews. Still, the favorable assessment of Korea’s COVID-19 response is the most crucial reason for the OECD’s projection.
As such, success in epidemic prevention and control can hasten economic recovery. Thorough compliance with epidemic prevention guidelines is the way not only to protect life but also to resuscitate the economy. I urge the people, as the principal actors in anti-epidemic efforts and the economy, to find strength once again for the success of infectious disease prevention and control efforts in our daily lives.
We’ve come to mark the 20th anniversary of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration with a heavy heart. However, as difficulties arise in inter-Korean relations and the situation becomes graver, we need to think back over the June 15 Declaration’s spirit and achievements. It was indeed a historic event that the leaders of the two Koreas sat face to face, holding a meeting for the first time – 50 years after the outbreak of the Korean War.
The two Koreas had already signed the July 4 South-North Joint Communiqué and the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression and Exchanges and Cooperation (Inter-Korean Basic Agreement). However, only through this face-to-face dialogue between the two leaders could substantive inter-Korean cooperation begin. Separated families were reunited, inter-Korean railroads and roads were connected, tours to Geumgangsan Mountain began, and the Gaeseong Industrial Complex went into operation. Peace has grown, and we could confirm the fact that peace is the economy.
Even after the June 15 Declaration, however, inter-Korean relations have not progressed in a straight line. Occasionally, the two Koreas have seen their relations severed and even regress or collapse. This is because South Korea’s North Korea policy has been inconsistent due to the change in administrations. In addition, the international situation surrounding the North Korean nuclear issue has fluctuated and external factors have shaken inter-Korean relations.
However, the direction that the two Koreas should seek together is clear. Just like a river that meanders yet eventually reaches the sea, the two Koreas should move with optimistic outlook step by step, though slowly, along a path of reconciliation among Koreans, peace and unification. The current inter-Korean relations, which have moved with difficulty beyond the long-standing separation and even the threat of war, should not be halted again.
No one can reverse the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula Chairman Kim Jong Un and I made in front of 80 million Koreans. The April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and the September 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration are solemn promises that both Koreas must carry out faithfully. These are firm principles that should not be swayed by any changes in the situation. My Administration will continue to make efforts to implement the agreements. We will safeguard the hard-earned achievements to date and build on them. For its part, North Korea should avoid cutting off communication, creating tension and returning to the past era of confrontation. I hope that, through communication and cooperation, the two Koreas will be able to resolve the unpleasant and challenging problems that both face.
I am well aware of Chairman Kim’s efforts and how determined he was to significantly change the situation on the Korean Peninsula. I also have tremendous regret over the fact that relations between North Korea and the United States and between the two Koreas have not progressed as much as desired.
The time has come for South and North Korea to find a breakthrough together. We have reached a point where we can no longer wait until conditions improve. I hope that the two Koreas, as the masters of the Peninsula’s destiny, will be able to actively identify and execute projects that we can decide on and implement by ourselves. We will also make consistent efforts to gain the international community’s agreement as well. I am also looking forward to North Korea keeping the door open to dialogue and both of us pooling our wisdom.
Peace and reunification are the long-cherished wishes of all Koreans and the spirit of our Constitution. Accordingly, previous administrations have concluded important inter-Korean agreements. These include the July 4 Joint Communiqué by the Park Chung-hee Administration; the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement by the Roh Tae-woo Administration; the first post-division inter-Korean summit and the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration by the Kim Dae-jung Administration; and the October 4 Declaration on the Advancement of Inter-Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity by the Roh Moo-hyun Administration. All of these led to the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018 by my Administration. These agreements are the precious fruit of progress in inter-Korean relations.
They are the joint assets of both Koreas that must be respected and upheld even if administrations and leaders change. From this, we should find the key to solving the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean issues as well. If these agreements had been ratified by the National Assembly and remained valid without fluctuations throughout different administrations, inter-Korean relations might have advanced much further than now. I hope that the 21st Assembly will cooperate in a non-partisan manner for progress in inter-Korean relations and peace and, taking it a step further, to realize a peace-driven economy.
The Government will do all it can to maintain dialogue. However, inter-Korean relations can be swept away by unwanted turbulent waves at any given time. In this grave moment, I ask the National Assembly and the people to form a unified front and join forces with the Government.