Fellow Koreans, graduating cadets of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy,
I congratulate you, the spirited, patriotic and beautiful cadets of the 61st class of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy, on your graduation and commissioning. I feel reassured and proud to see you reborn as elite nursing officers after grueling training courses. My congratulations also go to Cadet Pattaraporn Choksomngam from Thailand who is graduating honorably with her fellow Korean cadets.
Among the cadets of the 61st class, there is an extraordinarily large number of those who are descendants of persons of national merit and war veterans as well as those who are from military families. I extend special appreciation to the parents for having raised children as patriots in an outstanding manner. I also commend Superintendent Jeong Eui-suk and the faculty for their hard work nurturing these cadets as medical professionals for the people and the military.
Here today, we are joined by retired Captain Park Ok-seon, a Korean War veteran you are all proud of. Despite her advanced age, she is still looking after decorated war veterans and their families. I extend gratitude and great respect for her life of dedication. Moreover, I am very pleased to be the first President in history to join the graduating cadets in this honorable event.
Last year, 2020, was when we rediscovered how valuable the Armed Forces Nursing Academy and nursing officers are. In the early days of COVID-19’s spread, the cadets of the Academy’s 60th class hastened their graduation to rush to help those struggling with hardships. Revealing confident determination, saying that they were honored to be able to devote themselves to the people and the country, they donned protective clothing.
Those young nursing officers’ pride-filled resolve inspired our people with the hope that they could prevail over COVID-19. I, too, was able to renew my commitment to overcoming COVID-19 when I came here in person to encourage the cadets. Nursing officers protected the people’s health and safety with their medical expertise and soldier’s loyalty. We saw nursing officers working painstakingly behind the scenes with the sweat of dedication.
Ever since the first nursing officers were commissioned in 1948, immediately after the government was founded, the nursing officers of the Republic of Korea have always been there for sick and injured civilians and troops, whether on the frontlines of intense battles or epidemic prevention and control efforts.
At the Battle of Jangjin Reservoir, the fiercest engagement of the Korean War, they cared for wounded soldiers under the faint light of kerosene lamps. As refugees crowded North Korea’s northeastern port of Heungnam, they evacuated patients up to the very last moment, delaying their own withdrawal.
Nursing officers have been Nightingales with guns, medical professionals in uniform and key pillars in diplomacy as well. From outbreaks of SARS and MERS and the sinking of the Sewol Ferry to Ebola-hit Africa, they have always been in the lead at scenes of disasters, catastrophes and infectious diseases. In addition, they have provided medical support as part of U.N. peacekeeping missions to troubled areas worldwide.
In 2008, Major Sun Hyo-sun, who volunteered to transport an emergency patient via helicopter, unfortunately left us during the line of duty. It is meaningful to commemorate today the sacrifices of the late Major Sun Hyo-sun as well as the military doctor and medics who also lost their lives at that time. I hope that their noble spirit will always be remembered through the Sun Hyo-sun Award.
The 70 years of the ROK Armed Forces’ Nursing Branch is a history of devotion, sacrifice, love for people and deep impressions. Our people will never forget the gratitude for our young cadets who moved up their graduation or temporarily suspended their studies amid the COVID-19 crisis to rush to those in need. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, I am very proud and grateful.
Young nursing officers,
You have become nursing officers of the Republic of Korea who safeguard the health and wellbeing of men and women in uniform as well as the people. Their trust in and expectations for you are higher than ever.
The Government will do all it can to support nursing officers and other military medical staff so that they can devote themselves fully to their duties, primarily through the reorganization of the military medical system in line with Defense Reform 2.0. Much still remains to be done, yet significant progress has been made to date. Military hospitals have seen their functions enhanced with specialties in surgery, mental health, outpatient treatment, recuperation and physical examinations. Personnel and equipment have been realigned accordingly. The Armed Forces Trauma Center will play a pivotal role in enhancing capabilities to treat severe traumatic injuries from gunshots or explosions. On top of this, X-rays and other imaging equipment for division-level medical stations have been reinforced to help accurately examine patients early on.
Emergency medical technicians have been assigned to standing divisions’ combat companies, and eight MEDEON medical evacuation helicopters, which can operate at night and in bad weather conditions, have been deployed as well. Evacuation procedures have also been improved so the nearest rescue unit, military or civilian 119, is deployed to quickly evacuate patients in an emergency. To proactively respond to the threats of infectious diseases like COVID-19, we will also significantly expand the supply of such medical equipment as negative pressure ambulances.
It is the basic duty of a country to protect the health of its soldiers. State responsibility for diseases that arise during compulsory service has been strengthened, and medical support for severe and intractable diseases that occur during service has also been expanded. We must do everything we can to ensure that all soldiers who willingly don uniforms to fulfill military duties can return to their families in good health. The health of soldiers and national security lie in your hands. I ask you to fulfill your duty with pride in our strong ROK Armed Forces.
The Government will also provide full support. By 2025, we will secure 83,000 family housing units and 113,000 quarters for officers and continue to expand daycare centers and childcare communities for military families. Facilities essential for women will be installed in all bases to prevent female officers from experiencing inconveniences, and working conditions safe from sexual violence will be created.
Fellow Koreans and young officers,
The time to develop youthful passion and cultivate friendships with fellow cadets is just as important as building your professional capabilities. Although you had to train amid national struggles, I believe that the spirit of comradeship forged while overcoming the COVID-19 crisis together is more solid than any that has come before.
The path you have chosen is by no means a comfortable one. However, whenever it is difficult, you should not forget that there are, beside you, comrades, relatives and people who remember your helping hands.
Today, you have become the country’s guiding lights, searching for truth and practicing love. I join the people in cheering on your dreams. Now, you are taking center stage. I wish you good health.