Fellow Koreans, our police officers,
Today, passion-filled young police officers run to the people’s side. Focused solely on the safety and happiness of citizens, our young police officers rush into the everyday lives of the people to serve them.
After persevering through grueling training courses, 165 young people have come to wear their police uniforms proudly, becoming the descendants of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government’s first police commissioner Kim Gu. I join all Koreans in extending heartfelt congratulations to each of you. I am grateful to your families for providing support. I also commend Korean National Police University President Choi Hae-young and the faculty for their hard work fostering these young people as policing professionals prepared to serve the people.
Newly commissioned young police officers,
Your predecessors worked hard unceasingly and devoted themselves to becoming officers who protect democracy, human rights and people’s livelihoods. Upon their dedication, we declared that this year will be the starting point for police reform. Accordingly, you are given the proud title of the reformed police force’s first commissioned officers. I am convinced that you will without a doubt live up to the people’s expectations.
Over the past four years, our police officers have resolutely confronted cybercrimes and criminal acts against the people’s livelihoods with the aim of preventing not only criminals who commit the five major crimes but also those criminals who exploit the pandemic situation from burrowing into our daily lives. Officers have also strengthened countermeasures against new types of crime such as digital sex offenses. The number of deaths from traffic accidents has decreased nearly 30 percent and, in particular, the number of child traffic fatalities has dropped more than 66 percent over the same period.
According to the 2020 Social Progress Index, Korea ranked 5th in Personal Safety out of 163 countries surveyed around the world. Up from 20th in 2017, this dramatic ranking surge has objectively confirmed that Korea is a top-level powerhouse in the maintenance of public security. Last year alone, 43 countries and international organizations asked our police force for cooperation with public security. Their requests led to the transfer and export of relevant technology and equipment, thereby raising the Republic of Korea’s status.
The police have also played a great role in responding to COVID-19 as well. Our police officers – logging 340,000 man-days – have been at the forefront of epidemic prevention and control, including epidemiological investigations and the transporting of patients. They are currently providing support to facilitate vaccinations by establishing a center to assist with the inoculation drive.
The most rewarding and valuable achievement is that public trust in the police is growing. This is the result of the police’s own efforts to establish an institutional foundation for reforms and put them into practice while fully devoting themselves to the inherent duty of protecting public safety. Our police were the first government agency to introduce human rights impact assessments, and they have implemented bold innovations such as “recuperative policing” and deploying “dialogue police officers.” From the receipt of a case to the close of an investigation, a close-knit control mechanism has been put in place. The police have also established a “triple screening system” through investigation examiners, accountable investigation advisors and a police investigation civic committee. Accusations of torture, cruel treatment and human rights abuses have now disappeared from police investigations.
Intensive self-innovation itself is the shortcut to raise public trust. Those in need seek out the police before all others and hence the police represent the face of the nation. When people feel relief upon seeing the face of an officer, they will support and root for the police even more. I believe that the passion and spirit of the young police officers commissioned today will be a new driving force for innovation that will enhance public trust.
This is the first year of the most groundbreaking reform in police history. A reform act to increase people’s democratic control has come into force. The police’s status and role in criminal judicial proceedings have changed. As the independence of police investigations increases, the responsibility should be dramatically increased likewise. The National Investigation Headquarters, which will play a pivotal role in national investigations, has also been launched. I hope that the NIH will establish a system for investigations that promotes accountability based on the unwavering principles of checks and balances and political neutrality.
Today, carrying the people’s wishes and expectations, I have tied a ribbon of honor onto the National Investigation Headquarters’ flag. I ask you to respond to the people’s expectations and trust with investigative capabilities commensurate with your responsibilities. New police officers commissioned today will be assigned to the investigation department over the next three years. I look forward to you growing into the pillars of the police by cultivating comprehensive investigation capabilities.
The alleged incident of real estate speculation by public officials and a public institution’s employees is the first test to verify the National Investigation Headquarters’ capabilities. I urge you to eradicate, without fail, speculative acts that compromise fairness in our society and corrupt the civil service. Moreover, I ask you to use this as an opportunity to maximize the country’s investigative capabilities through well-coordinated cooperation with the prosecution service and other related organizations. On the foundation of strict investigation and law enforcement, we will have to use this incident as a chance to reform public institutions and renew the integrity of the civil service.
The autonomous police system, which is being run as a pilot project, will be fully implemented in July. We must do all we can to help regionally customized integrated public-security services take root as soon as possible to link policing and local administration. As the transition into a non-face-to-face society due to COVID-19 is expedited, the five major crimes and other conventional offenses have decreased, while the numbers for those involving cyberspace are rising. I urge you to deal more sternly with unfair trade and fraud that exploit disasters; abuse and violence against children and women; and heartless crimes targeting the socially vulnerable such as the young, disabled and elderly. In particular, I ask you to safeguard people’s safety even more meticulously through preemptive and preventive policing that proactively intervenes before any damage occurs.
The Government will also perform all of its duties to make sure that all members of the police can fulfill their responsibilities with pride. We will further advance laws and systems to buttress law enforcement and work to improve conditions for the police as planned, including the pledged 20,000 officers to be added to the force.
The sacrifice and devotion of the police will never be forgotten. Last year, we lost seven police officers, including the late Assistant Inspector Lee Seong-rim who died in an accident while directing traffic during evening rush hour. There are also many officers who suffer due to serious or minor injuries. I would like to express my deep solace to the relatives of those lost as well as all officers injured in the line of duty. Special efforts will be made to provide them the honor and support due.
Young police officers,
I order you to be the first to hold the hands of people in need. I confer upon you the weighty mission of protecting the safety of the people. Reach out to the people vigorously and confidently. With deep trust and respect along the dedicated path you have chosen, the people will also stand by you – the reformed police’s first class of commissioned officers. I ask you to always bear in mind that you are the face of the country.