The safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been internationally reaffirmed. Most European countries have resumed administering it, and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has also expanded eligibility for the vaccine to include those aged 65 and over. Accordingly, my wife and I will also receive AstraZeneca vaccines tomorrow in order to attend the G7 Summit scheduled for June. Those aides who have already been confirmed to accompany me to the summit will also get their shots tomorrow. Additional accompanying officials will get inoculated as soon as the final list is completed. I ask the people to set aside even the slightest reservation about the vaccine’s safety and receive one when their turn comes. Vaccination is the way to protect not only one’s safety but also that of our entire society through herd immunity. I urge everyone to stay especially alert so that fake news stoking vaccine fears cannot even get a foothold.
The administering of vaccines has been well underway as planned. Thanks to thorough preparations made in advance and the operation of a well-organized inoculation system, the pace of our early-stage vaccinations is relatively faster than those of other countries. More than 93 percent of the total number of applicants eligible for the first vaccine doses has already received their shots. From last weekend, we began seeing some who have completed their second doses. With the vaccine rollout proceeding without disruption, we plan to sharply increase the number of those to be vaccinated in the second quarter, inoculating more than 12 million people within the first half of this year. The Government will speed up the pace of vaccinations and herd immunity from the goals originally set. I look forward to the public actively cooperating with the vaccination drive by putting confidence in the Government.
Recently, we have seen significant increases in exports and investment, which raises expectations for an economic recovery. The economy is projected to rebound faster and stronger than expected this year. As evidenced by international organizations raising their forecasts for Korea’s economic growth rate to the mid-three-percent range this year, Korea will be among the fastest countries to restore pre-COVID-19 economic conditions. Meanwhile, what is worrisome is the fact that domestic demand and employment continue to remain sluggish as they are tied to the epidemic control and prevention situation. However, they are improving little by little. The face-to-face service sector,
which is suffering the most, is also seeing a slight rebound in consumer spending thanks to the recent easing of social distancing levels. As such, the considerable decline in consumption that has been going on to date is showing signs of easing. In order to keep up this momentum, the Government will continue to play an active role in fiscal spending to boost economic vitality along with epidemic prevention and control. If vaccinations make progress and the epidemic prevention and control situation stabilizes further, we will also prepare measures to boost the economy in earnest.
The employment situation has also begun to show clear signs of sustained improvement. According to the February employment trends recently released by Statistics Korea, the number of employed people increased by 530,000 compared to January. The figure has yet to reach the levels recorded last year, but the situation is definitely improving from January’s low. If this trend continues, employment is expected to recover to last year’s level or even higher starting this March. The Government will focus its policy efforts on stabilizing employment and creating jobs, the two overriding goals of economic recovery. I urge each ministry and agency to make thorough preparations to ensure that the funds earmarked for job creation in the supplementary budget proposal this time can be disbursed immediately following its passage in the National Assembly. As the employment situation differs greatly by industry and business line, resolving supply and demand imbalances for jobs as well as the asymmetry between job openings and seekers has become an important task for recovering employment. I ask you to pay special attention to this matter as well and devise multifaceted countermeasures.
It has become a huge disgrace for the Government, but it is time for our society to join forces to eradicate unlawful real estate speculation. This is a rare opportunity to break the cycle of real estate-related corruption that has festered under the shadow of development and economic growth. It is not an easy task as it involves fundamentally eliminating and reforming long-entrenched practices and ways of accumulating wealth. A considerable struggle is likely to occur. However, since the problem has been exposed, we cannot avoid it or return to the way it used to be. There is no way but to tackle it head on and fundamentally solve the problem. The Government will devise and implement very intensive measures to root out speculation by gathering opinions from a wide range of people. I ask the National Assembly to buttress this with prompt legislation. Even if painful, the Government will handle this with the determination that it is a river that must be crossed and a mountain that must be climbed to move toward a better, fairer and more transparent society.
Meanwhile, I must stress again and again that the February 4 housing supply measures for the less privileged should not be disrupted under any circumstances. Since the upturn in housing prices has recently leveled off and the real estate market is slowly entering a stable stage, I ask you to do what you can to ensure that this trend continues. I would like you to do your utmost to help enact follow-up legislation and implement countermeasures so that the people’s housing supply expectations can be met.