The Government has decided to offer emergency relief payments – the first time in our constitutional history – to provide strength and comfort to those striving to overcome difficulties caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. To speed their implementation, we will make a decision on waiving the preliminary feasibility study today and submit a supplementary budget proposal to the National Assembly immediately after the general election. I call upon the National Assembly to rapidly deliberate on and pass the budget bill in order to empower our people for the successful conclusion of this legislature.
We cannot know just yet when this crisis will end. However, while setting our sights beyond that end that’s still not in view, we need the courage and insight that can turn a crisis into an opportunity, together with efforts to wisely overcome the current crisis. So far, our people’s potential has been stretched to the fullest, helping foster confidence that the crisis is surmountable. In particular, the open, democratic and creative responses demonstrated in our infectious disease prevention and control measures and our people’s great civic consciousness have made the Republic of Korea a country that the whole world is paying attention to.
Once a nation in peril with the world’s second largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, we have become a country with a Korea-developed infectious disease prevention and control model that has emerged as a global standard and a country of opportunity that exports related Korea-made supplies to the entire world. No one could have expected this in the early stages of the spread. This result has been carved out by the capabilities of our people which have shone brightly during the time of crisis.
On the economic front, a full-fledged crisis is looming. As with the global economy, the impact on our economy is also becoming more visible. The Government is preemptively coping with the situation by taking extraordinary emergency economic measures. However, we need renewed commitment and policy determination to respond to the unprecedented shocks that are coming from all sides domestically and internationally upon the real economy and financial markets as well as production and consumption. We also need to prepare an extraordinary employment policy to protect existing jobs and additional measures to resuscitate businesses.
While putting all of our efforts into overcoming this crisis, we also need an active attitude to find opportunities amid the crisis. We have to proactively respond to a drastic realignment of the global supply chain, just as we’ve opened up opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency in the materials, parts and equipment industry in the course of coping with Japan’s export restrictions.
Meanwhile, we should actively foster digital-based, non-face-to-face, or so-called “untact,” industries that are rapidly rising such as goods and services transactions, medical treatments, telecommuting, distance learning, delivery and distribution. Going through the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve already confirmed that we have the capabilities to lead the world given our potential for the development of non-face-to-face industries. The Government will actively turn that industry into an industry of opportunity combined with Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence.
In addition, we have swiftly developed test kits and are now elevating our standing, starting from Korea’s COVID-19 response to Korea’s bio-health industry. Likewise, we should speed up the development of treatments and a vaccine and thus take this as an opportunity to further advance our bio-pharmaceutics. As the Government is focusing on nurturing the bio industry as one of the three new industries, we must seize this opportunity to further strengthen public-private cooperation and provide bold and full support for R&D.
While protecting our traditional flagship industries, we should place strategic value on fostering startups and business ventures – the driving forces behind innovation in our economy – and provide unstinting policy support. Just as we’ve created opportunities to emerge as a manufacturing powerhouse amid the oil crisis in the past, we will have to turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for the growth of novel industries, small-and medium-sized startups equipped with new technologies and business ventures.
Even in the midst of a crisis, if we take this opportunity to further strengthen the foundation of our economy and expand new growth engines, the current crisis could serve as a stepping stone for a greater leap forward.
The COVID-19 outbreak will end up reorganizing the world order. The virus is already a transnational issue, and it has taught us a lesson – problems cannot be solved just by building a wall on the border and restricting movement. If other countries are not safe, we are not safe either. The virus has become something that none of us can prevail over without solidarity and cooperation.
In the afternoon today, ten ASEAN member states plus Korea, China and Japan will have a videoconference summit. Following the phone conversations I have had with the heads of state and government from various countries and the extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit, the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit will serve as an important opportunity to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity.
Infectious disease prevention and control cooperation and economic cooperation comprise two sides of the same coin. The Government will actively work and band together with the entire world in both areas. The COVID-19 outbreak has given people around the world a huge lesson. In the face of continuing global challenges, we will strive to make it clear that attempts to survive on one’s own can never succeed and that solidarity, cooperation and openness are the only paths toward victory.
The COVID-19 outbreak is completely changing the world in which we live. This is indeed a turbulent era typified by enormous changes in economic structures, lifestyles and other socio-economic areas. These are clearly frightening changes. However, what we should be truly afraid of is not fear itself but losing the courage and hope that help us stand up to fear. In history, the winners have been those who turned changes into opportunities. I ask the people to come together with one mind to build a Republic of Korea that will be the first to prepare for and face the post-COVID-19 era.
The Government will assume an active stance that takes this enormous change as an opportunity, not as a crisis. For policy measures, we will also drive the change with new thinking and bold commitments that move beyond the habitual practices of the past and conventional wisdom. We, the Republic of Korea that turns a crisis into an opportunity and takes a greater leap forward, can do this without fail.