Remarks by President Moon Jae-in at New Year’s Gathering with Business and Social Leaders

January 03, 2019

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(Unofficial translation)

Fellow Koreans,

We have rung in the New Year amid unusually cold weather. There is a proverb that says, “Northerly winds blowing in the last months of the year bring a rich harvest.” The frigid weather seems to herald a bountiful harvest this year. Amidst this freezing cold, I wish all of your families and businesses a great harvest throughout 2019.

Today, I extend New Year’s greetings to the people here at the Korea Federation of SMEs.

We are joined by representatives from all walks of life and many elders, including five heads of constitutional organizations. Also joining us as special guests are a host of business leaders.

Just a little earlier, we watched video greetings from a selection of extraordinary citizens who made 2018 shine. It reminds me once again that both the driving force for change and the strength to achieve transformation rest within the people. 

What has enabled us to make it this far is a sense of empathy with others and the strength of a mature culture. I am truly grateful to all the people.

Fellow citizens and distinguished guests,

We all dream of a country where happiness prevails here and now.

In their lifetime, our mothers and fathers have lived frugally for a better tomorrow. They have been engrossed in nothing but work – regarding their children’s success as worth all of their sacrifices. They have refrained from spending much on themselves, keeping their children in mind. They have sometimes struggled, asking themselves why their lives could not get better despite the national economy improving and businesses growing. 

In the winter two years ago, the candlelight rallies held in city squares across the nation aspired to create a just, equitable nation. The people wanted to pull back gains made outside the law and through unfair privileges. They declared that equal opportunities and just results should be the norm. Sons and daughters who grew up observing their mothers and fathers’ lives wished that they and their parents could enjoy happiness here and now together.

Last year, we achieved US$600 billion in exports for the first time in history and ushered in an era of US$30,000 in per capita income. Korea became the seventh nation to accomplish this feat among countries with a population of more than 50 million, following the United States, Germany, Japan and a few others. Korea is the only country that has grown into such an economic powerhouse among the countries that gained independence after the Second World War. We fully deserve to take pride in this success.

However, we now face a critical challenge. With the economic growth rate steadily decreasing during each previous administration, low growth has now become the norm. The past economic model of catching up with advanced economies has reached its limit. Even though we have become better off, we are still far from prospering together. Yet another task lying ahead is to achieve growth in an export-driven economy in a way that establishes equilibrium between exports and domestic demand. What we need is value-creating innovation and a new industrial policy that will overcome the structural limits of our economy.

We are well aware of the fact that an economy can ensure sustainable development and happiness here and now when it sets the pace by creating new values, rather than just following the trajectory of advanced countries, and when it guarantees equitable enjoyment of the benefits of growth rather than aggravating inequality and the socio-economic divide. 

However, it requires transforming the fundamentals and primary framework of our economic policies. Undoubtedly, this takes time and can lead to controversy. It is natural to feel uneasy as this path has never been taken before. As the Government was unable to foresee everything precisely, there might have been some areas that have gone unattended. Also scathing voices now complain about the need to put off prosperity until tomorrow yet again. Still, we must not veer from this path of economic reform under any circumstances. 

The year 2018 was a period of setting policy directions and forging the institutional framework needed to bring about major economic and social changes. This year, my Administration will maximize its efforts to ensure that the people during their everyday lives can unquestionably appreciate the benefits from our policies. We will strive to make this the first year of building a society where the lives of the people improve evenly and everyone prospers together by overcoming inequality. 

Yet again, I take to heart the fact that "fairness" and "job opportunities" are at the center of this entire process. 

During the candlelight vigils, participants exercised patience until more and more came to join – thereby changing the world via a mature culture. I believe we must apply the same method when changing our economy.

We will endure until more and more people come to understand our principles. Even though it may take longer than expected, we will always respect and abide by democratic procedures. We will give the people full explanations of the difficulties that we face, and we will seek concessions and compromises from relevant parties. 

By doing so, we will make sure without fail that all are happy here and now. 

My fellow Koreans and distinguished guests, 

Innovation has to be pursued together. Innovation is needed across all industries. The method has to be innovative as well. Innovations are needed to reinvigorate economic dynamism and find a new breakthrough to overcome low growth. 

We are a creative and innovative people. This is well evidenced by the remarkable speed of our economic growth, technological achievements in the fields of information and communication and the hallyu fever spreading across the globe. As the country emerged as one of the dozen or so largest economic powerhouses in just half a century, creativity and innovation can place us at the forefront in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The Government will stand by businesses that embrace innovation. To spark innovation in manufacturing, the Government will push construction of 30,000 smart factories as planned. It will build a model smart industrial complex and smart city models. Funds earmarked for research and development this year have surpassed 20 trillion won for the first time. Intelligent informatization, digitalization and the platform economy are the key elements in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The money allocated for innovative growth will be intensively channeled into their underlying sectors, including data, artificial intelligence, the hydrogen economy, smart factories and self-driving cars. By ensuring that science and technology spawn new businesses and innovative growth, the Government will be at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and create new job opportunities.    

Efforts will also be directed toward creating a favorable environment for corporate investment. In the end, economic development and new jobs come from corporate investment. No business can grow without constant technological innovation and investment. The Government will provide support so that businesses can actively invest. A regulatory sandbox will be implemented in earnest to spur new industries.    

We should all embrace the value of sharing. The quality of life should be enhanced by securing the social safety net, and everyone should prosper together. 

Essential supports for day-to-day living related to incomes, medical services, housing and childcare have been increased. These include the basic pension, child benefits and the earned income tax credit. Comprehensive measures to support the self-employed have been prepared. A decrease in the credit card processing fees will be sought earnestly, and active support will be directed toward helping stabilize self-employed businesses by protecting commercial leaseholders’ rights and designating the fields best suited for small retail business owners to prevent large companies from entering those markets. 

Starting with the public sector, non-regular workers will be promptly given the status of regular workers to allow them to work in a stable manner. At the same time, in particular, workers in jobs connected to safety or that involve hazardous tasks will be actively granted similar status. 

We need to communicate with each other and relate to one another. Our lives are interconnected. Only when my neighbor succeeds can I as well. 

It is an administration’s role to set the direction of policies. Assistance from the National Assembly is needed to transform policies into a system with unwavering laws. Businesses, workers, and local and central governments should put their heads together to reach a grand social compromise. We cannot take a step forward without dialogues, compromises, concessions and the sharing of pain. 

The job creation initiative now underway in Gwangju will become a barometer to determine whether our society can create a mutually beneficial employment model through a grand social compromise. This is in no way just an issue limited to Gwangju and surrounding areas. It will generate hope for new jobs. I ask all the people to unite their strengths and minds.      

Fellow citizens, 

Last year, overwhelmed by emotions, I walked the path of peace opened up by the people. Last year, we got a taste of how peace can foster many hopes. However, the peace we are enjoying now still remains temporary. I will do my utmost so that the flow of peace becomes a large irreversible wave in the New Year. 

When complete denuclearization is achieved and permanent peace is established on the Korean Peninsula, an era when peace drives prosperity on the Peninsula will be ushered in. A new economic initiative on the Korean Peninsula will be realized; to the north, railroads will be connected to reach Russia and Europe; and to the south, a community of peace and prosperity will be created together with ASEAN and India. I will usher in, without fail, an era when peace brings great strength to our economy.     

This country has come so far thanks to the strength of the common people. The nation has a duty to make sure that the ordinary people do not lose hope. 

We will build a nation that gives the people more hope and a government that can empower them. We will make the here and now full of happiness. We can and will do it without fail. 

Thank you.   
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