Toward a Greater Republic of Korea

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Address by President Lee Myung-bak on the 65th Anniversary of National Liberation
August 15, 2010

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<Marching Together Toward a Greater Republic of Korea>

Fellow citizens, our brethren in the North and compatriots residing overseas, distinguished guests from home and abroad, I join all Koreans in celebrating the 65th anniversary of liberation today.


I pay tribute with a solemn heart to our patriotic forefathers who sacrificed their lives to win back the country. At the same time, I extend my wholehearted appreciation and respect to all the patriots who fought for the nation’s independence and to all the bereaved family members.


We can now see Gwanghwamun standing tall here once again, restored to its past glory. The 100 years of our recent history littered with vicissitudes flash through our minds. My heart is flooded with many mixed emotions and filled with profound feelings.


A century ago, we lost our country. Gwangwhamun was blocked and neglected, and the flow of our national spirit was choked off. Though we were deprived of national sovereignty, we continued to persist as Koreans. We incessantly endeavored and struggled for the country’s independence.


Finally 65 years ago today, we greeted the liberation that we had longed for so ardently. The founding of the Republic of Korea paved the way for the Korean people to progress along the path of history. With liberal democracy and a market economy serving as the cornerstones, we laid the foundation for a legacy of progress.


History, however, once again caused suffering and tribulation for the Korean people. Meeting the tragedy of the Korean War head on, we defended the Republic fighting alongside freedom-loving friends from around the world. And, in the span of only two generations, Koreans surprised the whole world by constructing a nation permeated with freedom and affluence. What the Republic has achieved has become a beacon of hope and courage for all impoverished and downtrodden countries. 


Fellow Koreans,


Our great challenge has not come to an end. The moment I took office, I made it clear that Korea must move onto the path to advancement reaching well beyond industrialization and democratization.


Our vision is to make Korea a mighty nation, a more caring society and a society where everyone can better their situation. To reach for this dream, we have relentlessly worked around the clock over the past two and a half years. Although confronted with tough circumstances, we have been able to yield good results thanks to the efforts and support of the people.


Korea is now overcoming the unprecedented financial crisis in the fastest and most successful fashion. By doing so, we have secured a platform for the Korean economy to emerge even stronger.


Korea has transformed itself from an aid recipient to a donor despite all our difficulties. Ours is an unparalleled story in world history. Furthermore, the country has now become the chair of the G20 and will host the summit where leaders from around the world are to discuss the issues surrounding the economy and security. We are now squarely heading toward center stage from the periphery of the international arena.


I am deeply grateful to all the Korean people for working together to weather the difficulties so far.


Fellow Koreans,


I still have a strong thirst for change. I have met many people where they live and work. Every single one of them was like a teacher. An elderly woman I met at a market said she still had a hard life. A young mother I met at a nursery school complained that it was too hard for her to raise children. The owners of small businesses I met at industrial complexes appealed to me to provide more support for them. The young people I met on several occasions were all worried about their job prospects.


They all uniformly expressed individual anxieties about the future. The unchanging goal of my Administration is to give hope to people suffering such difficulties. The genuine meaning of a pro-working class policy based on moderate pragmatism is just that. The Government will continue to make increased efforts and take more care to provide support on all fronts, including job creation, education, culture, childcare and welfare. In this way, it will create the conditions to help make ordinary working people happier.


In an era that is diversifying and rapidly changing, however, it is impossible for the Government to undertake these tasks all by itself. Not only the Government, but civil society, politicians and businesses should all take their due share of social roles and responsibilities. Only when they do will our market economy become stronger and liberal democracy be more actively practiced. Otherwise, there will be no way for our society to stay clear of the trap of the widening disparity between rich and poor. Social fragmentation and friction would not be resolved either. All these would jeopardize the values and systems we have upheld thus far.


The recent global financial crisis, too, provides a lot of lessons. We have witnessed how greedy capitalism is able to put the world and all humanity in harm’s way. It is, therefore, imperative to strengthen the ethical basis of the market economy and establish it as the norm to accomplish peace and prosperity for the whole world.


Throughout history, capitalism has stayed on course while meeting constant challenges. Faced with the recent economic crisis, leaders of countries around the world stress the necessity of putting in place a new order and standard of ethics for the sake of sustained growth and common prosperity.


Now is high time for us to pay attention to the values of a fair society. In a fair society, equal opportunities are given to everyone, without exception, both from the very beginning and throughout the process of pursuing goals. However, each individual has to take responsibility for the outcome of his or her undertakings. A fair society encourages the values of individual freedom and uniqueness, diligence and creativity.


In a fair society, yet other opportunities are given to those who are left behind. Those who fall down once can stand up again. They can still achieve a triumphant rise. No one remains behind or in the lead forever.


In such a society, the winner does not take all. One region grows in harmony with other regions. Labor and management work together for mutual progress. Large and small businesses maintain mutually supportive relations. Low-income families and the vulnerable in society do not suffer disadvantages.


A fair society, more than anything else, constitutes the ethical and practical infrastructure for the advancement of the Republic. I will redouble my endeavors to make sure that the principles needed to build a fair society are well observed in all sectors of the nation.


The Government has already started implementing various, concrete policy measures for the sake of building a fair society. They include regulatory reforms designed to infuse vitality into markets, educational reform encompassing the reduction of private education expenses, the introduction of an income-contingent loan program aimed at preventing poverty from being passed down, the construction of affordable public housing for low-income families, the Smile Microcredit program and the newly-launched Sunshine Loan program for microbusiness owners and low-income earners, job creation policies tailored to different needs and policies to make both conglomerates and small and medium-sized enterprises prosperous.


The Government will do its utmost to help a fair society take firm root by further reinforcing the implementation of policies geared to assist mid- and low–income families based on centrist pragmatism and other policies that have a direct bearing on daily lives.


In the process of quantum economic growth, the number of people who have come to feel a sense of relative deprivation has soared. Civic consciousness fails to match the enhanced freedom and rights the public is enjoying. Social trends characterized by discontent and distrust are also worrisome. Individualism is rampant while the concept of time-honored communities such as family is showing a tendency of waning. All these phenomena give us new opportunities to reflect on the value of the freedom we have pursued and on the meaning of development.


What is important at the moment is to wholly translate the quantitative economic growth into an improvement in the quality of individual lives. The Government will place top priority on individual freedom and happiness in the administration of state affairs.



My fellow Koreans,


Politics has to serve as the driving force in realizing the advancement of living standards and movement toward a fair society. Now is the time for the politics preoccupied with achieving and wielding power to be transformed into the politics aimed at meeting the everyday needs of the people. As President, I will take the initiative.


If political power is exercised solely in the pursuit of the interests of a single group, Korean society would not be able to move a single step forward. Confrontation and schism among politicians instantly lead to conflicts and splits among the general public. To address extreme political confrontation and perennial regionalism as well as to promote regional development and administrative efficiency, I have already proposed that the nation’s politics reach world standards through the reform in the electoral system and the reorganization of administrative districts.


We cannot afford to waste a single minute in carrying out such tasks to keep abreast of the rapidly changing times and prepare for the coming days. If necessary, a revision of the Constitution could be discussed at the National Assembly.


Korea is now given a golden opportunity to take the national prestige to a new height. We should not miss this opportunity. I hope the National Assembly will take swift and bold action.



My fellow citizens,


The crisis facing the earth caused by climate change constitutes the most fundamental and colossal threat humankind has ever experienced. At this same place two years ago, I declared the vision of green growth, which garnered broad-based, positive responses from other nations. The Republic’s vision and endeavors to take on challenges serve as an exemplary guide for other nations across the globe.


Green growth will be successful only in mature societies. Green growth is predicated on a highly cultivated attitude that even takes into consideration the forests in the Amazon and polar bears in addition to the wellbeing of individuals and families.

This new era of green growth provides young people with new opportunities. Recently, many young Koreans are dauntlessly taking on challenges in a wide range of areas, including science, technology, culture and sports, to reach their goal of becoming the best in the world. I have strong confidence in their limitless potential and chances of success. Your dreams have already extended onto the global stage.



Young men and women,


Accept the challenge in the innovative and creative sector of green growth. Building on the achievements of the older generation, you will be able to pull off yet another miracle for the Republic. In the years to come, the nation will be able to see young Koreans rise in the green growth sectors and outdo today’s achievements of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the IT sector.


In the era of a green-growth economy, many domestic small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to become globally renowned businesses. Some Korean companies equipped with original technologies in green growth will be able to take the lead in global markets as did Samsung and Hyundai in the era of industrialization and informatization.


To this end, the Government intends to drastically strengthen R&D for green technology. My dream is to catapult Korea into one of the most powerful countries in the green industry by 2020.



Fellow citizens of the Republic,


The G20 Seoul Summit will be held in 87 days. The conference promises to define a new order for the global village.


On the occasion of the Seoul Summit, we will do everything we can so that the G20 will develop into an organization that is instrumental in resolving world problems in both name and substance. The Korean Government will try to make the G20 Seoul Summit into a venue of cooperation aimed at assuring the common prosperity of both developing and developed countries. This is the proposition our country is making in the interest of an equitable world. This is the responsibility and call of the times entrusted to the Republic of Korea. 



My 70 million compatriots,


Even though the Korean War took place 60 years ago, the peninsula is still the only remaining country divided by Cold-War rivalries. It is thus true that we long for the common prosperity and peace of both the South and the North, which will lead to reunification, and that this is the right way to achieve the genuine liberation of the nation.


On March 26, North Korea perpetrated an unprovoked attack against the South’s navy corvette Cheonan to the detriment of hopes for peace. This should never have happened. The North must never venture to carry out another provocation nor will we tolerate it if they do so again.


The two Koreas cannot afford to repeat the unfortunate history punctuated by mutual distrust and confrontation. It is about time Pyongyang looked straight at reality, made a courageous change and came up with a drastic decision. It should not be afraid of making change.


Today inter-Korean relations demand a new paradigm. It is imperative that the two sides choose coexistence instead of confrontation, progress instead of stagnation. The two of us need to overcome the current state of division and proceed with the goal of peaceful reunification. 


In order to achieve that goal, the two Koreas first need to form a peace community that assures security and peace on the peninsula. What is most important in this connection is the denuclearization of the peninsula.


The next step is to carry out comprehensive inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation with a view to developing the North’s economy dramatically. The result will be an economic community in which the two will work for economic integration.


Building on such a foundation, the two Koreas will eventually be able to remove the wall of different systems and establish a community of the Korean Nation that will ensure dignity, freedom and basic rights of all individuals. Through this process, we can ultimately bring about the peaceful unification of Korea.


Reunification will happen. It is therefore our duty to start thinking about real and substantive ways to prepare for reunification such as the adoption of a unification tax. I ask that these and other issues related to this be discussed widely and thoroughly by all the members of our society.


With such a vision for a unified Korea, the Government will solidify cooperative diplomacy in Northeast Asia. Confidence will be strengthened with those countries that have close relations with the Korean Peninsula. The relationships will be mutually beneficial, as they will all share greater opportunities and benefits that a unified Korea will offer down the road.



Fellow citizens,


As we reflect on Japan’s forced annexatEM�EM�orea 100 years ago, there is a definite need for the two countries to chart a new course for the years to come. Every so often, I have reiterated that the two have to transcend the painful history and forge ahead together.


For the first time a few days ago, the Japanese Prime Minister, on behalf of his government, issued a special formal statement to Korea reflecting on and apologizing for the colonial rule that had been imposed over Korea against the will of the Korean people. I have taken note of Japan’s effort, which represents one step forward. However, there still remain issues that have to be resolved. The two countries are called upon to take concrete measures to forge a new relationship for another 100 years.


The two nations should never forget history, while at the same time working together to develop a new kind of future. This is the way and direction Seoul and Tokyo have to take. 



My fellow Koreans,


Gwanghwamun was unveiled today after having been restored to its original shape on its original site for the first time in 84 years; it is ready to act as an auspicious gate to the nation’s future.


Our visions for the future have become clearer, and many will be realized sooner rather than later. We will build up an even greater Korea in the community of nations. The Government will make sure that the success of the Republic paves the way for the happiness of every citizen.


Along with the Government, I will make a point of serving the people with a humble attitude and dedicating myself to making the dreams of the nation come true.


Right now, the Republic is on the right track. There may be occasional stumbling blocks and rough rainstorms in our pathway. But the great people of Korea will continue their bold march to establish a more prosperous nation for all, a more compassionate society and a more powerful country.


The great people of Korea will make a great Republic, indeed.



Fellow Koreans,


We can do it. Let us join forces and march forward all together.


Thank you very much.




1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-820, Republic of Korea