Here is a translation of Lee Myung-bak’s inaugural address on 25 February, typeset as I received it. Some of the line breaks may be accidental, but most of them seem to be intended.
Fellow Koreans, seven million Korean compatriots living abroad, former Presidents Roh Moo-hyun, Kim Dae Jung, Kim Young-sam, and Chun Doo-hwan, President Islam Karimov of the Republic of Uzbekistan, President Enkhbayar Nambar of Mongolia, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda of Japan, Chairman Viktor Zubkov of the Government of the Russia Federation, Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla of the Republic of Indonesia,
Thank you for being here.
I have received your call and today, I stand here before you as the 17th-term President of the Republic of Korea.
To a nation that I am immensely proud of
and to its great people,
I offer my most solemn respect.
I sincerely pledge to you that I will dedicate my body and soul to this historic mission of the time.
These are my promises to you :
I will serve the people and bring peace to this nation,
I will invigorate the economy and unite our society,
I will enliven our culture and advance our science and technology,
I will strengthen our security and lay the foundation for peaceful unification.
I will faithfully carry out our duties to the international community and contribute to the prosperity of all peoples.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea.
We fought for and regained our land that was taken from us and established our nation.
We gave our best to our day’s work.
As a result, our great nation achieved what no other nation ever achieved in history.
In the shortest period of time, this nation achieved both industrialization and democratization.
Never before seen in human history, we achieved all this with only our own fierce determination and sheer fortitude.
That is how one of the poorest countries in the world has come to bid for its place among the 10 largest economies in the world.
A country that lived by the mercy of others
is now able to give to others in need and stand shoulder to shoulder with the most advanced countries.
Some say this is a “miracle.”
Others say this is a “legend.”
But we know what it truly is.
This is not a miracle but the shining crystallization of our blood, sweat and tears.
This is not a legend but a genuine testimony to how each and every one of us has lived.
Our forefathers who gave their lives for the sake of our independence,
Our men and women in uniform who were martyred on the battle field,
Our farmers who toiled for a good harvest come rain or shine,
Our laborers and workers who worked late into the night in factories,
And those who sacrificed their youth to fight for democracy,
these are the stories of greatness that bring tears.
The ordinary citizens who willingly came up with their treasured gold objects to pitch in to help pay the national debt during the 1997 financial crisis, the volunteers who recently suffered the harsh cold winds to clean up the oil leak on the winter beaches, and many citizens and civil servants who staunchly carried out their duties, these are the protagonists in this success story.
Now, we can trumpet these stories with a grateful heart and
a sense of dignity. This self-esteem is indeed an engine for Korea’s drive into the future.
Now, I propose that all of you to have confidence and set about with me on this journey into the future. Free from the yoke of the past, keeping our composure in the face of the shackles of reality, we shall march forward to the great possibilities of the future.
As the President of this great nation, at this juncture when we are beginning another 60 years of the Republic, I hereby declare the year 2008 as the starting year for the advancement of the Republic of Korea.
I do declare our solemn start towards a society that cherishes the fruit of democratization and industrialization, with each of its members doing their bits voluntarily in collaboration for the general welfare and towards a country that abounds in wealth, caring, and dignity.
At times over the last ten years, we found ourselves faltering and confused, but now, we will take with us our achievements as well as the lessons that we learned from our failures and start anew.
We must move from the age of ideology into the age of pragmatism.
Pragmatism is a rational principle prevalent in the histories across the globe, and practical wisdom useful in charting our course through the tides of globalization.
Pragmatism is Zeitgeist that unites man and nature, matter and mind, individuals and communities for a healthy and beautiful life.
In making Korea an advanced country,
we ought not to discriminate among ourselves.
We will arm ourselves with pragmatism for cooperation and harmony so that we may thaw out differences between classes and resolve militant strife.
The future that I envisage for Korea is a nation where the government serves its people with devotion, a nation where the economy is robust and the weak and marginalized are taken care of and a nation where labor and management collaborate in harmony. It will be a nation where the best and brightest are fostered and welcomed by the rest of the world and which attracts the world’s best and brightest to come and work.
That is the vision of a Great Korea that Lee Myung-bak administration will work for.
The miracle will continue.
The legend will go on.
I will re-ignite the engine of growth that once marveled the whole world and make it pump harder.
I will take the lead, and with you beside me as one, we can do it.
My fellow citizens,
There is one thing that requires our determination at this juncture.
based on a dispassionate realization of the rapid changes that face us everywhere, we must resolve anew to change ourselves first on our own initiative.
Having flinched rather carelessly, we now witness
the rest of the world excelling us by a long way.
Developing countries are fast catching up.
Our nation’s competitiveness has fallen,
and instability in the resource and financial markets threatens our economy.
On the domestic front, things are not quite looking up.
Our middle-class crumbled, and the lives of our ordinary citizens are becoming more and more tiresome.
Relations between social groups as well as between different classes are still mired in conflict and animosity.
Civil movement has grown in number and in size yet,
fulfillment of civic duties and responsibilities still lags far behind the demand for more rights.
We are rapidly becoming an aged society with our country’s birth rate hitting record lows. There is the added burden of being a divided nation.
We are at the crossroads where the destiny of the nation over the next 60 years will be determined.
I beseech you to take a more positive attitude to change
so that we can surmount this critical moment in history with ease.
If we slight this call for change, we will fall behind.
If we stand up against change, we will be swept away.
We must ride the tide of change in all areas and be able to initiate our own changes.
Although it is going to be difficult and painful, we must change much more and much faster.
If some things are unreasonable or found outmoded, they must be discarded, without hesitation.
The direction of change is openness, autonomy and creativity.
My fellow Koreans,
Economic revival is our most urgent task.
New engines of growth must emerge assuredly, the economy grow vigorously and more jobs be created.
We will start with the government and transform it into a lean and capable organization.
We shall increase our effectiveness by abiding to the small government, big-market principle.
We will make a government that gets the job done well.
From now onwards, the Government will act as a helper, allowing those who do well to do even better and lending a hand where help is needed.
The jobs that are not meant for the Government, shall be privatized.
We shall also enhance competition in the public sector.
We must lower taxes as well.
Only then will we see investments and consumption increase once again.
The number of public servants will be incrementally reduced
and unnecessary regulations will be either cast away or reformed as early as possible.
Soon, you will witness the new Administration working efficiently.
Corporations are the source of national wealth and the prime creator of jobs.
All who wish must be allowed to start a business and build a factory without difficulty.
We also need to create an environment where entrepreneurs can invest freely, and our companies can roam the world market with much excitement.
Innovative small and medium-sized enterprises must be encouraged and invigorated.
We will certainly help such companies grow in size, competing and cooperating with large corporations.
Business leaders who are transparent and who put in an honest days work will be admired, and companies that invest more and create more jobs will be loved by the people.
Labor and management are the two wheels of a wagon that we call a corporation.
If one side slips then the entire corporation falls.
In advanced economies, labor strikes have sharply abated.
This is because labor and management commonly understood that too much contention would ruin them all.
Autonomous improvement in labor-management culture is prerequisite for national advancement.
We must end the era of strife and open an era of companionship.
Management as well as labor must make a compromise and take a step towards each other.
When the going gets tough, corporations ought to brace themselves.
Management must first strive for transparency and reach out to the workers.
Workers must endeavor harder to increase productivity, mitigating militant struggles and illegal demonstrations.
Then, we will see a healthy labor-management relationship.
The Government for its part will do its best, with integrity while keeping to principle.
Opening of the market to the foreign sector is an unavoidable mega-trend.
Such an economy as ours, which depends so much on exports, should increase our national wealth through free trade regimes.
However, I have many concerns regarding those industries whose competitiveness will be weakened once exposed to the global market.
In particular, I am deeply worried about our farmers and fishermen.
We cannot simply give up.
We are all sons and daughters of the land and the sea, of farmers and fishermen.
The worries about our agriculture, our farmers, our fields are worries about our country.
The Government will be there with you to find tangible solutions.
Farming and fishing should not continue to remain as a primary industry.
We must integrate advanced manufacturing technologies into our agricultural industry and also incorporate advanced distribution service management techniques in such a way as to develop the agricultural sector into secondary and tertiary industries.
We must also venture out to open up new overseas markets.
When the farmers and the Government come together,
our collective wisdom will help us transform what seems like a crisis into a new opportunity.
My fellow Koreans,
All human beings have the inherent right to live decently.
Society must be a place where all are healthy and live in comfort.
The state must provide for those who desperately need help.
Welfare that is nothing but a free hand-out is not the solution.
Nor is welfare that compensates post-factum an answer.
Instead, welfare must be positive and preventative.
Only then will we make a society where no one is left behind.
We will make sure that the benefits go to those genuinely in need.
Women are the proud leaders of civil movements and the nation’s development.
Women’s engagement in society brings us maturity.
Policies geared for gender equality will facilitate expansion of civic and social rights for women.
Opportunities will be increased and legal systems improved so that more and more women can become decision-makers.
We will tailor our childcare system according to the specific needs not only of families but also of each age group.
If the Government can alleviate the burden of childcare, not only would the problem of low birthrates be fundamentally resolved, we would be able to raise the quality of life as well as the caliber of human resources.
We will not overlook the plight of the young adults.
We will make job opportunities for them at home and abroad so that they can become viable members of the society.
Housing shall be stabilized in such a way as to secure a foundation for individual living as well as social security.
There is an urgent need to enhance welfare for the elderly as Korea is fast becoming an aging society.
We will bring a sense of reality to the pension for the elderly and improve upon public welfare.
We will expand medical benefits and facilities for them.
Certainly, jobs will be made available for those elderly who wish to work.
Persons with disabilities, must be treated with warmth and dignity, and they must be provided more opportunities.
For those who are able to work, giving them a place to work is the greatest form of welfare.
For those who are not able to work, it is the state’s responsibility to care for them.
My fellow citizens,
Advancement is the work of all individuals,
and it is for the sake of the individual.
The future of Korea depends on education of talented persons.
Our young people are the ones that will shoulder the future of this country. They are like a powerhouse of dreams and energy.
We will do our best in tapping their potential and developing their IT capabilities and global readiness.
Our education system must be reformed.
One size fits all, government-led uniform curriculums and an education system that is locked only onto the college entrance examination are not acceptable.
We must accept global standards and instill a spirit of self-discipline and a fresh breath of creativity into the classrooms.
Schools must be diversified and teachers must be armed with real skills and competitiveness.
Our public school system must be rectified in such a way as to temper down household spending on extra-curricular education.
We can then expect to see the potential of the students and their creativity rediscovered and encouraged.
Autonomy for universities and colleges is key not only to national competitiveness but to the advancement of the Korean society.
Universities and colleges must be able to enhance their education and research capabilities so that they can compete with other institutions of higher learning abroad. Indeed, they must rise to lead the forming of a knowledge-based society.
I will increase the opportunities for quality education.
One must be able to study even if one is poor.
There is no welfare policy that is as sure as this.
Through education welfare, I will break the vicious circle of poverty being handed down generation after generation.
Science is what makes a society rational. It also helps us develop.
Some of our sciences excels on the world level, but we have a long way to catch up.
We must look beyond and into the future, 20 and 30 years down the road and facilitate creative capabilities for scientific development.
We will create a social environment where scientists receive respects as well as priority treatment and science talents are properly fostered.
Through science and technology we open the door to the future.
Research and development for basic science and mega science as well as for basic core technologies must be carried out by the Government with a long-term vision.
Practical ways to facilitate cooperation between universities and corporations in the area of R&D should be sought and implemented.
Housing is not a source of wealth but a necessary infrastructure for our daily lives.
We will briskly move ahead with the housing policy that will bring about stability in prices and an upgrade in our living standard.
We must reorganize the layout of our land, befitting the future.
Maritime expansion and integration of administrations are global trends.
We also need to plan for new uses of space to meet changing lifestyles in the future.
In pursuance of policies that are both eco-friendly as well as culture-friendly, we will seek to make the land we live on more healthy and awe-inspiring.
Preservation of the environment improves the quality of life
while the environment industry creates new engines of growth.
Climate change is threatening our very future.
Natural disasters and abnormal weather patterns are on the rise and the damage caused by them is becoming more serious.
We must actively take part in reducing carbon emissions.
In the short term, our economy may undergo a period of difficulty while adjusting to these changes.
But, we must endure. We must creatively adapt.
The various issues that affect our state policy – such as food, environment, water, natural resources, energy – must undergo an overall paradigm shift so that they become more eco-friendly.
Korea is a nation of culture with an extensive history.
The Korean Wave that is now well placed around the globe testifies to the advantage of skilful replications of such a long tradition.
Modernization of traditional culture is useful for facilitating arts and culture and such attempts surely dignify the country’s economic prosperity.
Now, culture has become an industry.
We must develop our competitiveness in our contents industry, thereby
laying the foundation to become a nation strong in cultural activities.
An increase in income will lead to a rise in cultural standards, which in turn heightens our quality of life.
Through culture we are able to enjoy life,
through culture we are able to communicate with each other and
through culture, we will be able to advance together.
The new Administration will do its best to bring the power of our culture into a full blossom in this globalized setting of the 21st century.
The Republic of Korea will take a more positive stance with a greater vision and carry out global diplomacy which we actively cooperate with the international community.
Transcending the differences in race, religion, and wealth, Korea will befriend all nations and peoples.
Respecting the universal principles of democracy and market economics, we will take part in the global movement for peace and development.
We will work to develop and further strengthen traditional friendly relations with the United States into a future-oriented partnership.
based on the deep mutual trust that exists between the two peoples,
we will also strengthen our strategic alliance with the United States.
We will attach importance to our policy towards Asia.
In particular, we will seek peace and mutual prosperity with our close neighbors, including Japan, China and Russia and promote further exchange and cooperation with them.
In order to ensure that our economic engine runs smoothly,
we will work to acquire a safe and stable supply of resources and energy.
Moreover, we shall take the lead in environment-friendly international cooperation.
As befitting our economic size and diplomatic capacity,
our diplomacy will contribute to promoting and protecting universal values.
Korea will actively participate in United Nation’s peacekeeping operations as well as enlarge its official development assistance (ODA).
By emphasizing the importance of cultural diplomacy, we will
work to allow Korea to communicate more openly and easily with the international community.
Our traditional culture, when coupled together with our technological prowess, will no doubt transmit to the world an image of a more attractive Korea.
Unification of the two Koreas is the long-cherished desire of the 70 million Korean people.
Inter-Korean relations must become more productive than they are now.
Our attitude will be pragmatic, not ideological.
The core task is to help all Koreans live happily
and to prepare the foundation for unification.
As already stipulated in my “Denuclearization and Opening up North Korea to Achieve US$3,000 in Per Capita Income, once North Korea abandons its nuclear program and chooses the path to openness,
we can expect to see a new horizon in inter-Korean cooperation.
Along with the international community,
we will provide assistance so that we can raise the per capita income of North Korea to US$3,000 within 10 years.
That, I believe, will both benefit our brethren in the North as well as be the way to advance unification.
Together, the leaders of the two Koreas, must
contemplate what they can do to make the lives of all 70 million Koreans happy and how each side can respect each other and open the door to unification.
If it is to discuss these issues, then I believe the two leaders should meet whenever necessary and talk openly, with an open mind.
Indeed, the opportunity is open.
The foundation of politics lies in making lives more comfortable and livable.
However, politics, unfortunately, is not satisfying the people’s expectations.
Without changing politics, we will not be able to become an advanced nation.
Politicians must discuss the future direction of our nation, where it must proceed and then present serious policy options.
Politics must ease the pain of the people and instill in them hope for the future.
This is the basic of the politics of pragmatism.
The path seems far.
Let us begin by doing what is possible.
Let us now resolutely part with wasteful political disputes.
Let us heed our people’s call.
Let us work to heal their pain.
Let us engage in productive politics.
I will open wide the door to dialogue not only to the ruling party but also to the opposition party.
I will sincerely discuss matters of state with the National Assembly and
respect the wishes of the Judiciary.
My fellow Koreans,
A boy from the countryside who could not even eat regular meals,
went from being a street vendor, a self-supporting student and a salary man to becoming the chairman of a prominent conglomerate, a member of the National Assembly and the Mayor of Seoul.
And finally, this person became the President of the Republic of Korea.
the Republic of Korea is a country where we can dream our dreams and bring those dreams to reality.
I sincerely hope that everyone of my fellow Koreans will have his or her own dream and work hard to realize that dream.
My wish is to fill this great and honorable nation
with opportunities for all.
A nation where there is hope even for the destitute,
a nation where even those who fall can get up,
a nation where opportunity to succeed is guaranteed for anyone who truly works hard –
such is the nation that I yearn for.
There is a map of the Republic of Korea within each of us. I will take that map and expand it so that it reaches out to the world.
By allowing the world to come into Korea without hindrance, we will together create brand new values. And then, the Republic of Korea will be a nation that sends these new values out into the world-a genuinely top-notch nation.
This has been the prayer of our ancestors;
this is the hope of our contemporaries;
and this will be our promise to the future generations.
I, Lee Myung-bak, will lead the way.
The Government cannot do this by itself.
The true owners of this nation, the people, must act together.
Parents must raise their children to be more healthy and wise, in both body and mind.
Teachers must love and teach their students even more earnestly.
Business leaders and workers must join hands and be more ambitious.
The young generation must work harder to develop themselves.
Those serving in the military as well as the police must be steadfast in defending this nation.
Religious leaders, social workers and members of the media must also carry out their solemn responsibilities with sincerity and conviction.
Public servants must earnestly serve the people.
This President will be the first to do so and will do my utmost.
My fellow Koreans!
Our great march has commenced towards fulfilling this historic task of advancing Korea. Beyond the miracle of the Han River, let us now embark together on creating a new legacy for the Korean Peninsula. I, Lee Myung-bak, will take the lead.
When we come together as one,
we can do it.
We will do it.