Here is the unofficial translation of President Moon’s 2021 New Year’s Address, sourced from the Cheongwadae website:
2022 New Year’s Address by President Moon Jae-in
3 January 2022
We stand again on the starting line of a New Year. At the center of a tumultuous period in world history, we ring in the year 2022 with firm optimism. I wish everyone a happy New Year and a year to make yet another leap forward, inspired by the tiger’s vigorous energy.
I’d like to offer words of sympathy and encouragement to all of the people who have long been suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that those who are sick in bed will recover quickly. In particular, I convey my sincere sorrow for those who passed away due to COVID-19 and my deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. Even at this moment, our anti-epidemic workers and medical professionals are struggling in freezing temperatures. Once more, I extend my profound respect and gratitude to them.
During my term in office, my Administration has weathered a myriad of crises with the people, whom we have always had faith in. We have confidently risen to incessant challenges. We have continued to move forward – clearing paths if blocked and creating new ones where none had ever existed.
Following an unprecedented presidential impeachment, my Administration set off without the benefit of a transitional period. Since then, we have set right the crumbling constitutional order and advanced democracy. Law-enforcement authorities have been reformed in a way that institutionalizes the principle of checks and balances so that those agencies will no longer be allowed to reign over the people. The walls that shield those in power have been lowered, and the people’s participation has become more vibrant. Korea has become a more transparent and open country together with the enhancement of freedom of speech and human rights. Having joined the ranks of globally recognized fully democratic countries, we have proceeded to become a more mature democracy.
Amid the touch-and-go crisis on the brink of escalating into a full-scale war at the start of my Administration, we opened the door for inter-Korean dialogue and worked to lay a path toward peace. Even though complete peace has not come yet and tensions simmer at times, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is being managed more stably than ever. Because we have suffered war and remained a divided nation, peace is more valuable than anything else. Peace is an essential prerequisite for prosperity. However, peace is prone to disruptions unless it is institutionalized. I will do everything possible until my last day in office. We must not forget the fact that the current hard-earned peace has been built and sustained through inter-Korean dialogue and North Korea-U.S. talks at our initiative.
Peace is only possible on the strength of robust security. While conducting talks, my Administration has made our national defense capabilities stronger than under any previous administration. As a result, we have been able to arm ourselves with mighty defense power as evidenced by Korea being listed as the 6th strongest military power in the world in the 2021 Global Firepower ranking. Self-reliant national defense has now become a more attainable goal as well. With cutting-edge defense industry exports increasing, Korea has transformed itself from an importer to a net defense industry exporter. K-defense is no longer a costly expenditure; it is rapidly emerging as a new growth engine for our economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the entire world over the past two years. During the period, the Government and the people have come together as one to surmount crises. We have actually turned those crises into opportunities while demonstrating once again the potential of the crisis-resilient Republic of Korea. Since every country has been affected by COVID-19, Korea’s response to the virus has risen to prominence on its own merit. The world has paid attention to the Republic of Korea as a model country in the fight against COVID-19. We have been able to rediscover our global standing and feel a sense of pride. This achievement has been made possible by combining the efforts of the Government, the dedication of medical professionals and our people’s strong sense of solidarity. I am very proud of this accomplishment and deeply grateful.
Amid such crises, the Government has focused more on the economy and people’s livelihoods. We have had to agilely and proactively respond to a volatile global trade order that includes things like “our country first” policies, protectionism, the reorganization of supply chains and carbon neutrality in addition to such structural problems as low growth and polarization. In particular, we have had to revive our economy while protecting our people’s livelihoods as we encountered the situation of lockdowns and one of the worst global recessions ever as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite those crises and upheavals, our economy has been reborn stronger than before. Phenomenal growth has been achieved both qualitatively and quantitatively. Among the advanced countries, Korea has registered the highest average growth rate over the past two years, firmly establishing its standing as the world’s 10th largest economic powerhouse. Record high performances last year have enabled us to make vigorous strides toward becoming a trade and export powerhouse. The era of a US$30,000 per capita income was ushered in for the first time under my Administration, and the amount exceeded US$35,000 last year. We are now looking to break the US$40,000 barrier.
Our world-class ability to innovate is becoming the driving force behind our economic growth and takeoff. Our flagship manufacturing industries are becoming even more competitive, and the number of new industry sectors where we are at the forefront globally is ever-increasing. As K-culture is capturing the hearts of people across the globe, even the cultural content industry is emerging as a new growth engine. A second venture boom is transforming our economy into a more dynamic one.
A more positive change on top of our remarkable economic growth is that we are seeing continued improvements regarding the issues of income inequality and polarization. Throughout my term, all three key distribution indices – the income quintile ratio, the Gini coefficient and the relative poverty rate – have improved. It’s a truly encouraging achievement because it was made amid the severe economic damage caused by COVID-19. This is the result of the Government having consistently pushed inclusive growth policies and faithfully played its role as a buttress to protect the lives of the vulnerable with low incomes amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Our economy’s fundamentals have become stronger despite the crisis. Positive changes have occurred when it comes to growth and distribution as well as innovation and inclusion, and rapid recovery and a strong leap forward have been accomplished. As President, I am deeply grateful to all the economic stakeholders who have joined forces to achieve these outcomes.
My fellow Koreans,
The Republic of Korea has become one of the world’s most successful countries over the past 70 years. Korea is the only post World War II developing country to join the ranks of the advanced nations. In a variety of areas, we have become one of the top 10 countries in the world – in economic power, military power, diplomatic power and cultural capacity. The letter K has become a modifier that symbolizes Korea. Numerous Ks are reaching every corner of the world, ushering in an era of K-industries taking the lead in the global market. No one can downplay or deny our people’s national achievements. The Government will do everything it can until the end of my term so that everything they’ve accomplished so far will be able to serve as the foundation for a greater leap forward under the next administration.
We will make this new year, 2022, the first year when we completely overcome the crisis and return to normal. We will vigorously open up the era where we emerge as a pacesetter at the forefront of the world.
First, we will achieve the complete recovery of people’s lives. Moving toward a return to normal daily routines while strengthening epidemic prevention and control is the starting point for a full recovery. Thanks to the people’s cooperation, enhanced anti-epidemic measures have begun to take effect. The number of confirmed cases continues to decrease, and the number of severely or critically ill patients is expected to begin to decline soon. The administering of booster shots and the inoculation of adolescents are also picking up speed, and a great number of hospital beds and medical professionals are being secured. Starting this month, pills for oral COVID-19 treatment will be dispensed.
However, it is too early to let our guard down. Due to the Omicron variant, the number of newly confirmed cases is breaking records daily around the world, and it will only be a matter of time before this variant becomes the dominant strain in Korea. The Government will do everything possible to make it through this critical juncture. With a long-term perspective, the Government will nourish hope for a return to normal life by riding out the difficulties along with the people in a steady manner.
It is truly regrettable that our people are facing growing hardships in their livelihoods with tightened anti-epidemic measures being extended and a return to normalcy being delayed. I’d like to give special words of comfort to the microbusiness owners who were unable to profit from the high season at the end of last year and beginning of this one and have to worry about missing out on another peak: the run-up to the Lunar New Year holiday. We will do all we can to provide – as intensively and swiftly as possible – compensation and support to microbusiness owners and the affected business lines. Support for private sector job creation will be strengthened further for the sake of a quantitative and qualitative recovery of jobs. All-out efforts will be made to achieve an inclusive recovery that narrows disparities.
Second, we will usher in the era of a pacesetting country. To date, we have been applauded for climbing the ladder of success as a fast follower. However, it’s different now. The fast follower strategy is no longer working effectively. We will strive to ensure that, in a growing number of areas, the path we take becomes a new way and standard at the forefront of the world.
We have to get ahead of others amid the enormous changes of our times. We will preemptively respond to the reorganization of global supply chains and technology competition as well as spur the nurturing of national strategic industries and cutting-edge technologies. All-out efforts will be made to ensure a perfect, successful liftoff of the Korean space launch vehicle Nuri. We will accelerate our country’s great transformation through the Korean New Deal, which is being pushed as a new national strategy. Amid close cooperation between the Government and the private sector as well as large corporations and SMEs, we will accelerate industry-specific K-strategies and move toward becoming an economic powerhouse that leads the world.
At the same time, we will take the lead in pioneering a carbon-neutral era that will determine our future destiny. While the transformation of our industrial structure and energy mix will be pursued expeditiously, strong support will be provided for fair and just transitions. We will also vigorously push strategies to become a pacesetting nation in the hydrogen economy. The Government will become a reliable supporter of businesses that take on bold challenges and innovate. We will fulfill our international responsibilities and roles as a bridging nation that links those countries spearheading carbon neutrality to those that are latecomers.
In line with our elevated global status, we will continue our efforts to diversify our diplomacy and broaden our diplomatic horizons until the end of my term. We will elevate our stature as a cultural powerhouse and lead the world in soft power as well.
Third, we will do all we can to raise our quality of life to the level of advanced countries. A truly advanced country is a nation in which no one is left behind and everyone lives well and happily together. Korea already has one of the longest life expectancies in the world. We will eliminate blind spots in welfare and make the tightly knit social safety net even stronger so that all generations can lead happy lives together. We will further expand the employment safety net in response to changes in society and the way people are employed, thereby ushering in an era of universal employment insurance. The 52-hour work week will take root as planned to guarantee a good work-life balance. We will build a country where people are not anxious about having and raising children and a society where young people harbor hope. A safer country will be built by further reducing traffic accidents and industrial accident-related fatalities.
Everything possible will be done to stabilize housing until the end of my term. We will accelerate the housing supply for genuine would-be homeowners while continuing to make the recent downward trend in housing prices solid and stable. We will ensure that the difficulties are not passed on to the next administration.
We will create a new turning point for overcoming the concentrations that form around the Seoul metropolitan area. Full support will be provided to ensure that the pan-regional cooperation among Busan, Ulsan and Gyeongsangnam-do Province becomes a model of success. I hope that pan-regional cooperation across the country will make the Republic of Korea multipolar and serve as a new key to balanced development that enables mutual benefit among the Seoul metropolitan area and other regions.
Fourth, we will not cease the efforts to institutionalize a peace, which is as yet incomplete, through the end of my term to make it sustainable. This year marks the significant 50th anniversary of the July 4 South-North Joint Statement. The first official agreement between the South and North Korean governments, it declared the goal of peaceful unification to be the fundamental spirit of inter-Korean dialogue. Peace, prosperity and unification are the earnest wishes of all Koreans.
In inter-Korean relations, my Administration has found its way through difficult paths during my term. Although many achievements have been made, it is true that there is still a long way to go. Now is a time when the determination and cooperation of the two Koreas are of paramount importance. If we engage in talks and cooperate again, the international community will also respond positively. If an opportunity arises, the Government – until the end of my term – will seek the normalization of inter-Korean relations and a path to an irreversible peace. I hope that the next administration will also continue to strive for dialogue.
Up ahead is a presidential election that will determine the future of our country. I hope that it will become a celebration of democracy in which a candidate is chosen by the people through fierce competition for the sake of people’s lives and the country’s future. I’d like to see it become an election of unity that embodies the hope of the people, instead of hostility, hatred and division. Our people are the masters of politics, and their participation is the power that advances democracy and raises the level of politics. I ask the people to actively participate in the election and play a leading role in promoting good politics.
Our history is filled with successful chapters where trials and setbacks were overcome. It was a history achieved by coming together and cooperating for a greater cause even when we had different ideas. Let us move forward into the future together while joining forces again and becoming more inclusive. An administration is finite, but history is eternal. The Republic of Korea will continue to advance toward a better future when the achievements of any preceding administration are passed on to the next and contribute to a greater leap forward.
In the four months left, my Administration – one that remains devoted to overcoming the crises and pioneering the future of the country – will work at full capacity. I believe that the task remaining is to further advance our achievements and make up for shortcomings as much as possible in order to leave the next administration a strong foundation for a leap forward. I ask for your support until the end.