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National Security is a top priority of South Korea's policy

South Korea - Radio and Internet Address to the Nation by President Lee Myung-bak

Good morning, fellow Koreans,

We all had a really exciting night last Saturday watching Korea’s World Cup match. I was holding my granddaughter and jumping up and down. We were truly moved to see our young athletes dauntlessly making their mark in the world as they did in the Winter Olympic Games.

Today, I would like to speak with you through my biweekly radio address about several pending issues in the wake of local elections on June 2. More than anything else, as the President responsible for state affairs, I take to heart the public sentiment expressed through the elections. I will try harder to listen to the demands of the people.

My term in office will pass the midpoint on August 25. Within a larger framework, I have been contemplating time and again on how to steer state affairs during the latter half of my term.

I will reexamine the priorities of government policies. Cheong Wa Dae and the Cabinet will be overhauled to make them more efficient, and a new lineup will be announced as soon as it is prepared. I will also seek out ways to promote smooth and productive relations between the Administration and the ruling party as well as the National Assembly. In addition, I will try to discover new ways to strengthen communications with the younger generation. My Administration will work out how to cooperate with newly elected heads of local governments for the sake of regional and national progress regardless of their affiliation with the ruling or opposition party.

As soon as guiding principles for these issues are set, I will have a chance to explain to the public in detail the direction of the administration of state affairs during the second half of my term.

Fellow citizens,

The world is now changing so rapidly, and there is an ever-increasing uncertainty about developments in the international situation. When the going is tough, it is imperative for the Government to take a firm stand in running state affairs and coping with difficulties cautiously.

I want to make this point very clear. The Republic of Korea is now moving on the right path in the course of history. Political conflicts and multiple social problems notwithstanding, the Republic is making steady progress toward becoming an advanced nation. As you can see and feel, Korea’s standing in the international community has been conspicuously elevated. The country is also making the most remarkable economic achievements among the OECD member countries.

In the face of the unprecedented global financial crisis, the Korean people have made utmost efforts in their respective areas. It is only natural for the countries of the world to take Korea as an example of how to overcome the crisis. Workers, businesses and even public officials have pooled their strength despite the pain and sacrifice. I am truly grateful to them.

Reform efforts to advance various sectors of society have now proceeded on the right track, including those involving deregulation, state-invested corporations, labor and management and education as well as the prosecutors and police. The outcome of reforms is bound to be felt later on, and the process of advancement is always accompanied by suffering and inconvenience. I feel sorry for those who have endured such pains and discomforts during the reform process, and at the same time, I appreciate them very much.

Administrative priorities to advance the nation should be carried out unwaveringly and consistently. They should be done not for the sake of the current Administration, but for the sake of the Republic of Korea. I will remain steadfast in maintaining administrative policies, which are predicated on the values, identity and vision the Republic must pursue.

When it comes to national security, such an approach is especially important. Political strife may occur on many issues, but it must never ever happen with regard to national security. In dealing with the sinking of the corvette Cheonan, we have to muster all our strength and take stern action against the wrongdoing of the North in collaboration with the international community. In addition, we have to establish watertight security readiness. If we fail to do so, similar incidents could happen anytime in the future.

The Government will rectify various problems in the military that surfaced with the incident. Those who have to take responsibility will be held accountable. At the same time, the Government will expedite on-going programs aimed at advancing the national defense. By integrating the strengths of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines in a well-organized and efficient manner, the Government will build strong, advanced armed forces. In the process, I hope all Koreans will encourage our armed forces more and show caring concern.

My fellow citizens,

What has recently hit home indeed is the necessity for the Administration to pay careful attention to the public. In the face of the financial crisis, the Government has already implemented various policy measures geared at providing help for low-income families as well as building up the middle class under the banner of centrist pragmatism for ordinary people.

Nevertheless, I understand well that ordinary people have yet to fully bask in the warm breeze of such policies in their everyday lives. Taking this reality into consideration, the Government will channel its energy and efforts into enhancing the effectiveness of policies as the economy shows signs of a turnaround.

As of now, the performance of the conglomerates and SMEs has returned to the pre-crisis level, putting them on the track of sustainable growth. During the second half of this year, ordinary, middle-class citizens will be able to feel the effects of economic recovery.

One recent bit of welcome news is that Korea has recorded the highest economic growth rate in the first half of this year among OECD member nations. What is all the more welcoming is the fact that the creation of jobs swung into full gear in April and May. Private investments and consumption are also on the rise. Jobs for young people, though still not pronounced, have finally begun to increase. The Government will do its utmost to help create more job opportunities for young people and spread the economic turnabout evenly to those who are less fortunate in our society.

Fellow citizens,

To realize social cohesion is an urgently required task especially at this moment. Unfortunately, policy issues have turned into political issues in our society, thereby intensifying public schisms on an increasing number of issues. Among other things, cases in point are the controversies surrounding Sejong City and the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project.

What I want to emphasize yet again concerning the matter of Sejong City is that the amendment of the original plan was not driven by a calculation of political interest. Instead, the Government pursued the modification in a direction that is more conducive to regional development considering the nation’s far-sighted ambitious vision for the next 100 years. I still have a strong conviction about this. To divide administrative ministries and agencies is tantamount to sowing the seeds of regret that the nation will feel time and again, whether we consider the efficiency of the administration of state affairs, national competitiveness or the nation’s future after reunification.

However, we cannot leave the situation unattended if public opinion continues to remain divided and the political rift deepens because of this. What is more, now is the time when a national consensus is most critical for the sake of putting a watertight national security stance in place and nurturing the incipient economic recovery. We cannot cause any further extended delay for the entrepreneurs who want to make investments as soon as possible.

I request the National Assembly to make a decision on this. Related bills were already submitted to the parliament in March, and I urge the National Assembly to act on them during the current session. I hope every member of the National Assembly, regardless of party affiliation, will make a wise decision, keeping in mind his or her historic duties. The Administration will respect the decision of the National Assembly made through voting.

The Four Rivers Restoration Project is a life restoration project. It is aimed at reviving the river waters and environment. The project was conceived to fundamentally reduce the enormous amount of money used for annual stopgap measures to improve water quality and restore the damage from disasters. The Rivers Project represents an investment in the country’s future. We will be able to reap the benefits from this major national project in just a few years, not in the distant future.

Looking back, such national projects as the Seoul-Busan Expressway, Incheon International Airport and High-Speed Railway projects all met opposition and underwent difficulties initially. But haven’t they been doing very well? They served as an engine pulling the development of the nation. I am certain that the Four Rivers Project will do the same.

Some people pointed out that the Government has been lacking in communication and persuasion efforts. I accept that criticism humbly. The Government will try to engage in more discussions with the public and reflect their views effectively. The Government is ready to accommodate any opinions beneficial for the environment. Once more, I will try to collect the views of the local governments situated near the four rivers.

Fellow Koreans,

The Government that has been given the people’s mandate and the ruling party have the duties to accommodate the public’s views faithfully. The losers in an election tend to learn more lessons. What is required of us now is to take the attitude that there is no one to blame but ourselves. I urge the Cheong Wa Dae staff and civil servants to reflect on what they have done. On that basis, we should not be afraid of drastic change. This is also a good time for the ruling party to attempt a transformation. I hope the ruling party will be able to garner collective wisdom and strength to be transformed into a youthful, dynamic force that can lead the way in this new age.

Even while making such changes, however, we should steadfastly adhere to the principles and values we have established. We should not waver mindlessly according to the changing situation; the changes should be conducive to a brighter future.

The future of the Republic is bright and promising, indeed. As the many countries of the world see it, our country will continue to march forward without stopping.

During much of this week, I will join all Korean citizens in chanting “Dae-Han-Min-Guk!” and cheering for the Korean football team. I certainly hope news of a second victory in the World Cup will delight us all during the week.

Thank you very much.

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