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After provocation against Yeonpyeong Island, the situation cannot be the same

New Year's Speech entiled "Toward an Advanced, Leading Country" by President Lee Myung-bak

1. Significance of 2010 and 2011

Good morning, fellow Koreans,

The New Year of the Rabbit, 2011, has dawned. The rabbit is a symbol of wisdom and abundance, and I hope it will bring all Koreans great happiness.

The past year was truly a memorable year for us. The Republic of Korea was able to stand tall in the international arena by hosting the G20 Seoul Summit. Korea has now emerged as a nation that helps to establish the international order, rather than always having to follow others. The country has also been exemplary in overcoming the economic crisis.

In the past year, our economy posted the highest economic growth of any OECD member nation at over 6 percent. We also became the seventh largest exporter in the world.

Labor-management relations, one of Korea’s discount factors, are on their way to becoming more stabilized, and the revised labor laws are also taking hold. Working-class-friendly policies such as the income-contingent student loan scheme, microcredit program and affordable public housing for low-income families have taken firm root.

Through such efforts we have proven that we can and have achieved much. These accomplishments are the net result of our sweat and initiatives to creatively meet incessant challenges in world affairs.

However, the torpedoing of the naval ship, the Cheonan, and the provocative shelling of Yeonpyeong Island dampened the aspirations of all Koreans and people around the world who want peace on the Korean Peninsula. These are grave challenges to the Republic of Korea.

Nevertheless, nothing can stop us from becoming an advanced, leading nation. No matter what threats we face and no matter who tries to hold us back, we will not be impeded on our path toward that goal.

This year marks the beginning of the next decade. The following 10 years will be the period for the Republic to rise to an advanced, leading country in both name and reality. We will open a new era of the Republic of Korea. Based on what we have achieved thus far, this year should serve as a steppingstone to advancement in all sectors of society, including foreign affairs and security, the economy and quality of life, politics and civic awareness.

2. Solid National Security and Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Fellow Koreans,

The situation before and after the provocation against Yeonpyeong Island cannot be the same. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States went back to the drawing board to devise new security and national strategies, because the safety and security of its people had come under threat.

The shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, also served as an opportunity for us to reflect on our security readiness and overhaul our defense posture. As the safety and security of the Korean people is absolute, there can never be any delay in establishing security measures. We should stand together as one on the issue of national security. We must not forget that the best possible security measure is a people united.

Peace cannot be obtained without a price. We are living with the grave reality that our nation is still divided by Cold War rivalries. We cannot let North Korea covet even an inch of our territory. Any provocation that would pose a threat to our lives and property will not be tolerated. Such provocations will be met with stern, strong responses.

We must be equipped with firm deterrence so that the North will not even contemplate another provocation. To this end, I will step up efforts for defense reform.

From now on, we need to establish and carry out peace and reunification policies based on solid national security. Taking it a step further, we need to make endeavors to engage our North Korean brethren in the long journey toward freedom and prosperity.

The North must come to the realization that nothing can be gained through military adventurism. They cannot speak of peace and solidarity among Korean people while shelling civilians and threatening fellow compatriots with nuclear attacks.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons development constitutes an enormous threat not only to peace on the Korean Peninsula but the entire world. The international community needs to work together to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program and start on a path toward common prosperity. It is imperative now more than ever for countries concerned to play a fair and responsible role.

North Korea must accommodate the aspiration of all Koreans and the demand of the international community for peace and prosperity. Nuclear weapons and military adventurism must be discarded. The North must work toward peace and cooperation not only with rhetoric but also with deeds.

I remind the North that the path toward peace is yet open. The door for dialogue is still open. If the North exhibits sincerity, we have both the will and the plan to drastically enhance economic cooperation together with the international community.

3. Sustained Economic Revitalization

Fellow citizens,

The two important pillars in state affairs this year are security and the economy. This Administration was chosen by the people under the banner of reviving the economy. While we experienced undue hardships in the face of financial crisis, Korea turned the situation into an opportunity for growth.

The Korean economy shines even brighter on the global stage. Leading international investment institutions and credit rating agencies have come out with optimistic projections for the Korean economy.

Many Korean industries are leaders in global markets: display panels, memory chips and shipbuilding are ranked number one in the world, mobile phones second, petrochemicals and automobiles fifth, steel sixth and textiles seventh. Many products from small and medium-sized companies are also global leaders. I would like to highly commend those Korean companies that have achieved such global successes.

The economy needs to continue its robust path this year. Without sustained economic growth and competitive industries, it is impossible to create jobs, expand welfare or strengthen fiscal stability.

This year, our goals in running the economy are: high economic growth rate of over 5 percent, inflation of under 3 percent and the creation of decent jobs and improvement in quality of life of middle- and low-income families.

Though conditions are difficult, we will work hard so that the economy will be able to grow by at least 5 percent this year following 6 percent growth last year.

In particular, science and technology will be considered the basic platform for the country’s take-off toward an advanced economy. This cannot be achieved without the development of our original technology. The government will strengthen its support for science, technology and engineering sectors to achieve such a goal. Under the overall purpose of enhancing our growth potential and future competitiveness, we will increase our investment in R&D.; The Presidential Council for Science and Technology will play a pivotal role in such endeavors.

The Government will do as much as it can to curb inflation to under 3% to ensure that growth does not endanger stability. Abnormal weather conditions last year hiked up prices of vegetables significantly, putting a burden on household budgets. This year, the Government will upgrade the scientific prediction system for the harvest of agricultural produce and streamline the retail structure. Through this, the Government will take extra care in controlling prices that impact low-income families.

Thanks to economic growth and aggressive job creation policies last year, approximately 310,000 new jobs were created.

In particular, Government efforts will be geared toward creating jobs that meet various needs, including firmly establishing a system of quality part-time work, thereby easing difficulties in landing a job.

The Government will do its utmost to ensure that middle- and low-income families as well as local economies will be able to share in the benefits of the economic recovery.

It will continuously implement policies aimed at promoting shared growth between conglomerates and small and medium-sized enterprises. To this end, the Government will create a new business environment where SMEs are recognized as partners for shared growth through close collaboration, thereby equipping them with global competitiveness. Ensuring that SMEs and self-employed businesses are treated properly is instrumental in bolstering competitiveness, creating job opportunities and restoring the middle class: tasks that crucial in establishing a fair society.

In addition, the Government will accelerate the implementation of national projects aimed at revitalizing the local economies, including the selection of the location for a science-business belt, relocation of public corporations and the “Five plus Two Core Tasks.”

In addition, the Government will finalize and push ahead with the east, west and south coastal area development plans with a total budget of 75 trillion won; turning the East Coast into an energy and tourism belt, the West Coast into an advanced knowledge convergence and integration belt and the South Coast into a logistics and tourism belt

4. Strategies for the Enhancement of the Quality of Life

My fellow citizens,

We are now experiencing revolutionary changes in our lives. Aging is not just about the quantitative extension of life expectancy. Rather, it is about qualitative changes in our lifestyles and patterns. We have already entered an era when we must plan ahead for a life expectancy of 100 years. The Government policy framework should also be transformed accordingly.

Up until now, the policy on an aging society has concentrated mostly on welfare benefits. Now is the time to look squarely at the reality that people are living more than 30 years after retirement. Furthermore, we have to take note of the fact that aging is accompanied by a polarization of wealth. As people get older, such a polarization could become more pronounced.

The fundamental policy goal in face of the trend of an aging society coupled with polarization should be the advancement of the quality of life. Considering the live cycle of an individual from cradle to grave, it is necessary to help people realize their potential and thus, lead happy lives.

Opportunity should be provided at every important turn of life and on all occasions. The nation has to help people develop the ability to stand on their own feet and create conditions for a happy life. To this end, the Government will come up with comprehensive measures and strategies that encompass job opportunities, education, welfare, culture, physical health, social services and safety.

This year the budget earmarked for welfare is the greatest in our history. In drawing up the budget plan, top priority has been given to three major tasks aimed at giving hope to low-income families. The Government will shoulder all the expenses for nursery care for low- and middle-income families, thereby making sure that women can work without feeling a burden in finding proper care for their babies. The nursery expenses of multicultural families will also be covered in whole by the Government. To lay a firm foundation of hope in our society, the tuition of students attending specialized high schools will also be paid by the Government.

The Government’s overriding goal in its welfare policy is to give people in need what they need.

Indiscriminately dispensing financial benefits with a limited state budget to win the favor of the public is not a solution. As many examples in other nations demonstrate, welfare populism results in budget crises, thus threatening the future of the nation as well as the welfare system itself. Giving financial aid to those who do not need any kind of help prevents such assistance flowing into the hands of those in desperate need, which does not fit the ideals espoused by a fair society.

Together with the establishment of a tailor-made welfare system, it is also necessary to make all-out efforts to improve the overall quality of life. As part of such endeavors, the Government will upgrade the quality of work life. By reinventing the existing industrial complexes, the Government will turn them into multipurpose areas where workers can also learn and enjoy cultural activities.

In addition to workplaces, the Government will also make schools and villages into spaces conducive to elevating the quality of life.

To strengthen family values is also very crucial in raising the quality of life. It is necessary to revive the beautiful cultural legacy of family welfare. By joining hands with civil society, the Government will endeavor to spread awareness that the family is the source of happiness and help people put such a recognition into practice.

5. Building a World-class Nation and FTAs

My fellow Koreans,

The future survival of Korea lies in the global markets. Since its inauguration, a crucial goal of this Administration has been to build a Global Korea. The establishment of a world-class nation and opening the door to an advanced society are historic tasks entrusted to this Administration.

The population of the Republic of Korea may be relatively small, but we are not a small nation. Along with the Republic of Korea, there are only seven nations in the world that boast per capita income of more than US,000 with a population of over 50 million.

The world is increasing merging into one. Global economic integration driven by new technologies and climate change that awakened us to the threats to the survival of humanity, serve as clear reminders that the earth is the matrix of human life.

To be able to identify the survival and prosperity of the global village with that of the nation is the marking of global leadership and the condition of becoming an advanced society. We are already on that path. At last year’s G20 Seoul Summit, Korea proactively proposed a development agenda conducive to helping developing countries escape from poverty and achieve economic growth. This was met with positive responses from all countries. Leaders of African nations firmly shook my hand and expressed their appreciation.

Last year, the Republic of Korea, once a recipient of international aid, became a donor country. This is a proud historic feat accomplished during one generation and is unprecedented. For this reason, many countries are eager to learn the development experience of Korea In the process, our country will seek to become a genuine friend of developing and emerging nations. As a part of realizing this goal, Korea will expand and strengthen educational institutions that teach its development experience to foreign nationals.

After putting forward a vision for green growth, the Republic of Korea is the first country to legislate a Framework Act on Green Growth. The vision for green growth is now shared by the OECD, the UN and the rest of the world. This year, we cannot afford to pause in our practical pursuit of becoming a leading nation in green growth. Over the past three years, Korea’s export of new and renewable energy has increased seven-fold, and such exports are expected to reach US billion by 2015. In the future, the solar power industry will be nurtured as the semiconductor industry was, and the wind power industry as shipbuilding was. By taking the opportunity of the export to UAE, the government will actively nurture the nuclear power plant as an export industry to cope with the era of climate change.

The country will actively respond to climate change by vitalizing green growth financing and the development of green technologies, while at the same time, exploring new markets.

In the past, nations heavily relied on military power, but now they are all out to expand their ‘world economic territory’ based on FTAs. FTAs are a powerful means for Korea to become a hub nation of international trade. Since international trade occupies 82 percent of its GDP, Korea has to have a national strategy of expanding its global market through FTAs. This is the only way. Since the inauguration of the current Administration, Korea has concluded FTAs with India, the EU and other countries constituting two-thirds of the entire world market.

In particular, the FTA with the United States will mark both a symbolic and actual occasion to turn Korea into an international trading hub nation. The automobile industry welcomes speedy ratification of the bilateral agreement. The treaty also gives the country further benefit in the form of a strengthened Korea-U.S. alliance, as well as economic advancement. The Government will carefully but with speed work on free trade negotiations with China and Japan.

In order to become a Global Korea, the nation needs to be mature in internal matters as well. A fair society is a precondition to this end. We have to strive to be fair in all facets of national life.

This year, the Government will see to it that important policy tasks for the realization of a fair society are carried out without wavering in all matters including trading practices, law enforcement, human rights and taxation as well as labor-management relations.

6. Giving Hope to Young People

Fellow Koreans,

The future of our nation is entrusted to the young people. The young Koreans of today are the first generation in history to be a global generation in name and substance.

We can see everywhere young Koreans who do not hesitate to plunge into the world of global adventure and competition armed with creativity and a burning spirit of challenge. I would like to call them the “G20 Generation.” The country should nurture them as the protagonists for building a leading global nation. The country should motivate them to love their country, forge ahead with passion, and take initiatives in world affairs as global citizens.

I see hope in the fact that new voluntary recruits for the Marine Corp has doubled since the North’s provocation against Yeonpyeong Island. I see hope watching young Koreans enjoying themselves wholeheartedly while competing in the Guangzou Asian Games, World Cup, and Vancouver Olympic Games. I see hope when young Koreans volunteer for overseas humanitarian service and when they venture into self- or team start-up businesses. In order to allow more opportunities, the Government will drastically bolster support measures for such new businesses.

Last year, the Government succeeded in creating dozens of jobs in some categories and thousands of jobs in other youth career programs. This was the result of the Government’s policy to stimulate the employment of young workers.

From this year, more and more young people graduating from college are expected to land solid new jobs. That is because the private sector is increasing investments, while big businesses have created more openings this year than any recent year. The Government has a plan to enable government-invested companies to hire some 10,000 new workers.

This year, the Government will pay special attention to expanding the job market for young men and women. With a view to cultivating global leaders, the Government will dispatch some 20,000 young workers overseas. They will be entrusted with helping implement the development agenda and other international activities.

Our educational reform efforts are ultimately aimed at nurturing talented people in various fields who are brimming with free will, creative initiatives and a sense of responsibility. The Government plans to reduce the number of subjects tested in the College Scholastic Ability Test in a bid to innovate the school curriculum in such a way as to promote creative instruction in the classroom. Educational reform will be carried out consistently so that college admission is administered autonomously and private education expenses cut down.

The Meister and specialized high schools will be firmly rooted, and their graduates will be assigned to various industrial sites blessed with full support. For the sake of boosting employment of graduates of provincial and occupational colleges, industry-academia cooperation programs will be solidified dramatically.

7. Conclusion: Joining Forces for a Leap Forward

My fellow citizens,

The first sun of the New Year has risen. I hope that every citizen will be more comfortable and happier in this New Year.

The Republic of Korea is on a course of good fortunes. This is an opportunity for the country to shine in the community of nations. We have to grab the chance while we can. We have to take this opportunity to leap over the threshold to become an advanced nation.

We can achieve this if we join forces and unite.

If we want to do this, we first have to recognize and acknowledge each other. We have to respect each other. Each individual needs to exercise discipline accordingly. To this end, let us all join forces whether in politics, business, the culture industry, scientific community, the labor force or civic organizations. I will gladly take part in such a movement.

We have so much to achieve this year. And the Government stands ready to do its best side by side with the Korean people to realize these goals, to raise the status of all sectors of our nation to the next level.

Let us together open the door to our promised future in the global community.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year.

Thank you very much.

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