by President Moon Jae-in on Korea’s 74th Liberation Day
August 15, 2019
Fellow Koreans, decorated patriots who dedicated
themselves to the nation’s independence, their relatives and Korean compatriots
As we mark the centenary of both the March
First Independence Movement and the founding of the Provisional Government of
the Republic of Korea this year, I find it particularly meaningful to hold the ceremony
commemorating the 74th Liberation Day here at the Independence Hall
The Republic of Korea we see today was
created by the indomitable spirit of our forefathers who fought for
independence while refusing to buckle or give up in the face of any
tribulation. Our patriotic forefathers gave their all, aspiring for “the day
when Samgaksan Mountain would rise up and dance and the waters of the Hangang
River would roll in its bed and soar”. Their passionate spirit lives on in the
people’s hearts even at this very moment.
Today, I would like to convey my deepest
respect to our independence activists and their bereaved families. At the same
time, I would like to join with the people in envisioning the nation that our forefathers
sought to build with exuberance on the day Korea was liberated, and the country
that we aim to create by carrying on where they left off.
The country that we desire is one in which
we all prosper together and where everyone is given a fair chance and can get
back on their feet again even if they fail.
The country that we desire is one in which
a girl from a small town on the southwestern island of Wando can study hydrogen
industry in the southeastern city of Ulsan, start a business in the
northwestern city of Nampo and help export eco-friendly cars to Mongolia and
Siberia. It is a country where a boy raised in the northeastern city of
Hoeryeong can graduate from a maritime school in the southeastern port city of
Busan and become a navigator aboard a container ship that sails to the ASEAN
region, the Indian Ocean and all the way to Chile in South America. It is also a
country where a young man who majors in agriculture can grow soybeans on a massive
scale along the Amur River together with farmers from South and North Korea as
well as Russia and where his younger brother can raise cattle in the West Coast
city of Seosan that feed on these soybeans.
This is a country that expands our lives
and imagination beyond the Dumangang River onto the continent, and across the
Pacific to the ASEAN region and India. This is a country that cooperates and
prospers with its neighboring countries, going beyond the limited scope of
economic activities within the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.
Ignite the furnace,
us extract wires, extend steel bars and flatten iron plates upon the heart of a
Upon the foundation of cement,
steel and hope
Let us build a new nation that will
not be shaken
Shortly after Korea gained independence, a poet sang
out this dream of a newly liberated nation.
A new nation that cannot be shaken: It was
the legitimate dream of a newly independent country that threw off the shackles
of foreign invasion and rule.
Now, after 74 years have passed, Korea has
proudly become an economic powerhouse renowned as the world’s sixth largest
manufacturer and exporter. It has embarked on the era of per capita income of
30,000 USD and is on the road to becoming a country of thriving culture, which
was the dream of independence activist Kim Gu.
However, we have yet to become an
unshakable nation. That is because we still lack sufficient strength and remain
Today, I renew my commitment to meeting
the aspirations of the people to build an unshakable nation by reminding myself
of our people who have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of a
series of crises.
My fellow Koreans,
Upon the foundation of a free-trade order,
we were able to focus on those industries in which we could excel:
semiconductors, IT and biotechnology among others. Within the framework of the
international division of labor, all countries were able to dream of success by
harnessing their respective strengths.
East Asia had lagged behind in the process
of modernization, but once again rose to achieve economic development through
the division of labor and collaboration. The world described it as the ‘East
Although there have been periods of aggression
and conflict, East Asia is steeped in a history of exchanges and trade that stretches
much further back. From the Bronze Age through civilizations up to modern times,
East Asia has engaged in mutual dissemination and sharing. Some of the oldest cases
of exchanges and cooperation in human history have taken place in this region,
and the advance in civilization has been achieved together.
Liberation was not just a cause for
celebration for us alone. It was a day that marked the end of longstanding wars
that had raged for over 60 years, including the First Sino-Japanese War, the
Russo-Japanese War, the Manchurian Incident, the Second Sino-Japanese
War and the Pacific War. It was also the day of liberation for East Asia. The
Japanese people were also able to cast off the yoke of imperialistic oppression
and were liberated from wars of aggression.
We have not dwelt on the past. Instead, we
continued to engage in security and economic cooperation with Japan. Together
with Japan, we have tried to practically assuage the suffering of victims from
the Japanese colonial period. We have consistently maintained the position that
we should learn from history and steadily work together.
Reflecting on the past does not mean
clinging to the past but overcoming what had happened and moving toward the
future. We hope that Japan will play a leading role together in facilitating
peace and prosperity in East Asia while it contemplates a past that brought
misfortune to its neighboring countries.
Only when we work together will we be able
to achieve joint growth that is sustainable. The world has achieved common
prosperity through a highly sophisticated division of labor. Japan has made
progress by engaging in the division of labor upon the platform of the free
trade order as well.
Within the international division of
labor, if any country weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage,
the peaceful free trade order will inevitably suffer damages. A country that achieved
growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps.
Better late than never : if Japan chooses the
path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands. We will strive with
Japan to create an East Asia that engages in fair trade and cooperation.
Following last year’s PyeongChang Winter
Olympics, the Tokyo Summer Olympics will be held next year while the Beijing
Winter Olympics is slated for 2022. This will mark an unprecedented series of
Olympics held in East Asia. It will be a golden opportunity for East Asia to solidify
the framework of friendship and cooperation and to progress along the path
toward common prosperity.
Just as people around the world witnessed a
“Peaceful Korean Peninsula” at the PyeongChang Olympics, I look forward to
seeing the Tokyo Olympics become a source of hope for friendship and
We will fulfill the responsibilities
entrusted to us so that future generations in East Asia will be able to
experience prosperity through cooperation.
My fellow Koreans,
Today, we are no longer what we were. The Republic of
Korea today has grown stronger and more mature while surmounting countless
challenges and tribulations.
I put forth today three objectives for “a nation that
cannot be shaken” – the new Korean Peninsula that we are aspiring to build.
First, as a responsible economic
powerhouse, we aim to uphold the free trade order and facilitate equitable
cooperation in East Asia.
The miracle of economic development that Korea
has achieved as well as the underlying strength can be shared with other
countries, but they can never be taken away. When we retain a firm grip on our
economic sovereignty, we will be able to stand firm as the master of our own
Unified strengths of the people have
turned crises into opportunities, and challenges have helped our country emerge
stronger and greater. Undaunted by the burning sands of the Middle East and the
rough waves of the Pacific, we achieved economic growth. In succession, we successfully
nurtured light industry, heavy and chemical industry and information and
communication industry and have become a global IT powerhouse. Korea has now become
a nation that leads 5G and other global technical standards.
Until recently, Korea has been playing
catch-up on advanced countries, but now our economy is evolving into one that
helps set the pace, taking on challenges ahead of other countries. In the face
of Japan’s unwarranted export restrictions, we will continue our determined
march toward a responsible economic powerhouse.
We will transform the structure of our economy
into an ecosystem marked by inclusiveness and co-existence. We will also
channel our efforts into enhancing the competitiveness of domestic materials,
parts and equipment industries through mutually beneficial cooperation between
SMEs and conglomerates as well as between labor and management. By encouraging
scientists and engineers to take on new challenges and embracing unsuccessful
attempts, we will build an economy that will never be shaken.
If we do not belittle ourselves and
encourage each other even while reflecting on our own shortcomings, I believe
we will be able to pull it off.
With a sense of responsibility befitting
our economic strength, we will pursue broader cooperation and open up our
markets even more and facilitate shared progress with neighboring countries.
Second, we aim to build a country that serves
as a bridge by taking the lead in promoting peace and prosperity on the continent
and out in the ocean.
In geopolitical terms, no other country in
the world is surrounded by four major powers as we are. When Korea didn’t have
much clout and was deemed insignificant, the Korean Peninsula was also cast to
the periphery of the continent and ocean and was even reduced to an arena where
global powers competed. This is the history that we had to endure.
However, if we build a strong nation, we
will be able to play a leading role in upholding peace and prosperity in
Northeast Asia, connecting the continent with the ocean. We must turn our
country’s geopolitical position into a strength. We must establish a clear goal
to take the initiative and not be pushed around by others anymore.
Cho So-ang, one of the founding members of
the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea long ago advocated for equality
among individuals, peoples and nations. This defines Korea’s underlying spirit that
is oriented toward peace and prosperity.
The Korean people's mature response to Japan's
economic retaliation is also attributable to a distinctly mature public
sentiment that does not want to see damages to the friendly ties between the
people of Korea and Japan, even while mustering their determination to protect
our economy. The people-centered community of peace and prosperity that my
government seeks to build is all about promoting peace and prosperity on the entire
Korean Peninsula first and then spreading them to East Asia and the whole
The New Northern Policy represents our aspiration to
advance into the continent. We will expand the foundation for cooperation not
only with China and Russia but also with Central Asia and Europe and lay a
cornerstone for multilateral cooperation and security through the East Asian Railroad
The New Southern Policy encapsulates our
ambition to navigate through the oceans. We will upgrade our relations with
ASEAN and India to a level equivalent to those with our major neighboring
countries and develop them into a cooperative relationship for common
In November this year, the ASEAN-Republic
of Korea Commemorative Summit and the inaugural Korea-Mekong Summit will be
held in Busan. This will mark a milestone in the groundbreaking development of
relations with ASEAN and the Mekong countries.
Connecting the severed railroads and roads
between South and North Korea is the first step toward a country that serves as
a bridge, which will spearhead the efforts to promote peace and prosperity in
If Korea’s arteries for the passage of
people and goods are reconnected all over the land, seas and skies of the
Peninsula, and if the two Koreas are given free access in the continent and the
ocean, the Korean Peninsula will emerge as a land of prosperity that connects
Eurasia, the Pacific, ASEAN, and the Indian Ocean.
The Asian community will not be led by a
single state but will instead become a community where diverse cooperation
blossoms among countries on an equal footing.
Third, we aim to establish a peace economy
in which prosperity is achieved through peace and also complete our liberation through
the unification of the Peninsula.
By overcoming the division of the
Peninsula, we must transform the Korean people’s energy into a driving force
for future prosperity. The peace economy begins with the efforts to continue
dialogue and cooperation so that North Korea can choose economic prosperity
over nuclear program upon the foundation of complete denuclearization of the
The two Koreas and the United States have
engaged in dialogue for the past 20 months. In spite of a series of worrying
actions taken by North Korea recently, the momentum for dialogue remains
unshaken– which is a significant result of my government’s peace process on the
Korean Peninsula. Compared to the past when the whole Peninsula experienced
turbulence whenever North Korea engaged in a provocation, the situation has
Even though numerous forces still exist at
home and abroad that seek to stir up conflict, we have been able to come this
far thanks to our people’s fervent desire for peace.
Following the meeting in June among the
leaders of the two Koreas and the United States at Panmunjeom, North Korea and
the United States are exploring working-level negotiations ahead of the third
summit. This will probably constitute the most critical juncture in the entire
process of achieving denuclearization and establishing peace on the Korean
Peninsula. Now is the time for both Koreas and the United States to focus on
resuming working-level negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at the
earliest possible date.
Even if there is a cause for
dissatisfaction, making dialogue difficult by spoiling the mood or erecting
barriers is by no means a desirable course of action. If there is
dissatisfaction, it too should be raised and discussed at the negotiating
table. I hope the people will also pull together to ensure that we can overcome
the last hurdle in the dialogue process.
When we pass this hurdle, denuclearization
of the Korean Peninsula will move closer and inter-Korean relations will also make
significant strides. When economic cooperation accelerates and the peace
economy begins, unification will beckon as stark reality before us someday.
According to IMF estimates, Korea will
lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its GDP per capita will surpass
40,000 USD around year 2024.
In addition, if we combine the
capabilities of the two Koreas, even while maintaining our respective political
systems, it will be possible to create a unified market of 80 million people. Once
the Korean Peninsula is unified, it is expected to become one of the six
largest economies in the world. There have been research findings both at home
and abroad that concludes that an era of GDP per capita of 70,000 to 80,000 USD
will be possible around 2050.
It is clear that there will be enormous
economic benefits from peace and unification. New markets and opportunities
will open up for both South and North Korean businesses. Both Koreas will be
able to reduce not only huge defense expenditures but also the invisible cost
of the division, the so-called ‘Korea Discount’. We will also be able to find
solutions to problems we currently face, such as low growth, low birth rate and
an aging society.
However, the hopes
and passions that will stoke the hearts of the people just as they did on that day
of liberation will be more important than anything else. There can be no greater
driving force for economic growth than hope and passion.
The East Sea Rim Economic Belt that starts
in Busan and encompasses Ulsan, Pohang, Donghae, Gangneung, Sokcho, Wonsan,
Najin and Seonbong will reach out to the continental economy through
Vladivostok and to the maritime economy that connects the Northern Sea Route to
The Yellow Sea Rim Economic Belt that begins with
Yeosu and Mokpo and includes Gunsan and Incheon and heads toward Haeju, Nampo
and Sinuiju will help complete the grand economic strategy that looks toward
China, ASEAN and India by nurturing the Blue Economy in Jeollanam-do; the new
renewable energy industry around Saemangeum; and the high-tech industrial parks
of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, Nampo and Sinuiju.
North Korea has also shifted
its national policy toward concentrating all of its efforts on economic development
and is in the process of adopting market economy. The international community
has also promised to assist its economic growth if it abandons its nuclear
Our intention is not to unilaterally assist North Korea. Rather, our
intention is to promote mutual benefits for both Koreas and prosper together
while guaranteeing the security of our respective regimes. The plan is for the
two Koreas to contribute to the development of the global economy.
We will create new economic growth engines through the peace economy. We
can no longer afford to let division consume our capacities. We will open the
door to a new Korean Peninsula by pouring all we have into the peace economy.
This will be possible if South and North Korea join forces and commit
themselves to deciding the fate of the Korean Peninsula. When we overcome
division, our liberation will finally be completed and Korea will become a
country that cannot be shaken.
Some people express skepticism regarding the wisdom of talking up peace
economy when North Korea is firing missiles. However, we possess defense
capabilities that are even stronger. Although we are paying close attention and
doing all we can to manage the situation to prevent the escalation of tension
on the Korean Peninsula, the ultimate goal that these actions serve is dialogue,
not confrontation. I hope these skeptics face up to the reality: the United
States is continuing dialogue with North Korea without derailing while Japan is
also seeking talks with Pyongyang. I hope these skeptics won’t remain prisoners
The unified strength of the people is essential. I ask the people to pull
together as one.
Fellow Koreans, decorated independence fighters and their bereaved
families, and Koreans overseas,
As we commemorate the Liberation Day today,
I pledge to solidify denuclearization and peace regime on the Korean Peninsula
during my term in office. I will initiate the peace economy upon this
foundation and move toward unification.
We will advance dialogue and cooperation
so that seeds sown together with North Korea in the spring of peace will grow into
trees of prosperity.
I pledge to solidify the foundation so
that we can successfully host the joint 2032 Seoul-Pyeongyang Olympics and stand
tall in the world as one Korea by achieving peace and unification by 2045, which
will mark the 100th anniversary of liberation.
It has been one hundred years since the
Provisional Government declared the founding of a democratic republic named the
Republic of Korea.
We have reflected on ourselves and matured
over the past 100 years. We now have the confidence that we can prevail over
any crisis. The people’s ability to achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean
Peninsula has grown stronger. We can create a country that will not be shaken
I remind myself of the words of
independence activist Lee Seung-hoon, who goes by the pen name of Namkang:
“When seeds buried under the ground spring
up and rise above the heavy soil, I have only seen them do this by themselves –
never through the strength of others.”
The path that allows us to prevail over
division and move toward peace and unification will be the royal road to becoming
a responsible economic power. This is the road to overtaking Japan and guiding it
toward a cooperative order in East Asia.
A new Korean Peninsula, one that will bring peace and
prosperity to itself, East Asia and the world, awaits us.
We can do it!