2024 New Year Address to the Nation2024.01.01
New Year Address to the Nation by President Yoon Suk Yeol
My fellow citizens, and 7 million overseas Koreans,
The year of the blue dragon has dawned. I wish everyone a Happy New Year.
What wish did you make in the first morning of the New Year?
While everyone’s wish may differ, I believe we all share the same hope - that this year will be better than the last.
So do I, and so does the government.
This year, our lives will improve and Korea will again leap forward. We will do our utmost to see this through.
Looking back, 2023 was a very difficult year.
The Korean economy faced headwinds both at home and abroad.
Geopolitical tensions continued.
High interest rates, inflation, gas prices hindered economic recovery. Everyday lives were hit hard.
How difficult has it been for all of you?
I met you on the field. I saw and heard your hardships. And every time, I was left with a profound sense of responsibility as President.
I did my best to improve your welfare. I tried hard to turn the economy around. But it saddens me that they were not enough.
Yet, even in such difficult times, you vigorously pulled through.
Last year, most economies around the world experienced ‘stagflation’ marked by high inflation and economic slowdown.
Some countries were hit even harder: those who were heavily dependent on a specific nation; those who failed in their energy transition policies; and those who could not adapt to the era of deepening digitalization.
Amid the global polycrisis, Korea was one of the fastest in the world to lay the groundwork for recovery and growth.
They were possible thanks to the sweat and hard work of people and businesses like you.
I thank all of our people and businesses for having faith in the government and leaping together in strides.
My fellow Koreans,
In the midst of a global polycrisis, improving your daily lives has been at the center of this government’s policies. We spared no effort.
We kept sound fiscal principles. We, thereby, secured more room for future fiscal spending, curbed inflation, and maintained Korea’s sovereign credit rating.
We normalized the housing market. We got rid of regulations that had distorted the market so that it could work based on economic principles rather than on politics and ideology.
In particular, we lowered the real estate holding tax and relieved the people’s burden.
We offered world-class incentives for national strategic technologies including semiconductor industries. We encouraged more company employment and investment by lowering the corporate tax rate.
We allocated 15 national industrial complexes for high-tech industries and 7 specialized complexes for cutting-edge strategic industries. We also eliminated so-called ‘killer regulations’ which do not meet global standards, nurtured our industries and opened up new markets.
The New Year of 2024 will be a significant turning point for Korea’s new leap forward.
Our overall economic vitality will improve as global trade is expected to pick up. Increased export will drive recovery and further growth.
Prices will become more stabilized.
The government will do its best to make sure that the warmth of economic recovery is felt by those who are vulnerable and socially disadvantaged.
Especially, the government and the financial sector will work together to relieve the financial burden of small business owners.
Over the past year, we have properly managed risks that could threaten our economy, such as real estate project financing and household debt. We will continue to manage them thoroughly.
In the new year, we will increase the supply of urban housing so that the people will not have to move to city outskirts in search of new houses.
We will expedite redevelopment and reconstruction projects by reviewing their procedures from scratch. We will also expand the supply of small units suitable for one- or two-person households.
To sustain economic vitality, we will continue to abolish ‘killer regulations’ that hinder business investment.
We will intensively support cutting-edge industries so that businesses may fully boast their creativity and innovation.
Through the economic and sales diplomacy, our foreign policy has focused on creating jobs for Koreans.
Since taking office, I have had 151 meetings with 96 heads of state. I enlarged the playing field for our businesses and people to realize their full potential.
We will continue to work hard with our job-creating diplomacy in the new year.
Despite the challenging external environment last year, we maintained market economic principles and sound fiscal policy, building upon the vitality of our private sector. As a result, the Korean economy marked the highest employment rate and the lowest unemployment rate on record.
From January to November last year, the employment rate for young people in their late 20s – the main age group for first-time job seekers – averaged 72.3 percent, a record high.
Our efforts and achievements were praised overseas as well.
The globally renowned magazine The Economist ranked us second in a comprehensive assessment of the economies of the 35 OECD member states.
We will make this year one that energizes your daily lives. The warmth of economic achievement and recovery will reach every corner of our society.
Since its inception, my administration has consistently fought and rooted out corruption and illegal activities. Interest group cartels, government subsidies abuse and the harmful effects of monopolies in certain industries have been major targets.
We will continue our endeavors this year to expand your freedom, improve welfare and create a fair society.
We will certainly break up syndicate cartels that are driven by their own interests and ideologies.
We will ensure that everyone enjoys fair opportunity
Genuine reforms for the people are not possible without fighting corrupt syndicate cartels.
I hope you would encourage and support the government’s efforts as it strives to make reforms throughout the year.
For a sustainable economic growth, we need to enlarge the economy’s structural growth potential.
In particular, at a time when the growth potential continues to decline due to low birth rate, we have to make structural reforms in order to raise the overall productivity of our society. Only then can we revitalize our livelihood and continue economic growth.
We must steadfastly pursue the three major structural reforms: labor, education, and the pension system.
First, we will support growth and job creation through labor reforms.
Labor reforms start with the rule of law in labor-management relations.
Law abiding labor movements will be fully guaranteed. However, illegal activities - whether arising from labor unions or management - will be sternly dealt with.
Responding to rapidly changing industrial demands requires a flexible labor market.
A flexible labor market helps increase business investment and creates more jobs.
As a result, workers can enjoy more job opportunities and better treatment at the workplace.
We will transform the wage system into one that focuses on the work you do and performance you achieve rather than on seniority. We will also reform the dual structure of the labor market.
We will ensure that flexible working hours, remote and hybrid work and other working arrangements may become available options through labor-management agreements.
Our future and competitiveness are in our people.
Educational reform is about cultivating talents and future leaders. It is about making our future generations more competitive.
The government will take responsibility and provide world-class education and childcare for our children.
Parents may leave their children carefree at elementary schools from morning to evening. We will relieve the parents’ burden of caring for their children and for private education. The children will be able to enjoy diverse educational programs.
We will restore teachers’ rights and bring schools back to normal and enhance the competitiveness of public education.
Cases of school violence will be handled not by teachers but by designated professionals.
We will provide bold financial support to universities that pursue innovation, thus nurturing global talent.
I am committed to pushing through a proper pension reform.
Previous administrations left this task unattended.
During my presidential campaign and in my policy objectives, I promised you that I will lay the foundation for pension reform.
To keep that promise, the government collected and processed a huge amount of data through exhaustive scientific mathematical analysis, opinion polls, and in-depth interviews. The results were sent to the National Assembly at the end of last October.
Now, all that remains is to reach a national consensus, and for the National Assembly to choose and decide.
The government will do all it can to draw national consensus by actively participating in the National Assembly’s public deliberation process.
Finding a solution to low birth rate is just as important as the three major structural reforms of labor, education and pension.
There is not much time left. We need a completely different approach as we look for the causes and find solutions to the problem.
We must find out the real reasons for low birth rate and identify effective measures.
Well-designed education, childcare, welfare, housing and employment policies can help solve the problem. But more than 20 years of experience taught us that none are fundamental solutions.
Moreover, it is very important to ease the unnecessary and excessive competition in our society, which has been pointed as one of the causes of low birth rate.
To this end, we will resolutely pursue a balanced national development, an important policy objective of my administration, as planned.
Since I took office, the government has fully restored the ROK-U.S. alliance, the linchpin of Korea’s foreign policy, and upgraded it to a global comprehensive strategic alliance.
Once neglected Korea-Japan relations have been normalized. Shuttle diplomacy between the two countries was resumed for the first time in 12 years.
Building upon this achievement, Korea, the United States and Japan established a system of trilateral cooperation at Camp David. We are now at the forefront of promoting peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
In accordance with the Korea-U.S. Washington Declaration, we launched the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) and established a nuclear-based ROK-U.S. military alliance.
The Republic of Korea is firmly building a genuine and lasting peace. Korea will build peace through strength. It will not be a submissive peace that is dependent on the good will of the adversary.
Strong security will underpin free economic activities. It will allow the people to carry out their daily lives without fear.
We will accelerate our efforts to build a stronger ROK 3K Defense System to defend against North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
By the first half of this year, we will complete the enhanced ROK-U.S. extended deterrence system to fundamentally deter any North Korean nuclear and missile threat.
Our military will be transformed into a powerful force based on cutting-edge science and technology including AI, and the Manned-Unmanned Teaming System.
Moreover, we will build a cybersecurity environment that the people can trust. Major national institutions and civilian critical infrastructure will be thoroughly protected from various cyber threats, including those of North Korea.
A seamless global economic security network will be built upon such solid national security foundations. We will significantly increase our resilience against disruptions in the supply chains for minerals, materials and parts that bear directly on our key industries and your livelihood.
Since my inauguration, Korea has achieved over 15 billion dollars in average annual defense industry exports.
We will continue to promote the defense industry as a national strategic industry and diversify export destinations and products. We will make Korea one of the world’s top four defense exporters by 2027.
Recently, an influential American political news outlet noted that no country in the world has enhanced its international role and status as much as the Republic of Korea over the past two years.
In particular, it reported that the Republic of Korea – a key democracy in Northeast Asia – plays a leading security, economic and cultural role with a reach that extends beyond the Indo-Pacific region all the way to the Atlantic.
The Korean government will continue to realize our vision of a global pivotal state that fulfills its responsibility and contributes to the international community.
Upon the New Year, I read my inaugural speech once more.
I kept my feet running to keep the promises I made to you. But more needs to be done.
In the new year and with renewed commitment, I will do more to run harder.
Above all, I will join you in the field and listen to your voices, even the smallest ones, and pursue policies that will change your everyday lives.
The people are at the center of my government’s every policy. It is not a government that just carries out reviews. My government will be an ‘action-oriented, problem-solving government’.
If someone has to do what is necessary for our future and for the children, I will take on that responsibility now.
I hope all your wishes will come true in the new year. The government and myself will do our very best.