SEOUL, March 1 (Yonhap) -- The following is a translation of President Moon Jae-in's speech to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement. It was provided by his office, Cheong Wa Dae.
Fellow Koreans and compatriots abroad,
The 103rd March First Independence Movement Day ceremony is being held in conjunction with the opening of the National Memorial of the Korean Provisional Government that finally stands tall by the side of the people. I am filled with very deep emotions.
Over the past 100 years, we have built the democratic republic that was envisioned by the March First Independence Movement and the Provisional Government. All of us have raced forward without rest to create a free, egalitarian and unrepressed country, a peaceful and cultured nation. The March First Independence Movement and the Provisional Republic of Korea Government are a great legacy passed on to us by our forebears. Remembering and honoring the history of our democratic republic will make our democratic republic of today stronger.
In my Liberation Day speech during my inaugural year, I promised that a national memorial for the Provisional Government would be established. Subsequently, during my trip to China that same year, I made the same promise to our forebears as the first Korean president to visit the building that housed the Provisional Republic of Korea Government in Chongqing. That promise and commitment have finally been fulfilled. It is very meaningful that, along with the pride in our self-reliant independence and our democratic republic, we are able to honor the spirit of the March First Independence Movement and the history of the Provisional Government.
I am deeply grateful to the Commemoration Association for the Korean Provisional Government, which has long endeavored to create the National Memorial, and its President Kim Ja-dong; the Establishment Committee for the National Memorial of the Korean Provisional Government and its President Lee Jong-chan; the organization Heritage of Korean Independence; the descendants of those decorated patriots who dedicated themselves to the nations' independence; and everyone who has donated invaluable documents and materials related to the independence movement.
The National Memorial of the Korean Provisional Government faces Seodaemun Independence Park. Today, it feels like the spirits of those independence activists and forebears who never succumbed to hardships are here to joyously greet the National Memorial, the Memorial of the 3.1 Independence Declaration and the Monument in Honor of Fallen Patriotic Forebears. The chants shouted during the March First Independence Movement permeate the National Memorial of the Korean Provisional Government. Enshrined here is the patriotism of those who devoted their lives to the nation's independence while struggling with adversities. We will never forget the roots of the Republic of Korea, a democratic republic.
Ours is the history of a genuine democratic republic that has achieved great advancement by bringing ordinary people together. On March 1, 1919, the nameless gathered and held aloft the Taegeukgi – our national flag. The streets reverberated with loud chants of "manse." As they called for independence, they met others like themselves who dreamed of a liberated world. They showed that non-violent, peaceful resistance could usher in a new era.
The chants for independence echoed across the Amnokgang River and the Pacific and throughout the world. Together with the shouts of manse, the Taegeukgi was waved in North and West Gando as well as Siberia's Maritime Province, Hawaii, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Our forebears lifted themselves up from a colonized people to citizens of a democratic republic. On April 10 in the same year, independence activists from Seoul, Manchuria, the Maritime Province, America and Japan who represented our nation were brought together in Shanghai, China. They declared the Korean people as the rightful owners of a democratic republic by founding the Provisional Republic of Korea Government and forming its interim parliament. That was the moment when the Republic of Korea was born as a democratic republic.
"Our movement is not only about winning back the country's sovereignty but also about establishing an exemplary republic on the Korean Peninsula and letting 20 million people enjoy natural happiness and comfort."
Ahn Chang-ho said this when he took office as Interior Minister of the Provisional Government. In 1941, its Cabinet members announced the founding plank of the Republic of Korea and laid out an initiative for a new nation after liberation. They proclaimed once more that their aim was to build a democratic republic in which people could lead equitable lives in politics, the economy, education and culture.
Over the past century, we have achieved that goal step by step. The Republic of Korea – once an impoverished country that went through colonization and war – has become an advanced nation with sweat shed by each and every citizen at small workshops that lined the Cheonggyecheon stream, industrial sites in many parts of the country and distant coal mines and hospitals in Germany as well as searing deserts. The power of our people, who come closer together amid crises, has enabled us to weather countless national adversities, including the foreign exchange crisis. It was also the power of our ordinary citizens that helped defend democracy – from Busan, Masan and the Gwangju of May to the June Struggle and the Candlelight Revolution.
My Administration also sprung from the power of the people. We have regarded it our natural duty – to identify by name those who made anonymous sacrifices and restore honor to those who had not received due credit. During the past five years, 2,243 independence activists have been identified and bestowed national merit awards. Included among them were 245 female independence activists who had not been properly recognized. There are still many decorated independence activists whose posthumous medals of honor could not be conferred because their descendants have yet to be found. The Government will make efforts to identify every last independence activist and their descendants.
We have also worked hard to repatriate the remains of independence activists buried in far away foreign lands. In 2019, independence activist Gye Bong-woo and his wife as well as independence activist Hwang Woon-jeong and his wife were repatriated from Kazakhstan in Central Asia. On Liberation Day in 2021, the remains of General Hong Beom-do were returned home.
The Government has been paying subsidies for living expenses to the children and grandchildren of independence activists in need and, at the same time, affixing national merit nameplates to the houses of those who served the nation with distinction. Up until the end of last year, 460,000 households of decorated independence activists and persons of national merit have had nameplates attached, and 100,000 more homes will receive them this year. The fact that our ordinary neighbors are the heroes of independence will instill a sense of pride in local communities.
My Administration has never stopped taking on challenges for the future while overcoming crises during the past five years. In defiance of Japan's export restrictions, ways to attain self-sufficiency in materials, parts and equipment have been carved out. Together with the people – beyond surmounting crises – we have created engines to drive innovation and growth.
The mature civic awareness of our people was a key factor in our ability to pass through the COVID-19 tunnel. Based on achievements of our anti-epidemic efforts, our economy recorded 4 percent growth last year, and we ushered in the era of our per capita income hitting US$35,000. All three key distribution indices – the income quintile ratio, the Gini coefficient and the relative poverty rate – have continuously improved, breaking the pattern where "crisis deepens inequality."
The medical professionals and epidemic prevention and control personnel who have devoted themselves amid difficult conditions, the essential workers who have silently protected the daily lives of the community, the microbusiness owners and self-employed who've had to suffer more than anyone else and our people who have endured disruptions in their daily lives: All of you are the principal players in overcoming the crisis and ushering in a new Republic of Korea. I am deeply grateful.
We are a people who deserve to be happy. I will do my utmost until the end of my term so that the efforts made by all of our people will not be in vain.
We are now a prosperous and powerful country that no one can look down on. We have become an advanced country officially recognized by the world. The biggest reason that my heart is filled with emotions is that Korea has emerged as a country with sophisticated culture. In the Declaration of Independence announced on March 1, our forebears proclaimed that the purpose of the independence movement was to "make use of our creativity, enabling our national essence to blossom" and "have the opportunities to contribute our creative vitality to the development of world culture."
Kim Gu – pen name Baekbeom, President of the Provisional Republic of Korea Government – also said, "My only wish is that my country will sustain a noble culture, since it will give happiness not only to us [Koreans], but also to others." It felt like a distant dream. Today, however, we are managing to make it. Our culture and arts have transformed both traditions and modern culture in new ways within a bowl called Korea. We are now making the dreams that our forefathers had a century ago a reality, moving people around the world.
With K-pop leading the way, Hallyu is sweeping the world. Regarding the BTS craze, Forbes said it was a "new normal." The film "Parasite" won the top prizes at Cannes and the Academy Awards. Our games, webtoons and animation are loved by the world, and our dramas such as "Squid Game" are hitting home runs one after another. In such fields as Western classical music and ballet, the talents of Koreans are also being extolled by people around the world. This outcome has been made possible by the harmonious mingling of the passion and spirit of our culture and arts figures in each field.
Democracy above all else has provided the power to develop our culture and arts in this way. Democracy, which neither discriminates nor suppresses, has given wings to creativity and free imagination in culture and arts. The Kim Dae-jung Administration, the first democratic government in Korea, confidently opened the door to Japanese culture. Our culture and arts have grown strong amid diversity and have actually become competitive enough to overwhelm Japanese culture. The British monthly magazine Monocle ranked our soft power second in the world behind that of Germany. On every overseas trip, I was able to confirm that the charm of our culture and arts greatly enhances our global standing. Supporting but never interfering is a firm principle established by previous democratic administrations. Freedom of creation and expression widens and strengthens in democracy. As long as our democracy moves forward, our culture and arts will constantly touch people around the world. I'd like to express my endless respect to our culture and arts professionals who give us a great sense of pride and our people who have cherished culture and the arts.
The international order is fluctuating amid the COVID-19 crisis. As digital and green innovations accelerate, competition over technology is intensifying. State-centered nationalism, which seeks to gain hegemony by force, is also raising its head again. Concerns over a new Cold War are on the rise as well. However, we are imbued with the spirit of the March First Independence Movement, which resisted violence, discrimination and injustice and rejected a hegemonic international order. The Republic of Korea has become a country standing tall in the international community: the world's 10th largest economic powerhouse, a trading power as the 7th largest global exporter, the 6th strongest military powerhouse in the Global Firepower ranking and world No. 1 in innovation indices. The lesson that the spirit of the March First Independence Movement gives us today is that we should have the power to lead our history without being pushed around by an international order centered on powerful countries.
We are now making a new leap forward, turning crises into opportunities. The Korean New Deal, which was launched in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, has become our country's strategy for the future to take a leading role in the world. The Digital New Deal and Green New Deal are giving rise to new industries and creating better jobs. We have begun a clear transition to an innovative inclusive society by expanding the employment and social safety nets through the Human New Deal and ushering in the era of balanced national development through the Regionally Balanced New Deal.
In an era when the economy equals security, we are also making our way through hardships in global supply chains. Our semiconductor and battery industries – the most competitive in the world – are at the forefront of global supply chains.
Now, we have come to possess the ability to spearhead solidarity and cooperation based on multilateralism. Korea's status has risen to the extent that the country has been invited to the G7 Summit for two years in a row. The ASEAN-centered New Southern Policy, the Eurasian-focused New Northern Policy and diplomacy that has been extended as far as Latin America and the Middle East have broadened the horizon of our economic cooperation, foreign affairs and security. With the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – the world's largest FTA – going into effect last month, our FTA network has come to cover 85 percent of the world's GDP. That's how far our economic domain has expanded.
Peace on the Korean Peninsula is a must for us to become stronger. There was no South and North Korea during the March First Independence Movement. Various forces participated in the Provisional Republic of Korea Government and formed a coalition government that consolidated the left and right. The main stem of the independence movement against imperial Japan was the great unity and solidarity of the people and their consolidation. The Korean Liberation Army, which was finally unified under the Provisional Republic of Korea Government, left a shining mark in the history of the independence movement against Japan. In November 1945, the leading figures from the Provisional Republic of Korea Government who had returned to their homeland made one last attempt to prevent national division. That unfinished effort has been passed on to us. One day, like the aspiration of the March First Independence Movement, the ardent cry for unification will be revived among the sons and daughters of the nameless protagonists of that day. First of all, what we must achieve is peace. The Korean War and the history of division we have suffered since then has taught us that only dialogue – not confrontation and hostility – can bring peace.
At the time of its launch – amid the North Korean nuclear crisis – my Administration was able to achieve peace through dramatic dialogue. However, dialogue has been suspended, making our peace tenuous. Efforts for dialogue to sustain peace must continue. If we do not lose our determination – just as we dreamed of turning the PyeongChang Winter Olympics into a Peace Olympics amid the dark clouds of war – we can certainly bring denuclearization and permanent peace to the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy. We will never again experience that pain from one hundred years ago. We will safeguard the survival and raise the pride of all Koreans through peace and prosper in peace.
To cope with the common tasks and challenges of humanity, including infectious diseases, the climate crisis and natural disasters, the international community's solidarity and cooperation have become all the more important.
Cooperation between Korea and Japan is the responsibility of the current generation for the sake of future generations. In the March First Declaration of Independence, our forebears proposed to Japan that we overcome "old animosities" and "fleeting grudges" and work together for peace in the East. Our ideas remain the same in the present. In this time of many difficulties, Korea and Japan – close neighbors – must be able to overcome the history of the once unfortunate past and cooperate for the future. Beyond Korea-Japan relations, I sincerely hope that Japan will take leadership as an advanced nation. To this end, Japan must squarely face history and be humble before it. Japan will become a trustworthy country only when it is able to empathize with the wounds of the people of neighboring countries, which are sometimes exacerbated by a once unfortunate past.
My Administration will always keep the door open for dialogue to join forces not only for regional peace and prosperity but also in responding to global challenges – ranging from COVID-19 and the climate crisis to the supply chain crisis and the new economic order.
Fellow citizens and Koreans overseas,
We call those who played an active role in the Provisional Republic of Korea Government leading figures. The term "leading figures" contains the respect of their descendants: ourselves. Up until now, all of our people have played the main role in achieving Korea's economic advancement and democracy and have become precious in their respective positions. Now, we have set off toward a new Republic of Korea, a pacesetting nation. On that path, each and every one of us is the same as a leading figure. Everyone is a pioneer, and all of us carry an important mission.
Now, no one can shake the Republic of Korea. Now, no one can take away our people's sovereignty. Now, no one can neglect an individual's life. The National Memorial of the Korean Provisional Government here will remember the great Republic of Korea achieved by ordinary people and will always serve as a milestone of courage and hope for the people.
I pay my deep respect to our forebears who in the spring of 1919, when the fervor for independence flared up, proudly walked the path of hardship and glory and have finally become a great chapter in history for all of us.
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