All together nowOne has a special feeling on the morning of New Year,s Day and we have a stronger feeling than usual today at the beginning of 2008. Because we have gone through industrialization and democratization, we are now on our journey to become an advanced country. Conservative forces have regained political power after 10 years. We Koreans feel anxiously excited because the time is coming for Korea to make the leap forward all of us have long wished for.
The people elected Lee Myung-bak as president, not because they especially liked the Grand National Party or President-elect Lee, but because there was no other choice to restore Korea. The people want to regain their hopes and dreams. They were deeply saddened to see fathers in their 40s and 50s lose their jobs and young people who couldn’t find work.
All the people hope the new president will be competent. The environment for Lee to work in couldn’t be better. People are ready to support him and as long as he establishes the right direction, they are prepared to ignore or forgive his trivial flaws. If the new president does not develop our country one step further, it will be a major disappointment.
The top priority must be restoring the economy. It is possible to achieve that goal as long as the public and the government work together. We must end the past 10 years of lethargy and revitalize the economy.
The new administration must ignite the growth engine which has lost its power. The government’s duties are to motivate the people to work hard with enthusiasm and provide good working conditions and a healthy business environment.
If regulations are lifted to encourage companies to invest, the growth engine for the economy will start again. That investment will give rise to economic growth, which will result in more jobs and a better quality of life.
The new government must discover and nurture new industries for the future, such as information technology, biotechnology and the service industry. The people and companies must roll up their sleeves and trudge together on the long road to a strong economy.
To make that leap, there is one thing that needs to be fixed above all ― the distorted relationship between labor and management. In this area, law and principles are not abided by. Labor unions must realize that if they continue their custom of staging illegal strikes or strike for political causes, it is hard to win support from the public and even from their own union members. Management also must improve its style to become more transparent and change its uncompromising attitude at the negotiation table.
Otherwise, smooth relations between labor and management cannot be created.
In the knowledge-based society of the 21st century, a country’s competitiveness stems from education. The new administration must give universities autonomy in selecting students and abolish the controversial ranking system in the national college scholastic test. It also must complement the egalitarianism-oriented education policy by enhancing education for talent, in order to restore competitiveness in public education. The government must minimize its interference in education, and trust schools and professional educators as much as possible.
Our relations with North Korea also must change. The new administration must stop being desperate to have a dialogue with the North. It also must distinguish humanitarian aid from strategic policy.
In this way, South Koreans will no longer be divided over the issue and we can persuade the North. The people need to be patient until the Lee administration creates a new paradigm for South-North Korean relations.
The military must restore its status. It must no longer refrain from making its opinion known because it fears those in power, especially if there is an emergency threatening national security or its honor is disgraced.
Korea-U.S. relations and Korea-Japan relations must be restored, at least to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. The political circle must finalize approval of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement before the new administration enters office.
The job of clearing up suspicious events in modern history has shaken the legitimacy of Korea. That job must now come to an end to unite the people and advance toward the future. Matters of history should be left to scholars.
Figures in the culture and art fields also must stop being dominated by ideology, cozying up to have good relations with the powerful or fighting for high posts.
Our politics must mature. The president must have dialogue with opposition parties and make efforts to understand and persuade them. The opposition parties need to cooperate with the government on some issues. The president and everyone in the political circle is required to adhere to democratic leadership and competence.
The people are ready to work. President-elect Lee promised to work hard as president. Companies have high expectations for a new era.
The dream of another leap forward will come true unless the president-elect fails to communicate with the people.
It is a time of new beginnings.
With hope and the expectations of all the people of Korea, let’s work together toward a brighter future.