Inaugural Speech by the 40th Minister of Unification
April 8, 2019
By Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul
Members of the MOU family,
It is good to see you all.
It has been 13 years since I served as a policy advisor to the
Minister of Unification, and I could hardly be more gratified to be
back here to work with you as a member of the MOU family. In fact, I
am filled with even much more emotion because I am inaugurated as the
Minister of Unification during the semicentennial year of the Ministry.
I see some familiar faces, but there are many more young, new faces.
It must be thanks to these young employees that the Ministry seems
even much more dynamic than ever before.
The Ministry rendered me so much support and encouragement in the
process of preparing for the confirmation hearing. On this occasion, I
would like to express my sincere gratitude to the employees for all
that you have done for me.
I would also like to pay my respects
to my predecessor, Cho Myoung-gyon, for his hard work.
He restored inter-Korean relations after many, many years of
severance and played a significant role at every crucial juncture in
the progress toward where we are today. I believe that the former
Minister will always be with us on the journey toward peaceful unification.
Today, I thought of the phrase, “bear heavy responsibilities through
a long struggle (任重道遠).” It truly expresses the tremendous weight of
responsibility that I feel upon my shoulders. I assure you that I will
certainly do my best with renewed determination and confidence that we
can overcome any difficulties that may come our way if we work
together as one.
2.Three principles of development of inter-Korean relations
Members of the MOU family,
What is most important at this point
is that we should sustain the aborning peace on the Korean Peninsula
that began last year so that it may gain irreversible momentum.
We should lay a firm foundation for peaceful unification, the Korean
people’s most cherished wish, by fully developing and
institutionalizing inter-Korean relations.
We should put an end to the unfortunate history of repeated
disappointment in inter-Korean relations.
To this end, I will fulfill my historical duty under the following
First, peace is the economy.
The people should know in their hearts of hearts in their daily
lives that peace has at long last finally arrived. Peace is intangible
and can all too easily disappear; it can be sustainable only when the
quality of life improves. We, therefore, need to ensure that the
people clearly see the value of peace in their lives.
We can only expect to reinforce the public consensus on policy
toward North Korea if the people become certain that positive change
in inter-Korean relations will bring real, meaningful change to their lives.
The process of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula that
resumed on the occasion of the PyeongChang Olympics led to an epochal
reversal in the Korean people’s fortunes through three inter-Korean
summits and two North Korea-US summits.
Now, we need to reap the fruit of the peace as we have sown. We need
to seize the opportunity for South and North Korea to enjoy common
prosperity in the process of denuclearization and establishment of
peace. If we miss this opportunity, we don’t know when the next chance
will come, if ever.
I will establish and strengthen the virtuous cycle of solidifying
peace through economic cooperation and increasing economic cooperation
based on the peace.
Second, decentralization and collaborative
governance are important.
We have a long way to go and still many difficulties to overcome.
We have to proceed together if we expect to go far.
As the Ministry’s works involve numerous fields of endeavor, there
must be wide inter-ministerial cooperation. The Ministry should first
approach relevant ministries with
an open mind.
We need to hear the opinions of other ministries and share
knowledge and experience in inter-Korean relations to create maximum
synergies in inter-ministerial cooperation.
relations extend and deepen and exchange and cooperation begin in
earnest, both local governments and the private sector will have more
roles to play.
Thus, I will push ahead with an organic division of labor and
collaborative governance between the central government, local
governments, and the private sector.
Third, communication and
consensus are important.
The basic policy on North Korea has changed with each new
administration. Such inconsistency should no longer be permitted to occur.
Gathering the hearts of the people is the starting point for
sustainable development in inter-Korean relations. The achievements in
inter-Korean relations last year would not have been possible without
the strong support of the people.
I will ensure that the Ministry of Unification duly works together
with the people. I will particularly strive to devise policy on North
Korea that the people can wholeheartedly support and build consensus
on inter-Korean relations and unification issues through all available
channels of communication.
I will do my best to ensure that different voices from all walks of
life translate into a beautiful harmony.
In particular, I will devise a new model of “participatory
unification education” in which the future generation of a unified
Korea can actively take part.
3.Three requests for the MOU family
Members of the MOU family,
You have done extremely well.
However, I’m sure that I do not need to remind you that the future is
We need to reaffirm our determination in order to make the most of
this hard-won, once-in-a-life-time opportunity and to make the Korean
people’s wish reality.
In this regard, I would like to ask you
for the following three things:
First, let us always think positively.
I am all too well aware that the tasks we have before us are
complicated and difficult.
It is easy to find reasons why we can’t do this and that. However,
what the people demand of the government is to find the solution even
if it is difficult.
Thinking positively and proactively is essential for the employees
of the Ministry of Unification, as we all need to apply uncommon
creativity in all that we do.
We need wisdom to actively find feasible solutions even under
Second, let’s listen to the people.
Society has many different expectations of unification.
The criticisms and opposition against government policy are also
public opinions. We need to attentively hear advice from all quarters
and communicate openly with the people.
First of all, we need to listen carefully to the opinions on policy
from the customers that we naturally face in the handling of tasks.
I hope that the Ministry of Unification wins the respect of a
majority of the people.
To this end, I will actively do
everything I can as a Minister.
Third, let’s improve our abilities.
If the Ministry is to become a guide in the process of achieving
unification, every employee should have appropriate expertise.
An employee in charge of forestry cooperation should strive to gain
appropriate, specialized knowledge in forestry. An employee in charge
of railway and road cooperation needs to build near-professional
capabilities in railways and roads.
In the long run, we must pursue business innovation to develop the
abilities of all employees. The success of organizational innovation
depends wholly on the employees’ determination to innovate.
We should not let ourselves become buried under frustration and a
sense of defeat regardless of how difficult resolution of issues of
inter-Korean relations may seem. A vibrant organizational culture is
what we need to steel ourselves against discouragement and make
ourselves as effective as possible.
Efforts that go beyond
passion will surely pay off.
There is a saying that “Like bone carved and polished, like jade cut
and ground (切磋琢磨).” At the organizational level, I will
institutionalize incentives for all those employees who work hard to
develop their capabilities.
I will handle personnel management with the utmost fairness and
objectivity to ensure that employees are evaluated based only on
ability and skills.
I will also create an organizational culture in which each employee
plays his part by delegating to them responsibilities and substantial
authority to make decisions.
4. Closing remarks
Members of the MOU family,
Now, the Ministry of Unification is
at a critical time when it must sally forth into the next 50 or 100 years.
President Moon Jae-in, in his address marking the 100th March First
Independence Movement Day, presented the new Korean Peninsula regime
as a new national vision for the next 100 years.
The new Korean Peninsula regime refers to a new order of peace and
cooperation in which we will take on a leading role and work together
with the North to coexist.
This is a Korean Peninsula of peace
and prosperity that our ancestors always dreamed of amid all their
trials and tribulations over the past 100 years.
We need to make the dream reality. We should not be frustrated
because it is difficult nor give up because it is hard.
We have to endlessly strive to realize complete denuclearization and
establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and open a
new era of a peace-driven economy in which South and North Korea
coexist and prosper together.
In the process, the Ministry of Unification should play a pivotal
role. I will continue to build the Ministry of Unification that each
and every one of you can be proud to be part of it.