content shortcut

Speeches and Contributions

Inaugural Speech by the 40th Minister of Unification


Inaugural Speech by the 40th Minister of Unification

Inaugural Speech

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 three principles.
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.
If inter-Korean 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 more important.

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 realistic constraints.
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.

Thank you.