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Inaugural Speech by the 42nd Minister of Unification, Kwon Youngse


Inaugural Speech by the 42nd Minister of Unification, Kwon Youngse

Fellow members of MOU family,

It is nice meeting you all.
I am honored by your warm welcome.

We are at a very important turning point, and I am confident that we can accomplish a lot together.

First, I would like to wish you all the best.

After being involved in politics for several years, I noticed that the first minister of a new administration is under a lot of pressure. Not only will the public’s attention be drawn to us, but we will also be asked to make countless decisions regarding continuing policies of the previous government and showing innovation in the new government.

When it comes to unification policies, we have repeatedly seen that the number of decisions to make according to the nature of the government is much greater and very complicated under the common goal of denuclearizing North Korea.

During the confirmation hearing, I emphasized the importance of continuing the previous governments’ unification policy by using the word “relay race.” I also believe that the unification policy must be cumulative and therefore does not progress with us denying past achievements and changing everything.

Each government may take a different direction and the atmosphere of the international community changes every day. However, in the end, we are aiming for unification, a goal that remains unchanged under any circumstances.

Our goal is to create a new and brighter future by building a unification philosophy of this new administration, building on the work of previous governments.

I am well aware that our employees at the Ministry of Unification have worked tirelessly with professionalism and passion and led the way for peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula. Former Minister Lee In-young also accomplished many achievements, and I sincerely thank him for his hard work. Allow me to kindly ask all of you to work together to reach a bigger and higher goal.

Fellow members of MOU family,

Just last week, North Korea launched a ballistic missile. As COVID-19 spreads across North Korea, its residents’ lives are at great risk. The most urgent matters right now are stabilizing the heightened inter-Korean tension and providing practical help to the people of North Korea.

Many difficult tasks lie ahead, including creating a strategic opportunity for inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation, reassessing inter-Korean relations through denuclearization of North Korea, building progressive inter-Korean relations, and maintaining peace and order on the Korean Peninsula amid the complex dynamics of the international community. Not a single one of these challenges is easy.

Now it is time for us to build up on the unification policy in the short and long terms.

Many mandates have been entrusted to us to usher in a new world by addressing our duties in a practical and flexible manner while pursuing common interests.
Denuclearization of North Korea, mutual negotiations based on the principle of reciprocity, universal human rights and values, and problem solving through dialogue are only a few.

As I was appointed Minister of Unification, I looked back on our Ministry’s achievements.

I witnessed the Ministry fulfilling its responsibilities, even with heightened, seemingly never-ending tensions with North Korea, as we observed major situations and adjusted our strengths and weaknesses, thereby discerning when to intervene and when to exercise restraint.

The journey we walk together in the future must not deviate from this direction.

Though we may not accomplish everything in a single step, it is better to lay the groundwork for at least one of many tasks ahead of us.

I ask that you make every effort to move forward steadily with solid minds, one step at a time.


Fellow members of MOU family,

As the first members of the Unification Ministry under the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration, we are endowed with responsibilities to create a blueprint and strategy for unification and North Korea policy, build a solid foundation and driving force, and make immediate progress in inter-Korean relations.

Nearly eighty years have passed since the division of the two Koreas, and half a century has passed since the commencement of inter-Korean dialogue. Over the course of time, previous governments have pursued policies on unification and North Korea according to their own principles.

Although people may have different views and evaluations of the past policies, we have learned one clear and important lesson from the process.

To accomplish the goals of the North Korea and unification policy, reaching a bipartisan agreement based on the national consensus is vital.

When a bipartisan North Korean stance is formulated and implemented, we are one step closer to a unified Korea.

Not all government strategies are the same, and not all would be ideal. We need to inherit the parts that are desirable and complement the parts that need to be supplemented and developed.

When this framework is established, the power of democracy, which can shine through diversity, can be maximized.

The approach to North Korea will be much more constructive when the room for cooperation has widened and differences in opinion are minimized.

The first step toward a unified Korean Peninsula starts from unification within us.

I was dispatched to Germany immediately after it was unified and was able to witness the process during and after unification.

At the time, the left- and right-wing governments were replaced in Germany, but the right-wing government in West Germany did not unconditionally overthrow the Eastern Policy of the other side.

A dialectical unity that led Germany to its unification is a lesson that all of us who live in a divided country must remember at all times.

The new administration must respond to this historical reminder.

We must create a bipartisan unification policy while reaching out to and gathering consensus from the people.

In this process, communicating with the National Assembly and securing consensus are essential. I will do my best to broaden this channel with the opposing parties.


Fellow members of MOU family,

Another very important mission for the Ministry of Unification is resolving the pain and difficulties of separated families, POWs, abductees, and North Korean defectors suffering from division.

Our duties are to empathize with them and render a more effective policy. We will spare no efforts in helping people resume their normal lives and build a national community for all.

Moreover, we cannot neglect the interest of North Korean residents. All-embracing cooperation must be fortified to ensure the North Korean residents can overcome humanitarian hardships and move forward for freedom and human rights, which are universal values of humankind.

When these efforts begin to bear fruit one by one, the pain of division will heal as quickly as possible, allowing us to progress toward a truly unified future.


Fellow members of MOU family,

COVID-19 is currently spreading rapidly in North Korea. In the absence of vaccines or medical supplies, many are concerned for the well-being of the North Korean residents.

It is time for us to step forward and expedite humanitarian aid, and the ROK Government will actively cooperate with North Korea for COVID-19 quarantine efforts.

We will provide unconditional humanitarian cooperation, such as medical care and quarantine efforts, without taking a political stance.

I sincerely hope that North Korea also responds positively and cooperates to prevent harm to its people.


Fellow members of MOU family,

You may have heard that the Ministry of Unification’s functions needed to be reorganized during the last presidential election.

Some of you may be concerned, but as minister, I will make things clear. We will make additions, but we won’t make any subtractions.

The Ministry of Unification will fully preserve and develop the functions of inter-Korean relations management, inter-Korean exchange and cooperation, and years of accumulated bandwidth. We will only adjust excessive or overlapping parts practically to focus on improving work efficiency.

We will also restore and add to the basic mission of pursuing unification policy based on peace with the basic free and democratic order the Constitution gives us.

Article 4 of our Constitution states,
“The Republic of Korea shall seek unification and shall formulate and carry out a policy of peaceful unification based on the basic free and democratic order.”

We must deeply engrave the meaning of this paragraph into our minds and use it to develop our roles, functions, and tasks.

I hope that you will democratically, effectively, and systematically perform the duties and responsibilities given to you by the people and the Constitution.

I will drive the Ministry of Unification to move forward on two balanced wheels: the management and development of inter-Korean relations and the promotion of unification.


Fellow members of MOU family,

I understand the Ministry of Unification and the members of MOU family put in extensive effort in the past difficult circumstances.
Many of you may have been upset when those efforts did not bear fruit and were misunderstood and criticized by the people.

Nevertheless, our unchanging obligations include the development of inter-Korean relations based on the denuclearization of North Korea, peace on the Korean Peninsula, and the construction of a unified Korea based on liberal democracy.

The road not taken will be grassy and unfamiliar, but we will take one step at a time in the right direction.

As the minister, I promise you that I will do my best to be of the most help to you.

I hope that you all present yourselves as dignified and competitive members of the Ministry of Unification.

If we work together, we can do it.

Thank you.

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