Fellow members of the MOU family, it is nice meeting you all.
am Kim Yung Ho, the 43rd Minister of Unification.
First and foremost, I sincerely thank the Honorable former Minister
Kwon Youngse, for his contributions and dedication.
Amid the difficult circumstances on the Korean Peninsula, Minister
Kwon Youngse, as the first Minister of Unification under the Yoon Suk
Yeol administration, has laid a solid foundation for policies on
unification and North Korea.
As his successor, I will make every effort to develop these policies
further in a more concrete way.
Furthermore, I extend my deepest gratitude to all fellow members of
the MOU family for your endeavors in preparing for my confirmation hearing.
Fellow members of the MOU family, the people are now looking forward
to a new Ministry of Unification.
They are hoping the Ministry of Unification will squarely face the
changing inter-Korean relations and stark international landscape and
take on a new role in line with the calling of the time and universal values.
The Ministry of Unification, since its establishment in 1969, has
been progressing in tandem with the changes in inter-Korean relations
and the international landscape, at times even leading the way, while
steadily advancing policies on unification and North Korea.
Nevertheless, despite these efforts, inter-Korean relations have
deteriorated and peace on the Korean Peninsula remains unstable.
Above all, amid North Korea’s advancement of nuclear capabilities
and institutionalization of provocations, the lives of North Korean
residents have been devastated and the threat to our daily lives persists.
In Northeast Asia, the conflict between liberal and authoritarian
blocs is aggravating, and the South-North conflicts are intensifying
in interaction with this international-conflict landscape.
In times like these, I believe that consistently pushing forward
with unification and North Korea policies based strictly on “values
and principles” is the most appropriate way to resolve the Korean
Peninsula issues and a shortcut to advancing unification.
Fellow members of the MOU family, the values and principles we must
uphold are clear.
Article 4 of the 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.”
This Article was newly prescribed during the constitutional
amendment in 1987, reflecting the circumstances at the time and the
demands of the people.
President Yoon Suk Yeol mentioned in his address to a joint session
of U.S. Congress, “Freedom brings peace. Peace, in turn, safeguards freedom.”
He added, “Freedom and peace are sources of creativity and
innovation. They bring prosperity and abundance.”
I believe his words encapsulate the spirit of Article 4 of the
I wish to clearly state that for the Ministry of Unification to
fulfill its duty, it is important that it shapes conditions for a
“liberal and peaceful unification” based on the universal values of
humanity, such as freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and peace.
For this, rather than immoderately dwelling on the transient ups and
downs of inter-Korean relations, it is critical to take the long view
and push forward with policies based on clear principles.
We should not hastily accept North Korea’s unilateral claims for
immediate gains but unwaveringly uphold principles befitting our
national status and the people’s expectations based on a clear vision
of unification, instead.
Consequently, we shall make consistent efforts to guide North Korea
to take the right path to universal values, such as freedom,
democracy, human rights, rule of law, and peace.
From this time forth, we need to reflect on the unification work and
reorganize it anew based on firm “values and principles” and resolute determination.
Fellow members of the MOU family, regarding the direction I
mentioned earlier, the Ministry of Unification should concentrate its
efforts on three key tasks.
First, we must stop North Korea from further developing its nuclear
program and give up its program.
We must strengthen the ROK-U.S.
alliance and trilateral security cooperation among South Korea, the
United States, and Japan and solidify cooperation with the
international community to deter North Korea’s nuclear development and
military provocations resolutely.
While safeguarding peace on the Korean Peninsula through strength,
we need to prompt North Korea to realize the futility of nuclear
development and come to the negotiation table for denuclearization
that centers on the Audacious Initiative of its own accord.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Unification will need to prepare a
phased implementation plan diligently for the Audacious Initiative,
including food, infrastructure, and finance, in case North Korea comes
to the dialogue table.
Even at this moment, we hope that North Korea responds to the
Audacious Initiative in good faith.
Let me reiterate that the Yoon administration always keeps the door
open for dialogue, exchange, and cooperation with North Korea.
Second, we must address and improve human rights issues the North
Korean regime has brought about.
Improving the human rights situation in North Korea is not only a
way to realize universal values but also practical preparation for a
liberal democratic unification.
The human rights issues in North Korea hold significance not only in
terms of improving the poor human rights situation of North Korean
residents but also in addressing the issues resulting from the
division, which affects all Korean people.
Improving the human rights situation in North Korea necessitates a
more comprehensive and systematic master plan with a long-term perspective.
If we cooperate more intensively with the international community on
the basis of the plan, I believe that will be enough to drive changes
in North Korea’s behavior.
Along with this, addressing the issues of separated families,
detainees, and prisoners of war is also essential.
They are humanitarian issues borne out of division, but at the same
time, they are human rights issues that North Korea is inflicting upon
Therefore, we must seek various creative solutions to fulfill the
fundamental national duty of ensuring our people’s safety, protecting
their lives, and realizing their human rights.
Furthermore, we will make all-out efforts to ensure the safety of
North Korean defectors living abroad and to facilitate the entry of
those who wish to enter South Korea under the principle of accepting
all North Korean defectors.
In addition, we will make sure that the Korean government, private
organizations here and abroad, and international organizations
consistently push forward with humanitarian assistance for vulnerable
groups in North Korea regardless of the political or military circumstances.
Third, we must prepare for unification under firm values and a clear vision.
We need to garner the will for unification from the people based on
a new unified future blueprint and the way to implement it in
accordance with the values we pursue and times we live in.
The preparation for unification is not the Ministry of Unification’s
From the perspective of unification preparation, every ministry must
develop and advance its tasks and provide support by cooperating with
Moreover, it is important to ensure that the people and the
international community have an accurate understanding of the reality
of North Korea and establish an accurate view of it.
Through extensive information gathering and research on North Korea,
we need to analyze objectively and compile the reality of each field
in North Korea, including the human rights situation, and reveal it to
our people and people around the world.
This will not only serve as the foundation for policy making that
stands on the basis of reality rather than wishful thinking but also
become a substantive cornerstone for unification preparation joined by
the people and the international community.
Furthermore, we need to continue developing policies supporting the
settlement of North Korean defectors with a focus on the field because
they may become a touchstone to show our society’s unification capability.
We need to make efforts in a way that improves and enhances the
existing policy strategies for settlement so that North Korean
defectors can settle into our society as our neighbors more easily and swiftly.
Ultimately, when the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved, the
human rights situation in North Korea will improve significantly, and
as our efforts for a systematic unification preparation accumulate, we
will find a way for “a liberal and peaceful unification.”
Let us strive to facilitate communication with our people and the
international community and create conditions for dialogue with North
Korea, thus advancing the day the path will be opened.
Fellow members of the MOU family, an organizational restructuring
will occur to respond to the changed inter-Korea relations and
international landscape proactively and strengthen work capability.
Let us reflect on and exert ourselves to open up a new unification
era aligned with the rapidly changing times.
If we embrace the positive thought that crises can turn into
opportunities and fulfill our duties and responsibilities based on the
principles in a measured manner, we will naturally be able to recover
the Ministry’s stability and gain extensive trust and support from our people.
Let us all gather a little more strength and wisdom, innovate and
strengthen our organization, and turn it into momentum for the
development of unification work.
I, too, will communicate closely with all of you and do my best so
that the Ministry of Unification can rise to even greater heights.