As he steps down from his five-year term, President Moon Jae-in said in his retirement speech Monday that he “put down his heavy burden” but hoped to see the momentum his administration had created continue.
He also called on the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol government to resume dialogue efforts with the North and “move toward national unity” shattered since the election.
The Moon Jae-in administration began in May 2017 with overwhelming support from the public after former President Park Geun-hye was impeached over corruption scandals that inspired nationwide candlelight vigils. But the Moon administration also stumbled with soaring real estate prices and continued scandals of his aides, handing over power to the opposition party after five years.
“When the constitutional order collapsed due to the manipulation of state affairs, our people replaced the government and revived democracy through the most peaceful and cultural candlelight vigils,” Moon said in his morning speech.
“I am solemn about how much our government has lived up to. But even if our government does not achieve it, the people’s desire for a ‘country-like’ country will never stop,” he said. “The desires of the candle lights will continue to bloom as our hopes and energy.”
Moon called on the next government to make efforts to resume dialogue between the two Koreas, denuclearization and institutionalization of peace on the Korean Peninsula, saying, “Peace is a condition of our survival and prosperity.”
During his five-year term, the outgoing president went all-in on the Korean Peninsula peace process. He held three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and signed the Panmunjom Declaration and the Sept. 19 agreement. However, inter-Korean relations reached a deadlock after the breakdown of the second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi. This year, North Korea staged 15 armed protests, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“It wasn’t just our lack of will and effort that we could not move forward,” Moon said. “On the other hand, there was a barrier that was difficult to overcome with our will alone. This is a wall we must overcome.”
Moon also listed his achievements during his term in his retirement speech.
He cited the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018, overcoming the crisis of Japan‘s export regulations and strengthening competitiveness in the material parts and equipment sector and dealing with the COVID-19 crisis through quarantine, the dedication of medical staff and diagnostic technology development.
Moon self-evaluated the timing of easing COVID-19-related policies, such as lifting outdoor masks and adjusting the level of infectious diseases.
“It was so amazing that many proud moments during our government took place mostly amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Moon said. “Korea was unexpectedly a leading model country for quarantine globally.”
“Finally, we took off our masks and met face to face,” he said and added, “The crisis is not over yet, but the people will overcome any crisis and turn it into an opportunity.”
Through the COVID-19 crisis, Korea has become a leading country in many fields such as democracy, economy, exports, digital innovation, disease control, health care, culture, military power, defense, climate crisis response, diplomacy and international cooperation, he said.
“I am very proud to accompany the great people in the successful history of the Republic of Korea,” he said, adding, “It was a great honor to be with the great people.”
He hoped that the Yoon Suk-yeol government would inherit and build on the accumulated achievements of the previous governments to increase the national power and move toward a better future.
He stressed the importance of national integration, saying, “It is of utmost importance to unite the people‘s hearts as one.”
“The Republic of Korea will move forward more vigorously on the path of true success when it moves on the path of national unity while filling the path of deeper conflict during the election process.”
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com