President Lee Myung-bak made his bi-weekly radio address Monday, March 23, through which he promised to mend the nation's welfare system and to deal sternly with government officials' embezzlement of public money.
The President said this in reference to a Yangcheon-gu district official's embezzlement of a state fund that was supposed to help the disabled.
President Lee said that government officials' misappropriation of public money would be inexcusable under any circumstances and that those culpable would be required to return twice as much as the amount embezzled.
Also, real-name accounting will be introduced soon, which aims to hold relevant government officials accountable for such misappropriation, Lee added.
President Lee emphasized that government officials should leave no stone unturned when serving the people, and said the recent misconduct is by no means understandable.
The President also pledged to let the neediest reach the welfare money earlier than anybody else by refurbishing the nation's welfare system.
An extra budget plan has been drawn up to create 550,000 more jobs and to benefit almost one million people who have difficulties finding work, the President said.
“Job creation is the best welfare policy [in these difficult times],” Lee said. “The government's foremost policy goal is, accordingly, to create more jobs,” he stressed.
Lastly, President Lee said that the world economies are currently paying great attention to the Korean government's financial remedies, referring to his latest talks with global economic experts at home and abroad.
Underscoring Korean people's unyielding tenacity during difficult times in particular, President Lee emphasized that Korea would recover from the economic slump faster than other countries.
Korea Resolved to Raise its National Brand Standing
Overseas volunteer activities driven by different ministries will be rolled into one program, and 3,000 volunteers will be dispatched annually to developing countries through the new joint program, the Presidential Council for Nation Branding said Tuesday (Mar. 17).
The council announced this during its first session reporting to President Lee Myung-bak since the body was officially launched in January. Its chairman is Euh Yoon-dae, former president of Korea University.
The council said it would raise Korea's nation brand ranking from its current 33rd to 15th (the average standing of all OECD members) by 2013. The reporting session was attended by 183 key domestic and foreign officials.
To achieve the goal by the year 2013, the council said it would focus on five major areas - the strengthening of Korea's international contributions, high-technology and cutting-edge product development, culture and tourism development, support for multicultural families and expatriates, and citizenship cultivation.
Seven major ministries, including Strategy and Finance; Education, Science and Technology; Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Culture, Sports, and Tourism presented their individual plans to enhance the nation's brand image at the gathering.
President Announces New Asia InitiativePresident Lee Myung-bak announced the establishment of a New Asia Initiative in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 8. He set forth the program after he presided over a conference of Korean mission chiefs in the Asian region that morning. Under the initiative, Korea will play a central role in representing the interest of Asian nations in the international arena. The program also envisages Korea concluding free trade agreements with all Asian countries and establishing a green growth belt in the Asia-Pacific region. If realized, his diplomatic initiative will boost Korea's status and role also in the Southeast Asian and South Pacific region.
President Lee stressed the diplomacy of attaching importance to Asian nations based on Korea's diplomacy toward four major neighboring countries - the United States, China, Japan and Russia. Korean ambassadors stationed in Indonesia, Australia, China, India, Japan and other countries attended the conference.
The President said: “Last year, we focused our diplomatic efforts in four major countries that have the most influence [in this region]. As a result, our diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan were restored. Our relations with China and Russia were upgraded to a higher level.”
Wrapping up his latest tour of New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia, he said: “We have achieved more results than expected in our relations with Australia, with which Korea will seek substantial economic cooperation and cooperate on the supply of resources, and Indonesia, with whom relations are very important for green growth in the 21st century.”
He said that his latest tour of “Australia and Indonesia will contribute largely to establishing trilateral relations between Korea, Australia and Indonesia in an organic way, boosting Korea's status, and achieving practical results.” It is important and urgent to improve relations with neighboring Asian countries this year, as it is predicted that a new Asian era is approaching, he added.
He seems to be determined to increase his diplomatic efforts in the international arena, given his wrap-up of diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis four major powers during the first year of his presidency and Korea's assumption of co-chairmanship of the next G-20 meeting aimed at overcoming the worldwide economic crisis. He has also taken the initiative in presenting his vision of Low Carbon, Green Growth as a new growth engine.
Meanwhile, in a dinner with Korean reporters on the evening of March 7, Lee said: “I'm thinking of establishing new relations with Asian nations by the end of the first half of this year, considering that we've already conducted our first round of diplomacy toward the four major countries and establishing special diplomatic relations between Korea, China and Japan.”
Lee Attends First National Elders' Council
President Lee launched a National Elders' Advisory Council and held its first meeting at Cheong Wa Dae Thursday, March 12. At the venue were 54 erstwhile leaders of society, including former Prime Minister Hyun Seung-jong, poet and Sukmyung Women's University professor Kim Nam-jo, former POSCO CEO Park Tae-joon and many others.
During the meeting, the President listened to the advice of elders on ways to recover from the current economic crisis, as well as suggestions on other major administrative issues.
The President also explained to them the government's policy for economic revival, nationwide job-sharing movements and his North Korean policy.
The council, composed of sometime political, economic, educational and cultural leaders, is to offer direct advice to the President on overall national policies based upon public opinion.