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Congratulatory Remarks by President Moon Jae-in at 2019 National Saemaul Leaders’ Convention

Source : Cheong Wa Dae

(Unofficial translation)

Fellow Koreans, Saemaul leaders and distinguished guests,

Beneath the foundation of today’s Republic of Korea is the Saemaul Undong.

The Saemaul Undong, a movement involving sharing and selfless service, is the modern incarnation of Korea’s traditional spirit of cooperation, including dure, communal labor; hyangyak, contractual agreements within local communities; and pumasi, private labor exchanges.

The Saemaul Undong provided the means to express the desperate yearning and self-confidence conveyed in the familiar phrases “Let’s try to live well off” and “We can do it, too.”

The fact that we’ve been able to achieve the rapid growth dubbed a miracle and have now emerged as an economic power with a per capita income of US$30,000 can be credited to the Saemaul Undong that spread like a prairie fire from rural communities to cities and from homes to workplaces.

Also to be credited are our neighbors who participated in the Saemaul Undong in some 33,000 villages across the country and the Saemaul leaders who were instrumental in turning the movement into a nationwide wave of practices.

Every single Saemaul leader joining us today as a representative of the two million Saemaul Undong members across the country is a hidden hero behind the Republic of Korea’s progress.

I wholeheartedly congratulate you on the 2019 National Saemaul Leaders’ Convention and express my respect for all Saemaul leaders.

I’m also grateful to the Gyeonggi-do Saemaul Association for the wonderful preparation of this Convention.

I welcome the many ambassadors who are honoring us with their presence at this event.

I also applaud and congratulate the honorees awarded for their contributions to the Saemaul Undong as well as their families.

Even though they do not carry civil servant ID cards, Saemaul leaders are the most dedicated public officials. In the people’s hearts, they are the focal points of communities, the rallying points for cooperation and trusted and supported public leaders.

Whenever Saemaul leaders came forward, their neighbors joined forces, making the impossible possible.

In the 1970s, they led efforts to plant trees on bare hills stretching over 640,000 hectares. Sweat shed on many parts of our land served as a catalyst for Korea to become the fourth largest forest power among the OECD members in terms of the percentage of territory covered in forests.

It was also the Saemaul leaders who helped pull off the miracle of a nationwide gold collection campaign during the 1997 foreign exchange crisis.

Notably, the national Saemaul Women’s Association was able to amass as much as 13.9 tons of gold through its patriotic ring-collection drive, which sparked the nationwide gold collection campaign.

In December 2007, the Association soothed the hearts of despondent local residents and fishermen by rushing to Taean-gun County to help clean up the oil spill. In the wake of the tragic Sewol ferry sinking, its members consoled bereaved families while providing them meals at Paengmok Port on Jindo Island.

When a forest fire broke out in Gangwon-do in April, they were also at the forefront of the efforts to aid the recovery in the affected areas and provide relief for the displaced victims. As such, volunteers from the Saemaul associations have always come to the aid of those affected by major disasters.

The people can never forget how dedicated Saemaul leaders are.

As President, I would like to express my profound appreciation to Saemaul leaders and their families for having played a key role in regional development and having rushed ahead of others to join hands when our people were suffering.

Fellow Koreans,

The Saemaul Undong is a “community movement” that started with “me” and spread to “us,” going from villages to the nation and finally to the world.

The miraculous achievements of Korea’s Saemaul Undong are grabbing the attention of the world.

In 2013, UNESCO listed the archives of the Saemaul Undong in its Memory of the World Register, recognizing it as a valuable asset for human history.

The 2015 U.N. Sustainable Development Summit to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals cited the Saemaul Undong as an optimal method for eradicating poverty and ending hunger.

At the 2017 ASEAN Summit, Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other participating leaders expressed their appreciation to the Republic of Korea for its rural development support through the Saemaul Undong. In addition, the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines selected Korea’s Saemaul ODA project as its best example of foreign assistance last year.

In particular, the Saemaul Undong’s dissemination has become the basis for nurturing profound friendship with the Mekong countries.

Through the Saemaul Undong, we are sharing our economic development experiences with developing countries, helping them secure the confidence that they can become better off.

As a responsible middle power globally, Korea will continue to provide support for shared prosperity in the international community.

From next year, we will further expand the rural community development project in Laos.

We’ve created four pilot villages in Honduras this year – the first in Latin America, and the Saemaul Undong will spread to Fiji in the South Pacific next year and to Zambia in Africa in 2021 and will expand further.

In particular, next month’s ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and the Mekong-ROK Summit will serve as opportunities to strengthen cooperation with dynamically growing Southeast Asian countries in various Saemaul Undong-related projects.

Going forward, we will join Saemaul leaders in sharing our experiences of Saemaul Undong-led development with countries in the global village, such as those in Asia, Latin America and Africa. We will move along the path toward peace and prosperity together.

Distinguished Saemaul leaders,

Today, I would like to ask you to carry on and advance the modern significance of the Saemaul Undong.

We are now walking a new path toward a nation where everyone prospers together, moving beyond a prosperous country.

This is the path toward which Saemaul leaders, who are at the center of sharing and cooperation, should lead.

Though the economic condition is not favorable due to the international economic slowdown and other factors, I believe in the potential of our people.

I believe in the Saemaul Undong’s spirit that has helped open up new frontiers.

In that sense, it is truly welcome news that the Saemaul Undong has embarked on a great, historic transition into a movement for life, peace and respect following a democratic process and consensus within the organization.

The Korea Saemaul Undong Center has built its own Asadal Solar Photovoltaic Power Station. In all, they’ve cut their electricity, gas and water usage by nearly 20 percent after making energy conservation a part of everyday life.

If everyone were to participate in reducing energy consumption by 20 percent, we would be able to close 15 coal-fired power plants. This could signal the start of a new Saemaul Undong, indeed.

I extend heartfelt encouragement and applause to the 180,000 Saemaul leaders and 2 million members.

All of you are writing a new chapter in the history of communities. The Government will join you in your endeavors.

Fellow Koreans and distinguished Saemaul leaders,

The Saemaul Undong should be a movement that’s alive and active, not one stuck in the past.

We have prevailed over poverty and hardships together. We have to help each other and pool our strength again to build a nation where everyone prospers together.

I believe that when our Saemaul leaders serve as a buttress that supports new growth in towns and local areas, a new future for the Republic of Korea will also be ushered in.

I ask you to help the people come together once more so that the Saemaul Undong can become a movement for all of us.

I call upon you to play a leading role in promoting mutual benefit, cooperation, national unity and civic participation. I ask you to help nurture hope for the future.

Thank you.

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