Special Address to Korea by President of Korea, Lee Myung-bak.
Last night (May 24 in Korea), Lee Myung-bak, the President of the Republic of Korea addressed his nation on the sinking of the Korean frigate, the Cheonan, on March 26, by a North Korean torpedo attack. Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed in that attack.
I am standing here today, keenly aware that the Korean Peninsula is facing a critical turning point.
My fellow citizens,
The Cheonan was sunk by a surprise North Korean torpedo attack. Again, the perpetrator was North Korea. Their attack came at a time when the people of the Republic of Korea were enjoying their well-earned rest after a hard day’s work. Once again, North Korea violently shattered our peace.
The sinking of the Cheonan constitutes a military provocation against the Republic of Korea by North Korea.
Since the end of the Korean War, the North has perpetrated incessant armed provocations against us, including the bombing attack against the presidential delegation at the Aung San Martyr’s Mausoleum in Myanmar and the bombing in midair of Korean Air Flight 858. The North Koreans, however, have never officially admitted the crimes they committed. This time is no different. They continue to insist that my Government fabricated the sinking of the Cheonan.
I am not surprised by such North Korean behavior and this was the reason why I emphasized, from the very beginning, the importance of conducting a thorough and objective scientific investigation into the incident. I also asked the nation to exercise patience and self-restraint. It was important for us not to come to any hasty conclusion until the results of the investigation came out.
Finally, on May 20th, the international joint investigation group released their conclusive findings, backed by definitive evidences. With the release of the final report, no responsible country in the international community will be able to deny the fact that the Cheonan was sunk by North Korea.
We have always tolerated North Korea’s brutality, time and again. We did so because we have always had a genuine longing for peace on the Korean Peninsula. But now things are different. North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts. I will continue to take stern measures to hold the North accountable.
From this moment, no North Korean ship will be allowed to make passage through any of the shipping lanes in the waters under our control, which has been allowed by the Inter-Korean Agreement on Maritime Transportation. The sea routes meant for inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation must never again be used for armed provocations.
Trade and exchanges between the Republic of Korea and North Korea will also be suspended. We still remember the killing of an innocent South Korean tourist by a North Korean armed guard at the Geumgangsan resort. More recently, North Korea unilaterally confiscated South Korean assets at this same resort. Worse yet, the North sank the Cheonan taking the precious lives of our young sailors. Under these circumstances, any inter-Korean trade or other cooperative activity is meaningless.
However, we will continue to provide assistance for infants and children. Matters pertaining to the Gaeseong Industrial Complex will be duly considered, taking its unique characteristics into consideration.
From now on, the Republic of Korea will not tolerate any provocative act by the North and will maintain the principle of proactive deterrence. If our territorial waters, airspace or territory are violated, we will immediately exercise our right of self-defense.
The North’s military provocation against the Cheonan on March 26 violated the Charter of the United Nations and contravened the existing agreements reached for the sake of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, including the Korean War Armistice Agreement and the Basic Agreement between South and North Korea.
In close consultations with the nations concerned, the Government will refer this matter to the UN Security Council, so that the international community can join us in holding the North accountable. Many countries around the world have expressed their full support for our position.
I solemnly urge the North Korean authorities to do the following. Apologize immediately to the Republic of Korea and the international community. Immediately punish those who are responsible for and those who were involved in the incident. These are basic measures that the North has to take before anything else. If the North continues to make excuses and wild assertions as it has always done in the past, they will not find any place to stand in the world.
My fellow Koreans and our compatriots in North Korea,
The overriding goal of the Republic of Korea is not military confrontation. Our goal has always been the attainment of real peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Our goal is to bring about prosperity for all Koreans. Our vision is to realize the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The Republic of Korea is no longer what it once was—an impoverished nation, suffering from the scars of war. Rising above the ruins of war, the Republic of Korea has achieved an impressive miracle of progress guided by the constitutional foundations of liberal democracy and a free market economy. The Republic of Korea is continuing its confident march toward the center stage of the world.
All countries across the globe are competing with one another to ensure the prosperity of their own citizens. At the same time, all nations are working together for the sake of co-prosperity and peace in the global community. The entire world is changing. Changes are taking place faster than ever.
But, what is the situation in North Korea? Nothing has changed over the last sixty years. It is a country still holding onto an empty ambition of forcefully reuniting the Korean Peninsula under the banner of communism. It is a country that still believes in making threats and committing terrorist activities. North Korea’s goal is to instigate division and conflict.
For what reason and for whom is it doing what it does?
As compatriots, I am truly ashamed.
It is now time for the North Korean regime to change.
Today, no country can maintain peace and make economic development on its own. It is imperative to conduct exchanges and cooperate with the world and to join the path that everyone else is taking. It is time to look at reality and make that courageous decision. It is time for the North Korean regime to start thinking about what is truly good for the regime itself and its people.
The Korean Peninsula must not be left standing as the danger zone in Northeast Asia. The two Koreas must take the initiative and resolve this problem. The Peninsula must become a new cradle of world peace.
Permeating this War Memorial of Korea are the spirits of the soldiers of the Republic of Korea and United Nations who shed blood on this land. Also dedicated here was the monument memorializing the 46 fallen warriors of the corvette Cheonan.
Through the Cheonan tragedy, we learned a painful lesson once again. We had been forgetting the reality that the nation faces the most belligerent regime in the world.
We have to admit that our Armed Forces made mistakes as well. On the occasion of this incident, the Government will solidify the national security readiness. The discipline of the Armed Forces will be reestablished, military reform efforts will be expedited and combat capabilities will be reinforced drastically. The ROK-US joint combat readiness will be further strengthened on the basis of strong ROK-US alliance.
Public awareness of the importance of national security will be strengthened as well. We must never waver in the face of threats, provocations and divisive schemes by the North. We must become one when it comes to national security.
Regardless of how rough the storm may be, we will continue to walk steadily on the path toward a prosperous nation, a compassionate society and a strong country.
The great people of the Republic of Korea will build an even greater country.
Let us all join forces and march forward together.
Thank you very much.