What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
South Korea’s four major presidential candidates each released a personal New Year’s message on Facebook. As the March election approaches, there has been a noticeable shift in polls, with the Democratic Party’s Lee Jae-myung taking the lead, followed by the People Power Party’s Yoon Suk-yeol. The People Party’s Ahn Cheol-soo, who was at a mere 4–5% percent in the polls a month ago, has rallied, his poll numbers rising to 10% in one survey. The Justice Party’s Sim Sang-jung’s poll numbers have remained in the 3–4% percent range.
The following are messages from the four presidential candidates, in the order of their ratings in the polls.
I am infinitely sorry, and always grateful
All those who are working hard for the fourth democratic government!
I extend my year-end greetings with deep gratitude.
I am a flawed person. I am particularly ashamed when I meet people who show concerns about my personal problems. To those who have been troubled again and again because of me, yet believed in me and supported me, and did not spare a harsh reprimand from time to time, I am always grateful. Thanks to you, a new courage rises in my heart every day. I will forever repay you for all that.
There is only one reason I am in politics: to make tomorrow a little bit better than yesterday, to improve people’s livelihoods, even if only a little.
The president must represent all people, not just his supporters. I will meet more people, listen to more voices, and have fierce discussions. I will listen more attentively to the opinions of people whose opinions differ from mine. I believe that if we understand each other’s situations and share what’s in our hearts, we will reach a point of unity. Only then will we be able to move beyond the logic of the parties engrossed in political grammar and think with the perspective and logic of the people, which is the essence of our amazing collective intelligence.
The Republic of Korea stands on the brink of a period of great transition. The crisis of Covid-19 and the continuing pandemic, the 4th Industrial Revolution, the deepening climate crisis and inequality, the global competition for hegemony that all these issues have triggered, and the still unresolved issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are threatening us.
Our tomorrow can be a crisis or an opportunity. I cannot turn a crisis into an opportunity alone. It will only be possible with all our party members, all presidential campaign officials, and the people of the country.
I will open my ears and close my mouth. I will consider all opinions.
The word ‘eventful’ is not enough to describe our times. Due to Covid-19, people are feeling hopeless. The poorer the people are, the more severe the disaster.
Like in the poet Shin Kyeong-nim’s ‘A Poor Love Song’, how can a poor person not know freedom? It’s just that they learn that they may have to give up anything and everything. So politicians have to do their job. It is up to the politicians to create a world where there is hope for even the most woeful person.
This is my firm promise for the start of the New Year. I, Lee Jae-myung, will always stand with those who are poor, bitter, or discriminated against. We will not create a cold country where there are many things to give up, but a warm country where we can all live together.
Please join me on the road as you have so far. I hope that I can be used as a tool to build the country we all want.
Thank you. Happy New Year.
— Lee Jae-myung, Democratic Party of Korea’s presidential candidate, December 31, 2021.
You’ve been through a lot. Happy New Year
Today is December 31.
Regret and excitement, reflection and commitment intersect in me.
Today we say goodbye to the year 2021.
For the people who hoped this time last year that they might be able to take off their masks in 2021, it was a year that felt more difficult and heavy. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the people for persevering through a difficult year. Like the stars shining in the night sky, you silently kept the Republic of Korea going. Thank you.
In 2021, I began writing a special book with you all.
It started with frustration. I wanted to protect justice and the rule of law against unjust power, but it was difficult to overcome unrelenting persecution alone.
So I made a decision. It was not without hesitation that I opened the door to politics. But, instead of thinking “It has to be me”, I set out with the resolution that “I want to give my all to make a change”. Rather than personal glory, I thought of the country and the people. I pondered over and over the calling that had been given to me. The earnestness that if I had the power to achieve a regime change, I had to use it all, led me to politics.
And I saw hope. Seeing the people’s aspirations for regime change and their expectations for a new Republic of Korea, I was convinced that my choice was right!
Entering politics was not an easy challenge for me. I’ve disappointed you, and I have a lot of regrets. I wasn’t enough. But the more I climb, one step at a time, the stronger I grow. Even if it is difficult, my will becomes more resolute.
So, I have come all this way with you, the people. Of course, this is not the end. The real story begins now. Two more chapters remain. One is “victory of the people” and the other is “change”.
On March 9, 2022, I will make the change of government a reality, and the new government will bring about change. I will change people’s lives. I’ll show you how everything finds its proper place.
That is how I will write a book together with the people. I hope that you can let go of the pain and trials of the past year with 2021 and have a meaningful time welcoming 2022 with bright hearts.
You’ve been through a lot. Happy New Year.
— Yoon Suk-yeol, People Power Party’s presidential candidate, December 31, 2021.
Beloved people, compatriots in North Korea and overseas, how are you?
I extend my greetings to all the soldiers of the Armed Forces who protect the Republic of Korea and the peace of mankind.
This is Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the People Party. Happy New Year to everyone.
Respected fellow citizens, how difficult have your lives been over the past two years due to Covid-19? How onerous have your lives been these past five years because of the government’s remarkable incompetence and hypocrisy?
Small business owners and self-employed workers who have been pushed to the edge of a cliff, young people who have lost hope for the future, healthcare and medical professionals who have exhausted their minds and bodies, and those who are spending a colder and more difficult winter in the shadows of our society, as a politician I am deeply sorry.
I feel really sorry for our children who can’t go to school when they should be free to run around, who can’t meet friends, and have to go to class wearing masks.
If we do politics well, I think we can live and prosper together in the Republic of Korea we love, but we haven’t been able to meet the people’s expectations, and as a politician I apologize again and again for that.
In 2021, I met many people and listened to their words. The eyes and stories of each and every Korean person pierced my heart. At the same time, I was able to see the earnestness in their eyes, looking for a light of hope amidst confusion and despair. I express my deep gratitude and respect for the dedication and sacrifice of each and every one of our people, who are doing their jobs and taking care of their families even in difficult circumstances.
2022, the Imin Year (壬寅年), is the Year of the Tiger, when “the tiger is coming, the tiger is coming”. Tigers have long been known as spirits that ward off evil spirits. I believe that the tiger’s energy will defeat the politics of incompetence and hypocrisy, as well as Covid-19. But what is more terrifying than a tiger (violent politics) or virus (infectious disease) is moral corruption. The lesson from history is that a nation or civilization does not collapse from an attack from the outside, but from the inside.
The current state of politics in the Republic of Korea is like two animals trapped in a cave, biting each other over prey. The Korean tiger should not be confined in caves. It must roar on the world’s stage. The world is at a turning point in the history of human civilization. In the midst of the three megatrends of the Covid-19 crisis, the 4th Industrial Revolution, and the new Cold War between the United States and China, we also need to solve three national challenges: the disease prevention crisis, the jobs crisis, and the political crisis.
We need to overcome Covid-19 with real K-prevention efforts and a scientific basis, rather than the fake K-prevention measures and political motivations of the Moon Jae-in administration.
In addition, we are in desperate need of national unity. Historically, no divided nation has ever overcome a national crisis. Only when the people are united can we turn a crisis into an opportunity. Under the former President Park Chung-hee, the entire nation succeeded in industrialization with the entire nation united under the slogan “Let’s Be Well Off”. Under the former President Kim Dae-jung, the people became one through the “gold-collecting campaign”.
We overcame the Asian Financial Crisis and succeeded in informatization. If the Republic of Korea does not compete with a survival strategy, future vision, and policy, but rather fights over presidential candidates’ morality, families, and qualifications, I am afraid that no matter which party wins, the people will be more divided and the Republic of Korea will face a bigger crisis.
Now is the time for the Republic of Korea to bring about a second “Miracle on the Han River” by creating future jobs and future industries through the establishment of the second “nation of science and technology”. It is time for South Korea to become a science and technology-oriented country and a country of startups to be one of the G5, the world’s five largest economic powerhouses. If Korea secures five “super-gap” technologies, it will be able to secure five world-class conglomerates such as Samsung Electronics, and we will be able to join the G5.
Learning from the failures of the past, creating an ecosystem in which not only one conglomerate is promoted but all companies prosper together will provide a shortcut for us to rise beyond the social inequality caused by economic polarization and lead to a country where all people live happily together.
The simple dream I had when I started in politics is still there. My goal is to create a society where honest and upstanding people are recognized, a society where hard-working people can get results from their sweat, and a society where justice and fairness are rooted in every corner. To this end, the Republic of Korea must not fight the past, but move toward the future and the world.
The Republic of Korea’s new leadership should not be a neighborhood bully who uses taxes only to satisfy his supporters, but a global leader who satisfies all of our people.
The goal should be not to change the government, but to make the Republic of Korea a better country. Regime change is the beginning and the means to make the Republic of Korea a better place. That is the “better regime change” that I am talking about. I promise, without fail, to make the country that our people want.
I wish you all good health and happiness.
Happy New Year.
— Ahn Cheol-soo, People Party’s presidential candidate, December 31, 2021.
Respected fellow citizens,
Happy New Year.
This is Sim Sang-jung, the presidential candidate of the Justice Party.
I extend my deepest gratitude and offer condolences to you, who have demonstrated courage and hope despite all kinds of difficulties. In the new year of 2022, I hope that the Covid pandemic, which has already been underway for two years, will come to an end.
I will go hand in hand with all of our people to boldly change this country plagued by inequality so that things do not become more unequal after this disaster passes.
What will we make of 2022?
This is a huge challenge for all of us.
Our people deserve a better life. Our people have the right to demand more from political powers. We can replace the politics that doesn’t care about people’s lives.
I hope that you muster up the confidence that you can make this country a better one. I will show you politics that improves your confidence.
Respected fellow citizens, it’s time to fight the inequality that has penetrated deep into our lives. Wherever inequality has scratched, division and hatred has grown. It is time to face the climate crisis that is ravaging our living conditions and exacerbating inequality.
Let us not despair over this presidential election as one with unlikable candidates. Despair and cynicism cannot break down the corners of inequality.
Instead, let us turn politics into a shield that protects the lives of our people and a means of opening the way to hope. Let us build a national vision to solve the outpouring of inequality and the rapidly changing labor conditions. In that way, let us build together the first government to narrow the wealth gap and the income gap.
Together let us create a country where the lives of citizens are those of advanced countries. Through the changes in politics, let us change our lives.
Let us once again join hands and create a historic moment to change politics.
I, Sim Sang-jung, will take the lead.
— Sim Sang-jung, Justice Party’s presidential candidate, January 1, 2022.