The Korea Herald


Stronger South Korea can set North Koreans free: Yoon

President calls for “free, prosperous, unified Republic of Korea” on Memorial Day

By Kim Arin

Published : June 6, 2024 - 14:49

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at the Memorial Day ceremony held at the Seoul National Cemetery on Thursday. (Yonhap) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at the Memorial Day ceremony held at the Seoul National Cemetery on Thursday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol said Thursday in his Memorial Day address to the nation that South Korea must become stronger to change North Korea and free North Koreans.

At the ceremony held at the Seoul National Cemetery, the president said that “fellow Korean compatriots living north of the border, just about 50 kilometers from right here, are suffering from starvation, deprived brutally of their freedom and human rights.”

“Peace is maintained through strength, not through submission. We can transform North Korea only if we grow stronger,” he said.

He said that peace through force was the way toward “a unified Republic of Korea,” which is South Korea’s official name.

“Ultimately, we will only be able to restore the freedom and human rights of the North Koreans and move forward toward a free, prosperous and unified Republic of Korea if we become stronger.”

He said that the North Korean regime was to blame for its country “remaining on a backward path, refusing to accept the progress of history.”

“The land north of the border has become one of the darkest places on earth, while South Korea shines the brightest,” he said.

The president said North Korea recently carried out a “despicable provocation that would make any normal country ashamed of itself,” seemingly referring to the launches of balloons filled with trash and propaganda.

He vowed that his administration would “never overlook threats from North Korea.”

“We will maintain an ironclad readied posture and respond to provocations resolutely and overwhelmingly,” he said. “Building on the robust ROK-US alliance as well as cooperation with the international community, we will firmly guard our people’s freedom and safety.”

At the ceremony, the leaders of the opposition condemned the Yoon administration’s North Korea policies, most notably Tuesday’s decision to fully suspend the 2018 inter-Korean pact for minimizing military activities around the border.

The pact’s suspension on South Korea’s part comes after about six months after North Korea announced a complete withdrawal last November. For six months, North Korea fired several ballistic missiles and unsuccessfully attempted to launch another spy satellite.

“Winning in a conflict is important. But what’s more important is preventing a conflict from arising in the first place. That I think should be the important goal of our national security policy,” Democratic Party of Korea chair Rep. Lee Jae-myung said.

The minor Rebuilding Korea Party chair Rep. Cho Kuk said that he finds it “deeply regrettable we opted for a tit-for-tat action.”

“I can’t help but question if it is right for us to break the pact just because North Korea broke it first,” he said. “Keeping peace is more important to us than honoring war heroes.”