At an event commemorating the 43rd an event commemorating Parents’ Day
Venue: Seoul City Hall
How are you today, senior citizens? With your permission I will regard all of you as my own parents today. I think that parents are the people with the most beautiful and sweet-looking faces in the world. We at the SMG are happy to be with you on this Parents’ Day.
I feel deeply grateful to Chairman Kim Seong-han of the Korean Senior Citizens Association and other invited guests for giving life to this special event by being here today.
Above all, I would like to pay homage to those who received awards today for showing exemplary filial piety to parents amid hardships. One of them set an example for others to follow by faithfully taking care of her sick husband and her 95-year old mother-in-law, suffering from dementia. An elderly woman who serves as the village leader strives to find jobs for elders experiencing financial difficulty. There are also those who made elders feel happy and warm by running errands for elders who have no children to take care of them. They show that we are living in a healthy society, where people take care of the less privileged.
As you see, I am wearing a carnation on my breast. This white carnation symbolizes children’s love of their deceased parents. My father told me to live honestly. My mother devoted herself to the care and nurturing of her children, working late into the night as the wife of a poor peasant. She told us to find out if our neighbors did not have enough to eat. Beggars visiting our house could always get food, although we were not rich.
I think that father and mother are the most beautiful of all words. Mere mention of the words makes me feel warm and energetic. They are synonyms of self-sacrifice. They are the sources of our existence and lives.
My own parents passed away, but I feel as if all of you here today are my parents. You have made the country what it is today, working hard in the midst of various hardships. Korea has joined the ranks of world-class countries thank to your devoted efforts. Your eagerness about your children’s education has made Korea one of the most educated countries in the world.
However, the country is in a sorry state concerning how our senior citizens are treated. Their reality makes me feel ashamed beyond words. Our country ranks the highest among the OECD countries in terms of the poverty rate and suicide rate for senior citizens. One out of every two senior citizens is suffering from poverty and loneliness. No one can say we are a kind society, full of hope, if those who have worked hard to make it a world-class country must spend the twilight of their life in misery.
We at the SMG will do what we can to help senior citizens live happily and healthily for the rest of their lives.
The kindest welfare measure for senior citizens will be to offer them jobs. This year we at the SMG will provide senior citizens with 50,000 public work jobs, an increase of 3,000 over the last year, and we will increase that number to 80,000 by 2018. These jobs will help senior citizens stand on their own economically and engage in social activities. We at the SMG strive to help senior citizens live a dignified life, building senior care facilities in public housing complexes and increasing the number of studio-type rental houses for them.
We also strive for the health of our senior citizens. We are expanding support for senior citizens suffering from dementia, which has been identified as one of the key factors putting serious emotional strain on family members. We plan to upgrade the percentage of senior citizens undergoing dementia tests from the present 40% to 45%. We will also strengthen their management. We will increase the number of education facilities for dementia patients with mild symptoms by five and build 100 more daycare centers and 30 more public senior citizen care centers by 2018.
Starting in July of this year, we will provide welfare services to visit senior citizens. Teams consisting of a welfare consultant and a nurse will pay visits to senior citizens to spend time with them and check their health.
In addition, we are expanding cultural activity programs for senior citizens to help them live their lives more vigorously.
Spaces in Jongmyo and Tapgol (previously Pagoda) Park are the destinations most frequently visited by senior citizens in Seoul. We plan to turn them into a culture district for senior citizens. They will become places where senior citizens can spend their leisure time more conveniently, enjoy good food at affordable prices, and enjoy classic films and traditional performances.
We at the SMG are providing support for cultural activities carried out at welfare centers, where senior citizens spend most of their time. In addition to the existing 32 welfare centers, we will increase the number of smaller-sized centers every year. We will encourage locals to take part in the operation of the centers and assign the task of helping and entertaining senior citizens to 100 hired coordinators.
We still have a long way to go in providing satisfactory welfare services for senior citizens. We will continue to strive to improve these services. We will deal with senior citizen-related matters as if they were our own parents.
On this Parents’ Day, I am very happy, feeling as if all of you here are my own parents. The message contained in the carnation worn on my breast will be delivered to my own parents in heaven and they will feel happy, too.
I sincerely hope that all of you live a long and life. I love you all, Thank you.