-We propose the establishment of a “great social agreement Discussion organization.-
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The word “youth” brings passion to our hearts. Our youth is the most beautiful and most passionate time in our lives. Our young people should be going out and doing what they want, what they think is best, with enthusiasm and sincerity. What, though, does the word “youth” mean in our society today?
These days, the Korean youth are pushed to the edge of a precipice, to the end of a dead-end road. If the lives of our youth are miserable now, this foreshadows a much greater misery that our society will face in the future. If Korean youth today have no hope, it is a sure sign that there will be no hope in our society in the future.
Last October, the Seoul Metropolitan Government went to people’s workplaces, where people spend the majority of their lives, as part of the “Employment Trail” initiative. There, I met with young people, many of whom have abandoned all hope. The words of one young person pierced my heart like a dagger: “If I had hope for tomorrow, I would be able to endure any hardship I face today. But there is no tomorrow for us.”
With the youth unemployment rate in Seoul having exceeded 20% long ago, the Seoul Metropolitan Government refuses to give up on our youth, as they are our future. Therefore, we have developed comprehensive measures to address the issues facing Seoul’s youth, who have fallen through the cracks of the central government’s youth policy.
For the past three years, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has worked together with our youth and related experts in their workplaces to create the “Seoul Youth Guarantee” plan. We carefully examined the issues that youth face in regional workplaces, which are beyond the central government’s reach, and launched 20 projects in four areas designed to strengthen the capacity and support the independence of our youth, hopefully giving them a way to overcome the difficult reality they face. One of these projects is the “Youth Activity Support Project,” which has recently become the subject of much controversy. This support project is fundamentally different from the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s “Successful Employment Package,” which attempts to increase employment simply through vocational training.
The lives of our youths have changed, so why should youth policy stay the same? We know that our project is not a perfect solution, but we created it by carefully considering the current perspectives and the future visions of young people themselves, doing our best to come up with a comprehensive plan.
Above all, the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s youth policy is a policy that aims to lessen the burden on individuals and families. As such, it is also a policy for the middle-aged, or the parents of young people today. If we are able to provide more support for our youth, the burden on families will become lighten, allowing parents to stand a little taller and bringing more warmth to the lives of the elderly.
Despite the fact that this is a good policy, capable of resolving many of the difficult issues that our desperate youth face every day, the central government and political parties have attacked this policy for their own political gain and from the perspective of their respective factional stances. Moreover, the government and legislature passed the amendment to the ordinance for the Local Subsidy Act at the Cabinet meeting without holding any discussions with local governments. We made repeated requests to postpone the decision on the ordinance so that we could have the time we needed to discuss our policy, but we only received the incredulous answer: “We could have stipulated it as an unlawful activity under a special penalty clause.” Finally, the revised bill was officially announced today.
The revised ordinance for the Local Subsidy Act, however, is not free from illegality.
Even the Framework Act on Social Security, which provides for excessive oversight of the welfare activities of local governments, lacks a clear mandatory clause for local government heads to follow, and it is not based on any deliberation or resolution of the Social Security Committee or the results of consultations with the Minister of Health and Welfare. Therefore, allowing the reduction of local subsidies for not abiding by the act is a violation of the Local Subsidy Act, which stipulates that local subsidies should be reduced “only in the case of a breach of the law.” The idea that the central government will use local subsidies to exercise effective control over policies related to the welfare of residents of local jurisdictions with guaranteed rights to local autonomy is an excessive infringement on the right to local autonomy and a clear violation of the spirit of the Constitution.
If such an infringement on the right to local autonomy, as well as on the essence of the local autonomy system, actually occurs, we will review the procedure for submitting a request to the Constitutional Court of Korea regarding the jurisdiction over the adjudication of competence disputes.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s youth policy is not something that the central government should be worried about. Rather, it should join hands with us and invest in this effort, because the youth of Seoul are the youth of the entire Republic of Korea. However, if even this youth policy is used for political or factional purposes, then on whom should our people depend for their livelihoods, and our youth for their future?
We respectfully request that the central government, National Assembly, and the ruling and opposition parties open up the way to the future. Instead of resisting and reducing youth policies and regional welfare implemented by local governments, please foster the livelihoods of our people through mutual cooperation. Our youth policy, which determines the lives of the youth as well as the future of our society, should be something that brings us together in mutual agreement.
Today, I would like to propose the establishment of a great social agreement discussion organization as a means of resolving the discord over youth and welfare policy and finding the path to consensus. I propose the formation of an organization where the central government, the National Assembly, political parties, our youth, welfare recipients, and local governments can all come together and engage in discussion. Either the central government or National Assembly can take the initiative on this. The Seoul Metropolitan Government and I are ready to talk and negotiate with any organization or person in order to come up with measures through which we can resolve the issues that our youths and citizens face.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says a chick can only break through its shell and come out into the world if it tries to break the shell from the inside while the mother hen tries to break the shell from the outside. The same is true for youth policy. Only when the central government’s principles and local governments’ efforts come together can we achieve the best and most creative results.
Now is the time for the central government, the National Assembly, and the ruling and opposition parties to put their heads together to resolve the issues that our youth and citizens face today. Our future and the fate of our nation are at stake. The issue of our youth policy cannot be resolved through the influence and effort of just one organization. All organizations and all generations must come together to address the difficult reality in which our youths and citizens are living.
For youths facing insurmountable hardships, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will serve as a shoulder to lean on. We will never ignore or turn our back on our young people. We will stand side-by-side with young people so that they may become respected members of our society. Until the day our youth are able to live the lives they deserve, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will never give up, no matter what obstacles we may face. We will keep fighting for the lives and happiness of our youth and for the very future of our society. Please join us on this journey.