- - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On March 1, South Korean President Park Geun-hye gave an address on the 97th March First Independence Movement Day. The following are excerpts from that speech.

The spirit of the March First Independence Movement led to the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, and we eventually realized long-yearned-for independence. Then, we rose out of the ashes of war and accomplished industrialization and democratization, building a proud Republic of Korea standing tall in the world.

After achieving the liberation of our homeland that was so desperately longed for 97 years ago, we live in a free and prosperous country. Now it is our solemn debt to our forefathers, who have built this country with their blood, to pass on to posterity a peacefully unified Korea.

Fellow Koreans, I believe that the realization of the spirit of the March First Independence Movement in this age would be none other than to achieve peaceful unification and make it possible for our children and grandchildren to live peacefully in a wealthy and powerful Korean Peninsula.

While the Government has firmly responded to North Korean provocations, it has sought to promote inter-Korean dialogue and nongovernmental exchanges and cooperation, and provided much assistance and made concessions to the North in order to build trust and lay the foundation for peaceful unification.

Nonetheless, after conducting its third nuclear test right before the inauguration of the current Administration, North Korea has yet again seriously threatened our safety with more extreme provocation — the fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launch. Even now, the North is openly declaring that it will continue to carry out nuclear and missile provocations.

If we were to allow North Korea to keep on making such reckless provocations, fifth and sixth nuclear tests will ensue, and its nuclear program will pose a substantial threat not only to the survival of the Korean people, but also to the stability of Northeast Asia and peace around the globe. This will pose a challenge and threat to the peace that the Republic of Korea and the entire world are determined to achieve.

It has now become unmistakably clear that the current approach will not be able to curb the North’s determination to develop nuclear weapons. We must make North Korea clearly realize that efforts to sustain its regime by exploiting its people and concentrating resources on nuclear development are futile and meaningless.

More forcefully than ever before, the international community is demonstrating its united determination not to countenance North Korea’s nuclear program. More than 100 countries have joined in strongly condemning Pyongyang’s nuclear test, and the toughest and most effective sanctions resolution ever on the North is expected to be adopted soon by the United Nations Security Council. This resolution is the crystallization of the uncompromising determination of the international community that North Korea must be made to pay a grave price for committing a nuclear test and long-range missile launch with total disregard for Security Council resolutions and the international community.

Moreover, the United States has passed a North Korea Sanctions Bill, and other friendly countries, including Japan and the European Union, are joining in taking measures to impose crippling sanctions.

The Government will always keep the door to dialogue open, but if North Korea shows no intention to denuclearize and refuses to change, Korea and the international community will keep up the pressure. On the basis of stronger security readiness and international cooperation, the Government will use every means to make sure that the North has no choice but to give up its nuclear ambitions. Now, the choice is North Korea’s to make.

I believe that countries neighboring the Korean Peninsula will redouble their efforts to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the world …

We long for unification because we hope that the Korean Peninsula will become the starting point of a nuclear-free world and that our North Korean brethren may share the freedom, human rights and prosperity we enjoy today. The Government will strive to make a new Korean Peninsula permeated with peace, affluence and freedom. I firmly believe this is the culmination of the spirit of the March First Independence Movement.

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