In a special address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in January, Yoon Suk Yeol, President of the Republic of Korea, called for solidarity and unity in safeguarding freedom and strong cooperation in addressing the many shared challenges the world faces.
Welcoming the president, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, asked Yoon to share his vision for the Republic of Korea and its role in the international community. “There are many challenges the world faces in the year ahead, and we need leaders with shared values to help shape a better and more inclusive future for all,” Schwab said.
Yoon said the world is facing several crises, including economic uncertainty, geopolitical risks, social fragmentation and weakening of multilateral trade system. He added that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated supply shocks and disrupted already fragile supply chains. In addition to essential sectors like food and energy, the supply chains of vital infrastructure, such as semiconductors, are also under threat.
“The most urgent task of our time is to enhance resilience of the global supply chain,” he said. This can only be achieved with close cooperation of the international community, in compliance with international trade laws and norms.
Block-forming among nations is not the answer, he said. “Building up walls and intensifying protectionism cannot be the right solution.”
To counter emerging global fragmentation, he called for enhanced intergovernmental collaboration. “The free flow of knowledge, capital and goods across borders has helped push our civilization forward,” he said. “We cannot forget the positive benefits and successful history of multilateralism and free trade.”
On climate, Yoon stressed that the energy transition and energy security are not mutually exclusive goals. He argued that renewable and green energy sources, such as nuclear power and green hydrogen, will bolster energy security as well as achieve carbon neutrality goals. “Korea is a leader in both nuclear energy and green hydrogen and can help other countries build capacity,” he said.
The Korean government is committed to increasing the country’s nuclear energy in the power mix to more than 30% by 2030. At the same time, the production of clean hydrogen will be significantly ramped up with special focus on green hydrogen – made entirely from renewable energy.
Yoon also identified the worsening digital divide as an emerging challenge, and said South Korea will establish a comprehensive framework enumerating basic rights for digital access, referred to as the Digital Bill of Rights. “Digital access is a universal right,” he said. Specific initiatives will promote digital industries, establish related social infrastructure and foster talent in digital fields.
In closing, President Yoon reflected on the responsibilities that global leaders face: “We share a duty to share a compelling vision of the future with our young people.”
Photo credit: iStock/ mnbb