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Inaugural Address - Kim Yung-rok
Date 2017-07-12
Respected farmers, fellow Koreans, and those working at the Ministry and related organizations:

It is my pleasure to meet you all. My name is Kim Yung-rok, and I was appointed as the first Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs by President Moon Jae-in.

I feel honored to be here as the new minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, but I feel a great sense of responsibility because I have assumed an important role, with Korea’s agricultural sector and communities experiencing a very difficult time.

At the same time, I have an expectation that we will enable to realize the direction of our agriculture, farming areas, and food industry in actual rural areas via policies.

Since I started public service in 1978, I have had a wide array of administrative experiences in both local and central government.

As a member of the 18th and 19th National Assembly, I was able to hear the voices of farmers and local residents about agricultural issues. In particular, I tried to find policy-based solutions to major problems, when serving as manager of the National Assembly’s Agriculture, Forestry, Livestock, Food and Fishery Committee for six years, 

Looking back, there are many memories of success. I took the lead in supporting farmers’ work, by easing criteria on enforcing the direct payment system to make up for damage triggered by the FTA, and by raising the amount of compensation. I introduced direct payment for fields for the first time, adding one-ton trucks for farming to the list of vehicles subject to the use of tax-free oil for farming.       
 
I also strived to protect farmers’ interests by raising the target price of rice, which did not change for eight years because of the proposition of a bill, and by amending the Agricultural Land Act to set three years as the minimum period of lease of farm land. 
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However, there are many regrets, too. The income gap between urban and rural areas is still wide, and average annual agricultural income is stagnating at the level of 10 million won. The growth rate of the agricultural budget has not reached that of the national budget. These problems have not greatly improved, so we feel strongly that it is not easy to find solutions to agricultural problems.  

I think that it is impossible to revive agriculture without a determined will and without making great effort to turn the crisis of our agriculture into an opportunity.

Dear farmers and fellow citizens,

Our agriculture and rural areas are faced with many difficulties, such as expanding market openings and a shrinking population.

We are close to a full market opening with Korea-US FTA tariffs set to be abolished in 2026. Only 1.1% of farmers are aged under 40, making it harder to find young people in rural areas. 

Recently, rice prices dropped to 126,000 won, and AI has broken out for four consecutive years since 2014. Unprecedented droughts and hail have further aggravated farmers’ pain.

I believe that I have a lot of work to do.

Amid these difficult times, we need a reform of agricultural administration in order to develop our agriculture, farming areas, and the food industry.

First, I will concentrate all my capabilities on resolving and reforming pending issues.

Above all, I will take all the measures available to restore rice prices as a top priority.

To this end, we will isolate more than the amount of new crops in the market early this year and pre-emptively respond to the market by speeding up decision making and the time of decision announcements. We will devise all the necessary measures to stabilize the market, such as the conversion of rice into animal feed prior to harvest and overseas rice aid.

In addition, we will recover and stabilize rice prices early, through strong production adjustments beginning next year, to prevent over-production.

Second, we will prepare proper fundamental countermeasures for livestock diseases that break out frequently.

We need a radical solution, veering away from conventional approaches.

Just as fire trucks get to fire scenes quickly, we will establish preemptive and constant emergency response systems for livestock diseases all year round on the premise that AI and foot-and-mouth disease can occur at any time.

Third, we will devise permanent measures for drought problems, not makeshift solutions.

We will analyze the effects of climate change in depth and take action in a scientific and systematic manner.

We will prepare permanent measures to cope with weather changes, such as general water management systems, through basin systems that connect areas rich in water with areas that lack water.
 
Fourth, we will protect farmers from natural disasters and improve impractical systems and measures.

It is necessary to adjust disaster insurance clauses in accordance with reality, and to strengthen the level of coverage.
 
Disaster recovery costs also need to be readjusted to a realistic level.

In this manner, I will thoroughly review farmers’ difficulties in the field, and I will make an improvement to them immediately. 

Fifth, I will actively improve relevant systems to minimize damage to farmers who are negatively affected by the Solicitation Prohibition Act.

To this end, we will do our best to prepare improvement measures to give hope to farmers, by excluding agricultural and livestock products from the list of items subject to the Solicitation Prohibition Act and by raising price standards. 
 
Finally, we will establish a fair trade order between livestock companies with vertical linkage and affiliated farmers, and we will make the distribution structure transparent.

We will protect affiliated farmers and consumers by pushing forward with the introduction of a system to disclose chicken prices by production and distribution stages, and by strengthening punishments against unfair trade practices.  

We will stipulate the companies’ quarantine responsibilities and strengthen their social responsibilities. 

At the same time, we will prepare for the future of agriculture and farming areas in the mid-to long-term.

First, we will expand an income safety net in response to agriculture’s functions for common wealth so that farmers can operate without worry.
 
The direct payment system will be expanded and changed to improve the public-interest functions of agriculture and farming areas and to stabilize farmers’ income.

In order to stabilize highly fluctuating agricultural prices, we will strengthen the production stabilization system that guarantees reasonable prices for farmers. At the same time, we will stabilize supply and demand beforehand by actively nurturing producers' organizations, by councils in chief producing districts and organizations by item.

Second, we will promote agriculture as a sustainable life industry.

We will make agriculture a new future industry that young people will join and create new added value in order to support the settlement of young farmers in farming towns. With the aim of helping our agriculture to grow in quality we will actively nurture eco-friendly agricultural, forestry and livestock industries by raising direct payment for eco-friendly crops and by supporting local environmental conservation activities.

On top of that, we will lay the groundwork for animal welfare farming by establishing animal welfare standards befitting of our livestock farming environment, and by expanding support for certified farmers.

Third, we will build a cultural, ecological and welfare farming village that everyone wants to live in.

We will make farming villages beautiful places where people want to live, by expanding welfare and the basic living infrastructure indispensable to life such as medical care, education, and transportation by bases, and by preserving and developing the unique characteristics of farming such as ecology, scenery and culture.

Fourth, we will map out and implement a national food plan to provide healthy and safe food.

Through the establishment of national and regional food plans, we will expand support for quality control of agricultural and livestock products, national nutrition, and an improvement in our food culture. We will also establish a local circulation production and consumption system.

In addition, we will cultivate the food and food service industries as national strategic industries in accordance with new trends and changes, and increase jobs for young people.

Finally, we will scale up added value by integrating technology of the fourth industrial revolution with production, distribution and processing in agriculture, and we will develop agriculture into a future blue ocean.

We will expand smart farms that utilize cutting-edge technologies and cultivate industries related to agriculture such as seeds and biomaterials to expand the growth engines of agriculture, while helping to create new jobs such as revitalizing venture businesses in agriculture.


Dear fellow colleagues,

I need your help urgently to solve these problems.

I would like to ask those working at MAFRA and related organizations to listen to my requests.

Let’s implement policies with a focus on field-oriented reforming agriculture for the agricultural industry and farming areas.

The right answer to a question can be always found in the field.

There are many policies that farmers are paying attention to, such as support for disaster recovery and insurance for crop damage.

Let's check whether or not we have repeated the same old measures in response to the voices of farmers in the field from farmers’ perspectives, and let's decisively reform problematic parts.

I think that our MAFRA has failed to meet the expectation of the people as an organization for farmers.

Let's bring strong innovation to agricultural administration, so that we can hear people say that agricultural administration has changed and improved.

Let's implement agricultural administration of communications and empathy which places top priority on the will of farmers.

A good policy starts with communicating and empathizing.

We need to humble ourselves and communicate with farmers and consumers constantly, and create policies for them.

Every policy decision requires an effort to gather ideas through discussions and find the best solutions through collective intelligence.

Lastly, let's have enthusiasm, a sense of duty, and confidence in tasks.

It is high time for MAFRA personnel to change.
We must boldly throw away the sense of defeat, the expectation that our efforts will not pay off in the agricultural sector. We must innovate, in the confidence that our agriculture is the future of Korea.

Let's strive together for the new agriculture of Korea with our mission, self-confidence, enthusiasm, and dedication as core subjects that can revive agriculture.

I will take the lead. I will also communicate with related ministries and the National Assembly.

Dear fellow citizens and colleagues,

If each and every one of us loves agriculture and farming villages with the hearts of farmers, our agriculture can escape from this crisis and leap forward to a sustainable future industry, and rural villages can become hometown-like; pleasant and beautiful spaces to which people return. No country has developed into an advanced country without a strong agricultural industry.

Let's endeavor together to make our agriculture the future of a new Korea.

I hope that the people will pay much attention to the future of our agriculture, farming villages and food industry and give support to them with their love of their hometowns.

Thank you.




Kim Yung-rok, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
July 4, 2017

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