President Moon Jae-in pledged on Tuesday to uphold and transcend the dream of Roh Moo-hyun, his friend, co-worker and a former president whose fight against the establishment sharply divided the nation.
During a memorial marking the eighth anniversary of his death, Moon reiterated his pledge to restore a normal nation, which he said has been undermined during the two conservative governments after Roh's death.
"Our dream must now go beyond those of the Roh government and expand to building a new Republic of Korea, a nation that is truly a nation," he told the nationally televised memorial service, held in Bongha, the former president's native hometown located some 450 kilometers south of Seoul.
Moon served as Roh's senior secretary and then chief of staff during the late former leader's 2003-2008 presidency. After retirement, Roh killed himself amid a prosecution investigation into corruption allegations involving his family members.
Moon was the first incumbent president to have taken part in the service. Moon's attendance apparently sought to reinstate Roh's honor, but he said it will be the last time he will attend the annual service as a president.
He said Roh's vision for a society fair and equal to all was what had inspired the people to want change, eventually leading to his own victory in the presidential election.
"My dream is to build a government for all people, become a president for every citizen," he said.
Moon became president after winning the May 9 by-election triggered by a corruption scandal involving his predecessor.
Since taking office the following day, Moon has basked in one of the highest approval ratings for a South Korean president, which he attributed to nothing but his efforts to return the nation to normalcy.
"These days, I am receiving many undeserved praises and affections from the people. It is not because I have done something special. Only, my determination to become a normal president, my efforts to build a normal nation have been considered something special," the president said.
"This means our society has remained seriously abnormal for a long time as to make mere efforts to build a normal state be considered something very special," he added.
The president said he will seek changes that are desired or demanded by the people, while also keeping the speed and scope of the changes to those approved by the people.
"Even when it comes to reforms, I will not pursue them because they are the personal beliefs of mine, Moon Jae-in, or because I believe they are right. Rather, I will pursue them because they are beneficial to the people, and they are wanted by the people," the president said.
"If the people move ahead, we will speed up, and if the people slow down, we will talk to persuade them to move faster," he added.
But once the government moves to make a necessary or endorsed change, it will work to implement the change to the end, the president noted.
"We will strongly push for reforms as to make sure that what the Moon Jae-in government could not finish will continue under the next democratic government," he said. (Yonhap)