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Candlelight vigils set an example to world democracy: Moon

President Moon Jae-in vowed to work for peace on the Korean Peninsula for the sake of world peace, and praised his country’s peaceful protests that ousted his scandal-ridden predecessor, in his acceptance speech for a global award in New York on Tuesday.

The US think tank Atlantic Council presented the Global Citizen Award to Moon, in recognition of his life-long dedication to the advocacy of human rights and democracy, and his efforts to defuse tensions with North Korea and contribute to regional stability.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is presented with the Global Citizen Award by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in New York on Tuesday. Moon was one of three winners of the annual award given by the US think tank Atlantic Council. (Yonhap)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is presented with the Global Citizen Award by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in New York on Tuesday. Moon was one of three winners of the annual award given by the US think tank Atlantic Council. (Yonhap)

In his speech, President Moon said South Korean citizens had set an example of democracy for the rest of the world, referring to the candlelight vigils that drew thousands of ordinary citizens to the streets of Seoul with the shared goal of removing former President Park Geun-hye from office. Park is currently under prosecutorial trial over corruption and coercion charges after she was ousted by the Constitutional Court in March.

“I am a leader elected from the revolutionary candlelight vigils, and I stand here today to receive the award on behalf of South Koreans on their feat of the peaceful rallies for democracy,” he said after receiving the award from Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in New York.

“South Koreans have proved to the world that power in a democratic country comes from citizens, and also proved to me, who became a president because of such power, that a president, too, is only one of those people.”

President Moon, who also joined the street protests, was inaugurated on May 10, a day after he won a by-election.

During the massive rallies that saw the participation of some 17 million over a few months, there had not been a single case of arrest or violence, he highlighted. “I believe the citizens of South Korea who have shown the world the power of peace and gave hope to the world’s democracy qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize.”

Democracy in Korea is moving forward to promote and completely realize people’s rights, he said.

A former human rights lawyer, the president also said the country would move to set another example for economic democracy and peace.

“The people of the Republic of Korea and I are in the process of making a new paradigm of economic democracy called ‘the people-centered economy.’ I am confident that Republic of Korea is also capable of presenting a solution for low-growth and economic polarization, which is a global concern,” he said.

As Lagarde presented the award to Moon, she paid tribute to his strength and dedication for South Korea.

“To lead a great society such as Korea takes both strength and courage. And perhaps now more than ever, it takes a global citizen,” Lagarde said.

Two other award recipients, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese pianist and philanthropist Lang Lang, were also present at the event.

President Moon is currently attending the UN General Assembly in New York. He will return home Friday.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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