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Lessons from South Korea

Fri, 13 Jun 2008 10:05:00
The Government kept the prices of agri- produces high to increase the rural incomes. As a result of the efforts, rural income steadily increased. In 1974, the rural income surpassed the urban income. In 1978, 98% of all villages became economically self-reliant.
Bishnupada Sethi
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In India, we implement a number of programs for rural development. But there is no policy of using a competitive system that would cause total involvement of the rural community.

Our methodology does not have any role for an inspired leadership; and the funding from the government mostly does not act as a stimulus for the villagers.

We have never adopted any sustained policy of praising and rewarding villages for their community spirit. In our government driven programs, we have never thought of creating a dedicated cadre of community leaders for getting the total involvement of the villagers.

In contrast, the government of South Korea started Saemaul Undong, meaning, a new village movement in 1970s, which caused a frontal attack on poverty.

Until then, the Korean society was poverty stricken, with the per capita GNP of 85 dollars. The majority of Korean people did not have enough food.

The economy was based on agriculture, which was ravaged by consistent floods and draught causing frequent famine. Lethargy, chaos and frustration defined the Korean society.

The government did not have enough funds to thwart poverty, and largely depended on foreign aid to meet the domestic need.

Today, South Korea is a miracle to many. It is the only Nation in the world history to have attained a per capita income of USD10000.00 in a span of just 33 years and now ranked as the 12th largest economy. The current par capita income is about USD 20000.00

Saemaul Undong is an action based project. It starts with a mental reform that anything is possible with a strong will power.

Saemaul Undong is a struggle for a better life, for the individual as well as the society as a whole. It is a project to build a foundation for a better life. A better life for the family and neighbours, along with society and the nation is the goal for Saemaul Undong.

There are three main values for Saemaul Undong which created a new society and a prosperous nation.

They are; diligence, self-help and cooperation. Diligence leads to sincerity, a value that doesn't allow for falseness, hypocrisy and vanity. Self-help defines one's achievement based on one's effort.

 One has to be totally independent and must not ask for help from the outside. Cooperation is based on a pursuit for community growth. Community growth should be a team effort.

With such an approach, South Korea was able to build a united community and rich nation.

After the floods of 1969, the people of Korea were repairing roofs and roads on their own.

This impressed the then President Park Jung Hee, who was eager to help the rural community.

The President realized that government aid would make less meaning unless the people decided to do things with self-help spirit. The rural community's self help and cooperation should be the key to developing the rural areas, he strongly believed.

During the 1970s, the government experimentally proposed 10 major projects for improving rural areas.

These included expanding and straightening local roads, improving roofs, kitchens and fences, opening laundry facilities, community wells, building bridges and improving water systems.

Thirty five thousand rural villages were given free 355 sacks of cement each. The projects were under the sole custody of the village community. 16,000 villages showed major improvements.

The majority of the projects were done by dovetailing with village funds and using self-labor.

During the second year of the nationwide project, villages showing major improvements were supplied with extra 500 sacks of cement and another one ton of steel wire by the government. The government decided to help those villages that help themselves.

Thatched roofs and mud fences were replaced with modern tiles and cemented walls. Roadsides were expanded, riverbanks were repaired, and bridges were built in rural villages.

As a result the villages developed with blinding speed. The rural people regained their confidence. Lazy neighbors were stimulated to develop their own villages. Korea's rural areas showed signs of urbanization and development.

Gaining confidence on the third year, the government decided to split the 35 thousand villages into three categories depending on their level of development. There was a difference in the amount of government aid in the three different categories.

Environment projects increased in size as the years progressed. Housing and other facilities were restructured to fit the rural community.

Modernization in kitchen and bathrooms along with new water pipelines were implemented. Community and public facilities such as village centers, multi purpose recreational centers along with public baths, warehouses and other public facilities were built.

The success of the environmental projects led to the projects for increasing the productivity.

The people repaved the small paths into roads, so farming vehicles could make way into the fields. The government played a major role for the increase in rural income. In 1974, the rural output reached unprecedented levels.

Moreover, developing watering systems, cleaning the streams and farming areas were the key developing points for increasing the productivity of the rural community.

Big projects such as building roads and sewage systems were done as a joint venture with neighboring villages to reduce costs.

 The government built factories in the rural areas to increase the income. Saemaul factories gave women a workplace and a chance to increase the total income.

Education caused a revolution in farming methods. Conventional farming methods for raising rice and barely were changed to composite farming.

Making agriculture complexes for profitable products such as mushrooms and tobacco helped to increase the overall income. Greenhouses allowed the farmers to produce fresh vegetables during the winter.

Making community work places enabled the people to reduce unnecessary money loss due to individual labor. Raising cows, pigs and chicken allowed for more profits. Fishing villages changed their production methods from fishing to breeding fish.

 The Government kept the prices of agri- produces high to increase the rural incomes. As a result of the efforts, rural income steadily increased. In 1974, the rural income surpassed the urban income. In 1978, 98% of all villages became economically self-reliant.

The Saemaul Undong factories directed energy to restoring the trust and affection of consumers and the general public as a whole.

Emphasis was laid on consolidating the foundation for industrial peace and coexistence by bridging the gap in value systems between labor and management, and establishing sound corporate ethics.

Rural community service was another way of establishing sound moral ethics. The Saemaul schools were the foundations of the Saemaul spirit. Students learned about Saemaul Undong and its contributions to society. Especially, the rural libraries provided information for new methods of farming.

After a year of experimentation, the government recognized the importance of a leader. Villages with a leader followed the national guidelines properly unlike the villages without leaders.

 The government opened the training institute for Saemaul leaders in 1972. The leadership training emphasized on self-sacrifice and setting a positive example.

Education took place in a communal camp, where they would learn teamwork and cooperation. Interactive education done by sharing success stories during small group discussions, and offers for continued guidance and assistance were given to the leaders.

The leaders after the training were the main source of leadership and guidance for the other villagers.

Saemaul Undong in 1970's was successful due to the Saemaul leaders and the government. This is the case in the sense that these two have succeeded in sustaining voluntary cooperation among the farmers.

Korean government provided necessary information to the farmers through Saemaul leaders. Saemaul leaders, in turn, informed their neighbors of the necessary information and the best feasible strategies.

 The government's supports, based on the level of farmers cooperative efforts, were successful in providing strong and efficient incentives for the farmers. Accordingly, the farmers cooperated both actively and voluntarily.

India has a very functional decentralized Panchayati Raj system; and huge investments are being made for rural development.

The institutions of Palli Sabha, Gram Sabha create a lot of scope for diligence, self help and co-operation for village development.

A certain changes in the development methodology that calls for community contribution to the project cost, community involvement in project planning and implementation, selection and training of village leaders, rewarding the village leaders and villages for their exemplary community action can help attainment of our goals effectively.

Saemaul Undong spirit is very much a desirable value for a developing nation like India.

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