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Saemaul Undong Interpreted within the Frameowrk of Governance

December 1, 2008

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Summary

Despite the consistent emphasis and the growing diversity of aid programmes provided by some of the economically advanced Member States and/or international organizations, poverty in Africa – especially in Sub-Saharan rural areas – remain a serious issue, and its prospect of reaching the internationally agreed development goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the UN remain rather pessimistic. Aside from the need of sound financial support, coming up with effective prescriptive measures to this predicament must accompany viable methods which not only ground themselves upon convincing theories but also actively incorporate proven benefits of the past country and regional cases that have demonstrated aspects of practical success. In view of this necessity for benchmarking the actual success models, UNPOG directed its attention to Korea’s community development movement otherwise referred to as “Saemaul Undong” (or the New Village Movement) which initiated during the period of 1970s, which, following its positive effects in the rural areas, eventually spread to the country’s urban regions, establishing itself to become a national phenomenon. Considered as the principal propelling force behind Korea’s economic and social development, Saemaul model (and their diverse practical variants) have already been implemented in regions outside its original country, and is still the subject of great interest to governance practitioners in diverse developing countries, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia. 

UNPOG research on the Saemaul Undong has focused on the following two themes: a) Saemaul Undong Movement interpreted within the framework of governance, and b) Application of Saemaul Undong approaches to African rural development. 

This first research paper focused on establishing theoretical analysis of Saemaul Undong from a local development perspective, simultaneously exploring practical elements which need to be taken into account if and when the model gets transferred to divergent economic, social, and geo-political settings outside Korea. This particular research on Saemaul intends to complement its heretofore promotional character, which largely has been based upon the mere dissemination and/or publicizing of the model’s benefits without sufficient theoretical analysis. In this theoretical study, a special attention will also be paid to highlighting concrete mechanisms through which citizen participation and empowerment are secured so as to reduce the level of local population’s passive dependence and communal lethargy which frequently constitute the fundamental obstacle to effective and sustainable development in the majority of under-developed countries. The constituent elements of this particular research paper consist of the following: 

▪ Reinterpretation of Saemaul from contemporary governance perspectives, including analysis of how the movement has contributed to the local/rural development through the enhancement of active citizen participation and empowerment 
▪ Establishment of a theoretic model/framework which could provide explanation of Korea's past success in creating local/rural governance system 
▪ Comparative analysis of local/rural development models of Korea and those of western economies 
▪ In-depth examination of possibilities as to how the movement could transfer to other rural communities in the region of Asia 
▪ Exploration of diagnostic instruments which could examine the movement's transferability to other countries/ regions 

* This research was published in Korean.

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