Today more than 85% of the Solomon Islands live in rural area that include in the 3.3 billion people live in rural areas around the world. Rural development is therefore of vital significance if the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” – is to become reality.
However, Solomon Islands unanimously adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) on Sep. 25 at the UN headquarters in New York.
The focus was on the New Rural Development Paradigm and the Inclusive and Sustainable New Communities Model, which is inspired by the successful Saemaul Undong in Korea.
First of all I want to highlight here that our national Leaders should have pledged to create a life of dignity for all people.
They should have promised to leave no one behind, including families in rural areas. There will be no progress on global movement without local development.”
The Korean model of rural development administration through the Samaul undong is a successful model that small least developing state like Solomon Islands would learn from along with its principles that could inspire other developing countries.
“The Korean countryside went from poverty to prosperity, adding that the Saemaul Undong shares the ultimate targets of the SDGs. Based on the key principles of education, diligence, self-help and mutual cooperation, Saemaul Undong can be the new rural development paradigm for the sustainable prosperity of the world, and Solomon Islands would learn from.
Saemaul Undong, “uplifted Korea and has transformed their society. They were among the poorest countries in the world now they are among the top 50 economies globally, and they are in the top ranks of major international aid donors.”
Although most attribute South Korea’s history of development to the country’s booming industry, I do believe that Saemaul Undong was the critical factor which led to success in the 1970’s, and it is an inspiration for future environmentally sustainable development in today’s era of rapid urbanization and industrialization.
This movement is needed in order for every person to change their vision from hopeless to hopeful, and from poverty to prosperity, Therefore, to my understanding Korea would like to share this development experience with every country in the world.
The prominent aspects setting Saemaul Undong apart from mainstream development strategies, have been or are in the process of being incorporated into development projects in 30 countries around the world, such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia.
They include strategies such as promoting a can-do spirit, an enlightening perception of gender equality, and human rights.
Park Chung-hee, the father of current South Korean President Park Geun-hye, initiated the Saemaul Undong movement in 1970 by giving cement and steel to each village, ranking each village according to how well the villagers put the resources to use.
The state then gave the top ranking villages more resources, thus creating an incentive as well as a sense of unity to work hard together in order to compete with neighboring villages.
Consequently, the program encouraged a sense of unity and belief in citizens that they can be a part of making their community and their country a better place to live.
Motivational tools such as flags, songs, and spiritual testimonials raised people’s enthusiasm.
“This is why music is a big part of the development process,” The two most popular songs sung by communities were composed by President Hee.
The song “Jal Sala Boseh” sent a message of being rich and prosperous, and “Saebyuck Jong-i “a new day is beginning, let’s get together to build a new village.
A strong belief in self-reliance, through local agencies, the idea of making the country less dependent on foreign aid, and eventually less dependent on government, were key growth strategies,
They also led to more sustainable projects, which by the early 1980’s, were funded more by community resources and financing instead of the government budget.
The Korean government policy led to the building of Saemaul training centers which linked the central government to local officials and residents implementing projects, which include leadership training for women at provincial and central training institutes.
Can the Saemaul Undong experience be replicated successfully somewhere else? 92 percent of the global rural population of 3.3 billion lives in developing countries, and it is projected to grow further till 2028. Therefore, using “rural lenses” is indispensable for the implementation and success of the SDGsThe majority of the poor are concentrated in rural areas, struggling with rising inequalities, and constraint by the inability of urban areas to absorb them.
Because these people face environmental, social and economic instability, they cannot be left behind. “We need to keep in mind that rural development is not synonymous of agriculture nor with decline.
Agriculture represents a crucial part of rural economies. Any increase in agricultural productivity will produce further rural population redundancy, which is not necessarily employed by agriculture,
When discussing rural development, it is important to refer to an economy that is local, which includes agriculture, but it also goes far beyond including non-farming jobs as well.
Therefore, rural development will not necessarily coincide with agricultural development, nor will it necessarily coincide only with industrial development. This, in turn, will bring a revolutionary approach to policy-making.
What the new rural paradigm, based on the Saemaul Undong movement, should imply is a new “type of local and regional development, a multi-sectoral, multi-agent and multi-dimensional development, which needs to take into account different activities,” our current government agendas should concentrate on diverse assets of rural areas, which require different types of designed interventions.
When central governments act on general schemes, putting input policies and without taking local population and local knowledge into account, very often they fail,
Hence, one actor cannot make it happen alone. But if the public sector wants to be effective it needs to involve the private sector, unions, NGOs, CBOs and Rural training centers and citizens.
The crucial point here is how to valorize assets that have not yet been used for the betterment of the people in the rural, isolated and remoted regions in the Solomon Islands.
However, the Saemaul Undong should not be taught as a transplant-ready model to be
replicated in Solomon Islands. Rather, Korea’s comprehensive rural development
experience, including the role of Saemaul Undong, should be shared and studied.
Based on an understanding of Korea’s historical context and development approach, Our Leaders can draw general lessons and principles that they assess as relevant to their own situations. Rural development programs are not new in most developing countries including Solomon Islands.
Other countries are not starting from a clean slate. It is important to understand and, where possible, build on indigenous efforts. There is much that Solomon Islands can learn by studying Korea’s rural development experience.
Perhaps the most important lesson is the importance of the larger context within which the SMU was implemented. Other countries and communities have different histories and face different constraints, and leaders must adapt the SMU approach to their own situations. Another lesson is that sustainable, widespread improvements depend on leadership, action and investments at both the national level and the community level.
In Solomon Islands with committed national leadership, Korea can provide assistance in planning nationwide programs for accelerating rural development in coordination with KOICA and other ODA programs.
The Saemaul Undong Center can support the creation or strengthening of national rural development training centers, similar to the Saemaul Leadership Training Center created by President Park.
In countries with weak governance a bottom-up approach may be more appropriate.
In this case Korea can identify, train and support civil society leaders who are passionate about improving rural communities in their country and who can inspire a growing movement. The SMU Center has already trained hundreds of such potential leaders.
Initial results may be limited to a few target communities and sustainability may be a challenge. Programs are needed to provide follow-up support to assist these leaders in creating self-reliant national movements that can apply the lessons of Korea’s experience to nationwide rural development.
Sharing the Saemaul experience, like all development cooperation, should be a mutual learning experience. Korean leaders have the Saemaul experience and spirit as well as resources and are ready to share these. Armed with deep knowledge of the history and context of other countries, they can offer effective support.
Leaders in developing countries have their own experience, as well as commitment, local knowledge and the courage to innovate in difficult circumstances.
They can study Korea’s experience and adapt it to their own situation. In this way, both Koreans and their partners in developing countries continue a mutual learning process, inspired by the success of Saemaul Undong.
Finally, as a matter of fact, that our government of the day should play an Proactive approached rather than reactive approached in order to achieved its current Policy that embark on change that can lead to better standard of living in rural society.
By Qwanafia Michael Bilau