By Chung Min-uck
Kim Soon-hee, a professor at Syracuse University in New York, has called on the Korean government to export the “Saemaul (new village) Movement” to developing countries.
“Korea’s ODA (Official Development Assistance) has a great opportunity like the Saemaeul Movement,” said Kim in an interview with The Korea Times, Wednesday.
“The donor state membership (for Korea) was achieved in 2010. So to me that’s a significant opportunity to create our own model of development-oriented administration, because we have our own experience and assessment.”
The government-led movement carried out by the late President Park Chung-hee in the 1970s was a pan-national modernization campaign to turn the agricultural society into an industrialized nation in a short period of time.
It is widely considered a milestone for Korea’s rapid economic development. At present, developing countries in Southeast Asia such as Sri Lanka and African countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Cameroon are expecting to learn and apply the model to their own countries.
Kim explained that earning the status of a donor state from being a recipient of foreign aid just decades ago is something that needs to be praised but at the same time Korea should feel a responsibility to give what it received back to the world in a more detailed manner.
“We know that we cannot just give them this model. We have to consider first how our model was successful, the failures of our experience and what were the strength and weakness. We should openly share with other countries,” Kim said.
The expert on public affairs stressed the importance of conducting a self-assessment of the movement before implementing it in other countries. She pointed out the strengths of the movement were strong leadership with in-depth understanding of the indigenous situation and people’s civic duty joining in community building, with the weakness of missing the social context of freedom of speech, ideology among others.
“We need to critically assess the positive and negative aspects of the Saemaeul Movement,” said Kim.
In particular, the professor pointed out that the model should be modified and re-designed to reflect each country’s historical and social background.
“They should understand that they cannot copy any policies or practical tools from Korea directly,” said Kim. “Give them the tools and the theories. Then they need to form their own national philosophy and government values to create their own model. So never assume that if you teach the Korean way of development that they will do the same as what we have done. Give them ownership of what they should do.”
Kim is an expert in areas such as public management, strategic human resources management, electronic government, local governance and leadership development. As a faculty member of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, she regularly talks to senior government officials from China and India on human resources management and government innovation issues.