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S. Korea’s Saemul Movement introduced as an effective rural development model to spiral economic transformation in developing countries

Developing countries have the capacity to develop and address the challenges of  urbanisation, poverty, low agricultural productivity, poor infrastructure and unemployment using the available resources.

The assurance was made by The President of the Saemaul movement Jai Chang Lee while delivering a public lecture on the South Korea’s Rural Community development model at Makerere University on October 19, 2012. He said   economic development can be achieved through a special reform program to transform the rural communities.

Jai Chang said Korea, a former  colony of Japan  was devasted  by the Korean war that continued  for three years from 1950 and became one of the poorest countries in the world  with  a per capita income  below US$ 100, but today, it has developed  to become the 9th  largest economy in the world using a simple community model that was established in by the late President  Park Joeng Hee in 1970.

CAES Ag. Principal Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa, Jai Chang Lee, the interpreter and Korean Ambassador during a public lecture.


“The basic spirit of Saemaul undong is a mental reform. Reason is that rural development cannot succeed without mental reform based on own cultures, traditions and national spirit. Korea’s Saemaul Undong was   implemented based on  the Saemaul spirits of diligence, self help and cooperation”.

He said, the strategy involved the government  motivation of farmers by providing 335 sacks of cement  to 33,267  villages  nationwide in 1971 and issuance of guidelines for villagers  to select projects required in their respective villages. As a result villagers held meetings to discuss project implementation like construction of the village roads, how to secure land, labour transport and others.

The Korean Government evaluated the projects of villages and about 16,600mvillage were found successful and were provided additional supply of 500 sacks of cement and one ton of steel. The villages not given additional government support were stimulated by government’s priority  support system to successful villages and as a result  when all villages were  evaluated again after one year in 1973, 6,000 villages  were found to have implemented   Saemul projects with their own resources without government support.

Some of the participants during the public lecture

Using the western proverbs President Jia Chang Lee said, “There is a western proverb that says, ‘The early bird gets the worm’, the proverb emphasises the importance of diligence. In addition, there is a western proverb that points out the importance of the self help spirit, such as, “Heaven helps those who help themselves” and for the meaning of cooperation, there is another proverb, “ Two heads are better than one”. In other words 1+1=2+a”.

He said Korea’s experience can be emulated basing on local conditions in the developing world to overcome poverty. He implored the young generation and Makerere Universty to play a leading role as an agent of mindset change to spiral economic development pledging his commitment to take more Ugandans to Korea to study the models.

In his speech, Ag. Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa gave his personal experience on his visit to Korea, that he went with high expectations to be booked in a five star hotel, only to be introduced to the issues of development by sleeping  on a one inch mattress on ground  and shared a communal bathroom, but he learnt that  a lot of  public funds are misused on luxuries.

“We were contemplating to get back on the plane, but the first lecture changed  our mindset and introduced us to what made Korea and got convinced that we have the capacity to use the available resources to develop” , Prof. Kyamanywa narrated as the audience nodded their heads in agreement.

Ag. Principal CAES, Prof. Samuel Kyamanywa delivering his speech

He said despite  the available resources endowed by nature, developing nations continue to grapple with  challenges of urbanisation, low agricultural productivity, population pressure on land, climate change and sidelining income disparity between  rural and urban dwellers due to a missing gap of the rural development plan that can transform communities to be self sustaining.

“Since we went to Korea, we have been able to introduce the Canaan  spirit and tried to encourage students to clean their rooms and to give them a mindset that is different but we still need  a lot of support to get more pioneers into the process of changing the way things are done”. He added.

Saemul Model has been piloted in Uganda since 2009 in Kitemu and Katereke sub counties where village communities have participated in rehabilitation of access roads, construction of boreholes and established projects in poultry, fishing and Bakery.  46 trainees including ministers, professors and students have so far visited Korea to see how the model has worked for the Koreans.


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