Saemaul Undong

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Saemaul Undong
교육 사진.jpg
Korean name
Hanja 새마을
Revised Romanization Saemaeul undong
McCune–Reischauer Saemaŭl undong

The Saemaul Undong, also known as the New Community Movement, New Village Movement, Saemaul Movement or Saema'eul Movement, was a political initiative launched on April 22, 1970 by South Korean president Park Chung-hee to modernize the rural South Korean economy. The idea was based on the Korean traditional communalism called Hyangyak (향약) and Doorae (두레), which provided the rules for self-governance and cooperation in traditional Korean communities. The movement initially sought to rectify the growing disparity of the standard of living between the nation's urban centres, which were rapidly industrializing, and the small villages, which continued to be mired in poverty. Diligence, self-help and collaboration were the slogans to encourage community members to participate in the development process. The early stage of the movement focused on improving the basic living conditions and environments whereas later projects concentrated on building rural infrastructure and increasing community income.[1] Though hailed as a great success in the 1970s, the movement lost momentum during the 1980s as the economic situation and political environment in South Korea changed rapidly.


The movement promoted self-help and collaboration among the people during its first phase, as the central government provided a fixed amount of raw materials to each of the participating villages free of charge and entrusted the locals to build whatever they wished with them. The government first selected 33,267 villages and provided 335 sacks of cement. 16,600 villages that demonstrated success were then granted additional resources of 500 sacks of cement and a ton of iron bars.[2]

The New Community Movement did much to improve infrastructure in rural South Korea, bringing modernized facilities such as irrigation systems, bridges and roads in rural communities. The program also marked the widespread appearance of orange tiled houses throughout the countryside, replacing the traditional thatched or choga-jip houses. Encouraged by the success in rural areas, the movement spread through factories and urban areas as well, and became a nationwide modernization movement.[3]

However, despite the Saemaul Movement's great success in reducing poverty and improving living conditions in rural areas during its first phase, income levels in urban areas were still higher than income levels in rural areas after the rapid industrialization of South Korea. The government-led movement with its highly centralized organization proved to be efficient in the 1970s and early 1980s, but it became less effective after South Korea entered into a more developed and industrialized stage, which diminished the momentum of the movement. The relatively low income levels in rural areas compared to urban areas became a major political issue in the late 1980s – one that no government intervention was able to fully solve during the first phase – and the movement proved ultimately inadequate in addressing the larger problem of migration from the villages to the cities by the country's younger demographic.[4] Moreover, the government-led centralized system caused corruption, such as misuse of funding, and changed South Korea's environment.

Recognizing these problems, the South Korean government changed the centralized structure of the movement by empowering civil society to lead the movement. Since 1998, the Saemaul Movement has entered into the second phase, focusing on new issues such as enhancing voluntary services in the community and international cooperation with developing countries.

Basic steps

The basic steps of the Saemaul Movement[5]

Step 1: Basic Arrangements

  1. Three arrangements for the start: People, Seed Money, Basic Principles
  2. Forming a Core Group 1: Leaders
  3. Forming a Core Group 2: Working Groups
  4. Forming a Core Group 3: Applying the principles to existing organizations
  5. Forming a Core Group 4: Sectional organizations
  6. Raising Seed Money 1: Through sample cooperative projects
  7. Raising Seed Money 2: By cooperative works

Step 2: Operation of the Project

  1. Principles and standards for selecting projects
  2. Planning a project
  3. Persuading villagers 1 - Setting a model to villagers
  4. Persuading villagers 2 - Encouraging 'you can do it’ spirit
  5. Collecting consensus 1- Small group meetings
  6. Collecting consensus 2- General meeting of villagers
  7. Let everybody play a their part
  8. Preparing and managing the public property
  9. Establishing the local Saemaul Movement center
  10. Encouraging 'we are the one' spirit
  11. Cooperating with other communities and the government

Step 3: Main Stage of the Project

  1. Project 1 for living environment improvement: Improving the houses
  2. Project 2 for living environment improvement: Eliminating inconveniences in the village
  3. Project 3 for living environment improvement: Creating an environment for increasing income
  4. Project 1 for income increase: Removing the obstacles
  5. Project 2 for income increase: Launching cooperative projects
  6. Project 3 for income increase: Commercializing things around you
  7. Project 4 for income increase: Introducing new ideas
  8. Project 5 for income increase: Modifying distribution system
  9. Project 6 for income increase: Operating a factory
  10. Consolidating community 1: Enhancing morals and communalism
  11. Consolidating community 2: Providing a cultural center and other facilities
  12. Consolidating community 3: Establishing a credit union

Step 4: Final Stage of the Project

  1. Sharing the results and celebrating the success
  2. Sharing the long-term prospects
  3. Stabilizing of joint funds
  4. Encouraging the Activities of sectional organizations
  5. Regularizing meetings for technology research
  6. Establishing a village hall
  7. Publishing a local newspaper
  8. Establishing a partnership with other regions and government offices
  9. Setting up a sisterhood relationship with foreign countries

Going international

The Saemaul Movement has been accepted by the United Nations as one of the efficient rural development models in the world. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has decided to select the Saemaul Movement as a base model for the Sustainable Modernization of Agriculture and Rural Transformation (SMART) program in 2008.[6] Also, the movement has been exported to more than 70 countries, sharing the rural development experience world-wide.

See also


  1. "South Korea - The Agricultural Crisis of the Late 1980s". Retrieved 13 July 2009. 
  2. "The historical background behind the New Community Movement". Pohoang City Hall. Archived from the original on October 6, 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2009. 
  3. Sonn, Jung Won; Gimm, Dong-Wan (2013-03-01). "South Korea's Saemaul (New Village) movement: an organisational technology for the production of developmentalist subjects". Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue canadienne d'études du développement. 34 (1): 22–36. ISSN 0225-5189. doi:10.1080/02255189.2013.755921. 
  4. Boyer, William; Byong Man Anh (1991). Rural Development in South Korea: A Sociopolitical Analysis. London: University of Delaware Press. pp. 75–76. 
  5. Infos at
  # 6. Sonn, J.W. and Gimm, D. 2013. South Korea's Saemaul (New Village) movement. Canadian Journal of Development Studies  


External links