Koreans giving villagers new hope


FOUR villages in Eastern Highlands piloting the Saemaul Undong (SMU) – the South Korean community development approach –  are seeing improvements in the living standards of people as a result.
The worldwide president of the Saemaul Undong Centre, Dr SO Jin Kwang, is happy about the progress at the villages of Henagaru (Okapa), Bushbata (Unggai-Bena), Kafana and Kafuku (Goroka) after visiting them last week.
“Progressive reports confirmed these villages have greatly changed over the pilot period since 2013. People’s standard of living is slowly improving,” he said. “We hope to extend the programme to other villages to adopt and implement the SMU concept to develop their communities.”
SMU is a community development approach that recognises a village as a unit of community development bound by strong social, cultural and economic ties.
Dr SO said success depends on the villagers’ efforts to take  ownership of development approaches and concepts which can also lead to success at ward, local level government and provincial levels.
He said while PNG is blessed with abundant natural resources, it needs money, better food and improved living condition.
“I am here not to help you but to share with you the Korean experiences so you can learn from it for your own good and your next generation can be better off,” Dr SO said.
He said Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1950s and 1960s and largely depended on donor countries like the United States, but through Saemaul Undong the country has now become the seventh  most powerful economy in the world.
“Today South Korea is a major aid donor to Third World countries and PNG is one of the recipients,” he said.
Dr SO met Eastern Highlands Governor Peter Numu and explained how SMU can help rural communities improve life in the villages.
“All the stakeholders participating in this value chain can benefit more and better,” he said.
Governor Numu said the provincial government will help the four pilot SMU villages in their development programmes.
Pilot SMU projects are managed by project coordinator Enoch Yabimo and SMU specialist Uno Konisimo, who also works with the Eastern Highlands provincial administration.
Konisimo said SMU is not a cure for all rural problems but it is a model that can help solve some of the issues faced by rural people.
“SMU is a workable model that can be adopted as an alternative policy option for rural development in PNG and is working well in the four pilot SMU villages in Eastern Highlands,” he said.
Konisimo has called on the Department of Implementation and Rural Development (DIRD), Department of Agriculture, National Planning Department, and Commerce and Industry Department to look into the SMU model as an alternative way of helping eradicate poverty which affects most people in the rural areas.
Dr SO said SMU is a community approach that promotes development by working with individuals.
“SMU was adopted as a national agenda in 1970 when Korea’s rural villages were mired in chronic poverty, to modernise those backward rural communities,” he said.
“In the aftermath of several previous national rural development programmes that had utterly failed, SMU was designed from inception to make the villagers identify their own problems through their own capacity, define the common interests of the village, and implement development programmes by the villagers, for the villagers, and of the villagers.”
He said the South Korean government integrated all rural development projects, agricultural, and other farmer-oriented policies into one policy under SMU and established new departments to support SMU at village level.
“The modus operandi of government officials began to change from the old office-centered ways or desk-work to the new field-oriented ways,” Dr MO said.
“SMU was a community development approach driven by the private-public partnership to improve the quality of life in the community.”