Saemaul Movement of Park Geun-hye Government

Observerl승인2014.03.30l0호

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President Park Geun-hye has promoted a creative economy by succeeding Saemaul Movement which laid great stress on volunteership. Saemaul Movement is a hot potato on the budget debate of the national assembly. We can find the word “Saemaul” easily around us. For example, there are speech contests about Saemaul spirit, Saemaul volunteer work, and so on. However some criticize it because they think it is anachronistic. Let’s see what the Saemaul Movement that the current government is trying to reestablish is, and why it is criticized.


The Movement of former president Park Chung-hee had been a nationwide, and local social development campaign started in the 1970s. In 1971, the government pushed it to all the villages in the country and provided cement to them. The major goals of the movement were substituting a slate roofed house for a straw roofed one, reforming the walls, and paving the paths in the town into a better condition. These things were done by villagers. This movement was supported by the government, so it expanded from the towns to the cities, workplaces, and factories. It was not just the rural community improvement campaign but a nationwide and progressive movement that made contributions to the economic growth. It is clear that it helped Korea to grow, but it aroused controversy about carcinogenic slate roofed houses, and exploitation on labor.


The second Saemaul that the current government promotes
One of the Saemaul’s motto is “Creative Economy”
The current government emphasizes creative economy. It means each individual displays their talents, and achieves his goal. Then, it leads to the development of the whole country. The fundamental principle of Saemaul is independence, self-help, and self-reliance. These things are considered as a challenging spirit in the modern times. The government adds creativity to the spirit as mentioned earlier, linking to creative economy. Then, it sharply expands support for the establishment of cooperative society for small business owners to lead the community, and independent systematization. Also, it drives for plans to allocate the budget to prioritize the building of centers for unified information, distribution complexs and construct the infra system of mass purchasing and joint selling.


Global Saemaul Movement
Saemaul Movement helped Korea support other countries to develop the economy. In this sense, the government thought it could aid the developing countries. The private institution also gave them instruction about Saemaul Movement to train their countries’ own educators. KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) globalized and modernized it for Vietnam, the Philippines, and so on. It gave them training and supported new community improvement campaign. According to the Saemaul Movement coalition, a private institution, many developing countries took interest in Saemaul, and came to Korea to get information about it. For example, Mongolia for past five years, four villages gathered together to establish a Saemaul business, building the domestic livestock distribution, nursery, and a Saemaul street. Aside from these countries, Nepal, Uganda, Congo, and Kyrgyzstan also are participating in the Saemaul Movement.


Saemaul trend in Gyeongsangbuk-do
Regionally, especially Gyeongsangbuk-do, it is establishing Saemaul businesses. Gyeongbuk plans to complete a Saemaul Movement theme park in 2015 to give experience and understanding the spirit of Saemaul. Also, it has ‘Global Saemaul Youth Voluteers’ that lead Global Saemaul business in 2013. At Yeungnam University, there is the ‘Park Chung-hee School of Policy and Saemaul.’ Within this school is the ‘Saemaul and International Development’ and ‘Public Policy and Leadership’ departments. Both the school and regions contributed to antipoverty, upgrading the quality of life, increasing South Korea’s global presence and nurturing capable people who will lead the Saemaul Movement and practice mutual cooperation in the international world.


Criticism about Saemaul Movement
Park Chung-hee’s Saemaul Movement, who was bent on economic development
While developing roads and pathways, there are dull, gray cement walls, thatched roofs and carcinogenic slate roofs instead of beautiful stone walls. The stone wall paths that were once one of the beautiful historic buildings of Korea rarely exist anymore and the slate roof threatens the health of the nation’s people. The slates, especially, are still left in many places; the question is when will all the slates be removed?


Innovation of top to bottom, not from the bottom up
President Park Geun-hye announced that the Saemaul Movement helped the Korean people to change their civic consciousness and develop the country. Therefore, it has to become a crusade for the civic duty these days. However the level of civic consciousness has already elevated compared to past. Also, the level of popular ideas beat the current standard of politics. Therefore, it is ironic to cry out a crusade for civic duty. The civic consciousness has progressed, and the citizens worry about the situation of politics. The former Saemaul Movement was the innovation of top to bottom. However, it is not reasonable to force the idea to high leveled citizens. The Democratic Party criticized that the global Saemaul business is just a show-off and one-time event, and it seems like a big waste of tax payers’ money. The Saemaul theme park in Gumi is a notable example. Other local administrations also built many kinds of theme parks, but they did not manage them thoroughly. Therefore it is controversial that the central government and the local Gyeongbuk government generated tax to build the theme park. Despite its good intentions to let domestics and foreigners experience the Saemaul Movement, there is criticism that it will be difficult to be successful like others. It is also similar to other administrative theme parks. The Korean government and the Gyeongbuk goverement chose Munseong in Pohang and Shindo in Cheongdo as the model villages of the Saemaeul Movement. It is going to instill the budget of 16.3 billion won to establish the center for Saemaul history, the memorial hall and so on. As of now, building the theme park is criticized because not only does it seem to waste tax money but just praise and highlight former President Park Chunghee.


Anachronism
There are many controversies as to whether or not the Saemaul Movement is appropriate in the 21st century. In the past, villagers worked as cementers, putting aside their own works for free. These days, such labor is the duty of the government, not the citizens. This view is thought as exploitation of labor. Also, people are busy with their jobs and the concept of village community is disappearing. Therefore, it seems like an anachronism.


The Saemaul Movement is on the rise again for good intentions; so the economic improvement could be achieved through self-reliance. However, it is criticized that it is detaching from economic democratization by wasting tax, anachronism, and revival of Park Chung-hee’s Reformation Policy. The government must consider why it is being criticized. Also, to avoid doubts, the government has to think carefully about what really good for the economic development of the future, not returning to the past is .
Observer  yno1@ynu.ac.kr

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