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Korea's Growth Model On Demand

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Foreign students attend a class on the Saemaul Movement at an auditorium of the Korea Saemaul Undong Center in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, in

this file photo taken on Nov. 15, 2011. Up to 240 students from 46 countries mainly in Asia and Africa took part in the program.

An old saying goes, “Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.” Perhaps it’s hard to find a better example than former Prime Minister Nam Duck-woo to clarify the dictum that highlights the everlasting value of human achievements.

Nam has passed away, but, as the maxim suggests, the legacy of the architect of the country’s post-war economic growth model under President Park Chung-hee will likely go on. The strategy, credited for lifting the country from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War to one of the world’s economic powers, is expected to evolve with various studies and research, and is being exported to underdeveloped nations to save numerous people from chronic poverty and malnutrition.

Asia’s fourth largest economy is poised to make a second leap from the ground laid by Nam in an effort to join the league of super rich countries. And, as was the case in Nam’s era of the 1960s and ‘70s, everything in progress is being closely monitored by many developing countries with an insatiable appetite to emulate it.

Nam, an economist-turned-politician, died of complications from testicular cancer on May 18. He was 89.


Late former Prime Minister Nam Duk-woo initiated the nation’s evelopment project

Living legacy

Nam’s growth model has been credited for facilitating modernization of many underdeveloped nations. Still there are many countries with the desire to benchmark it, citing the model’s effectiveness and feasibility proven by previous adopters.

Among countries that have applied it to their own economies are Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I am really interested in the experience of Korea’s development,” Meles Zenawi, the then Ethiopian Prime Minister said in 2011 during an interview in Seoul.

One of the core elements of Nam’s growth formula was the state-led rural development campaign, dubbed the New Village Movement or Saemaeul. Under the slogan, the country’s rural areas passed through a dramatic modernization in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Leaders of Haiti were keen to learn about the movement after the Caribbean nation was struck by a devastating earthquake in January 2010, according to the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

“It is the spirit of Saemaeul Undong [movement], that’s what Haitian leaders can learn from Korea’s experience with development,” said Song In-yeup, a former chief representative of KOICA’s Haiti office. “Pride in yourself and a can-do spirit is what Saemaeul is based on.”

The state-backed rural development campaign was introduced to the United Nations in January 2010 by a journal published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). In addition, UNESCO is considering adding records relating to the movement to its Memory of the World Register. The preliminary decision on the issue will be made at the International Advisory Committee meeting scheduled for June 18 to 21 in Gwangju.

05-27-05-03%280%29.jpg Seoul’s Jamsil area remains largely undeveloped in the top file photo taken in the 1970s. Thedevelopment of the area started in the 1980s to turn it one of the most developed and affluent districtsof Seoul.

Continuing evolution

President Park Geun-hye is pushing forward with a package of new growth policies centered on creativity in order to make the country richer and more powerful.

Amid the prolonged downturn in the world economy, many developing nations in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East are keenly aware of what she’s doing with the policies. Any tangible achievements will lead to an increase in observers, some of whom may be interested in adopting the so-called “creative economy” to their economic policy portfolio, analysts say.

Korean diplomats and advocates of the new growth model have hosted explanation sessions for policy makers and business leaders of stagnant economies. Inspired by the new concept, Costa Rica is reportedly seeking the help of the Korean government and experts to secure a concrete picture of Park’s economic policies.

Professor Lee Min-hwa at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is one of the vocal advocates of the creativity-oriented growth model.

He hosted a promotional session on April 15 for ranking bureaucrats from Costa Rica in San Jose, the United States, and another one in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 25.

He is scheduled to travel to the Middle East later this month to meet executives of state-run companies and investors in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.


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