ILOILO, Philippines – Though development may take some time, Korean officials are hopeful that Saemaul Undong (SMU), the engine that led to the modernization of then poor South Korea, can help ignite economic growth for Iloilo.
Korea Saemaul Undong Center International Cooperation Bureau Director Kyoung-Won Yi said numerous SMU projects have been implemented to help poor Ilonggos in secluded areas since 2009.
For the past years, in order to fully grasp the nuances, concepts and the guiding spirit behind the movement, a number of professors, village leaders and government officials have undergone SMU training in the Philippines and South Korea.
“It is my utmost desire for SMU to take deep roots in Iloilo or in the Philippines for that matter. But despite our effort, we still cannot find self-sufficiency in the project areas or for the people to say that their lives changed because of SMU,” Yi said.
However, Yi remained optimistic that SMU will be a success granting the interest and support of Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. to the movement and other personalities like Mayor Matt Palabrica of Bingawan.
Defensor, who attended the 1st Global Saemaul Leadership Forum in South Korea on October 2014, is currently sitting as the honorary chairman of Philippine SMU Center located in Sta. Barbara.
Yi revealed that they stopped inviting and training foreign leaders from the Philippines in 2012 due to the failure of the previous trainees to incorporate SMU in their villages.
When Super Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in SMU project sites in Bingawan and San Dionisio in December 2013, they raised funds to help build 61 housing units for the typhoon victims.
A year thereafter, they finally decided to resume the training of Filipinos following the will and commitment shown by the governor during the conduct of the leadership forum.
“To those who received our training, I want to emphasize that they should look back to it, make an in-depth research and community-driven project that can provide solutions to the problems of their villages,” Yi stressed.
Meanwhile, Won-Ki Kim, the Head of International Project Department of SMU, said changing the mindset of the people is important for the Philippines, especially Iloilo, to develop.
Kim said the poor must learn how to become self-reliant and self-sufficient; otherwise, their lives will not change. They should learn from the Korean’s SMU spirit of “diligence, self-help and cooperation”, he added.
“Our actions change when our mindset changes. Habits change when action changes. Personality changes when habit changed. But life won’t change if you only change your mindset. It should always be complemented by action and practice,” he said.
Founded by late President Park Chung Hee in 1970, SMU is South Korea’s national movement to create a country where all of its people have a wealthier life together.
At that time, South Korea is suffering from absolute poverty and chaos due or brought by the Japanese occupation from 1910-1945 and the cold war from 1950-1953.
Its Gross National Product per capita income was merely $67 in 1953 and it slightly increased to $79 in 1960.
Forty-four years have passed and their GNP per capita rose to $28,200. Such amazing economic growth is now known to many as “the Miracle of the Han River”.
The movement laid the foundation for South Korea to grow into a major economy today.
For everyone to learn from this achievement, the archives related to SMU from 1970 t0 1979 have been listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World in 2013. (Jezza A. Nepomoceno/Capitol News)