ILOILO — If Koreans can liberate themselves from the shackles of poverty, the chief executive of this province believed that Ilonggos can do it too.
Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. said Ilonggos can make Saemaul Undong, the driving force behind the economic success of South Korea, “our guiding model in developing rural areas”.
“Not all Filipinos appreciate Saemaul Undong. It took me a long time to appreciate it as well. But later I realized and understood that it was the movement responsible for the rapid development of South Korea,” Defensor said during the recently-concluded 2nd Foundation Anniversary of Philippine Saemaul Undong here.
Defensor was in South Korea for the first time in October 2014 to attend the 1st Global Saemaul Leadership Forum with his wife and Bingawan Mayor Matt Palabrica.
“I saw it with my own eyes how they rose from the debris and ashes of Korean War through Saemaul Undong. Now, South Korea is one of the most developed countries in the world,” he added.
But the effort to replicate Saemaul Undong was barely visible in 1990s — the period when the movement was introduced in Bingawan town by presbyterian missionary Dr. Chung C. Young.
The reason for this was mainly due to lack of understanding that Saemaul Undong was about income generation, living environment and basic rural infrastructure improvement and capacity building and attitude change.
The mental reform aspect of Saemaul Undong was designed to inculcate three values or virtues of the movement: diligence, self-help and cooperation.
“Saemaul Undong is all about people’s participation in transforming their community into a better place to live in. Koreans held hands together believing that through their common effort they can survive from absolute poverty brought about by the war and colonization,” he said.
With the strong support coming from Defensor, Provincial Planning and Development Officer Mario Nillos proposes to anchor Iloilo’s rural development on Saemaul Undong.
Specifically, Nillos, also the president of PSMU, looks forward to integrate SMU on Iloilo’s program on agricultural development, rural water system and sanitation, local economic development and community-based ecotourism.
“The Philippine Saemaul Undong’s 2nd founding anniversary comes in appropriate times when we are starting new and fresh engagement with new partners for laudable community projects that would uplift the lives of our intended communities,” he said.
Nillos said the organization has to revisit its strategies to fast track its efforts on localizing SMU in Iloilo so that more communities can benefit from it.
“Saemaul Undong’s mission is attuned to that of the Iloilo Provincial Government’s. As such, we are one in enabling our communities towards growth that is inclusive and self-sustaining,” he said.
Devoid of all hope, South Korea was in the midst of oppression and suppression for 35 years under Japan during the World War II.
When it gained its independence on 1945, poverty still perseveres wherein eight in every ten Koreans were poor farmers suffering from perpetual hunger.
The division among Koreans led to war which lasted for three years from 1950-1953.
It was only during the term of President Park Chung Hee from 1961-1979 when the period of modernization and industrialization began in South Korea.
The people of South Korea refused to become poor and so they gave birth to Saemaul Undong in 1970 and it became a national movement through the help of President Park.
Because of Saemaul Undong plus the 5-year economic development plan of President Park in 1960s, South Korea transformed itself from an aid-recipient to a donor nation. JAN