Saemaul Undong and Beyond: Upgrading the Opportunities and Capabilities of Women in 1970s' South Korea and Kenya Today

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Yunjeong YANG , Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea
Millicent Waraiciri MWANGI , Kenya Institute of Business Training, Kenya
Capabilities and empowerment are no longer new concepts: they are well understood and widely seen as necessities for individual as well as community development. Practices in today’s developing world, however, are not always successful. Nor have the successful practices of the past been much elaborated so as to provide practical lessons for today. This study attempts to fill this gap with the case of Saemaul Undong, a New Village Movement in South Korea in the 1970s, in combination with discussions of its applicability to Kenya, one of today’s developing countries.

Saemaul Undong has recently become an inspiring development model for many developing countries. It is known for its strong and committed leadership both at central and local levels, as well as the high rate of local participation. The rise of women as equally capable agents of change as men has been noted as one of its distinctive features. Indeed, Saemaul Undong is understood as a remarkable turning point for women in rural areas, which made them visible and active in formal activities beyond their own family and household. This newly explored social force is known to have effectively served rural and national development during the high growth periods of Korea.

The objectives and the structure of this paper are as follows. First, it explains the mechanism and processes of Saemaul Undong, which made women’s involvement, or empowerment, possible within a society that had a strong Confucian character at that time. Second, it elaborates the strengths and weaknesses of the Movement in terms of women’s capabilities and empowerment. Finally, the paper discusses the applicability of the findings to today’s developing world. Our selected case country is Kenya, but discussing the applicability of the case is expected to provide practical lessons the developing world in general.