• Hyunju Lee
4. term, Global Refugee Studies, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis presents a critical view on the global Saemaul Undong (SMU) project which has been exported by the Korean government and supported by UNDP. South Korea achieved rapid economic development in a short period of time and the SMU is an emblematic rural development model of Korea which was carried out in 1970s by a former dictator Park Chung-hee. As the SMU was implemented under an authoritarian regime, it is still a contentious history, yet, most literature about the SMU project focus on better branding or strategy of expanding rather than fundamental questioning for propriety. Despite of several decades of development aids and projects, the lives of the poor in the world have not changed that much and recently UNDP started supporting the global SMU projects, advertising that it is experience from the ‘South’ as if it can be a new solution for international development. The global SMU project sounds like it has elements to be an ‘alternative development’ with the words ‘inclusiveness’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘empowerment’. To examine why the Korean government has been exporting and why UNDP has been supporting this particular project in spite of its contentious history, I use two cases of Rwanda and Myanmar with various development discourses. What happened in reality both in Rwanda and Myanmar was ‘exclusion’ of the poorest people and unilateral approach and thus all the warm sounding words from the general planning from Korean government and UNDP’s ISNC model degenerate into ‘buzzwords’. So why was the SMU exported and supported so heavily? I argue that for the Korean former president Park Geun-hye and her confidant Choi Soon-sil it was a matter of private economic gains. For UNDP, it was to make a ‘plausible’ solution for development before they lose their credibility and legitimacy, which refers to ‘institutional corruption’. The name of ‘development’ has been manipulated by wealthy donor countries and huge multilateral institutions like UN. It has been a tool for them to address their contemporary agenda rather than development of developing countries. Since the ‘Western modernization’ has been contested sorely, using the face of the ‘South’ is an easier and safer way to pass down the ‘Northern’ agenda. I argue that that this is why UNDP calls the global SMU project a ‘South-South’ cooperation, although, Korea hardly belongs to the ‘Global South’ anymore. Therefore, through this thesis I show how this ‘mainstream development’ has adroitly hid itself behind the mask of ‘alternative development’ to achieve their own national, institutional interests while the human condition has been stagnating.
Publication date30 May 2017
Number of pages64
ID: 258696587