Since my arrival in Pakistan in June 2013, the most frequently asked question has been “how did Korea develop so much in such a short span of time?” There are many reasons behind Korea’s meteoric success. I have previously written about the visionary leadership and the Korean’s nation’s unity, efforts and sacrifices in my article “Lessons from Korea” published on March 7, 2015.

Adam Smith, considered to be the father of economics, proposed the theory that the economy is guided by an invisible hand. However Samuel Huntington, author of ‘Clash of Civilisations’, wrote that the Korean economy diverges from the ideas of Adam Smith because it succeeded due to good planning and implementation rather than the invisible hand. The planning he refers to are the 7, Five-Year Economic Development Plans implemented by Korea from 1962 to 1996.

In 1961, just before the launch of the first one, Korea’s per capita income was just $85, which was less than the average per capita income of the least developed countries. The success of the Five-Year Plans even though increased Korea’s per capita income to $221 by 1969, however created another problem. Economic progress was concentrated in the industry of urban areas which developed rapidly. Meanwhile rural areas remained poor and undeveloped. To solve this issue, President Park Chung-hee launched the Saemaul Undong or the New Village Movement on April 22, 1970.

The Saemaul Undong is a village-based rural development program to escape from poverty. The Saemaul Undong spirit is based on diligence, self-help and cooperation amongst farmers who composed 60% of the population of Korea at that time, much like Pakistan today.

His slogans of , “we can live well” and “we can do it”, instilled confidence in the farmers, which broke the cycle of self-defeating attitude of the farmers who had previously thought that poverty was their fate.

The main policy strategies were based on incentive-oriented government support and the Saemaul leaders of both genders. Incentive-oriented support strategy was implemented by providing some cement and iron rods to villagers, free of cost. Villagers who used the materials in a productive, efficient way were rewarded with additional free materials to implement more projects.

Saemaul Undong was also a big step for women’s movement in Korea. There were a large number of women among the many legendary leaders of Saemaul Undong. After the start of this movement women gained a new voice. They asked their husbands to stop drinking and gambling during the non-farming season, in winter.

The early stages of the Saemaul Undong focused on the betterment of living conditions and environment of rural areas. The government encouraged them by providing materials to improve their houses and to pave roads within villages.

In the second stage, projects were focused on improving infrastructure. More than 43,000 kilometers of roads were expanded and more than 61,000 kilometers of new roads were made by the villagers, which is equivalent to 40 times of the distance from Islamabad to Karachi. More than 79,000 bridges were also built by villagers, as well as many other projects.

Later projects aimed to increase rural household income. From 1970 to 1979 Korea had a six-fold income increase for rural households. Villagers supplied the labor and also contributed their own finances voluntarily towards making their village better.

Saemaul Undong created 5 paradigm changes for the farmers. First, the focus of Korean farmers shifted from quantity to quality. Secondly, instead of focusing on size of farms, farmers started considering environmentally safe agriculture. Third, Korean farming shifted from high input production to low input, sustainable production by reducing labor intensive practices and increasing mechanisation. Fourth, instead of producing what the farmers wanted, famers started to produce what the consumers wanted. Lastly, Korean farmers evolved business practices which allowed them to get an income from byproducts like tourism, camping and training rather than only agricultural products.

The Saemaul Undong is a proven and practical model for success. From 2009 to 2014 Korea has worked hard to share this model with 20 developing countries. On September 26, 2015, a Special High Level Event on the Saemaul Undong was held by the United Nations. The Korean President, Her Excellency, Park Geun-hye stressed “Saemaul Undong will pave the way for a second and third miracle” like the ‘Miracle of the Han River’. The Miracle of the Han River is the term used to describe Korea’s economic progress in which Korean per capita income rose from $85 in 1961 to over $27,000 in 2015.

As the Korean Ambassador to Pakistan, it is my hope to see Pakistan progresses quickly like the Republic of Korea by benefitting from Saemaul Undong. Based on Pakistan’s agricultural economy, there are several opportunities to replicate Saemaul Undong in Pakistan and I recommend the Pakistan government to adopt Saemaul Undong. Already, several efforts are being made to bring Saemaul Undong to Pakistan. Although I will return to Korea in May after completing my 3-year tenure in Pakistan, I hope to see an economic miracle in Pakistan – the miracle of the Indus River, when I visit again.