Community participation for sustainable rural development: revisiting South Korean rural modernization of the 1970s

Community participation for sustainable rural development: revisiting South Korean rural... Abstract This study examines (potential) power dynamics during the period of the rural modernization movement called Saemaul Undong in the 1970s in South Korea. Based on a case study of two rural villages, the study raises questions about community participation and the long-term sustainability of the rural development effects of this movement (if any). The findings reveal that the gap in the actual performance of the two villages studied, in terms of long-term sustainability, is mostly due to the different natures of participation and types of village governance, which in turn is closely related to the leadership accountability and local governance mechanism of the village concerned. While acknowledging that the participatory approach should remain the core mode of development cooperation, this study raises a warning about the risk of the recent Korean government's unilateral promotion of Saemaul Undong as a Korean model of participatory community development, and instead invites us to take a closer look at intra-village governance and genuine grassroots-level community participation. Introduction Having often been referred to as one of the best development performers of the later twentieth century, bringing in the so-called Han (river) Miracles on the one hand, and with an increasingly important voice and presence in an international donors’ society as an emerging donor on the other hand, the government of Republic of Korea (Korea hereafter) has become very active in exploring stories of its home-brand experiences of development. The Korean Knowledge Sharing Program, which aims at making Korea's development experiences into a ‘module’ so that every interested developing country can learn from and applies it to their respective contexts is a notable example. More recently, the 1970s rural modernization efforts, what we call Saemaul Undong in Korean, which can literally be translated into ‘new village movement’ and which appears in many official documents as ‘new community movement’, has attracted special attention. With the ‘community participation’ approach increasingly popular in the global discourse over the last few decades, the Korean government appears to have decided to highlight the high turnout among the masses to participate in the movement, and actively promote it as a Korean example of participatory community development. Those who see Saemaul Undong as a potential model of development cooperation with other developing countries also underline its feature of ‘participation’ by the local community concerned or its nature being ‘community-driven’ (e.g. Soh and Kim, 2011; Asian Development Bank, 2012). But can we indeed understand Saemaul Undong as participatory rural community development? This is the first question that this paper attempts to address. Saemaul Undong is often defined as a ‘planned, government-led, and top-down movement for social change’ (Kim, 1981: 2; see also Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), 1980; Whang, 1981; Park, 1998). With a strong will and leadership from the very top of the administration, the government offered extensive inter-ministerial and top-down support to local governments, including technical and local leadership training. Rural people responded in massive numbers in participation, as shown in official records. Issues regarding the nature and purpose of the participation of local people (and, consequently, its sustainability), however, remain subject to debate (see e.g. Moore, 1985; Han, 2004; Hwang, 2006, 2011). My second question concerns the relationship between the nature of community development and the long-term sustainability of rural development efforts. This is because, should we be able to call Saemaul Undong a successful model of rural development, we should be able to witness the lasting impact into current times.1 Does community participation still hold a value in sustainable rural development, and if so, in what way? This paper does not aim at (re)defining the nature of Saemaul Undong as a national movement as a whole but brings in two selected village cases to examine specific internal village dynamics. This will certainly add micro-specific insights and an alternative perspective to the limited available sources in English on Korean rural modernization efforts in the 1970s. Being based on two selected case villages, the limitation of generalizability of this study should be noted while ‘crucial (or, ‘critical’)’ case selection nonetheless has things to offer for general implications; examining every single village (about 35,000 villages in the 1970s) is not only practically impossible, leaving aside the availability of and accessibility to micro-data for each village, but we would also not expect lower performers to do any better, if the selected ‘best performers’ do not prove themselves (Gerring, 2007). In the rest of this paper, I first review the literature on participation and community development; then, after introducing the methodology, the main body presents and contrasts the two village cases in terms of leadership accountability and the nature and extent of community participation. The qualitative in-depth examination of the case villages leads to the conclusion that successful community development was related to the respective villages’ internal governance dynamics, rather than to participation in Saemaul Undong as a national movement per se. In this respect, we cannot easily quantify the 1970s Korean rural modernization as a model of community development as a whole, but the lesson will be how to learn from some successful cases based on hard evidence. Participation in community development The discourse of participation has entered in the mainstream development practices by pioneering work of Robert Chambers (1983) and based on critical reflections on the shortcomings of ‘top-down’ rural and community development initiatives of the 1970s and 1980s. Amartya Sen's work on agency (1999) affirmed the value of participation, a key principle of the Human Development and Capability Approach. The essence of a participatory approach is to recognize that people whose lives are to be changed by development interventions should have a say in what these changes are to be, and how they will take place. Chambers (2005 [1974]) thus suggests a way to analyse local participation, by looking at: (is) who participates (government staff or local residents or both); (ii) what institutions are involved (government authorities or community development committees, self-help groups, etc.); and (iii) the objectives and functions of participation. He also suggests that by analysing the main directions of communication and resources, the true nature of participation can be assessed. These questions relate to the issue of power, and to the ‘space’ for power, whereby questions such as ‘who participates?’ and ‘participate in what?’ become highly relevant (see also Cornwall, 2000,2008). Community participation, perceived as having an intrinsic and instrumental value, is commonly understood as an essential component in development processes (Bhatnagar and Williams, 1992; Hickey and Mohan, 2004; Chambers, 2005; Mansuri and Rao, 2012) – despite its recent resentments as ‘tyranny’ (Cooke and Kothari, 2001). However, there are risks when it is simply considered sufficient to make practices more rather than less participatory. Equity is equally important – who gains and who losses, as well as different terms of and benefits from participation. Potentials of development in terms of long-term sustainability are related to the issues of power and agency, which is why they remain such pervasive themes in the development studies literature (e.g. Hildyard et al.,2001; Kothari, 2001; Cornwall, 2004; Gaventa, 2004; Kelly, 2004; Williams, 2004; Gaventa,2006; Cornwall, 2008). A simple presence in a village development committee (VDC) and serving as a rubber stamp, for instance, would not change existing power dynamics within and outside the community, and risks engagement being ‘tokenistic’ rather than involving genuine participation. For example, if local people are invited to a ‘space of participation’ but major decisions have already been made by external agents, for example the state, development NGOs, or even a limited number of unaccountable local elites of the same community, local people may be being invited only in order to co-opt them into serving external goals. In contrast, ‘if people participate by taking initiatives independently of external institutions to change systems, … and develop contacts with external institutions for resources and technical advice they need, but retain control over how resources are used’, we could expect the results and impact to be sustained over a longer term. Pretty (1995) described the nature of the former form of participation as being ‘functional’ while the latter was described as ‘self-mobilization’. Mansuri and Rao (2012; 2013) also draw attention on the difference between ‘induced’ and ‘organic’ participation. Induced participation refers to participation which is promoted and stimulated by external actors, of ‘powerful institutions’ such as governments or development agencies while organic participation arise endogenously within a community, ‘by intrinsically motivated local actors’, such as highly motivated leaders who successfully manage to mobilize their local community fellows to take actions towards the changes. I argue in this study that sustainable community development is possible only through this ‘self-mobilizing’, or ‘organic’ community participation, while a ‘top-down’ invitation to a ‘space’, or ‘induced’ participation, may bring in short-term results, but only as long as interests and support from the ‘top’ continue, resulting in eventual failure when they stop. In the current study examining the nature of community participation of the two selected villages, local governance is particularly taken note of, since it is the mechanism that produces certain types of ‘space’ for power and agency. In this way, the nature of leadership and its accountability are also taken into account, because they also play a key role in determining the nature of participation. People's participation and elites’, or leaders’, roles, in fact, are not necessarily two separate things, even though they are often juxtaposed as constituting a zero-sum power game. Elites usually have the power to allocate and create resources, to exert political influence, and to design institutions. In turn, they can either ‘promote participation and information flow, or … simply cement the position of a particular group within the governance structure’ (DiCaprio, 2012: 5–6; see also Amsden and DiCaprio, 2012). In that sense, we can argue that participatory development requires and depends on a certain nature of leadership and governance. Having noted this, the main subject of observation and examination in respect of the case studies presented here is the nature of participation, as well as that of local leadership, which must play an important role in determining the nature of participation. Methodology The case study methodology is adopted for the current study about two villages – Dongmak and Sedong. Two main methods are involved, namely, archive research from the Saemaul database (http://www.saemauldb.com/) and interviews with villagers by the author in field visits. The two villages were selected among the ‘best performers’, i.e. nominated as Self-reliant,2 with reasonable data available from the Saemaul database, as well as convenient fieldwork locations. Interviews involving six key players (former and current Rijang, village chiefs) were conducted at four different times in two villages located in different regions in South Korea during October 2014 and June 2015 (see  Appendix for a summary of the case villages and interviewees). Sedong was visited first in October 2014, when I met the former Saemaul Leader Jeon and another villager, Min, and later in July 2015 I re-visited Jeon for a follow-up interview. Dongmak was visited in June and July 2015, with help from arrangements by the current Rijang. The visits to the villages were made after completing the archival research in order to avoid any waste of time asking for basic information such as who had been the leader. The archive provided fair amount of information about the selected villages, including all the names of those involved during the peak years of the movement, as well as minutes of meetings of village congresses and of VDCs, which also briefly recorded who said what. These data were indeed useful in recalling facts during interviews, as the interviewees, now mostly ‘grandpas’, do not necessarily remember all the details from their younger periods. The very first thing I noticed at the early stage of field visits was that the role of the then-leader(s) was important for the movement in any village, in line with recent Korean literature (e.g. Kim, 2009; Han, 2010; Yoon, 2011; Lee, 2013; Yang, 2015). Villagers suggested that I meet the leader for any interviews: ‘Others won't know about it’ was the common reason given. These first encounters with villagers already suggested a crucial importance of local leadership of the era under examination. Meanwhile, these two villages were originally approached as ‘success’ cases where ‘exemplary’ governance and leadership could be learned from, allowing us to understand how they reached this ‘success’. The expectation and the original plan, however, changed quickly into a comparative analysis contrasting the two cases, upon the first visit to Dongmak. The older leaders of the village acknowledged that their Saemaul projects were in fact mostly a ‘failure’, particularly in terms of income-earning in their views, but also for the matter of sustainability from my perspective. The rest of the paper explains why. A key to success: accountable local leadership and power changes The importance of the Saemaul Leader as a key individual has been underlined in many recent studies. The present study takes note of the importance of local leadership as a group of key decision-makers within a village, such as VDC members, and its accountability. Both leaders of the two villages are recorded as having held the leadership position for at least 16 years or more. The main difference between the two, however, is that while Sedong Leader, Jeon, was elected by villagers at a village congress and served for a certain fixed period several times, Dongmak leader Kim reported the self as Saemaul Leader to a local authority and remained as a leader throughout the period,. This Saemaul Leader was such a dictatorial person! He was Rijang before and after having been discharged from military services and got himself being nominated as Saemaul Leader, he was holding his head so high! … He then was collecting village men to form the VDC and deciding who was gonna do this and that. Then see here (Congress MoMs); it reads that we all agreed unanimously! How could we, then assistant chiefs, dare to say any opposing words? (Interviewee Kim(b) from Dongmak) A surprisingly stable leadership was found among the key five persons (which include two interviewees of the current study) in Dongmak: the former Rijang and then Saemaul Leader Kim J kept the leadership throughout the period (except for one year in 1970), while four other key members rotated key roles of the VDC, including associate head, auditor, general affairs, development project management, and finances. Sedong had a similar process with regard to the VDC and the village congress. What is notably distinctive from Dongmak is that Sedong appears to have applied a more democratic form of VDC governance: in addition to Rijang and five assistant chiefs representing five sub-regions within the village, the village elected one additional so-called ‘development member’, again from each of the five sub-regions. This was purposely to increase the number of VDC members who made important decisions as a group for the village. Min, the Founding President of Sedong Credit Union and on-and-off assistant chief during the period, recalled that there was no fixed position of head of the VDC; rather, any one of three leaders would chair each meeting as appropriate. These leaders were (i) Rijang, who usually worked as an administrative liaison person between the village and the local government; (ii) an older village chief who was more responsible for managing the village assets; and (iii) the Saemaul Leader for Saemaul projects. Jeon, the former Saemaul Leader and on-and-off Rijang during almost two decades to 1991, also acknowledged that he had to work together with elected ‘development members’ from each sub-region, and never selected ‘his men’ to work with. In sum, Dongmak was under the ‘quasi-dictatorial’ leadership of Kim while Sedong was run in a democratic way. This difference between the two villages was related to the root governance style of the villages concerned: the Leader of Dongmak, Kim, was the son of a Rijang of an older generation, and was discharged from the army as a disabled veteran in the era in which military personnel were in charge of the government.3 It turns out that his family had close connections with the high-ranking officials and benefited from substantial support from the government throughout the 1970s (revealed during an interview with Jeong). Once appointed as Saemaul Leader of a ‘showcase village’, Mr Kim collected key figures to work with under his leadership throughout the 1970s. Both interviewees, Kim(a) and Jeong, were persuaded to work for the village by Leader Kim. Jeong acknowledges that due to Kim's leadership, the village has seen notable changes and life has become much more convenient than in the past. He also notes that he, carrying the name of a minority clan, was also able to serve later as Rijang, which, without Kim's efforts to hold together different clans within the VDC, would never have been possible. Nonetheless, when asked about the order of the names on a memorial stone erected in 1983 in front of the village hall in commemoration of contributors to the Saemaul Undong of the 1970s, Jeong said firmly that ‘I don't want to comment on that. You will understand why [as you heard of the inter-clan conflicts].’ Apparently, Jeong was not happy to see his name written beneath that of the two Kims, the powerful clans in the village over a number of generations. In sum, existing power relations appear to have been maintained until very recently. In other words, truly transformative power changes did not occur in Dongmak. The ‘semi-dictatorial’ leadership of Leader Kim appears to have officially begun when the government decided that each and every village would have a Saemaul Leader above the traditional chief Rijang, in 1972. This was also when, interestingly enough, the Leader’s term in Dongmak was extended to three years – unlike other members’, which all were one year only (with the possibility of re-election by a vote of confidence at the village congress at the end of each year, if necessary). The one-person leadership ended only with the December 1981 amendment of the VDC regulations, which specified that the positions of Rijang, Leader and auditors should be rotated from each major clan every two years. By then Leader Kim was aged 54 and he had already held another leadership position, of an association for irrigation, since 1978. In contrast, Sedong leader Jeon was the very first village chief elected by vote at the village congress – at the time of the election, he was serving as the first assistant chief of the village's five sub-regions, supporting the Rijang. I was young [late 20s] and no one was behind me [as a sponsor or so]. Sincerity was all I had. I've never been in arguments with anyone in the village. … As you see, most of the VDC members were about my father's age. Under them, I served as a leader. (Jeon, emphasis added) Interestingly, Jeon used the words ‘under’ rather than ‘with’ or ‘over’, which may show his humble character, but certainly demonstrates that he was not in any close position to that of Leader Kim in Dongmak in terms of power. Jeon, a son of an immigrant family from another village, began serving as the first assistant chief in the late 1960s, and after four years he became the very first Rijang to be elected by fellow villagers, in the village congress in 1972. He remembered the exact number of votes – 36 out of 52 votes4 – and that he won against an older and more educated candidate from the northern region that had produced the most Rijangs in the past. Jeon said that he found no other explanation for his win than his sincerity, which led to his being assessed as an ‘appropriate service-man for the village’. The term ‘service-man’, rather than ‘leader’, for the leadership position, which was used both by the leader himself and also by his fellow villagers, was definitely different from what I discovered in Dongmak, where the Leader was literally the head and director, and had a ‘manipulative’ power. In sum, the nature of leadership and its accountability differed between the two villages: Sedong had proper competition and an election to elect a representative of the village democratically; VDC members were representatives who were elected based on recommendations among villager residents living in respective sub-regions; and the village congress was an arena where any decisions made based on discussions among these VDC members, along with a Rijang and a Saemaul Leader, would be approved formally. In contrast, Dongmak had a strong Saemaul Leader who mostly selected his VDC members and initiated most projects, with village congresses mainly serving as a stamp of approval to implement those projects. A key to success: sustainable community development by participatory manner As of 2015, the current states of the two villages differ starkly and my argument here is that the above-mentioned different styles of leadership and community participation have resulted in the different situations of the two villages in current times. The two villages’ overall demography does not quite differ from any other rural areas in current Korea: rural population has declined steadily since half a century ago, along with the rise of industrialization and urbanization, to leave the rural area now occupied mostly by older persons aged 65 or above.5 What old villagers can usually do is subsistence farming with no other secondary income-earning activities or, alternatively, rent the family-owned land to external younger farmers who can manage large-sized mechanical farming. This is today's picture of Dongmak. Resentful comments among Dongmak villagers regarding their earlier failed trials during Saemaul Undong were particularly pronounced in interviews. Various income-earning projects were implemented in Dongmak, including pork and cattle farming, nurseries of various fruit trees, and ginseng production, most of which were possible due to several grants that the village received for being an ‘exemplary’ or ‘model’ village – a status for which it was nominated almost every year at the National Saemaul Congress. According to the archival data, Dongmak was a success. The villagers’ assessment, however, was not as generous as the view suggested by the archival records: None of them [Saemaul projects] in fact can be called a success (Kim(b)) Villagers did tremendous work, indeed, but it was not popular, to be honest. We did various projects. Lots of them… [However] we didn't earn much income out of them, but we only had achievements. (Cho, emphasis added) Achievements without income out of income-earning projects? This sounds paradoxical but a (non-)participatory approach can explain it. Back in the early 1970s, almost every village was covered with thatched roofs. Then somehow, our village managed to change them into tile roofs.6 This particular look of the village must have caught the eye of the gun[county] chief, who later nominated our village Saemaul.(Kim(a)) In fact, the real performance of earning projects was considered less important than the transformation of the village's appearance into that of a ‘model village’. This transformation involved changing the living environment, for example, by modernizing roofs, kitchens, and infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. This was the first stage of Saemaul Undong. While admitting the importance of this kind of transformation for improving living standards, its limitation as a means of sustainable rural development should nevertheless be acknowledged. When these things happen in a top-down manner, the impact can be even less long-lived. The interviewees of Dongmak pointed out that the public officials did not show any particular interest in seriously verifying the actual performance of their publicly financed projects, as, in the villagers’ words, ‘[I bet] they knew that the projects would fail. How on earth can we expect any good results, coming to inspect with just a few months’ notice?’ The village was going to get the funding anyway and the impact of the projects did not last for long, as the villagers admitted. The then VDC members and my interviewees pointed out ‘wrong contract’, ‘no prior experiences’, and ‘lack of information’ as main reasons for failures of every project that they tried out during the period when they were luckily receiving government funds, apparently to maintain the proper outfit as a model village. While records by the Saemaul Leader Kim in his recollection in MoHA 1977 hinted that any profits from village income-earning projects were to be accumulated in village funds and in turn to be invested in further projects, no actual records outlived the period to help us understand how this was actually managed, while the then VDC members did not recall any of these projects as being successful. While various projects were decided on and implemented, villagers were ‘unhappy’ as ‘they were called for labour provision, without seeing any proper profit-sharing in a fair manner’. This itself shows a non-participatory manner and this, I argue, has eventually resulted in the transformation of the once relatively wealthy village into an ailing one.7 ‘[Despite all those back-breaking efforts], our village [which was nominated as a model Saemaul village and thus should be distinctive from others] is nowadays no different from other villages. … Ours and the other [neighbouring] village W* mostly did all those jobs, didn't we?’ This, Kim(b) comments on resentfully. In contrast, people at Sedong were confident of having achieved the self-made target of a ‘high-income-earning village’, a slogan coined in the early 1970s, by growing greenhouse lettuce. The origin of the success story goes back to the 1960s and it invites us to understand the early endeavours among a young visionary missionary, who came to assist the village to wake up and fight poverty by learning and saving; a group of young farmers who were eager to change the village; and finally, everyone in the village who followed suit and eventually achieved their slogan. The contribution made by the then young (late 20s) missionary Kim, who served in the village for ten years from 1959 onwards, should be acknowledged: the missionary Kim emphasized the importance of saving, which eventually led to the village's credit union. He also helped the villagers to learn how to grow greenhouse lettuce via a Christian institution for educating rural people, and in turn, how to make winter products. Considering that only about 1 percent of the total farm households were back then engaged in any sales of their agricultural products (beyond subsistence farming),8 the move of Sedong towards ‘growing crops (lettuce) under special frames’ can be judged avant-garde, indeed a brave breakout for the time. Once impressed and persuaded by the young missionary, young adults of similar ages started producing greenhouse lettuce back in the late 1960s and eventually almost every villager followed suit. The greenhouse lettuce production and the successful management of the village's credit union – partly also due to the lettuce production, which allowed for a constant cash flow, albeit small at the beginning, eventually achieved the village's slogan. As of 2014, the majority of villagers (around 50 out of 70 households) were still engaged in producing greenhouse lettuce, rendering approximately 1.5–2 billion won (about USD 1.2–1.6 million) in sales in total, with estimated annual sales of 30–40 million won per lettuce-producing household in Sedong (Jeon's estimations from interview). Considering that about half (48.8 percent) of the total agricultural households in the country make sales of between 2 and 20 million won only, while only 12.3 percent of total agricultural households make over 30 million won in the nation, Sedong seems to have certainly secured its position within the top deciles of high-income-earning-villages from sales of the local products until today (Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Survey 2009, from Statistics Korea, accessed on 26 February 2016).9 One particularity as regards Sedong is the villagers’ explicitly distinctive description of their success as resulting from ‘a grassroots movement for rural community development’, rather than from the government-led, top-down campaign, Saemaul Undong. I was just one step ahead in the rural community development movement, rather than Saemaul Undong [smiles]. (What's the difference?) Saemaul Undong was led by the government while rural community development was something that we, a few village people with leadership, initiated voluntarily, without asking for power on the side of the government. That could be the core difference. … We began with a village credit union, purely community-driven. (Min, emphasis in original) Although Saemaul Undong started a few years later and villagers were therefore able to benefit from public support in the form of loans at low rates of interest under the name of income-earning Saemaul projects, both activities in fact had been initiated and continued by the village, regardless of Saemaul Undong. Min, while acknowledging the missionary's devotion and contribution, also emphasized that ‘who in fact organised and implemented the actual activities was us [village people].’ Concluding remarks The study began by asking whether Saemaul Undong can be understood as a model of ‘participatory’ rural development, as has been argued by a few recent analyses (and notably by the Korean government and its main agency for development aid, under the designation of the ‘Korean way of development’). It is true that village people's participation and contribution was a key factor for the movement's success in one way – in terms of a decade-long continuation of a nationwide movement for improving life standards and modernizing lifestyles. This study, however, reveals that the apparently ‘ardent participation by the people’ can in fact be explained, though partly, as a result from strong mobilization of labour force under the top-down drive for rural modernization (as seen in Dongmak). To Sedong village people, Saemaul Undong was not necessarily something that should be appreciated because it was a national initiative established by the top, but, for them, the achievement was rather accountable for by a drive that started from and much influenced by a few villages’ exemplary initiatives (like Sedong's) which indeed began in the 1960s, even before Saemaul Undong, to make their villages better living places (see also Kim, 2009). Also, in Sedong, the power conflict among clans was not particularly noticeable, in contrast to Dongmak. This partly contributed to making power changes possible, as Jeon, the son of an immigrant family and less wealthy and less educated than the other candidate, was able to become Rijang and served the village for many years. In sum, this ‘self-mobilizing’ grassroots community development based on ‘organic’ participation was transformative and was the true engine of the village's long-term success. The study also found that their actual performances differed, particularly in the longer term. The gap between the two villages turns out to be mostly due to the different natures and types of village governance, which in turn is closely related to the community participation and the leadership of the village – not only as regards the Saemaul Leader, but in terms of the entire dynamics of a group of local leaders and the accountability of that group. Only when people participate voluntarily and willingly can power relations become more equitable, allowing participatory development to result in sustainable results. In sum, sustainable community development can be achieved when accountable leadership meets bottom-up village participation. Genuine community participation, after all, was, and will, remain the keyword to any sustainable development. More case studies will be helpful for countries playing catch-up, which will certainly welcome detailed examination of on-the-ground processes of community participation, including who initiated and designed the community development plans (or simply grassroots efforts and trials), how the nature of the relationships between leaders and fellow villagers (or citizens) in the specific space and local contexts could be described and such like. From this grounded evidence, we can assess whether or not the ‘participation’ was genuine and, most of all, learn from both successes and failures. The often-juxtaposed relationship between leader(s) and fellow villagers should also be revised, as they are not necessarily always opposing powers; rather, successful community participation is in fact often based on willing co-operation of the two parties for the same goal. Development scholars who believe in the strength of participation have a duty to search out and publicize more concrete examples to share what makes this possible. Acknowledgements I thank all of the interviewees in this study, and mostly the two incumbent Rijangs of the villages studied, for their sincere and honest sharing of their experiences, without which this study would not have been possible. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2015 Annual DSA Conference (Bath, 7–8 September 2015) and the revision benefited from helpful comments by two anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by a research fund from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Yunjeong Yang is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea. Her articles appeared in Journal of International Development (Wiley), Ageing & Society (Cambridge) and others. She obtained her D.Phil. in Social Policy from University of Oxford in 2010. She also serves as a Chair of the international cooperation committee of the Korean Association of International Development and Cooperation (KAIDEC) (2013–16). URL: http://ids.hufs.ac.kr/overview/faculty/ Footnotes 1 This, however, does not rule out the potential, perhaps much larger, impact of industrialization and urbanization on rural livelihood over the last four decades, which unavoidably result in a declining and ageing rural population and consequently shrinking rural economy. 2 Every village was categorized into three categories, namely, Basic, Self-help, and Self-reliant, according to set criteria. At the early stage of the movement in 1972, the category Basic consisted of more than half of the total 34,665 villages while by 1977 Self-help villages accounted for a majority (Central Committee of SMU, 2000). 3 Park Chung Hee came to power in 1961 through a coup-d’état. After about a decade of trying a ‘soft’ form of authoritarianism, Park became increasingly anxious about losing power and eventually declared martial law (Yushin) in 1972, then kept the nation-ruling ‘hard’ authoritarian until he was shot dead by the chief of his own security services in 1979. Saemaul Undong was implemented during this hard authoritarian period. 4 Back then the total number of households was 80. 5 The peak in the rural population in Korea was 1967 and since then rural growth rates have been consistently negative with an average urban growth rate at 4.5% during the period of 1965–1995 (UN as cited in Douglass, 2013, Table 2). 6 Upon probing, it was found that the village gained a considerable sum paid by a general's family that placed the general's tomb in the village backyards. 7 According to the records of the MoHA, farm households at Dongmak in 1973 possessed an average of 1.3 ha land, which was relatively large compared with the majority (67%) of farm households nationwide in 1974, which had land smaller than 1 ha (Survey in Gyeonggi province, cited in Yang, 2015, Table 3). 8 The majority (76.5%) of farm households engaged in sales of their products were small-sized (<1 ha) and the major products for sale (77.3%) were those agricultural products under special frames, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce grown under vinyl houses (Census of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 1970, Statistics Korea (KOSIS), accessed on 27 February 2016). 9 Sedong's greenhouse lettuce remains known as a quality local product with a history of over 40 years until today (Munhwa Yooseong, a local magazine, http://blog.daum.net/nth00/14982422, retrieved on 17 July 2015). References Amsden, A. H. and DiCaprio, A. ( 2012) Understanding the dynamics of elite behavior in a development context, in A. H. Amsden, A. Dicaprio and J. A. Robinson, eds, The Role of Elites in Economic Development , Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 351– 362. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Asian Development Bank. ( 2012) The Saemaul Undong Movement in the Republic of Korea: Sharing Knowledge on Community-Driven Development , ADB, Mandaluyong city, Philippines. Bhatnagar, B. and Williams, A. C. ( 1992) Participatory Development and the World Bank: Potential Directions for Change, World Bank Discussion Papers 183, World Bank, Washington, DC. Central Committee of SMU. ( 2000) Thirty Year Memories of SMU , Central Committee of SMU, Seoul. (In Korean) Chambers, R. ( 1983) Rural Development: Putting the Last First , Routledge, Oxford. Chambers, R. ( 2005) Ideas for Development , Earthscan, London. Cooke, B. and Kothari, U. (eds.) ( 2001) Participation: The New Tyranny?  Zed Books, London and New York. Cornwall, A. ( 2004) Spaces for transformation? Reflections on issues of power and difference in participation in development, in S. Hickey and G. Mohan, eds, Participation from Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development , Zed Books, London and New York, pp. 75– 91. Cornwall, A. ( 2008) Unpacking ‘Participation’: Models, meanings and practices. Community Development Journal , 43( 3), 269– 283. doi:10.1093/cdj/bsn010 Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   DiCaprio, A. ( 2012) Introduction: the role of elites in economic development, in A. H. Amsden, A. Dicaprio, and J. A. Robinson, eds, The Role of Elites in Economic Development , Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 1– 18. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Douglass, M. ( 2013) The Semaul Undong: South Korea's Rural Development Miracle in Historical Perspective, Asia Research InstituteWorking Paper No. 197, February 2013, National University of Singapore, Singapore. Gaventa, J. ( 2004) Towards participatory governance: assessing the transformative possibilities, in S. Hickey and G. Mohan, eds, Participation from Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development , Zed Books, London and New York, pp. 25– 41. Gaventa, J. ( 2006) Finding the spaces for change: a power analysis, IDS Bulletin , 37( 6), 23– 33. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Gerring, J. ( 2007) Case Study Research: Principles and Practices . Cambridge University Press, New York. Han, D. ( 2010) Life world of village leaders during the Saemaul Movement in the 1970s: focusing on male leaders, Society and History , 88, 267– 305. (In Korean) Han, S. ( 2004) The new community movement: Park Chung Hee and the making of state populism in Korea, Pacific Affairs , 77( 1), 69– 93. Hickey, S. and Mohan, G. (eds.) ( 2004) Participation from Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development , Zed Books, London and New York. Hildyard, N., Pandurang, H., Wolvekamp, P. et al.  . ( 2001) Pluralism, participation and power: Joint forest management in India, in B. Cooke and U. Kothari, eds, Participation: The New Tyranny?  Zed Books, London and New York, pp. 56– 71. Hwang, Y. ( 2006) Reappraisal of rural Saemaul Undong, Agricultural History Studies , 5( 2), 17– 53. (In Korean) Hwang, B. ( 2011) The change of agricultural production process and peasants appropriation of state through the Saemaul Undong in 1970s, Society and History , 90, 5– 48. (In Korean) Kelly, U. ( 2004) Confrontations with power: moving beyond ‘the tyranny of safety’ in participation, in S. Hickey and G. Mohan, eds. Participation from Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development , Zed Books, London and New York, pp. 205– 213. Kim, H. ( 1981) A study on grassroot leadership profiles in Korea, Journal of East and West Studies , 10( 2), 1– 22. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Kim, Y. ( 2009) Their Saemaul Undong , Poorunyuksa, Seoul. (In Korean) Kothari, U. ( 2001) Power, knowledge and social control in participatory development, in B. Cooke and U. Kothari, eds, Participation: The New Tyranny?  Zed Books, London and New York, pp. 139– 152. Lee, H. ( 2013) A study on the importance of the village leader in local development: on the case of Saemaul Undong in the 1970s, Korean Journal of Public Administration , 51( 1), 207– 236. (In Korean) Mansuri, G. and Rao, V. ( 2012) Can participation be induced? Some evidence from developing countries, A World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, No. 6239, World Bank, Washington, DC. Mansuri, G. and Rao, V. ( 2013) Localizing Development: Does Participation Work? , World Bank, Washington, DC. [Korean] Ministry of Home Affairs. ( 1980) Ten Year's History of Saemaul Undong , Ministry of Home Affairs (In Korean), Seoul. Moore, M. ( 1985) Mobilization and disillusion in rural Korea: the Saemaul movement in retrospect, Pacific Affairs , 57( 4), 577– 598. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Park, J. ( 1998) The Saemaul Movement: Korea's Approach to Rural Modernization in 1970s , Korea Rural Economics Institute, Seoul. Pretty, J. N. ( 1995) Participatory learning for sustainable agriculture. World Development , 23( 8), 1247– 1263. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Sen, A. ( 1999) Development as Freedom , Knopf, New York. Soh, J. and Kim, S. ( 2011) The Way to Apply Saemaul Undong into ODA Projects , Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, Gyeonggi-do. Whang, I. ( 1981) Impact of the Saemaul Undong on rural development in Korea, Journal of East and West Studies , 10( 1), 23– 41. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Williams, G. ( 2004) Towards a repoliticization of participatory development: political capabilities and spaces of empowerment, in S. Hickey and G. Mohan, eds, Participation from Tyranny to Transformation? Exploring New Approaches to Participation in Development , Zed Books, London and New York, pp. 92– 108. Yang, Y. ( 2015) Saemaul Undong revisited: A case of state-society dynamics in social capital mobilisation, focusing on the role of local leaders in South Korea of the 1970s. Journal of International Development, published online 10 August 2015, accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jid.3048/abstract. Yoon, C. ( 2011) The Saemaul Movement in the 1970s seen by oral testimonies: in-between the building and becoming its leaders, Society and History , 90, 79– 109. (In Korean) Websites Korea Saemaul Undong Centre http://www.saemaul.com Saemaul Undong History Institute http://www.saemaulstudy.or.kr Saemaul Undong database http://www.saemauldb.com/ Appendix. Summary of the case villages and interviewees   Dongmak  Sedong  Size  (1973) 46 HH, 284 persons  (1970) 80 HH, 504 persons  (1977) 46 HH, 276 persons  (1976) 89 HH, 505 persons  (2015) 35~40 HH,  150~180 persons  (2015) 70 HH, 150 persons   Year classified as a ‘Self-reliant’ village  1973  1977  Saemaul income-earning projects  (1973) Pig farming  (since 1968) Greenhouse lettuce  (1975) Rabbit farming; chestnut  tree nurseries    (1977) Cow farming    (1978–1979) Ginseng production    Current villagers’ evaluation   Failure: ‘no income, but only  performances’  Achieved the self-made slogan of  ‘high-income village’  Interviewees (age in 1972)  Kim (a, 40), Rijang in the mid-1970s  Jeon (26), former Samaeul Leader  and incumbent Rijang  Kim(b, 35), Assistant chief  throughout the 1970s  Min (31), Founding President of the  village's Credit Union  Jeong (43), Rijang in the late  1970s  Cho (19), incumbent Rijang    Dongmak  Sedong  Size  (1973) 46 HH, 284 persons  (1970) 80 HH, 504 persons  (1977) 46 HH, 276 persons  (1976) 89 HH, 505 persons  (2015) 35~40 HH,  150~180 persons  (2015) 70 HH, 150 persons   Year classified as a ‘Self-reliant’ village  1973  1977  Saemaul income-earning projects  (1973) Pig farming  (since 1968) Greenhouse lettuce  (1975) Rabbit farming; chestnut  tree nurseries    (1977) Cow farming    (1978–1979) Ginseng production    Current villagers’ evaluation   Failure: ‘no income, but only  performances’  Achieved the self-made slogan of  ‘high-income village’  Interviewees (age in 1972)  Kim (a, 40), Rijang in the mid-1970s  Jeon (26), former Samaeul Leader  and incumbent Rijang  Kim(b, 35), Assistant chief  throughout the 1970s  Min (31), Founding President of the  village's Credit Union  Jeong (43), Rijang in the late  1970s  Cho (19), incumbent Rijang  Note: HH = households. For 2015, estimations are given by respective Rijangs. View Large © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2016 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Community Development Journal Oxford University Press

Community participation for sustainable rural development: revisiting South Korean rural modernization of the 1970s

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Abstract This study examines (potential) power dynamics during the period of the rural modernization movement called Saemaul Undong in the 1970s in South Korea. Based on a case study of two rural villages, the study raises questions about community participation and the long-term sustainability of the rural development effects of this movement (if any). The findings reveal that the gap in the actual performance of the two villages studied, in terms of long-term sustainability, is mostly due to the different natures of participation and types of village governance, which in turn is closely related to the leadership accountability and local governance mechanism of the village concerned. While acknowledging that the participatory approach should remain the core mode of development cooperation, this study raises a warning about the risk of the recent Korean government's unilateral promotion of Saemaul Undong as a Korean model of participatory community development, and instead invites us to take a closer look at intra-village governance and genuine grassroots-level community participation. Introduction Having often been referred to as one of the best development performers of the later twentieth century, bringing in the so-called Han (river) Miracles on the one hand, and with an increasingly important voice and presence in an international donors’ society as an emerging donor on the other hand, the government of Republic of Korea (Korea hereafter) has become very active in exploring stories of its home-brand experiences of development. The Korean Knowledge Sharing Program, which aims at making Korea's development experiences into a ‘module’ so that every interested developing country can learn from and applies it to their respective contexts is a notable example. More recently, the 1970s rural modernization efforts, what we call Saemaul Undong in Korean, which can literally be translated into ‘new village movement’ and which appears in many official documents as ‘new community movement’, has attracted special attention. With the ‘community participation’ approach increasingly popular in the global discourse over the last few decades, the Korean government appears to have decided to highlight the high turnout among the masses to participate in the movement, and actively promote it as a Korean example of participatory community development. Those who see Saemaul Undong as a potential model of development cooperation with other developing countries also underline its feature of ‘participation’ by the local community concerned or its nature being ‘community-driven’ (e.g. Soh and Kim, 2011; Asian Development Bank, 2012). But can we indeed understand Saemaul Undong as participatory rural community development? This is the first question that this paper attempts to address. Saemaul Undong is often defined as a ‘planned, government-led, and top-down movement for social change’ (Kim, 1981: 2; see also Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), 1980; Whang, 1981; Park, 1998). With a strong will and leadership from the very top of the administration, the government offered extensive inter-ministerial and top-down support to local governments, including technical and local leadership training. Rural people responded in massive numbers in participation, as shown in official records. Issues regarding the nature and purpose of the participation of local people (and, consequently, its sustainability), however, remain subject to debate (see e.g. Moore, 1985; Han, 2004; Hwang, 2006, 2011). My second question concerns the relationship between the nature of community development and the long-term sustainability of rural development efforts. This is because, should we be able to call Saemaul Undong a successful model of rural development, we should be able to witness the lasting impact into current times.1 Does community participation still hold a value in sustainable rural development, and if so, in what way? This paper does not aim at (re)defining the nature of Saemaul Undong as a national movement as a whole but brings in two selected village cases to examine specific internal village dynamics. This will certainly add micro-specific insights and an alternative perspective to the limited available sources in English on Korean rural modernization efforts in the 1970s. Being based on two selected case villages, the limitation of generalizability of this study should be noted while ‘crucial (or, ‘critical’)’ case selection nonetheless has things to offer for general implications; examining every single village (about 35,000 villages in the 1970s) is not only practically impossible, leaving aside the availability of and accessibility to micro-data for each village, but we would also not expect lower performers to do any better, if the selected ‘best performers’ do not prove themselves (Gerring, 2007). In the rest of this paper, I first review the literature on participation and community development; then, after introducing the methodology, the main body presents and contrasts the two village cases in terms of leadership accountability and the nature and extent of community participation. The qualitative in-depth examination of the case villages leads to the conclusion that successful community development was related to the respective villages’ internal governance dynamics, rather than to participation in Saemaul Undong as a national movement per se. In this respect, we cannot easily quantify the 1970s Korean rural modernization as a model of community development as a whole, but the lesson will be how to learn from some successful cases based on hard evidence. Participation in community development The discourse of participation has entered in the mainstream development practices by pioneering work of Robert Chambers (1983) and based on critical reflections on the shortcomings of ‘top-down’ rural and community development initiatives of the 1970s and 1980s. Amartya Sen's work on agency (1999) affirmed the value of participation, a key principle of the Human Development and Capability Approach. The essence of a participatory approach is to recognize that people whose lives are to be changed by development interventions should have a say in what these changes are to be, and how they will take place. Chambers (2005 [1974]) thus suggests a way to analyse local participation, by looking at: (is) who participates (government staff or local residents or both); (ii) what institutions are involved (government authorities or community development committees, self-help groups, etc.); and (iii) the objectives and functions of participation. He also suggests that by analysing the main directions of communication and resources, the true nature of participation can be assessed. These questions relate to the issue of power, and to the ‘space’ for power, whereby questions such as ‘who participates?’ and ‘participate in what?’ become highly relevant (see also Cornwall, 2000,2008). Community participation, perceived as having an intrinsic and instrumental value, is commonly understood as an essential component in development processes (Bhatnagar and Williams, 1992; Hickey and Mohan, 2004; Chambers, 2005; Mansuri and Rao, 2012) – despite its recent resentments as ‘tyranny’ (Cooke and Kothari, 2001). However, there are risks when it is simply considered sufficient to make practices more rather than less participatory. Equity is equally important – who gains and who losses, as well as different terms of and benefits from participation. Potentials of development in terms of long-term sustainability are related to the issues of power and agency, which is why they remain such pervasive themes in the development studies literature (e.g. Hildyard et al.,2001; Kothari, 2001; Cornwall, 2004; Gaventa, 2004; Kelly, 2004; Williams, 2004; Gaventa,2006; Cornwall, 2008). A simple presence in a village development committee (VDC) and serving as a rubber stamp, for instance, would not change existing power dynamics within and outside the community, and risks engagement being ‘tokenistic’ rather than involving genuine participation. For example, if local people are invited to a ‘space of participation’ but major decisions have already been made by external agents, for example the state, development NGOs, or even a limited number of unaccountable local elites of the same community, local people may be being invited only in order to co-opt them into serving external goals. In contrast, ‘if people participate by taking initiatives independently of external institutions to change systems, … and develop contacts with external institutions for resources and technical advice they need, but retain control over how resources are used’, we could expect the results and impact to be sustained over a longer term. Pretty (1995) described the nature of the former form of participation as being ‘functional’ while the latter was described as ‘self-mobilization’. Mansuri and Rao (2012; 2013) also draw attention on the difference between ‘induced’ and ‘organic’ participation. Induced participation refers to participation which is promoted and stimulated by external actors, of ‘powerful institutions’ such as governments or development agencies while organic participation arise endogenously within a community, ‘by intrinsically motivated local actors’, such as highly motivated leaders who successfully manage to mobilize their local community fellows to take actions towards the changes. I argue in this study that sustainable community development is possible only through this ‘self-mobilizing’, or ‘organic’ community participation, while a ‘top-down’ invitation to a ‘space’, or ‘induced’ participation, may bring in short-term results, but only as long as interests and support from the ‘top’ continue, resulting in eventual failure when they stop. In the current study examining the nature of community participation of the two selected villages, local governance is particularly taken note of, since it is the mechanism that produces certain types of ‘space’ for power and agency. In this way, the nature of leadership and its accountability are also taken into account, because they also play a key role in determining the nature of participation. People's participation and elites’, or leaders’, roles, in fact, are not necessarily two separate things, even though they are often juxtaposed as constituting a zero-sum power game. Elites usually have the power to allocate and create resources, to exert political influence, and to design institutions. In turn, they can either ‘promote participation and information flow, or … simply cement the position of a particular group within the governance structure’ (DiCaprio, 2012: 5–6; see also Amsden and DiCaprio, 2012). In that sense, we can argue that participatory development requires and depends on a certain nature of leadership and governance. Having noted this, the main subject of observation and examination in respect of the case studies presented here is the nature of participation, as well as that of local leadership, which must play an important role in determining the nature of participation. Methodology The case study methodology is adopted for the current study about two villages – Dongmak and Sedong. Two main methods are involved, namely, archive research from the Saemaul database (http://www.saemauldb.com/) and interviews with villagers by the author in field visits. The two villages were selected among the ‘best performers’, i.e. nominated as Self-reliant,2 with reasonable data available from the Saemaul database, as well as convenient fieldwork locations. Interviews involving six key players (former and current Rijang, village chiefs) were conducted at four different times in two villages located in different regions in South Korea during October 2014 and June 2015 (see  Appendix for a summary of the case villages and interviewees). Sedong was visited first in October 2014, when I met the former Saemaul Leader Jeon and another villager, Min, and later in July 2015 I re-visited Jeon for a follow-up interview. Dongmak was visited in June and July 2015, with help from arrangements by the current Rijang. The visits to the villages were made after completing the archival research in order to avoid any waste of time asking for basic information such as who had been the leader. The archive provided fair amount of information about the selected villages, including all the names of those involved during the peak years of the movement, as well as minutes of meetings of village congresses and of VDCs, which also briefly recorded who said what. These data were indeed useful in recalling facts during interviews, as the interviewees, now mostly ‘grandpas’, do not necessarily remember all the details from their younger periods. The very first thing I noticed at the early stage of field visits was that the role of the then-leader(s) was important for the movement in any village, in line with recent Korean literature (e.g. Kim, 2009; Han, 2010; Yoon, 2011; Lee, 2013; Yang, 2015). Villagers suggested that I meet the leader for any interviews: ‘Others won't know about it’ was the common reason given. These first encounters with villagers already suggested a crucial importance of local leadership of the era under examination. Meanwhile, these two villages were originally approached as ‘success’ cases where ‘exemplary’ governance and leadership could be learned from, allowing us to understand how they reached this ‘success’. The expectation and the original plan, however, changed quickly into a comparative analysis contrasting the two cases, upon the first visit to Dongmak. The older leaders of the village acknowledged that their Saemaul projects were in fact mostly a ‘failure’, particularly in terms of income-earning in their views, but also for the matter of sustainability from my perspective. The rest of the paper explains why. A key to success: accountable local leadership and power changes The importance of the Saemaul Leader as a key individual has been underlined in many recent studies. The present study takes note of the importance of local leadership as a group of key decision-makers within a village, such as VDC members, and its accountability. Both leaders of the two villages are recorded as having held the leadership position for at least 16 years or more. The main difference between the two, however, is that while Sedong Leader, Jeon, was elected by villagers at a village congress and served for a certain fixed period several times, Dongmak leader Kim reported the self as Saemaul Leader to a local authority and remained as a leader throughout the period,. This Saemaul Leader was such a dictatorial person! He was Rijang before and after having been discharged from military services and got himself being nominated as Saemaul Leader, he was holding his head so high! … He then was collecting village men to form the VDC and deciding who was gonna do this and that. Then see here (Congress MoMs); it reads that we all agreed unanimously! How could we, then assistant chiefs, dare to say any opposing words? (Interviewee Kim(b) from Dongmak) A surprisingly stable leadership was found among the key five persons (which include two interviewees of the current study) in Dongmak: the former Rijang and then Saemaul Leader Kim J kept the leadership throughout the period (except for one year in 1970), while four other key members rotated key roles of the VDC, including associate head, auditor, general affairs, development project management, and finances. Sedong had a similar process with regard to the VDC and the village congress. What is notably distinctive from Dongmak is that Sedong appears to have applied a more democratic form of VDC governance: in addition to Rijang and five assistant chiefs representing five sub-regions within the village, the village elected one additional so-called ‘development member’, again from each of the five sub-regions. This was purposely to increase the number of VDC members who made important decisions as a group for the village. Min, the Founding President of Sedong Credit Union and on-and-off assistant chief during the period, recalled that there was no fixed position of head of the VDC; rather, any one of three leaders would chair each meeting as appropriate. These leaders were (i) Rijang, who usually worked as an administrative liaison person between the village and the local government; (ii) an older village chief who was more responsible for managing the village assets; and (iii) the Saemaul Leader for Saemaul projects. Jeon, the former Saemaul Leader and on-and-off Rijang during almost two decades to 1991, also acknowledged that he had to work together with elected ‘development members’ from each sub-region, and never selected ‘his men’ to work with. In sum, Dongmak was under the ‘quasi-dictatorial’ leadership of Kim while Sedong was run in a democratic way. This difference between the two villages was related to the root governance style of the villages concerned: the Leader of Dongmak, Kim, was the son of a Rijang of an older generation, and was discharged from the army as a disabled veteran in the era in which military personnel were in charge of the government.3 It turns out that his family had close connections with the high-ranking officials and benefited from substantial support from the government throughout the 1970s (revealed during an interview with Jeong). Once appointed as Saemaul Leader of a ‘showcase village’, Mr Kim collected key figures to work with under his leadership throughout the 1970s. Both interviewees, Kim(a) and Jeong, were persuaded to work for the village by Leader Kim. Jeong acknowledges that due to Kim's leadership, the village has seen notable changes and life has become much more convenient than in the past. He also notes that he, carrying the name of a minority clan, was also able to serve later as Rijang, which, without Kim's efforts to hold together different clans within the VDC, would never have been possible. Nonetheless, when asked about the order of the names on a memorial stone erected in 1983 in front of the village hall in commemoration of contributors to the Saemaul Undong of the 1970s, Jeong said firmly that ‘I don't want to comment on that. You will understand why [as you heard of the inter-clan conflicts].’ Apparently, Jeong was not happy to see his name written beneath that of the two Kims, the powerful clans in the village over a number of generations. In sum, existing power relations appear to have been maintained until very recently. In other words, truly transformative power changes did not occur in Dongmak. The ‘semi-dictatorial’ leadership of Leader Kim appears to have officially begun when the government decided that each and every village would have a Saemaul Leader above the traditional chief Rijang, in 1972. This was also when, interestingly enough, the Leader’s term in Dongmak was extended to three years – unlike other members’, which all were one year only (with the possibility of re-election by a vote of confidence at the village congress at the end of each year, if necessary). The one-person leadership ended only with the December 1981 amendment of the VDC regulations, which specified that the positions of Rijang, Leader and auditors should be rotated from each major clan every two years. By then Leader Kim was aged 54 and he had already held another leadership position, of an association for irrigation, since 1978. In contrast, Sedong leader Jeon was the very first village chief elected by vote at the village congress – at the time of the election, he was serving as the first assistant chief of the village's five sub-regions, supporting the Rijang. I was young [late 20s] and no one was behind me [as a sponsor or so]. Sincerity was all I had. I've never been in arguments with anyone in the village. … As you see, most of the VDC members were about my father's age. Under them, I served as a leader. (Jeon, emphasis added) Interestingly, Jeon used the words ‘under’ rather than ‘with’ or ‘over’, which may show his humble character, but certainly demonstrates that he was not in any close position to that of Leader Kim in Dongmak in terms of power. Jeon, a son of an immigrant family from another village, began serving as the first assistant chief in the late 1960s, and after four years he became the very first Rijang to be elected by fellow villagers, in the village congress in 1972. He remembered the exact number of votes – 36 out of 52 votes4 – and that he won against an older and more educated candidate from the northern region that had produced the most Rijangs in the past. Jeon said that he found no other explanation for his win than his sincerity, which led to his being assessed as an ‘appropriate service-man for the village’. The term ‘service-man’, rather than ‘leader’, for the leadership position, which was used both by the leader himself and also by his fellow villagers, was definitely different from what I discovered in Dongmak, where the Leader was literally the head and director, and had a ‘manipulative’ power. In sum, the nature of leadership and its accountability differed between the two villages: Sedong had proper competition and an election to elect a representative of the village democratically; VDC members were representatives who were elected based on recommendations among villager residents living in respective sub-regions; and the village congress was an arena where any decisions made based on discussions among these VDC members, along with a Rijang and a Saemaul Leader, would be approved formally. In contrast, Dongmak had a strong Saemaul Leader who mostly selected his VDC members and initiated most projects, with village congresses mainly serving as a stamp of approval to implement those projects. A key to success: sustainable community development by participatory manner As of 2015, the current states of the two villages differ starkly and my argument here is that the above-mentioned different styles of leadership and community participation have resulted in the different situations of the two villages in current times. The two villages’ overall demography does not quite differ from any other rural areas in current Korea: rural population has declined steadily since half a century ago, along with the rise of industrialization and urbanization, to leave the rural area now occupied mostly by older persons aged 65 or above.5 What old villagers can usually do is subsistence farming with no other secondary income-earning activities or, alternatively, rent the family-owned land to external younger farmers who can manage large-sized mechanical farming. This is today's picture of Dongmak. Resentful comments among Dongmak villagers regarding their earlier failed trials during Saemaul Undong were particularly pronounced in interviews. Various income-earning projects were implemented in Dongmak, including pork and cattle farming, nurseries of various fruit trees, and ginseng production, most of which were possible due to several grants that the village received for being an ‘exemplary’ or ‘model’ village – a status for which it was nominated almost every year at the National Saemaul Congress. According to the archival data, Dongmak was a success. The villagers’ assessment, however, was not as generous as the view suggested by the archival records: None of them [Saemaul projects] in fact can be called a success (Kim(b)) Villagers did tremendous work, indeed, but it was not popular, to be honest. We did various projects. Lots of them… [However] we didn't earn much income out of them, but we only had achievements. (Cho, emphasis added) Achievements without income out of income-earning projects? This sounds paradoxical but a (non-)participatory approach can explain it. Back in the early 1970s, almost every village was covered with thatched roofs. Then somehow, our village managed to change them into tile roofs.6 This particular look of the village must have caught the eye of the gun[county] chief, who later nominated our village Saemaul.(Kim(a)) In fact, the real performance of earning projects was considered less important than the transformation of the village's appearance into that of a ‘model village’. This transformation involved changing the living environment, for example, by modernizing roofs, kitchens, and infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. This was the first stage of Saemaul Undong. While admitting the importance of this kind of transformation for improving living standards, its limitation as a means of sustainable rural development should nevertheless be acknowledged. When these things happen in a top-down manner, the impact can be even less long-lived. The interviewees of Dongmak pointed out that the public officials did not show any particular interest in seriously verifying the actual performance of their publicly financed projects, as, in the villagers’ words, ‘[I bet] they knew that the projects would fail. How on earth can we expect any good results, coming to inspect with just a few months’ notice?’ The village was going to get the funding anyway and the impact of the projects did not last for long, as the villagers admitted. The then VDC members and my interviewees pointed out ‘wrong contract’, ‘no prior experiences’, and ‘lack of information’ as main reasons for failures of every project that they tried out during the period when they were luckily receiving government funds, apparently to maintain the proper outfit as a model village. While records by the Saemaul Leader Kim in his recollection in MoHA 1977 hinted that any profits from village income-earning projects were to be accumulated in village funds and in turn to be invested in further projects, no actual records outlived the period to help us understand how this was actually managed, while the then VDC members did not recall any of these projects as being successful. While various projects were decided on and implemented, villagers were ‘unhappy’ as ‘they were called for labour provision, without seeing any proper profit-sharing in a fair manner’. This itself shows a non-participatory manner and this, I argue, has eventually resulted in the transformation of the once relatively wealthy village into an ailing one.7 ‘[Despite all those back-breaking efforts], our village [which was nominated as a model Saemaul village and thus should be distinctive from others] is nowadays no different from other villages. … Ours and the other [neighbouring] village W* mostly did all those jobs, didn't we?’ This, Kim(b) comments on resentfully. In contrast, people at Sedong were confident of having achieved the self-made target of a ‘high-income-earning village’, a slogan coined in the early 1970s, by growing greenhouse lettuce. The origin of the success story goes back to the 1960s and it invites us to understand the early endeavours among a young visionary missionary, who came to assist the village to wake up and fight poverty by learning and saving; a group of young farmers who were eager to change the village; and finally, everyone in the village who followed suit and eventually achieved their slogan. The contribution made by the then young (late 20s) missionary Kim, who served in the village for ten years from 1959 onwards, should be acknowledged: the missionary Kim emphasized the importance of saving, which eventually led to the village's credit union. He also helped the villagers to learn how to grow greenhouse lettuce via a Christian institution for educating rural people, and in turn, how to make winter products. Considering that only about 1 percent of the total farm households were back then engaged in any sales of their agricultural products (beyond subsistence farming),8 the move of Sedong towards ‘growing crops (lettuce) under special frames’ can be judged avant-garde, indeed a brave breakout for the time. Once impressed and persuaded by the young missionary, young adults of similar ages started producing greenhouse lettuce back in the late 1960s and eventually almost every villager followed suit. The greenhouse lettuce production and the successful management of the village's credit union – partly also due to the lettuce production, which allowed for a constant cash flow, albeit small at the beginning, eventually achieved the village's slogan. As of 2014, the majority of villagers (around 50 out of 70 households) were still engaged in producing greenhouse lettuce, rendering approximately 1.5–2 billion won (about USD 1.2–1.6 million) in sales in total, with estimated annual sales of 30–40 million won per lettuce-producing household in Sedong (Jeon's estimations from interview). Considering that about half (48.8 percent) of the total agricultural households in the country make sales of between 2 and 20 million won only, while only 12.3 percent of total agricultural households make over 30 million won in the nation, Sedong seems to have certainly secured its position within the top deciles of high-income-earning-villages from sales of the local products until today (Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Survey 2009, from Statistics Korea, accessed on 26 February 2016).9 One particularity as regards Sedong is the villagers’ explicitly distinctive description of their success as resulting from ‘a grassroots movement for rural community development’, rather than from the government-led, top-down campaign, Saemaul Undong. I was just one step ahead in the rural community development movement, rather than Saemaul Undong [smiles]. (What's the difference?) Saemaul Undong was led by the government while rural community development was something that we, a few village people with leadership, initiated voluntarily, without asking for power on the side of the government. That could be the core difference. … We began with a village credit union, purely community-driven. (Min, emphasis in original) Although Saemaul Undong started a few years later and villagers were therefore able to benefit from public support in the form of loans at low rates of interest under the name of income-earning Saemaul projects, both activities in fact had been initiated and continued by the village, regardless of Saemaul Undong. Min, while acknowledging the missionary's devotion and contribution, also emphasized that ‘who in fact organised and implemented the actual activities was us [village people].’ Concluding remarks The study began by asking whether Saemaul Undong can be understood as a model of ‘participatory’ rural development, as has been argued by a few recent analyses (and notably by the Korean government and its main agency for development aid, under the designation of the ‘Korean way of development’). It is true that village people's participation and contribution was a key factor for the movement's success in one way – in terms of a decade-long continuation of a nationwide movement for improving life standards and modernizing lifestyles. This study, however, reveals that the apparently ‘ardent participation by the people’ can in fact be explained, though partly, as a result from strong mobilization of labour force under the top-down drive for rural modernization (as seen in Dongmak). To Sedong village people, Saemaul Undong was not necessarily something that should be appreciated because it was a national initiative established by the top, but, for them, the achievement was rather accountable for by a drive that started from and much influenced by a few villages’ exemplary initiatives (like Sedong's) which indeed began in the 1960s, even before Saemaul Undong, to make their villages better living places (see also Kim, 2009). Also, in Sedong, the power conflict among clans was not particularly noticeable, in contrast to Dongmak. This partly contributed to making power changes possible, as Jeon, the son of an immigrant family and less wealthy and less educated than the other candidate, was able to become Rijang and served the village for many years. In sum, this ‘self-mobilizing’ grassroots community development based on ‘organic’ participation was transformative and was the true engine of the village's long-term success. The study also found that their actual performances differed, particularly in the longer term. The gap between the two villages turns out to be mostly due to the different natures and types of village governance, which in turn is closely related to the community participation and the leadership of the village – not only as regards the Saemaul Leader, but in terms of the entire dynamics of a group of local leaders and the accountability of that group. Only when people participate voluntarily and willingly can power relations become more equitable, allowing participatory development to result in sustainable results. In sum, sustainable community development can be achieved when accountable leadership meets bottom-up village participation. Genuine community participation, after all, was, and will, remain the keyword to any sustainable development. More case studies will be helpful for countries playing catch-up, which will certainly welcome detailed examination of on-the-ground processes of community participation, including who initiated and designed the community development plans (or simply grassroots efforts and trials), how the nature of the relationships between leaders and fellow villagers (or citizens) in the specific space and local contexts could be described and such like. From this grounded evidence, we can assess whether or not the ‘participation’ was genuine and, most of all, learn from both successes and failures. The often-juxtaposed relationship between leader(s) and fellow villagers should also be revised, as they are not necessarily always opposing powers; rather, successful community participation is in fact often based on willing co-operation of the two parties for the same goal. Development scholars who believe in the strength of participation have a duty to search out and publicize more concrete examples to share what makes this possible. Acknowledgements I thank all of the interviewees in this study, and mostly the two incumbent Rijangs of the villages studied, for their sincere and honest sharing of their experiences, without which this study would not have been possible. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2015 Annual DSA Conference (Bath, 7–8 September 2015) and the revision benefited from helpful comments by two anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by a research fund from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Yunjeong Yang is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, Korea. Her articles appeared in Journal of International Development (Wiley), Ageing & Society (Cambridge) and others. She obtained her D.Phil. in Social Policy from University of Oxford in 2010. She also serves as a Chair of the international cooperation committee of the Korean Association of International Development and Cooperation (KAIDEC) (2013–16). URL: http://ids.hufs.ac.kr/overview/faculty/ Footnotes 1 This, however, does not rule out the potential, perhaps much larger, impact of industrialization and urbanization on rural livelihood over the last four decades, which unavoidably result in a declining and ageing rural population and consequently shrinking rural economy. 2 Every village was categorized into three categories, namely, Basic, Self-help, and Self-reliant, according to set criteria. At the early stage of the movement in 1972, the category Basic consisted of more than half of the total 34,665 villages while by 1977 Self-help villages accounted for a majority (Central Committee of SMU, 2000). 3 Park Chung Hee came to power in 1961 through a coup-d’état. After about a decade of trying a ‘soft’ form of authoritarianism, Park became increasingly anxious about losing power and eventually declared martial law (Yushin) in 1972, then kept the nation-ruling ‘hard’ authoritarian until he was shot dead by the chief of his own security services in 1979. Saemaul Undong was implemented during this hard authoritarian period. 4 Back then the total number of households was 80. 5 The peak in the rural population in Korea was 1967 and since then rural growth rates have been consistently negative with an average urban growth rate at 4.5% during the period of 1965–1995 (UN as cited in Douglass, 2013, Table 2). 6 Upon probing, it was found that the village gained a considerable sum paid by a general's family that placed the general's tomb in the village backyards. 7 According to the records of the MoHA, farm households at Dongmak in 1973 possessed an average of 1.3 ha land, which was relatively large compared with the majority (67%) of farm households nationwide in 1974, which had land smaller than 1 ha (Survey in Gyeonggi province, cited in Yang, 2015, Table 3). 8 The majority (76.5%) of farm households engaged in sales of their products were small-sized (<1 ha) and the major products for sale (77.3%) were those agricultural products under special frames, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce grown under vinyl houses (Census of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 1970, Statistics Korea (KOSIS), accessed on 27 February 2016). 9 Sedong's greenhouse lettuce remains known as a quality local product with a history of over 40 years until today (Munhwa Yooseong, a local magazine, http://blog.daum.net/nth00/14982422, retrieved on 17 July 2015). 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(In Korean) Websites Korea Saemaul Undong Centre http://www.saemaul.com Saemaul Undong History Institute http://www.saemaulstudy.or.kr Saemaul Undong database http://www.saemauldb.com/ Appendix. Summary of the case villages and interviewees   Dongmak  Sedong  Size  (1973) 46 HH, 284 persons  (1970) 80 HH, 504 persons  (1977) 46 HH, 276 persons  (1976) 89 HH, 505 persons  (2015) 35~40 HH,  150~180 persons  (2015) 70 HH, 150 persons   Year classified as a ‘Self-reliant’ village  1973  1977  Saemaul income-earning projects  (1973) Pig farming  (since 1968) Greenhouse lettuce  (1975) Rabbit farming; chestnut  tree nurseries    (1977) Cow farming    (1978–1979) Ginseng production    Current villagers’ evaluation   Failure: ‘no income, but only  performances’  Achieved the self-made slogan of  ‘high-income village’  Interviewees (age in 1972)  Kim (a, 40), Rijang in the mid-1970s  Jeon (26), former Samaeul Leader  and incumbent Rijang  Kim(b, 35), Assistant chief  throughout the 1970s  Min (31), Founding President of the  village's Credit Union  Jeong (43), Rijang in the late  1970s  Cho (19), incumbent Rijang    Dongmak  Sedong  Size  (1973) 46 HH, 284 persons  (1970) 80 HH, 504 persons  (1977) 46 HH, 276 persons  (1976) 89 HH, 505 persons  (2015) 35~40 HH,  150~180 persons  (2015) 70 HH, 150 persons   Year classified as a ‘Self-reliant’ village  1973  1977  Saemaul income-earning projects  (1973) Pig farming  (since 1968) Greenhouse lettuce  (1975) Rabbit farming; chestnut  tree nurseries    (1977) Cow farming    (1978–1979) Ginseng production    Current villagers’ evaluation   Failure: ‘no income, but only  performances’  Achieved the self-made slogan of  ‘high-income village’  Interviewees (age in 1972)  Kim (a, 40), Rijang in the mid-1970s  Jeon (26), former Samaeul Leader  and incumbent Rijang  Kim(b, 35), Assistant chief  throughout the 1970s  Min (31), Founding President of the  village's Credit Union  Jeong (43), Rijang in the late  1970s  Cho (19), incumbent Rijang  Note: HH = households. For 2015, estimations are given by respective Rijangs. View Large © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2016 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com

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Community Development JournalOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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