Korea’s Global Saemaul Undong

Exporting the Will to Compete in Korea’s Global Saemaul Undong” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.2016227) is a new article by Juliette Schwak of the Division of Communication, History and Politics at Franklin University Switzerland, Sorengo, Switzerland.

The abstract states:

This article analyses the globalisation of Saemaul Undong, a South Korean rural development programme. While multiple actors promote contradictory versions of global Saemaul, suggesting strategic incoherence, all these initiatives are tied together by a coherent political economic agenda, namely the export of a will to compete in the developing world. By focusing on the interests of Saemaul’s globalisation, this article shows that for converging local and global actors, Saemaul is an instrument to enrol villagers in capitalist development and to enforce extended processes of primitive accumulation. Saemaul aligns with the neo-liberal agendas of development agencies: it fits the imperative of participatory development and its contemporary advocates emphasise its Schumpeterian qualities and its ability to promote social competition in rural communities. Saemaul also seeks to achieve social change by changing minds, while its globalisation also aligns with the World Bank’s recent behavioural agenda of transformation of the mind for capitalist purposes. This transformative endeavour reflects the coinciding materialist interests of global development agencies and the Korean state-chaebol nexus. By promoting the principle of agricultural value chain integration in Saemaul programmes, South Korean governments also use Saemaul to respond to the business interests shaping the country’s Official Development Assistance provision.

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