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Greetings From KAPEX Alumni 

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2019 KAPEX Academy : An Inspiration

2019 KAPEX Academy: An Inspiration

Nievalin B. Abao


A home to 51 million people, South Korea is a small country that is making its mark as the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 11th largest in the world with a total GDP of $1.435Trillion in 2015. South Korea joined in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in 1996 and ranked 10th in major global industries. Its trade volume in 2015 was $964 billion world ranking between 9th and 13th.  In 2010, the Newsweek picked South Korea as 15th best country in the world because of its high level of education and strong economic dynamism. South Korea shows unprecedented economic growth for the past 30 year’s period. The progress of this country brought about by industrialization is evident even just as we landed in Incheon International Airport. There is this Airport Observatory that is located at the top of terminal 2 where you can take a look at aircraft take-offs and landings and enjoy public relations zones, viewing experience zones, briefing zones, and lounge. It has a large airport model, 3D mapping technology, and VR experience that will surely provide unforgettable memories just like what I experienced. A smart-friendly high technology bus picked us up at the airport and moving along to a small city for our destination and the location of our stay for one month is so smooth and convenient. I never felt tired for four hours of travel since there is no unpaved or cracked road plus the views along the road are very scenic with lush green and tall buildings complementing each other. An interesting thing is that even that smallest community we passed by is very progressive and highly developed. In the farmlands, annex to the green fields are white roofed screen houses. Later on I discovered that the green house was an action taken by the government so they can produce agricultural products even in the winter season, making a year round cultivation of crops possible. They call it the White Revolution. But years ago, Korea was characterized as a poor agricultural economy and densely populated with a high rate of inflation and heavy dependence on foreign aid. From 1945 to 1960, foreign aid reached almost 2 billion US$, which generated more than half of government revenue and financed nearly all investment. In 1960, foreign loan were the major source of financing investment due to the extremely low domestic savings rate of 4.5 % of GDP. They borrow the money from World Bank, IMF, FAO, IFAD, US etc. The economic success of Korea lies in the formula of 5% planning and 95% execution, showing the overwhelming importance of implementation over legislation. Participation of all concerned parties matters most. All around effort is needed from legislation to implementation. Government capacity is important to make thorough preparations of all the details of the reform taking into consideration the measures to maximize social benefits. After the establishment of Korean Civilian Government in August 1948, land reform was one of the urgent issues in Korea. Whereas the legislation process took long time, the implementation process was rapid and decisive taking only 2 months to be accomplished with the help of farmland committee. The programs of the government focused mainly on rural development at this time when the government sees the need for the rural agricultural community to be developed. The period from 1960-1997 is considered as the economic miracle of South Korea. It is during this period that economic growth really boosted at its peak. Korea’s shared growth cited as one of the few countries that grew rapidly with relatively low income inequality. Meaning, as economic growth increases, income inequality decreases. The most remarkable performance was the rapid growth of export since the early 1960s. They strengthen their competitiveness trough global competition and by opening the market through export oriented industrialization policy. They venture into manufacturing and industrial sector from import substitution to export promotion by upholding market principles even under government-led growth and strong will to economize. Major Korean enterprises such as Lucky Goldstar and Samsung are now common household brand names all over the world. As well, Hyundai and Daewoo, the two leading South Korean auto manufacturers, both offer products that are able to compete on the worldwide market. Achieving the global competitiveness is the key to success. Even during the difficult times of crisis, Korea did not retreat from the commitments to the liberalization principle. Trade liberalization is good for the industry but has negative impact on agricultural sector. The effort of the government through the Rural Development Administration focused on improving the agricultural sector of the country. It aims for agricultural sustainability by improving the lifestyle and rural environment and rural community. In 1970, Korea already achieved rice self-sufficiency and right now they have this issue of oversupply of rice even if they are exporting to other countries, still their rice production is a surplus. In 1990, the rice production is already fully mechanized and right now they are using much more advance technologies in farming like the newly developed GPS tractor that can be remotely accessed at home and even small farmers are now using drones in applying fertilizers and spraying pesticides. The irrigation system is very much stable and water supply is not a problem. Farm to market roads are all concrete. Government support in all areas are all out, like giving free seeds, subsidized fertilizers and chemicals, farm machineries including post-harvest facilities, and most importantly technical support from experts. For now, RDA is on the process of developing a smart farm, integrating agriculture with science and technology through robotics. A visit to the Agricultural Science and Technology Center in RDA is a must for in there one can see the Korean direction in the future of agriculture, where everything in farming is high technology. These are but only a few of the many things I have learn for participating in this year’s KAPEX Academy Program. Being a part in this year’s KAPEX academy program is both an honor and a privilege. And I know I couldn’t thank enough Philrice and KREI for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The knowledge I gain from the policy lectures and the on-site visits are of great help in enhancing my capabilities as an employee in our institute. Having attended the training, it allows me to expand my knowledge and understanding regarding agricultural policy development and I was able to know more about the economic success and development of South Korea that can also be applied to our country. The policy lectures given by KREI experts related to project management and agricultural/rural policy motivated me to do more research regarding our country's economy and inspired me to study economics. The program has broadened my perspective towards understanding the relevance of a sound agricultural and rural policies for economic growth of a developing country. I am personally grateful for KREI and other Korean experts in sharing their experiences to us. For my one month stay in Korea, I can say that Korean people is one of the honest, disciplined, dedicated and kindest people I know. Their attitude towards work is commendable and exceptional.  I must say that I enjoyed the buddy program for I have found a new friend and was able to experience how to be a local Korean. Thank you for letting us experience the culture of Korea. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation KREI. In behalf of my colleagues from Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), gamsahamnida!