Printer Friendly

A Comparative Analysis of Sustainability Views across the Saemaul Movement in South Korea and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka.


Severe and persistent rural poverty has been a continuing concern in Asian developing countries, and thus alleviation of rural poverty has been on the top of their policy agendas. A common strategy adopted to alleviate pervasive rural poverty has been to foster the voluntary participation of rural villagers in community projects. Internationally known community-based rural development initiatives in Asia include the Saemaul Undong ("New Village Movement") or Saemaul Movement in the Republic of Korea (hereafter South Korea), the Sarvodaya Shramadana ("Awakening of All [to a] Donation of Labor") Movement in Sri Lanka, the Sufficiency Economy program in Thailand, and Township and Village Enterprises in China. The Sufficiency Economy program was formulated in the late 1990s by Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, to guide people to live in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner in relatively remote rural Thailand (Noy 596-597; Pruetipibultham 100-101). This program has yet to be widely spread in the country. Township and Village Enterprises constitute an industrial rural development program that has aggressively been implemented in China with an aim to reduce rural out-migration (Putterman 1639-1640; Wang 179-180).

This article focuses on the Saemaul Movement (SM) in South Korea and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM) in Sri Lanka, given that both movements have initiated participatory rural development and operated nationwide under the legislative auspices for state-community alliance. Both South Korea and Sri Lanka were liberated from imperialistic rule in the late 1940s and experienced devastating civil wars. They were classified as low-income countries in the 1950s. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of South Korea was US$1,107 in 1960, whereas the per capita GDP of Sri Lanka was US$337 in 1960. South Korea used to be an agricultural country with the rural population accounting for 72.3% of the entire population of 25.0 M in 1960 (World Bank, 2015). (2) Likewise, 83.6% of the Sri Lankan population of 9.9 M was living in rural villages in 1960 (World Bank, 2015). (3)

According to World Bank (2015), South Korea covered about 100,000 [km.sup.2] of land in area with about fifty million people in 2010, whereas Sri Lanka covered about 65,600 [km.sup.2] with about twenty-one million people in 2010. The GDP per capita of South Korea increased about twenty times during the period of 1960 to 2010 to US$22,236 at 2005 constant prices. The per capita GDP of Sri Lanka increased about five times to US$1,610 during the same period at 2005 constant prices. The proportion of South Korean rural population decreased to 18.1% in 2010. In contrast to South Korea, more than 80% of the Sri Lankan population was found living in rural villages from 1960 to 2010.

The SM was initiated in the early 1970s by the South Korean government to address chronic rural poverty (Lew 56-57; S. Park 115; Saemaul Undong Center 4). Archives of Saemaul activities during the 1970s have been registered as a Memory of the World with UNESCO (2012). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2013 considered the SM an effective platform to be promoted for achieving poverty eradication and sustainable local development in the Third World. The SSM in Sri Lanka spread in the early 1960s in pursuit of the economic, environmental, and social development of rural villages (Compton 85; Williams 159-160). This movement has since drawn attention from various international donor agencies (LJSSS 72). The SSM has been well known for its rural development approach based on the Middle Path philosophy of no-poverty and no-affluence. The World Bank recognized the SSM as an appropriate program for people-centered self-help development (Marshall and van Saanen 118-119).

Can the SM be a sustainable rural development model to be promoted in Africa and Asia? Based on Buddhist philosophy, can the SSM be an appropriate model for rural development in the Third World? Most research on the SM or the SSM tends to romanticize the movements. Most SM literature (e.g., Claassen, 2010; Douglass, 2013; Lew, 2012; Sonn and Gimm, 2013; Yang, 2015) focuses on the governance or organizational aspect of the movement. Likewise, most SSM literature (e.g., Bond, 2010; Hayashi-Smith, 2011; Johnson, 2006; Kantowsky, 1989) focuses on the conflict resolution efforts of the movement.

This paper compares and contrasts the sustainability views associated with the SM and the SSM in a way to address the questions raised above. This article first outlines how to undertake the comparative analysis, and then provides a brief overview of the sustainability concept. Next, the paper describes the objectives and principles of the two movements, and undertakes a document analysis of the selected texts.

Drawn on the document analysis, the paper identifies and critically discusses the sustainability view attached to each of the two movements.

Research Methods

This study selects documents representative of the two movements, which provide a comprehensive overview of the movements. The selected documents include the Support of Saemaul Movement Organization Act of 1980, The Saemaul Undong Movement in the Republic of Korea (ADB, 2012), and Saemaul Undong in Korea (Saemaul Undong Center, 2015) for the Saemaul Movement (SM) in South Korea; and the Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Act of 1999, Buddhist Economics in Practice in the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka (Ariyaratne, 1999), and Sarvodaya Philosophy (Sarvodaya, 2015) for the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM) in Sri Lanka. These texts were published in English between the 1980s and the 2010s when the threat of environmental pollution, such as water contamination and land degradation, was imminent in contemporary rural Asia.

These documents are examined through the content analysis techniques with the aid of NVivo software and the discourse analysis theories informed by Foucault (1972) and Fairclough (1992). First, the "frequency" query function established in NVivo is utilized to find out what kinds of words are appearing repetitively in the selected documents. Next, discourse analysis is undertaken to decipher the context in which the most frequently appearing words are used, and to identify any particular sustainability view associated with each of the two movements. A general thesis in the discourse analysis literature is that the use of the same words, statements, or expressions may construct different meanings in the social and ideological context from discourse to discourse; therefore, the specific context in which language is used should be analyzed (Jorgensen and Phillips 8-13). Discourse analysis is of great relevance to the present study in that a nationwide rural development movement may lean towards a particular sustainability view, which in turn can play a crucial role in shaping and tailoring rural development goals and strategies.

Content analysis has been criticized for being too mechanistic because the method essentially reduces the analysis of texts to counts of categorized concepts (Sproule 341-343). Critics point out that the discourse analysis research is potentially vulnerable to sampling bias because only selected pieces of texts are analyzed (Jacobs 360-361). This might be the case when secondary documents such as journal articles and opinion columns are analyzed. For this very reason, however, this study includes only the primary documents. In other words, the benefit of confining the analysis to primary documents outweighs the benefit of including diverse secondary documents for the sake of less biased discourse analysis.

A Spectrum of Sustainability Views

O'Riordan (1981, 1987) and Pearce (1993) captured four major sustainability views into a spectrum, as illustrated in Figure 1, which are often cited in environmental studies literature. These views are labelled as "deep ecology" and "environmental stewardwhip" under the umbrella term "ecocentrism," and "environmental managerialism" and "cornucopian views" under the umbrella term "technocentrism."

"Ecocentrism" posits that nature protects humans and denies that humans have the right to dominate nature. "Ecocentrism" holds a pessimistic view of the long-term environmental effects of technological development. Ecocentric environmentalists maintain that the desire for economic prosperity should not compromise the quality of the natural environment and the stability and robustness of ecosystems. "Ecocentrism" derives from Darwin's theory of evolution that holds human beings are one with all the other species, and not created in the image of God (Pepper Modern 180; Worster 180). "Ecocentrism" (e.g., Naess, 1984) can be divided into "deep ecology" and "environmental stewardship." "Deep ecology" holds that nature has the right to exist regardless of the wants and needs of human beings. Deep ecologists maintain that human beings should not plunder, exploit, or destroy natural ecosystems. "Environmental stewardship" holds the view that the well-being of nature directly and indirectly affects human well-being; therefore, people should do their best to conserve and preserve the natural environment.

"Technocentrism" postulates that environmental pollution is a by-product of economic growth necessary for enhancing the quality of human life. Moreover, the technocentric view argues that economic growth induces technological development which can help clean up any resulting environmental pollution. This view supports the position that continuous accumulation of physical and human-made capital, which is the basis of economic growth, is necessary to improve the standard of living. "Technocentrism" takes a view that nature's value rests in the benefits it offers human beings. Under the banner of "technocentrism," the "cornucopian view" (e.g., Simon, 1980, 1981) holds that continuing economic prosperity is a prerequisite for a better quality of human life. To summarize, Cornucopians argue that greater economic affluence is the driving force for new technological development, which can overcome the potential environmental impacts of increasing production or consumption. "Environmental managerialism" admits that market mechanisms often fail to set the socially optimal uses of environmental and natural resources. Thus, "environmental managerialism" holds that appropriate policy measures should be taken to correct market failure caused by the presence of external costs or negative externalities (Bryant and Wilson 323; Pepper Roots 29-30).

Objectives and Principles of Two Rural Development Movements

As a national rural development program, the Saemaul Movement (SM) in South Korea was formulated in the 1970s. The SM was triggered by a severe flood event in July 1969, which devastated a number of rural villages in South Korea. Then President Chung-Hee Park paid a visit to some of the heavily damaged sites around the country, including Chungdo, a village located in North Gyeongsang Province. He observed the Chungdo villagers as a collective, repairing the flood damage to their community access roads. From this observation, President Park was inspired to scale up the self-help mentality to the national level, and he laid out his intention for initiating the SM in 1970. The SM Unit was established in the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1973 (Saemaul Undong Center 36).

The primary goal of the SM was to eradicate rural poverty by galvanizing rural people to participate in infrastructure improvement projects and mobilizing limited resources for maximum effect for the improvement of rural infrastructure (Rho 40). Sae in the term "saemaul" connotes "something new," "development," or "modernization." Maul translates into "village" or "community" in English. The SM movement emphasized "diligence, self-reliance and cooperation" in pursuit of economic affluence (Saemaul Undong Center 5). These catch words are clearly contained in the Saemaul Song lyrics below. (5)
(Verse 1) Morning bell is sounding and a new day has come.
You and I get up and let's work for Saemaul.
(Verse 2) Removing thatched houses, widening village roads
Let's reforest village hills and look after them.
(Verse 3) Helping one another, working hard and sweating
Striving for income increases, let's build a wealthy village
(Chorus) Prosperous Saemaul, let's make it happen on our own.

The scope of the SM was then expanded from eradicating poverty to increasing food production and reducing rural-urban disparity. In the 1960s, most rural households in South Korea suffered poverty to the point to where they had to overcome the seasonal extreme shortage of food called "spring hunger." South Korea is located in the temperate northern hemisphere, and traditional staple food crops (e.g., rice) cannot be grown in winter from December to February. Most households ran out of food ingredients before the spring cultivation.

The SM was initially led by the central government in the 1970s. The central government coordinated and tailored Saemaul activities in which rural villagers were urged to participate (S. Park 115). The SM was converted into a more participatory rural development movement in the 1980s (Kim and Kang 787). The SM Unit in the Ministry of Home Affairs was disestablished in 1980. Instead, the Saemaul Undong Center, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), was set up under the Support of Saemaul Movement Organization Act of 1980. It is notable, however, that Article 3 of this Act states that "the State or local governments may grant the Saemaul Movement Organization contributions and subsidies to cover expenses involved in the operation of the Organization." Therefore, the Saemaul Undong Center is not a purely non-governmental organization.

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM) began in Sri Lanka in 1958 when A. T. Ariyaratne, then a science teacher at the Buddhist Nalanda College in Colombo, organized volunteer work camps in poor rural areas (Clark 97; Williams 159). (6) Ariyaratne was inspired by the Gandhian Sarvodaya concept he studied in India. With sarva meaning "all," and udaya meaning "friendliness," "respect," "uplift," or "welfare," the Sanskrit word "Sarvodaya" is interpreted to mean the "welfare of all" (Kantowsky 21; Macy 78; Marshall and van Saanen 121). (7) The Gandhian term "Sarvodaya" was adapted to mean the "awakening of all" in consistence with the Buddhist teaching of awakening (Ariyaratne Buddhist 19; Ariyaratne People's 79; Ariyaratne Role 588). Ariyaratne diagnosed that rural villages in Sri Lanka were crippled by twin problems of psychological powerlessness and a lack of initial capital, and he prescribed that rural people needed to be awakened to their economic power before being freed from poverty. In other words, the rural villagers needed to have confidence in themselves to be able to combat the poverty that they had inherited for centuries (Williams 160).

Ariyaratne operationalized the Gandhian Sarvodaya by adding in the concept of Shramadana. In the Sinhala language, shrama means "energy or labor," and dana means "donation" or "giving away" (Ariyaratne Buddhist 30; Marshall and van Saanen 121). Thus, Sarvodaya Shramadana literally means the sharing of one's resource for the awakening of all. It can be said that Shramadana has been a fundamental tool with which to put Sarvodaya in practice. Cooperation amongst all the members of society is essential to accomplishing the welfare of all, and cooperation can only be embodied with co-sharing (Ariyaratne Buddhist 31-34).

The Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Act of 1999, an official act of the Sri Lankan government, recognized the roles of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya, the NGO that has orchestrated the SSM. This Act legitimated the NGO to engage in economic and financial activities for the purpose of creating employment and financing welfare programs in Sri Lanka. The Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya has become the largest NGO in Sri Lanka with 15,000 small villages, or one in every two villages in Sri Lanka, participating in the movement (Daskon and Binns 870). The principal objectives of the SSM are stipulated in the Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Act of1999, as follows.

* To develop self-confidence, cooperation and unity among the urban and rural communities;

* To undertake economic and financial activities for the development of communities in accordance with the Sarvodaya Philosophy;

* To assist in the programs of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign of the FAO, the UNESCO, and the WHO; and

* To collect and mobilize the maximum possible resources of the people such as their time, knowledge and labor.

Beyond these objectives, the Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Act of 1999 specifies the Sarvodaya principles, as follows.

* To accept the concept of Sarvodaya (or welfare of all) found as [at] the heart in [of] the teachings of world religious leaders such as Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, and noble leaders including Mahatma Gandhi;

* To attempt to build a Sarvodaya Social Order based on community ownership, cooperation and love by nonviolence methods, in place of the present way of life based on private ownership of wealth and competition, hatred and greed;

* To attain progressively the goal of a simple way of living; and

* To assist in the national development and social welfare projects of the government.

The SSM sees economy as only a fragment of life and living. The movement teaches that one should not multiply his or her needs inordinately because such multiplication would lead to the suffering of others whose basic needs would not be satisfied. The SSM specifies ten basic human needs that are to be satisfied in order to build a no-poverty society (Ariyaratne Buddhist 36-37): (1) A clean and beautiful environment; (2) An adequate supply of safe water; (3) Minimum requirements of clothing; (4) A balanced diet; (5) Simple housing; (6) Basic health care; (7) Communication facilities; (8) Energy requirements; (9) Total education related to life and living; and (10) Fulfillment of cultural and spiritual needs.

Document Analysis of Two Rural Development Movements

The selected primary documents that represent each of the two movements were imported into the NVivo software. It was found that the ten most frequently used words in describing the two movements overlapped, as indicated in the following summary. (8)
Saemaul: village, community, rural, government, development,
participation, agricultural, economic, income, cooperation
Sarvodaya Shramadana: village, people, development, community,
humanity, society, rural, needs, awakening, participation

The two rural development movements commonly place emphasis on "participation" and "community" mentality. However, it has been found that the contexts in which these words are used offer striking contrasts. Table 1 collates key differences between the two movements in terms of their approach and exposition towards four common content groups identified.

The Saemaul Movement (SM) in South Korea operated resource mobilization under government-village partnership schemes. In the 1970s, rural villages first initiated working on their community projects such as widening access roads and constructing bridges with their own labor inputs. The central government then selectively supported the community projects with construction materials such as cement and steel rods on a competitive basis (O. Choi 77; S. Park 128). Even those villages which were not selected for government supports continued their projects to win the supports in the next round.

In resource-poor countries like South Korea, the efficient allocation of scarce resources was imperative. The government could not support every rural village due to a lack of tax revenues, which was due to the underdeveloped economy. The SM in the 1970s resembled a military operation in terms of resource mobilization (Sonn and Gimm 29). Loudspeakers in rural villages played the Saemaul Song at sunrise to wake up villagers to undertake Saemaul projects. On the other hand, along the path of rapid urbanization and industrialization, the South Korean government has allocated a large amount of tax revenue to a number of rural infrastructure projects, including electrification, highways, and irrigation facilities.

The premise of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM) in Sri Lanka lies in the promotion of sharing one's resources such as time, thought, energy, skill, wealth, and land. Unlike in the SM, resource sharing in the SSM has not been on a competitive basis. Rather, this movement seeks to integrate natural and human resources in order to fill in the functional niches within and between villages. In fact, labor sharing has been the tradition of Sri Lankan paddy farming at all stages including ploughing, sowing, weeding, manuring, harvesting, and threshing. Through the SSM, the labor sharing tradition has been expanded to a broad range of other activities. For instance, a group of mothers can be trained to teach preschool children in poor rural areas.

With the launch of the SM, agriculture has rapidly been industrialized in South Korea. It was widely accepted that one thousand years of rural poverty was attributed to inefficient, traditional farming strategies.

In fact, the word "saemaul" (i.d., new village) negatively marked traditional villages as passive, stagnant, disease-ridden, and impoverished (Sonn and Kim 27). The adoption of Western agricultural technology was perceived as synonymous with a revolutionary increase in food production. New agricultural technology and crop varieties were introduced and the use of agrochemical products became widespread. It is a cliche in South Korea that food has been a commodity rather than a vital part of life, and that agriculture has become a mere industry rather than the basis of a society or an economy.

The SSM sees agriculture as the foundation of the economy. The agricultural sector produces food as the basis of life, and also consumes most goods and services from the non-agricultural sectors in Sri Lanka, given that the rural population was more than 80% as of 2010. Moreover, the movement attends to sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation to a large extent. It is no wonder that SSM activities include helping rural villages in solving environmental sanitation problems, maintaining soil fertility, and opening up a cooperative agricultural farm (Ariyaratne Buddhist 23, 65).

Similar to the SM, the SSM builds schools, roads, irrigation canals, and other needed communal facilities. In comparison, the latter also aims to initiate a psychological awakening of rural communities to their potential for self-development beyond just the construction of physical infrastructure. Ariyaratne critiqued the modern world for being obsessed with the idea that people should be employed to earn an income to purchase what they want (Buddhist 49). From the Sarvodaya Shramadana perspective, individuals can be engaged in socially useful activities without being employed. Their activities, which are not reflected in the calculation of GDP, can help meet the basic needs of rural communities. Such activities can be organized within a village and between villages so that communities can make an optimal allocation of resources in the concept of a "right livelihood" society, in keeping with a Buddhist precept, whose objective is neither employment generation nor income generation (Ariyaratne Buddhist 52-53).

Overall, the SM defines a rural community as a group of poor individuals living in the same village. The Saemaul documents do not explicitly show a strong intent to protect social capital beyond and above increased food production and income. Cooperation amongst community members is regarded as a means for the modernization of rural villages. By contrast, the SSM defines a rural community as a unity of people bound together, rather than just the sum of individuals. The SSM maintains that labor-sharing can economically empower rural villages, and strengthen community solidarity. To the SSM, strengthening community solidarity is not a means for resource mobilization but an end to be pursued.

Contested Sustainability Views across Two Rural Development Movements

The ultimate goal of Saemaul Movement (SM) in South Korea has been to build up economically affluent rural villages. Rural villagers participated in a variety of Saemaul projects such as building irrigation channels and widening access roads. The improved physical infrastructure helped agricultural productivity to increase and rural household incomes to grow by creating new on-farm and off-farm income generation opportunities for villagers (ADB 18; S. Park 119). Compared with the SM, the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM) in Sri Lanka has taken a "basic needs approach" to rural development. Ariyaratne stressed that the basic needs should be satisfied for all with the emphasis on equity (Daskon and Binns 871).

Table 2 juxtaposes the features of the SM and the SSM in terms of their sustainability views. The former has been driven by mostly growth-oriented technocentric developmentalism. By contrast, the latter has been guided by Buddhist teachings and has aimed to build a "no-poverty and no-affluence" society with emphasis on economic equity and environmental justice.

The SM reflects the importance of maintaining economic prosperity over time. The SM does not negate the environmental costs of economic prosperity. However, the movement maintains that poverty is the source of environmental pollution; therefore, economic growth is required to achieve a cleaner environment. The SM was initiated and supported by successively pro-growth governments during the period of the 1960s to the 1980s (S. Han 88). Undoubtedly, capitalism has been the ideological impetus for the movement. The Saemaul values--diligence, self-help, and cooperation--coincide with the Protestant ethic of capitalism (Sonn and Gimm 26-27). These Saemaul values were adopted from the Canaan Agricultural School, a Christianity-based school established in 1962 (D. Han 129). (11)

By contrast, the SSM puts the basic needs of all members in a community before the capitalistic growth of the community. Further, the SSM distinctively offers an "environmental stewardship" approach to rural development. The SSM considers a clean, natural environment an integral part of the portfolio of basic human needs (Ariyratne Buddhist 37), and denies the notion that environmental pollution is an inevitable by-product of economic growth to improve human well-being. Next to the Buddhist teaching of the Middle Path, the SSM promotes the vision of a "no-poverty and no-affluence" society (Ariyaratne Buddhist 9). Schumacher (62) stated that following the Buddhist Middle Path is equivalent to adopting a right livelihood between "materialistic heedlessness and traditional immobility." Pioneering the development of Buddhist economics, the SSM sees community cooperation and cohesion as the keys to overcoming both individualistic capitalism and immobility in society.

In this light, it is notable that various sustainable-agriculture movements alternative to the SM have emerged in South Korea since the 1990s (P. Park 37; Suh 206), whereas the SSM villages have become affiliated with the Global Ecovillage Network (Litfin 28). Unlike the SM, the SSM has been playing a leading role in the Sri Lankan ecovillage movement, as well as the rural economic development movement (Pathiraja 200).

The technocentric sustainability view taken by the SM intrinsically puts emphasis on increasing the materialistic standard of living, and tends to accelerate the erosion of the traditional sense of rural community. Yang stressed that social capital was integral to pooling the members of a village in the beginning of the SM (998). It was a requirement for rural villagers to work together cooperatively to win the government financial supports. However, the individualistic capitalist values transformed the way of thinking in the South Korean rural society. Once a high level of economic affluence was obtained, rural villagers were put in the situation where they didn't need to ask for help; therefore, they didn't need to return the help (S. Park 122). Consequently, the informal yet traditional labor-sharing network has been phased out while the capitalistic mindset has prevailed.

By contrast, the SSM pursues the equal satisfaction of basic needs for all, including cultural and spiritual needs. Obviously, the movement has not overlooked the importance of social capital. Its efforts in protecting social capital seem to have been fruitful. Ekanayake argued that traditional social capital (e.g., solidarity, informal network) had contributed to economic sustainability amongst poor rural communities in Sri Lanka (188). Daskon and McGregor found that cultural capital (e.g., traditional community identity, pride, and motivation) had been a crucial asset for social sustainability in Sri Lanka (559).


From the comparison of the two real-world examples of rural development movements, a few useful insights can be derived. First, the Saemaul Movement (SM) in South Korea places an emphasis on economic affluence and technological optimism. Indeed, the SM has prioritized the growth of physical infrastructure as the basis of poverty alleviation and rural income generation. It follows that Saemaul cannot be an exemplary model for "sustainable local development" as described in a 2013 United Nations Development Programme memorandum. The concept of "sustainable development" (WCED 43-66) refers to "economically and socially sustainable economic development," which connotes that economic development can foster ecological and social sustainability, or at least should not compromise the ecological and social demensions of sustainability. The technocentric and growth-oriented sustainability view embedded in the SM, however, does not pay due attention to the importance of environmental protection and social integrity. The SM documents have not explicitly expressed deep concerns for environmental and ecological degradation resulting from industrial agriculture.

Second, as the World Bank recognized, the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement (SSM) in Sri Lanka is an exemplar of a labor-sharing, self-help rural development movement. The SSM pursues ecocentric, non-capitalistic community welfare and well-being principles. The development ethic embedded in SSM is meritorious, considering how difficult it would be to rebuild social sustainability elements such as a collective sense of belonging and community solidarity.

The SSM adopts the "no-greed" or "no-affluence" principle, which underpins Buddhist ethics and economics. It is notable, however, that Schumacher (57) stressed that Buddhist economics is not antagonistic to physical well-being and economic prosperity. He went on to state that it is not comfort in life but craving for consumerism that the Buddhist Middle Path rejects. Few would disagree that stable personal income is an overarching factor that affects individual human well-being. In this sense, it is not impossible to bridge the conceptual gap between the contesting views of sustainable development. Lewis stressed that the advantage of economic growth is that it increases the range of human choice (420). This position is close to the capability approach to the measurement of human well-being. Sen (1999) saw capability as freedom from poverty at an individual level because poverty deprives or limits an individuals' choices in terms of what they can do and become.

Both SM and SSM see a self-reliant spirit as essential for rural development and recognize the importance of efficient resource mobilization. Despite these parallels, the two movements are rooted in contested sustainability views. The SM has been working towards capitalist rural villages whereas the SSM has pursued communalistic societies. The former is oriented towards materialistic prosperity and has little concern for the ecological and social dimensions of sustainability. By comparison, the latter is oriented towards poverty elimination rather than economic growth, and it is very concerned with ecological and social sustainability.

The SM has been oriented towards building up physical infrastructure in rural areas in coordination with the South Korean national economic growth strategy. The growth-oriented movement has promoted the practices of conventional agriculture characterized by mechanization, specialization, and the heavy use of agrochemicals. As a result, various bottom-up sustainable-agriculture movements in South Korea have emerged in lieu of the SM.

The SSM teaches that craving for material goods must be overcome through moral advancement. The SSM pursues the holistic approach to rural development, which emphasizes interconnectivity between the economic, ecological, and social dimensions of rural sustainability. The movement has simultaneously endeavored to alleviate rural poverty, promote ecologically sustainable agriculture, and integrate rural communities in Sri Lanka.

In sum, both movements attempted to lift the rural communities out of poverty through self-help, but they did so from different starting points. The SM regarded the rural communities as passive and stagnant, while the SSM regarded the poverty within rural communities as stemming from powerlessness and a lack of confidence in collective power. The former reflects a growth-oriented Protestant ethic while the latter sets the satisfaction of basic needs as the goal of rural development, as guided by a "no-poverty and no-affluence" Buddhist ethic.

This study has chosen to analyze official primary documents of the SM and the SSM in terms of their sustainability views. However, the paper lacks a full examination of the extent to which these documents accurately represent the operational practices of the two movements. Thus, further study to investigate how the sustainability views and principles in the SM and the SSM have been practiced, and what effects they have had on rural sustainability, are warranted. From the sociodemographic sustainability point of view, for instance, it would be worthwhile to examine whether the SSM initiatives have helped keep the share of rural population in Sri Lanka. Likewise, the correlation between the growth-oriented SM initiatives and the increased rural household incomes in South Korea should be explored. Future studies might reveal, in other words, the truly complex relationship between the NGO intitiatives, a number of other political and economic variables, and the ecological, social, and economic changes in the rural areas of South Korea and Sri Lanka.

Works Cited

Ariyaratne, A. T. "A People's Movement for Self-reliance in Sri Lanka." Carnets de l'enfance, vol. 39, 1977, pp. 78-98.

--. Buddhist Economics in Practice in the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka. Salisbury: Sarvodaya Support Group UK, 1999.

--. "The Role of Buddhist Monks in Development." World Development, vol. 39, 1980, pp. 587-589.

Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Saemaul Undong Movement in the Republic of Korea: Sharing Knowledge on Community-Driven Development. Mandaluyong City, the Philippines: ADB, 2012.

Bond, George D. "The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement's Double Legacy." Buddhist Studies from India to America: Essays in Honour of Charles S. Prebish, edited by Keown Damien, London: Routledge, 2010, pp. 218-226.

Brantlinger, Patrick. "A Postindustrial Prelude to Postcolonialism: John. Ruskin, William Morris, and Gandhism." Critical Inquiry, vol. 22, no. 3, 1996, pp. 466-485.

Bryant, Raymond L., and Geoff A. Wilson. "Rethinking Environmental. Management." Progress in Human Geography, vol. 22, no. 3, 1998, pp. 321-343.

Cha, Seong Hwan. "Myth and Reality in the Discourse of Confucian Capitalism in Korea." Asian Survey, vol. 43, no. 3, 2003, pp. 485-506.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook. CIA, Accessed 22 October 2015.

Choi, Mi-Young. "The History of Korean School Music Education." International Journal of Music Education, vol. 25, no. 2, 2007, pp. 137-149.

Choi, Oe-Chool. "Saemaul Development and Global Saemaul Undong for Community Development." The Routledge Handbook of Community Development: Perspectives from around the Globe, edited by Sue Kenny, Brian McGrath, and Rhonda Phillips, New York: Routledge, 2018, pp. 73-86.

Clark, John. "The Gift of Hope: Sarvodaya Shramadana's Good Work." Capitalism Nature Socialism, vol. 16, no. 2, 2005, pp. 97-105.

Claassen, Casper Hendrik. "An Aristotelian-communitarian Reading of. South Korea's Saemaul Undong and South Korean Society: Originality & the Importance of Language vis-a-vis Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa." Asian Social Science, vol. 7, no. 7, 2010, pp. 124-136.

Compton, J. Lin. "Sri Lanka's Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement: Promoting People's Participation in Rural Community Development." Journal of the Community Development Society, vol. 13, no. 1, 1982, pp. 83-104.

Daskon, Chandima, and Andrew McGregor. "Cultural Capital and Sustainable Livelihoods in Sri Lanka's Rural Villages: Towards Culturally Aware Development." Journal of Development Studies, vol. 48, no. 4, 2012, pp. 549-563.

Daskon, Chandima, and Tony Binns. "Practising Buddhism in a Development Context: Sri Lanka's Sarvodaya Movement." Development in Practice, vol. 22, no. 5-6, 2012, pp. 867-874.

Douglass, Mike. "The Saemaul Undong: South Korea's Rural Development. Miracle in Historical Perspective." Asia Research Institute, 2013, Working Paper Series No. 197, Singapore: National University of Singapore.

Ekanayake, Palitha. "Revitializing Productivity and Income Effects of Social Capital: Mainstreaming Social Capital for Rural Reduction in Sri Lanka." Potential of Social Capital for Community Development, edited by Asian Productivity Organization, Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization, 2006, pp. 172-192.

Fairclough, Norman. Critical Discourse Analysis, London: Longman, 1995.

Foucault, Michel. The Archeology of Knowledge, translated by Sheridan. Smith, New York: Random House, 1972.

Han, Do-Hyun. "Village Leaders and Their Community Activities." New Research on Saemaul Undong: Lessons and Insights from Korea's Development Experience, edited by Ministry of Strategy and Finance, Sejong: Ministry of Strategy and Finance, 2013, pp. 87-252.

Han, Seung-Mi. "The New Community Movement: Park Chung Hee and the Making of State Populism in Korea." Pacific Affairs, vol. 77, no. 1, 2004, pp. 69-93.

Hayashi-Smith, Masumi. "Contesting Buddhism on Conflicting Land: Sarvodaya Shramadana and Buddhist Peacemaking." Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, vol. 38, no. 2, 2011, pp. 159-180.

Jacobs, Keith. "Discourse analysis." Social Research Methods, edited by. Maggie Walter, Melbourne: Oxford UP, 2010, pp. 351-376.

Johnson, Noor. "The Challenge of Pluralism: Sarvodaya's Inclusive Approach to Development and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka." Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, vol. 2, no. 3, 2006, pp. 93-108.

Jorgensen, Marianne, and Louise Phillips. Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002.

Jun, Sang-In. "No Place for Asian Values in East Asia's Economic Development." Development and Society, vol. 28, no. 2, 1999, pp. 191-204.

Kantowsky, Detlef. "Sarvodaya Shramadana in Sri Lanka." A Journal of. Social Justice, vol. 1, no. 3, 1989, pp. 21-24.

Kim, Soyeun, and Hanee Kang. "Young and Dynamic?--The Curious Case. of Korea's National Level Post-2015 Process." Journal of International Development, vol. 27, 2015, pp. 776-800.

Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (LJSSS) Annual Service Report: 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. Moratua: Lanka Jathika Sarvodaya Shramadana Sangamaya (Inc.), 2014.

Lew, Stephen. "The Wikinomics of Saemaul Undong." Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, vol. 3, no. 1, 2012, pp. 50-73.

Lewis, W. Arthur. The Theory of Economic Growth. London: Allen and Unwin, 1955.

Litfin, Karen T. Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2014.

Macy, Joanna. "Sarvodaya Means Everybody Wakes Up." Paradigms, vol. 7, no. 1, 1993, pp. 77-81.

Marshall, Katherine, and Marisa Bronwyn van Saanen. Development and Faith: Where Mind, Heart, and Soul Work Together. Washington DC: The World Bank, 2007.

Naess, Arne. "Intuition, Intrinsic Value and Deep Ecology." The Ecologist, vol. 14, no. 5-6, 1984, pp. 201-203.

Noy, Darren. "Thailand's Sufficiency Economy: Origins and Comparisons with Other Systems of Religious Economics." Social Compass, vol. 58, no. 4, 2011, pp. 593-610.

O'Riordan, Timothy. "Environmentalism and Education." Journal of Geography in Higher Education, vol. 5, no. 1, 1981, pp. 3-18.

--. "The Challenge for Environmentalism." New Models in Geography, edited by Richard Peet, and Nigel Thrift, London: Unwin Hyman, 1987, pp. 77-102.

Park, Pori. "New Visions for Engaged Buddhism: The Jungto Society and the Indra's Net Community Movement in Contemporary Korea." Contemporary Buddhism: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, 2010, pp. 27-46.

Park, Sooyoung. "Analysis of Saemaul Undong: A Korean Rural Development Programme in the 1970s." Asia-Pacific Development Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, 2009, pp. 113-140.

Pathiraja, Sajini. "Damniyamgama Ecovillage: Sustainable Development for Tsunami Restoration." Designing Ecological Habitats: Creating a Sense of Place, edited by E. Christopher Mare, and Max Lindegger, East Meon, Hampshire: Permanent Publications, 2011, pp. 199-205.

Pearce, David. Blueprint 3: Measuring Sustainable Development. London: Earthscan, 1993.

Pepper, David. Modern Environmentalism: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 1996.

--. The Roots of Modern Environmentalism. London: Croom Helm, 1984.

Pinkney, Andrea Marion. "Looking West to India: Asian Education, Intra-Asian Renaissance, and the Nalanda Revival." Modern Asian Studies, vol. 49, no. 1, 2015, pp. 111-149.

Pruetipibultham, Oranuch. "The Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and Strategic HRD: A Sustainable Development for Thailand." Human Resource Development International, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, pp. 99-110.

Putterman, Louis. "On the Past and Future of China's Township and Village-owned Enterprises." World Development, vol. 25, no. 10, 1999, pp. 1639-1655.

Rho, Wha-Joon. "Triple Helix for Social Innovation: The Saemaul Undong for Eradicating Poverty." Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, vol. 13, no. 1, 2014, pp. 39-55.

Ruskin, John. Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy, edited by Lloyd John Hubenka, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1862 [1967].

Saemaul Undong Center. Saemaul Undong in Korea. Seoul: Saemaul Undong Center, 2015.

Sarvodaya. "Sarvodaya Philosophy." Sarvodaya Shramadana, Accessed 17 June 2015.

Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. New York: Anchor Books, 1999.

Simon, Julian L. "Environmental Disruption or Environmental Improvement?" Social Science Quarterly, vol. 62, no. 1, 1981, pp. 30-43.

--. "Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News." Science, vol. 208, no. 4451, 1980, pp. 1431-1437.

Sonn, Jung Won, and Dong-Wan Gimm. "South Korea's Saemaul (New Village) Movement: An Organisational Technology for the Production of Developmentalist Subjects." Canadian Journal of Development Studies, vol. 34, no. 1, 2013, pp. 22-36.

Sproule, Warren. "Content Analysis." Social Research Methods, edited by Maggie Walter, Melbourne: Oxford UP, 2010, pp. 323-350.

Suh, Jungho. "Sustainable Agriculture in the Republic of Korea." Sustainable Agriculture Reviews 27, edited by Eric Lichtfouse, Dordrecht: Springer, 2018, pp. 193-211.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) "Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations Development Programme and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Republic of Korea on the Global Initiative to Scale up the Saemaul Undong Experiences." UNDP, 2013, Accessed 19 July 2015.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Archives of Saemaul Undong (New Community Movement). UNESCO, 2012, Accessed 19 July 2015.

Wang, Juan. "Going beyond Township and Village Enterprises in Rural. China." Journal of Contemporary China, vol. 14, no. 42, 2005, pp. 177-187.

World Commision on Environment and Development (WCED). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.

Williams, John R. "Religion, Ethics and Development: An Analysis of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka." Canadian Journal of Development Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 1984, pp. 157-167.

World Bank. "Data: Countries and Economies." World Bank, Accessed 26 August 2015.

Worster, Donald. Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Yang, Yunjeong. "Saemaul Undong Revisted: 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, vol. 29, no. 7, 2017, pp. 993-1010.

Jungho Suh (1)

(1) The University of Adelaide. Email:

(2) The GDP and rural population data for South Korea can be downloaded from

(3) The GDP and rural population data for Sri Lanka can be downloaded from

(4) Adapted from O'Riordan (Challenge 85), O'Riordan (Environmentalism 5), and Pearce (18).

(5) The Saemaul Song and its lyrics were composed and written by President Chung-Hee Park. The English translation in this paper was adapted from M. Choi (141-142).

(6) Nalanda College is a secondary school in Sri Lanka and should not be confused with Nalanda University in India, which is a post-graduate university re-established in 2014 after being destroyed more than 800 years ago (Pinkney 112). It is notable that Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate in Economics, had served as the first chancellor of Nalanda University until February 2015.

(7) Ruskin's (1862 [1967]) book Unto This Last, a critique of capitalism and classical economics, had a profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi (Brantlinger 467-468).

(8) The key words "Buddhist," "Saemaul," and "Sarvodaya Shramadana," which appear in the titles of the selected documents, are excluded from the list of frequently used words.

(9) Table 1 is the original work of the author.

(10) Table 2 is the original work of the author.

(11) South Korea, like Sri Lanka, was classified as a Buddhist country in terms of the population of religious affiliation until the 1970s. However, the Christian population in South Korea has dramatically increased since the 1970s, and South Korea is no longer a Buddhist country, with Christians being the largest religious affiliation group (CIA, 2015). The shift in dominant religious affiliation from Buddhism to Christianity may have played a role in South Korean economic growth since the 1970s. There is a huge debate in the literature (e.g., Cha, 2003; Jun, 1999) on a Weberian research agendum of whether religious traditions have contributed to South Korean economic growth.
Table 1. Comparison of the contents and viewpoints of the two
movements (9)


Participation      Labor participation in
and cooperation    community projects; resource
                   (e.g., construction
                   materials) allocation on a
                   between-village competition
Agriculture        Agriculture seen as an industry
Rural community    Rural community seen as a
Rural development  group of poor individuals
                   Growth in household incomes
                   and rural physical

                   Sarvodaya Shramadana

Participation      Labor sharing; welfare of all with
and cooperation    a motto of "let us go from village
                   to village and be of service to all"
Agriculture        Agriculture seen as the foundation
Rural community    of life, economy and society
Rural development  Rural community seen as powerless
                   but a unity bound together
                   Creation of a right livelihood society
                   and satisfaction of basic
                   human needs

Table 2. Contested sustainability views across the two rural
development movements (10)


Ethical basis   Protestant ethic of capitalism
Approach to     Growth-oriented structural
development     transformation of industries
Ultimate goal   Affluent rural economy
                with increased income per
Sustainability  Technocentric view with a
view            lack of concern for the sustainability
                of traditional
                rural communities or environmental

                Sarvodaya Shramadana

Ethical basis   Buddhist ethic of communalism
Approach to     A holistic approach to development
development     with top priority given to
                the satisfaction of basic needs
                for all
Ultimate goal   Poverty-free society without
                craving for materialistic prosperity
Sustainability  Ecocentric view with no compromise
view            of social cohesion or
                environmental quality
COPYRIGHT 2019 Journal of Buddhist Ethics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Suh, Jungho
Publication:Journal of Buddhist Ethics
Geographic Code:90ASI
Date:Jan 1, 2019
Previous Article:Prison and the Pure Land: A Buddhist Chaplain in Occupied Japan.
Next Article:A Review of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters