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Vol. XXVI, 1st Quarter
January–March 2008

South Korea's theme village concept brings revenues

Buremi, a village in the suburban area of Seoul , Korea , earned $500,000 last year from 21,000 local tourists. The village is comprised of only 28 households.

On the other hand, the Dareng-i village, following the terrace field concept, has earned $440,000 from 192,000 local tourists who visited the place. Dareng-I has 58 households and 158 residents.

These villages are just two of the 141 project areas of the Rural Traditional Theme Village Program. Managed by the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of Korea, the unique theme village is just one of South Korea 's rural development strategies.

RDA's Dr. Lock-Hwan Jo presented the rural theme village in a seminar held recently at the PCARRD Headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna. It was participated in by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau, University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Forestry and Natural Resources, and PCARRD staff.

South Korea's theme village conceptAccording to Dr. Jo each project area receives $200,000 as financial support. He attributes much of the success of the village theme concept to the South Korean government's substantial financial support to these villages, and the massive publicity campaign for urban dwellers to visit and experience the lifestyle of the rural people. In fact, he said that each village has a website of its own.

Along with the unique theme village concept, Korea is also into developing green tourism and educating and training village leaders, among other strategies.

Aside from RDA, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is also involved in the development and promotion of commodities of 19 counties under the rural indigenous industry concept. Further, the private sector participates in the one company - one village project in which $300,000 is invested in each village.

Trends and policies in South Korea 's rural development policies value and utilize rural amenities, focus on software development strategies, apply substantial bottom-up decisions, among others. He said that rural development efforts in his country in general intend to improve the quality of life and vitality in rural areas, much like precedent projects like the Saemul Undong (Korean village movement) in the 70s. He however emphasized that rural development projects in his country now are more diversified.

Jo characterized Korean villages as having a decreasing population due to an aging society with 18.6% of the populace above 65 years old. He also mentioned that there is lack of labor, increasing production cost, increasing import of foreign products, and increasing proliferation of international marriages in the rural areas, which result to social change.

The activity is part of Exchange Scientists/Experts Mission Program of the 2007 RDA-PCARRD Work Plan of Cooperation. Jo was in the Philippines for ten days as part of his mission on rural ecotourism for biodiversity conservation and community livelihood.