The longstanding bilateral cooperation between Fiji and Korea has unfolded new opportunities for the development of rural communities within the Tailevu and Namosi provinces, through the Korean Government’s USD1 million dollars Official Development Assistance (ODA) project administered to Fiji under the Saemaul Undong (SMU) Pilot Village Project.

These development projects have been initiated by the Fiji Embassy in Seoul in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior and Safety (MOIS), the Saemaul Undong (SMU) Center of Korea and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Fiji since 2016.

The 3 rural villages, namely Naimasimasi and Silana village in Tailevu and Mau village in Namosi province have been earmarked for the project to be rolled out over the course of 5 years, commencing from 2020 to 2024, targeting SMU training and village development projects.

The villages’ proposal for their 2020 implementation of their pilot programs has been received by the Saemaul Undong Centre this month, following which the first phase of funds have been released to them this week in their designated bank accounts.

According to the SMU Centre responsible for the SMU implementation, the village bank accounts are co-managed by the SMU representative in Fiji and the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs.

This development project has evolved through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in 2018 by the Fiji Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Interior and Safety of Korea for the introduction and implementation of the SMU rural development model in Fiji.

The 2020 projects for the 3 Fijian villages are expected to be completed by the end of this year and proposals for the 2021 projects will be submitted to the Korea SMU Centre early next year.

The SMU training for this project which was scheduled to be held this September in Korea for 20 members from the 3 villages has been moved to 2021 due to the current closure of the borders.

The SMU is a Korean rural development model formally recognised by the Korean Government and the United Nations (UN) that is widely acclaimed and credited to have uplifted the livelihood of the Korean rural population during the 1950’s.

It has played a significant role in the transformation of the Korean economy from an aid recipient to an aid donor country after the Korean War ended in 1953.

The SMU Model is defined by 3 core pillars of “Diligence, Co-operation and Self-help”, as the key driving force that moved the hearts and minds of the Korean people to be determined to transform their lives from poverty to prosperity within four decades.

The SMU movement was fully supported by the Korean Government through innovative and integrated Government policy initiatives and partnership arrangements that empowered the local population to uplift their living standards and also enhancing their agro-based industries.

The SMU Center has a global membership of 41 countries with 21 countries as full members and 20 as associate members including Fiji. It has trained government officials and villagers from over 44 countries and has coordinated Pilot Village Development Projects in 10 countries.