Asia‎ > ‎

Republic of Korea

South Korea, officially called Republic of Korea, is located in East Asia. Seas surround it from three sides, that is, the Sea of Japan/East Sea from the south and the east, and the Yellow Sea from the west. Its population is 50 million (2012), and the name of its capital is Seoul, where about 10 million people live. South Korea is considered as a developed, highly industrialized country with a strong economy, which has continued growing steadily since the 1960s. Based on its impressive successes, it has been transferring agricultural technologies and rural development model to a number of developing countries, and has forged partnerships with major development organizations, like the World Bank. For administrative purposes, South Korea is divided into a “special city” (Seoul), a “special self-governing city” (Sejong), six “metropolitan cities”, eight “provinces”, and a “special self- governing province” (Jeju).

South Korea is a mountainous country. Its climate comprises four distinct seasons, i.e. spring, summer, autumn and winter. The country has two sub-climates, one humid, continental, and the other humid sub-tropical depending on the distance from the sea coast. In the central region, winters are extremely harsh while summers are hot and humid. Rains occur during the summer months. The fast pace of industrialization of South Korea over the years has shrunk the contribution of its agricultural sector to the national GDP from 23.3 per cent in 1970 to just 2.63 per cent in 2012. The government, through its pro-farmer policies, has heavily subsidized the agricultural sector, which is mechanized, commercialized, and uses substantial chemical fertilizers. The sector is considered important due to food security and environmental concerns. Major land reforms in the late 1940s and early 1950s transferred land ownership to the peasants. About 60 per cent of the Korean farms are of less than one hectare in size, and only 4.6 per cent are larger than three hectares. Rice is the main food crop, and other crops are barley, millet, corn, buckwheat, soybeans and potatoes.  Fruits include tangerines, citrus, pears, grapes, apples, persimmons and strawberries. Among vegetables, cabbage, onions, red peppers, and radishes are common. The cultivation of flowers has been gaining popularity. Cash crops include cotton, hemp, sesame, tobacco, and ginseng. Livestock (cattle, hog and poultry), forestry and fisheries are also important economic sectors.   


The history of agricultural extension in Korea may have started around 570 years ago when, according to a source (Eckert et al. 1990)), the Great King Sejong founded the Hall of Worthies where most talented national scholars were invited to undertake research activities in many areas including agriculture for the welfare of people and food security. The king also tried to transfer relatively more advanced agricultural practices from the southern provinces to the north where farmers were using Chinese techniques that were not suitable for local conditions. The king sent officials to the southern provinces to learn improved agricultural practices leading to the preparation of a manual titled “Straight Talk on Farming”, which was used to provide guidance to advisors and farmers to tune their agricultural operations to the local conditions. The king was convinced that farm families could obtain many times higher production by following improved methods. In another development of historical significance, the crown prince invented a rain gauge for the benefit of farmers. Using the gauge, every village was required to report the rainfall and how much of that was absorbed into the soil.

Early 20th century

In 1906, the Agricultural Demonstration Station was established under the Great Korean Empire.  In 1907, a local financial association was set up in Kwangju, which is regarded as the first modern cooperative in Korea.

From 1947 to 1956

In 1947, South Korea adopted Land Grant College system from USA, and the National Agricultural Development was established with a mandate to cover agricultural research, extension and education. Although its education function was transferred in 1949 to the Ministry of Education, the strong bond established between research and extension led to rapid transfer of agricultural technologies to farmers through extension workers.

In 1948, the Ministry of Agriculture of South Korea was created. In the same year, the Institute of Korean Agricultural Sciences was established, which is now known as the National Academy of Agricultural Science.  Around the late 1950s, formal agricultural extension services was initiated in 1956 and the Agricultural Bank was established as a joint-stock company as to handle agricultural credit and banking.

Andrea Bohn,
17/1/2011 15:46