THE SOUTH KOREA VISIT – by Eng. B.K. Kariuki

Between 14th and 27th July 2012, I accompanied some fourteen (14) government officers drawn from different ministries and state corporations for training on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) policies held at the Small Business Training Institute (SBTI), Ansan-Republic of Korea. The training was organized by the African Development Bank, in collaboration with the Small and Medium Business Corporation (SBC) of the Republic of Korea.

The objective of the training programme was to enhance capacity on promotion and establishment of SME policies by studying SME Promotion policies and Strategies of the Republic of Korea. Many lessons were learnt and enhancement of existing SME policies for accelerated growth of the economy as envisioned in Kenya’s Vision 2030 can draw from them.


To a great extent the success story of Korea can be attributed to the following:

  • —  Mental reform of the early 1970’s through the New Community Movement (Saemaulundong). This movement emphasized on diligence in work, cultivation of a sense of self reliance and cooperation amongst people for efficiency. It started in the rural villages and for a period of four years from 1974 the income of the rural family was more than that of a city worker. Due to its success it became a nationwide movement and is considered as the basis of the exponential economic growth of the republic of Korea. Here in Africa, the model is being experimented with in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC Congo. Full details of this movement can be obtained on the Saemaulundong website.
  • —  Strong love of Koreans for their country. They are a people with “let’s together do something” for our survival spirit, “If you can, I can” attitude, “seeing and copying strategy”.
  • —  High level of discipline in the society inculcated through mandatory military service. At the age of nineteen (19) years, every young man must attend a mandatory military service for a period of two years.
  • —  Promotion and high rate of adoption of total quality management systems (TQM) in all work places resulting in production of high quality goods for export and also provision of high quality services. This is evidenced by own quality brands such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai, etc.
  • —  Development of own technologies such as the ones used for ship building and construction of bridges.
  • —  There is strong focus on heavy manufacturing and chemical industry for job and wealth creation.

—  A vibrant and well coordinated SME sector run under one umbrella body anchored at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. This accounts for 99% of the whole industry.

  • —  Heavy Government intervention in the development of the SME sector having identified it as the engine of economic growth. They have good policies and legislation in place to drive this sector some developed way back in 1966 and now revised and repealed for effectiveness.  As a result there is a Credit Guarantee Fund to help SMEs access financing without collateral.
  • —  Korea has a strong culture of business incubation mainly operated by universities. They have built Technoparks referred to as industrial and technological complexes where human resource, materials and technological resources are gathered into a single place (cluster). The parks identify and nurture small-but-technologically-capable businesses (SMEs) by building networks of local businesses, universities, R & D institutions and the government.  An example is Gyeonggi Technopark built by the government at a cost equivalent of Kshs. 3.2 billion. The park is built on Hanyang university land and had 103 tenants by July, 2012.  There are 279 incubation centers, countrywide, with the universities hosting – 226, R&D institutions- 22, local governments -11, others -20.
  • —  An education system that promotes acquisition of knowledge, practical Skills through training and positive attitude towards work and life.
  • —  Highly reliable power supply.
  • —  A work loving people- they work on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Friday, Friday.
  • —  A well developed road network and housing infrastructure
  • —  They are number one ship builder in the world.


At the end of the visit, it was apparent that we are not poor because we are lacking in natural resources, intellectual capability, or that nature was cruel to us. Republic of Korea is not endowed with natural resources and is about 70% mountainous but they feed themselves and are the sixteenth world economy with per capita GDP of USD 20,000 compared to ours of USD 882. Our intellectual capability equals any other found anywhere else in the world but our education system and culture does not teach the following functional principles that are applied in such countries:

  • Ethics as the basic principle
  • Integrity
  • Responsibility
  • Punctuality
  • Respect to laws and rules
  • Love for work
  • Will of super action
  • Respect to the rights of other citizens
  • Team work for effectiveness and efficiency
  • Diligence

We have to embrace these principles and also undergo serious mental reforms to re-engineer our attitudes if the dreams of becoming a rich and prosperous nation by year 2030 or any other time is to be realized.

Eng. B. K. Kariuki, (R.eng, MIEK)

Director, University- Industry Liaison Office

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