Institutional Framework and Prospects of the Quality of Rural Life Policy in Korea

Institutional Framework and Prospects of the Quality of Rural Life Policy in Korea

Published: 2021.11.30
Accepted: 2021.11.30
10
Research Fellow
Center for Quality of Rural Life Research, Korea Rural Economic Institute, Naju, Korea

ABSTRACT

The quality of rural life policy has been institutionally established for the purpose of maintaining the quality of life for rural residents equitably with urban people. Therefore, this policy has been continuously pursued with the aim of not only improving the quality of rural life in the fields of health and welfare, education and culture, but also raising the level of public service delivery. With the recent socio-spatial and demographic changes in rural areas in Korea, the policy demands of rural residents are also changing significantly. In the midst of this, the Korean government is also making efforts to improve the policy approach, detailed evaluation means, and feedback system in response to these social changes.

Keywords: the Quality of Rural Life, the Quality of Rural Life Policy, Rural Policy

INTRODUCTION

Recently, in Korea, as the demographic trend in rural areas, represented by an aging population and depopulation of rural settlements continues, there is concern that rural areas will decline. The Korean government is making various efforts to improve the quality of life of rural residents as a way to prevent the decline and disappearance of rural areas. In the past, the government was only interested in maintaining and conserving the characteristics of farmers in order to maintain the agricultural production zone. However, the government expanded the policy scope in several directions, such as improving the public service delivery system in the medical, welfare and education sectors, and investing in infrastructure to improve unequal transportation and communication conditions in rural areas.

In addition, the Korean government has made efforts to improve the procedures and means of implementing rural policies. At the local scale, local governments have tried to revitalize community activities by forming partnerships among various stakeholders, including farmers' organizations, local NGOs, and third-sector organizations. Through this, rural communities have been trying to improve the quality of life of residents by setting agendas autonomously, such as providing health and care services, improving the housing environment for the socially disadvantaged, and supporting the self-reliance of elderly farmers through local food projects. Even at the national scale, the government has tried to systematically support the empowerment of rural communities by forming vertical governance between the central government and local administrative agencies. This policy stance has become an important agenda for maintaining the coherence of rural policies in Korea since 2000.

The purpose of this study is to overview the rural policies related to the improvement of the quality of life in rural residents promoted by the Korean government, examine the methods and procedures in which the policy is currently implemented, and the tasks and prospects of the quality of rural life policy.

INSTITUTIONAL BASIS OF QUALITY OF RURAL LIFE POLICY IN KOREA

The framework of the rural policy implemented by the Korean government is as follows. First, it is a ‘local development policy in rural areas’ through a place-based approach promoted for socio-economic and spatial development of rural areas. Second, it is related to the 'quality of rural life policy', which is promoted to fairly improve the quality of life of rural people without discriminating among age, gender and class, etc. Among them, ‘quality of rural life policy’ is not only a policy-frame for guaranteeing the rural people's basic rights in everyday life, but also a continuous and strategic approach to improve the level of public services provided by the public sector including the government.

The 'Quality of Rural Life Policy' encompasses government-level responses in the following areas promoted by various ministries to improve the quality of life of rural residents: 1) Health and welfare, 2) Education and culture, 3) Residential living conditions, 4) industry and employment. In addition, this policy includes: 1) inspection and evaluation of the level of achievements compared to the goals of each ministry's policies, 2) an analysis of the policy feedback process, including improvement of policy implementation capabilities through policy monitoring, and 3) diagnosis of the level of public services provided in rural areas (MAFRA, 2020a).

This policy is not just a list of policies in various sectors. This includes regulations on the scope of policies related to improving the quality of life in rural areas, analytical tools for the performance of the policies, a multi-sectoral approach through collaboration between ministries, and political coordination and feedback through the control of the Prime Minister's Office.

The reason why this policy is composed of such a frame-set is that tasks to improve the quality of life of rural residents can be achieved by a multi-sectoral approach through collaboration among related ministries, rather than by the allocation of resources and budgets of individual administrative organizations. The “Special Act on the Improvement of Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Development in Rural Areas”, enacted in 2004, aims to improve poor public services in rural areas in welfare, medical care, and education, and to promote integrated rural development[1] (Table 1).

Scope and content of master and implementation plan

The 'Master Plan for Improving the Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and Rural Development' was established to set the policy vision and strategic direction that the government should pursue through the 'Quality of Rural Life Policy' and to set goals to be achieved over the next five years. The 'Committee for Improvement of Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Rural Development'[2], chaired by the Prime Minister, consults with ministries and related administrative agencies involved in implementing the rural policy in the central government, and provides opinions from metropolitan cities and provincial governments to establish the 'Master Plan for Improving the Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Rural Development'[3] every five years. The contents of the master plan include comprehensive measures necessary to improve the quality of life of rural residents, such as setting policy goals to be achieved over the next five years and proposing policy implementation measures.

The Korean government establishes a master plan every five years in accordance with the 'Quality of Rural Life Act', and after deliberation through the committee, reports the matter to the National Assembly (Article 5 of the Quality of Rural Life Act). In addition, the government packaged 178 rural-related policies as 'Quality of Rural Life Policy' and classified them into health/welfare, education/culture, residential life infrastructure, and economy/job sectors. Accordingly, the committee sets and announces the goals to be achieved by each rural policy through the establishment of the 'Implementation Plan for Improving the Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Rural Development'[4] every year.

FRAMEWORK AND CONTENT OF QUALITY OF RURAL LIFE POLICY

Inspection and evaluation of implementation plan

The purpose of the ‘Inspection and Evaluation of Implementation Plan’ is to come up with ways to improve the policy by inspecting and evaluating the implementation process and performance of the rural policies promoted by each administrative agencies every year (MAFRA, 2020). According to the law, the committee must evaluate the performance of rural policy implementation in the previous year through specialized research institutes and report it to the National Assembly by June 30 of the same year (Articles 9 and 42 of the ‘Quality of Rural Life Act’).

The procedures of 'Inspection and Evaluation of Implementation Plan' include the following details. First, it is reviewed whether the purpose and vision presented in the master plan are consistently reflected in the goals of each policy and project. Next, as an evaluation of the performance of rural policies, it is evaluated whether the goals presented in individual policies have been specifically achieved. Based on the results of this evaluation, the Committee recommends that each relevant ministry revise the policy objectives or improve policy tools, and allocate more budget to improve the quality of life of rural residents (Table 2).

Inspection and analysis of implementation of rural service standards

Rural service standards start from the point that rural residents should be fairly guaranteed the basic rights of everyday life as members of the society. As a standard of essential public services that the country should provide, it is also a specific goal to be achieved by public policy. The legal basis for rural service standards was established with the revision of the ‘Quality of Rural Life Act’ in July 2010. In the ‘2nd Master Plan’, the establishment procedure and detailed items of rural service standards were presented in detail (MAFRA, 2009).

The committee analyzes and reports to the National Assembly the level of service delivery by area related to rural service standards every year through the 'Inspection and Analysis of Rural Service Standards' procedure. This procedure consists of analyzing the level of public service delivered to the residents in each rural area, reviewing whether the target set forth in the standards has been achieved, and suggesting policy improvement plans for local service delivery in rural area (Table 3).

Table 3. Detailed Items of Rural Service Standards and Policy Target

Sector

 

Detailed items of rural service standards

Target (min, %)

Health and Welfare

Medical Treatment

Internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics are available through private and public medical institutions.

30mins ∼ 1 hour

Emergency Medical Care

In case of an emergency patient, basic emergency equipment is prepared, and an ambulance accompanied by professional personnel arrives to receive emergency treatment services.

within 30mins.

Infant Care and Education

Public and private daycare centers and kindergartens are available.

within 20mins.

Elderly Welfare

Provides at-home elderly welfare services to low-income seniors who have difficulty in independent daily living.

80%

Education and Culture

Primary and Secondary Education

Rural elementary and middle schools are nurtured suitable for local conditions, and appropriate means of commuting are provided to students in need of commuting support regardless of administrative district.

within 10mins.

Lifelong Education

Lifelong education is provided at suitable facilities or community centers in Eup and Myeon district.

70%

Culture

It is possible to visit cultural programs at least once a month and art performance programs at least once a quarter at cultural facilities in cities and towns.

within 40mins.

Library

National and public libraries (including small libraries) are available.

within 10mins.

Sports Facility

You can use the gym, swimming pool, and sports ground to meet your daily needs.

within 30mins.

Residential conditions

Housing

All rural residents live in houses that exceed the minimum housing standards.

-

Slate house roofs containing asbestos material must be demolished or upgraded.

23%

Water Supply

All residents should have access to clean and safe water through tap water.

85%

Drainage System

It is possible to access drainage system in all rural areas.

76%

Heating Energy Supply

City gas is available in the township area. Residents with disadvantaged access to city gas receive support from policies to reduce heating costs, such as LPG small storage tanks.

68%

Public Transport

You can use public transportation more than 3 times a day within the village. In areas where public transportation is rarely accessible, a rural transportation system is applied. In the case of islands, passenger ships operate at least once a day round-trip to all main islands.

100%

Household Waste

Agricultural and household wastes can be systematically collected and disposed of within the village.

within the village.

Security Equipment

To prevent crime, install CCTV at significant points in the village and at entrances.

60%

Security Patrol

Conduct flexible patrols at least once a day at the time and place of patrol requested by residents.

100%

Firefighting

After receiving the fire report, the fire engine arrives at the site within the target time for each region.

70%

Industry and employment

Start-up, Employment and Consulting

It is possible to receive professional consulting or education services on business start-up and employment within the jurisdiction of city/town.

86%

Source: MAFRA, 2020c.

Rural proofing

The rural proofing is carried out to improve the policy by evaluating how significantly the policies promoted by the government have an impact on the quality of rural life (MAFRA, 2020a). Therefore, it selects the plans, policies and projects established by ministries and local governments that are highly relevant to the improvement of the quality of life of rural residents. In Korea, after the necessity of introducing rural proofing was raised in the 2nd master plan announced in 2009 (MAFRA, 2009), several attempts were made through an academic approach in 2014. But it was not institutionally settled. After the ‘Rural Proofing Operation Guideline’ was enacted and published in 2020, specific implementation procedures were established (Table 4).

According to the guideline, the target policy for which the rural proofing is carried out is to be decided by the committee after deliberation among the policies related to the items presented in the ‘Rural Service Standards’. And then, it is to be evaluated the impact on the economy, society, and environment of rural areas. In 2021, the rural proofing is being carried out through two themes: 'Improvement of commuter conditions for rural students' and 'Urban and rural transportation system'.

CONCLUSION: MEANING OF THE QUALITY OF LIFE RURAL POLICY AND TASKS IN KOREA

The quality of rural life policy, led by the central government, has set the goal of ensuring that rural residents receive public services equally with urban residents. Accordingly, the central government took the initiative in setting strategies and agendas, and regional and local administrative agencies focused on delivering the policies to rural areas. The socio-spatial structure of policies promoted in Korea has gradually come to form a frame at the national scale.

The 4th master plan announced in 2020 raises the need for a transformation of the rural policy framework. This transformation is based on the recognition that Korea's rural areas are changing dramatically, as suggested in the introduction. In other words, it is related to the epistemological change that understands rurality as overlapping multi-faceted and multi-layered characteristics from a homogeneous one.

Reflecting this epistemological change, the 4th Master Plan raises the need for a change in the policy paradigm in two major directions. First, it relates to a change in the approach to policy resource allocation. In other words, it has shifted from bridging the gap between urban and rural areas at the national scale to a differential support that reflects the geographical differences in service accessibility and public service infrastructure between regions. Second, it changes to an approach that sets goals tailored to the class and age needs of rural residents, rather than maintaining the equitable level of public services compared to urban dwellers.

This shift in policy direction calls for a new adjustment of the responsibility and role setting of policy operation between the central and local governments. In other words, it is necessary for the central government to continuously maintain the initiative for setting the agenda and the basis of the rural quality of life policy at the national scale. In addition, local governments should form cooperative partnerships among stakeholders such as local administrative departments, public service delivery agencies, social economy organizations, and grassroots to proactively respond to issues related to quality of rural life at the local scale. For this new realignment, the central government and local governments, the state and civil society are trying to restructure governance to create communicative cooperation.

REFERENCES

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) (2009). the 2nd 5-year Master plan for improvement of quality of life for agricultural, forestry and fishermen and rural development: Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) (2020a). the 4th 5-year Master plan for improvement of quality of life for agricultural and fishermen and rural development: Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) (2020b). Inspection and evaluation of implementation plan for improvement of quality of life of farmers and fishermen and rural development in 2020: Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) (2020c). Inspection and analysis of implementation status of rural service standards in 2020: Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI).

Special Act on the Improvement of Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Development in Rural Areas (Enforcement Dec. 8, 2020). https://law.go.kr

Administrative Rules: Rural Proofing Operation Guideline (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Notification No. 2020-85, Enacted on October 23, 2020). https://law.go.kr


[1] From now on, the “Special Act on the Improvement of Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Development in Rural Areas” will be referred to as the ‘Quality of Rural Life Act’ or the ‘act’.

[2] From now on, the 'Committee for Improvement of Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Rural Development' will be referred to as the ‘committee’.

[3] From now on, the 'Master Plan for Improving the Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Rural Development' will be referred to as the 'master plan'.

[4] From now on, the 'Implementation Plan for Improving the Quality of Life for Farmers and Fishermen and the Promotion of Rural Development' will be referred to as the 'Implementation Plan'.

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