PART III. SOME CURRENT ISSUES OF HAN-LAUD RELATIONS IN KOREA
Today, land problems are of a completely different nature
than those prevailing at the time of the land reform. While
at that time egalitarian goals played the main role, and to
provide a meagre subsistence for as many people as possible
had the highest priority, the situation is different now.
For most people, alternatives have developed outside agriculture.
Today, the main problem is how to' relate man and land in
order to rapidly increase productivity so that the qualitatively
and quantitatively increasing food requirements can be met,
and the agricultural labour force can reap an income which
is attractive enough to meet their expectations.
These problems do not call for a new land reform, but rather
require step by step adjustments of various kinds. The problems
are not so much issues of land tenure, but, in the first place,
of land operation and management - even if both are difficult
to separate. As an introduction to the discussion, some issues
will be briefly outlined here.
1. The most discussed issue is the 3 ha ceiling which was
imposed at the time of semi-subsistence agriculture with an
ample labour supply. Today, it is supposed to hinder the application
of modern technology because of the size of farms as well
as the amount invested in land. However, it is doubtful whether
waiving the ceiling would be a very helpful policy. Only 30,000
farms are larger than 3 ha, many of these legally because
of upland and tide development projects. A rather limited
number has between 2.5 and 3 ha, i.e., Hear the borderline.
It appears that the high price for land prevents farmers from
enlarging their farm. There is the danger that only rich capitalists
will be able to buy more than the amount fixed by the ceiling.
The problem of adjusting farm size to today's requirements
cannot probably be solved merely with the help of a ceiling
policy. Bona fine self-cultivators could perhaps be exempted
from observing the ceiling.
2. A related issue is the abolishment of tenancy, a policy
which has never been very successful. Estimates on the amount
of tenancy vary between 20 and 30 per cent. In some regions,
it is probably higher if one adds the various forms of tenancy
in disguise. 'Chonse' is an advance payment for land handed
over against usufruct. This is 'common among migrants who
need money to start city life, but want to keep the land as
a security. 'Ko-Ji' is a form of contract labour with division
of harvest according to performed services. Small farmers
cultivate other people's fields without payment, but are provided
room and board for their children in the city. Some peasants
ask rich people to buy land and take over the cultivation
work. Because of its illegality, much renting is done among
relatives who are considered to be trustworthy. Whatever the
percentage of rented land, tenancy exists and is increasing.
However, tenancy, today, is not of the former landlord-tenant
type, but mainly an adjustment to the varying availability
of land and labour. The fact that renting is illegal has one
important side-effect: neither landowner, nor tenant takes
the risk of investing in the land. It seems that, in Korea
as in other countries, tenancy is a necessary institution
for bringing flexibility into the rather rigid farm structure
and should be made legal. This is the more important since,
because of the important outmigration, there is a sizeable
land market - selling as well as renting - which must be regulated.
Special measures like limiting the right to rent to local
peasants, etc., could prevent the misuse of tenancy.
3. It appears that the "land to the tiller" policy
is in danger. There is a certain amount of investments in
land made by urban capitalists and institutions. The reasons
vary: speculations, tax evasion, risk reduction, or real investment
in agriculture as a commercial enterprise play a role. Is
this in the interest of agriculture and the society? How far
and for what purpose? The answer might be different in the
case of forest land which is also purchased by capitalists
and companies. This can have advantages in comparison with
private peasants' forest because of the scale of operation,
of the capitalists' ability to invest at long term which is
necessary in the case of forests and because peasants are
often not interested in their forests, except in having a
plot as a graveyard. However, here as well, it should be made
sure that an investor in forest land does not only buy the
land, but starts proper management within a reasonable time.
A third dimension is the transfer of agricultural land to
non-agricultural use, for example, as residential areas, roads,
industry, etc., which requires a land policy that is only
4. A change in the ceiling and tenancy legislation to allow
for the necessary adjustment of farm size to technology may
suffice as far as the plains are concerned. It will not suffice
in the case of hilly regions. Here, we have numerous small
terraces, some of which only a few square metres, which cannot
be enlarged because of the topography, and can only be cultivated
by hand. With the increasing shortage in and cost of labour,
more and more of these terraces are bound to phase out of
production. The question is of importance because, in this
mountainous country, these terraces form a sizeable part of
the agricultural area, far too much to let them lie fallow
without affecting food production. What are the alternatives?
The problem is the more difficult to solve since many of the
terraces are not only very small, but are not connected with
a road. In view of the high capital investment they represent,
afforestation would be the least desirable alternative.
5. With the important and increasing outmigration, the villages
change in character. Today, some are already homes for the
aged and places where the younger generation returns to on
holidays to worship at their ancestors' graves. Land is sold
to obtain money for educating the children, and, thus, a tremendous
capital transfer from agriculture into non-agricultural sectors
takes place. But is it desirable that, with the decrease in
the agricultural population, the rural areas become depopulated,
while some large cities have, since long, exceeded their optimum
size? Could this migration from agriculture be changed into
a transition from full-time to part-time farming of Japanese
style? The observer wonders if job opportunities alone are
enough since migration to cities is done less for obtaining
a larger income or enjoying better living conditions. Many
migrants hardly have a better life in the city than in the
village. The most important and real attraction are the educational
facilities and thus the chances for the next generation. If
this is accepted, it will have important consequences for
the required policy.
6. The prevalence of small-scale farming in an industrial
society with increasing wages and requirements for increasing
productivity raises the question of possible institutional
arrangements which allow small farms to be combined into larger
operational units. Are there acceptable forms of cooperation
not only for services, but for production as well? They could
very well be limited to parts of the farm, and examples exist
in mechanization, livestock production, etc. This question
should be discussed free from ideology. Cooperation in agricultural
production is not a socialist speciality; it exists in many
forms in many parts of the world. The famous Gezira scheme
and vertical integration are examples of this, as well as
milk production at village level in this country.
7. The task of increasing agricultural productivity in an
industrial society finally requires support from the service
institutions which organize extension, credit, marketing,
etc. Without going into details here, it should be mentioned
that, at short term, improvements in this field could probably
have a greater effect than changes in tenure.
8. Finally, I want to mention one aspect which I consider
to be the most important issue in the adjustment of agriculture
to the situation in an industrial society. Agriculture is
rapidly becoming a small sector in economy and society. The
more important it is that the interests of this sector be
represented against other interests, its voice be raised,
and the government be made aware of its interests. We have
institutions to represent agriculture in almost every country
in the world, whether landlords, large farmers, farmers' unions,
cooperative associations, etc.
But who represents Korean agriculture?
I suggest that a basic requirement for a successful adjustment
of Korean agriculture to industrial society is an institution
which is able to represent the interests of agriculture to
other sectors of the society and to the government. Without
such a representation, I am afraid, there is the danger that
Korean peasant agriculture will cease to exist.
Land tenure and socio-economic
development : Korea.
in: Agricultural adaption processes in newly industrialized
Countries. International Seminar in Seoul/Korea 15-20. September
1980, KREI/DSE/IAAE, DSE DOK 1104 A+a, S. 73-08-80 (ex).