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S. Korea: Afghan officials learn Korea's experience
Source: Korea Herald www.koreaherald.com
Source Date: Sunday, December 19, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Korea (Republic of)
Created: Dec 19, 2010

Relaxed and well spoken, a young Afghan translator said that he was taken aback by the love the Korean people showed him during the 12-day education program in Korea.

Mohammad Arif Jafar, 17, came here on Dec. 4 with 20 other officials from the northern Afghan province of Parwan as part of a program requested by the Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team there to help train local Afghan public officials.

In a recent interview with The Korea Herald at the Local Government Officials Development Institute in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, the Afghan officials said that what their country needs most is effort and money.

Of the 5 million people in Kabul, the Afghan capital, most do not have proper housing, said Abdul Karim Mateen, technical advisor at the Afghan Rural Rehabilitation and Development Ministry.

“We do not have proper road systems, water supply systems and sewage systems. Even though we have electricity, we do not have a good electricity management system,” he said.

Jafar said the biggest problems people in Parwan face were in agriculture which accounts for up to 80 percent of the nation’s industrial output.

To help with administrative development and educate officials of possible solutions in the region, the training session was hosted by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.

Co-hosted by the Korean International Cooperation Agency, “Saemaeul Undong,” or New Community Movement, interested most officials.

Jafar said that along with the agricultural development plan, he was also interested in the economy strategy plan suggested for Parwan province by Park Jung-dong, professor of Northeast Asian commerce at the University of Incheon.

“The strategies I have learned from the Korean government could be more effective than the current policies in Afghanistan,” said Jafar.

The linking factor between the two countries was the similarity of Korea’s war-tattered history with their own. They were amazed at the rate and degree to which Korea was able to recover after the war, giving them a sense of hope and motivation.

“Korea has also gone through a destructive civil war, so they have a lot of experience recovering from it,” said Mateen.

“How was that time, how did they overcome all those problems that came out of civil wars?”

Khoja Mohammad Fazal Sediqee, head of the executive branch in Parwan, wished to return to his country and give hope to his people on what can be and has been achieved after a ravishing war.

Sediqee said that Korea was able to reach “very high levels of development,” because of their honesty.

According to the officials, Afghanistan is in the same state that Korea was in the 1970’s, a little after the 1950-53 Korean War. This puts the two countries in a unique position to share knowledge, and resources.

Afghanistan will not only be a receiving country, according to Mateen. He said that the government has much to offer Korea. Stating a survey from last year, he said that Afghanistan has $13 trillion in natural resources.

“This is the beauty of Afghanistan for Koreans,” he said.

“We have natural resources but we don’t have technology and knowledge, you have technology and knowledge but you don’t have natural resources. If you merge the two strengths we can fill up our gaps.”

Despite recent aggression, including an attack on a Korean construction site Friday, Korea’s own Provincial Reconstruction Team in Parwan Province is being met with reluctant but gradually opening arms.

“In Parwan I found Koreans have less political interest compared to other countries, Koreans are much more focused on development and governance, so this is quite interesting for local people,” said Mateen.

“People are appreciating their efforts because they are really PRT.”

He believed that the attack in July was not directed toward the Korean forces, but rather other military forces occupying Bagram. Mateen also believed that because the Korean team is not involved in military activities they do not encourage insurgents to come into the area.

Being relatively new to the area, some residents are not fully aware of the Korean PRT’s non-militaristic goals.

“They (Korean PRT) are announcing in every village that ‘we have come here to be friends with Afghans and we don’t have any kind of purpose, we just want to be your friends,’” said Jafar.

According to Jafar, even though residents of Parwan are not fully aware of Korea’s peaceful intentions, with the establishment of the new, separate, base and the ever expanding list of completed projects, “people will get to know.”

“They (Korean PRT) are doing more than their best and most of them are working till midnight,” according to an Afghani translator working with the PRT.

The New Community Movement, which most Afghani officials took great interest in, was a rural rehabilitation program in the 1960s and 1970s is recognized as a model for modernizing the agricultural industry, boosting farming output and increasing the incomes of rural areas in many underdeveloped countries.

The program had the officials attend lectures and visit various facilities throughout Korea, including the Korea Water Resources Department and the Rural Development Administration. Suwon facility’s international training team director Shin Soon-nyo put in a lot of thought to accommodate the diplomats, with prayer rugs pointed towards Mecca for some and meals with special religious considerations.

This program was the third in a series of four to assist the Afghan government in improving their administration.

By Robert Lee (rjmlee@heraldm.com)

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