Linguistically, Saemaul Undong (New Village) can mean “new,” referring to innovation and change, and “village,” referring to a community sharing movement.
The concept of Saemaul Undong can be summarized as “a movement to live better,” which is its highest value and ultimate goal, but its most fundamental characteristic that of “a movement to develop local communities” based on local patriotism, as well as “a movement to increase awareness” in an effort to change old customs and irrational lifestyles and a nation-wide movement to solve the national issues of the time.
The implementation methods of Saemaul Undong were initiated by residents, focused on tasks to improve the standard of living, put importance on execution, and were based on voluntary participation.
The core of Saemaul Undong is the residents themselves; therefore, the movement was led autonomously by the residents. The movement has never pursued large-scale tasks; instead, it concentrates on improving lives in many small ways with the help of residents. The five movements of “starting with me, starting from now, starting with small things, starting with the easy things, and starting with the closest things” clearly explain the implementation principle of Saemaul Undong.
Saemaul Undong arose to satisfy the diverse needs of rural society, including social, cultural, and economic needs, which are related to regional and national development. Therefore, it was necessary for the movement to multifaceted and implemented nation-wide.
Looking at the diverse functions, Saemaul Undong can be seen as a national modernization movement that seeks to adapt to the changes of our times.