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 emerging.

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).