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Comprehensive one-stop references on key development issues of Korea

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White Revolution of Agriculture in Korea: The Achievement of Year-round Production and Distribution of Horticultural Crops by the Expansion of Greenhouse Cultivation

Sub-Theme 1 | Policies for Nurturing Greenhouse Horticulture and Related Industries

 
In Korean agriculture, the term ‘White Revolution’ was derived from the extensive use of plastic films in agriculture, which turns the color of land into white due to the large acreage under protected cultivation. To produce crops in greenhouses covered by glasses or plastic films, there are many things needed other than crop cultivation technology. Consumer markets and purchase power to buy agricultural products are necessary to industrialize protected cultivation. The major driving force for the success of protected cultivation in Korea was to purchase greenhouse vegetables in winter in high prices, in parallel with increased national income. The increase in national income came from economic growth as a result of the success of a series of five-year National Economic Development Plan (NEDP). The domestic supplies of necessary greenhouse materials, frames that build greenhouse structure and plastic films that cover the structure, were possible at the early stage of protected cultivation in Korea. 

 
1. Increase in National Income by Successful Five-year National Economic Development Plan
 
Most important factor of the rapid progress in Korea’s protected cultivation called ’White Revolution’ was the formation and expansion of consumer markets for winter vegetables accompanied by increased national income. It was possible due to the virtuous cycles that farmers made more money by selling greenhouse vegetables in high prices, they expanded, with increased income, their greenhouses and produced more greenhouse vegetables, and consumers had purchasing power to buy more greenhouse vegetables from 1970s. The expansion of the consumer markets was due to increase in national income which was the result of a series of five-year NEDP. The summery of purposes and results of five-year NEDP is described below.

 
2.  Integration of Increasing Income Program for Farmers and Fishers and the New Community Movement
 
Korean government also established the RDA in 1962 and enacted laws to reinforce research and training functions of RDA to increase food production. After the success of Green revolution in late 1970s, however, there were no changes in established agricultural system but special instruction from President Park was announced to increase farmer’s income. Since special instruction from Park overrode laws or administrative actions  at that time when Korea was under the authoritarian administration, the IIPFF had a strong driving force at the beginning. ‘White Revolution’ and its policy ground were started from the first IIPFF (1968-1971). Among projects in the first IIPFF, the greenhouse vegetable production project was effective in increasing farmer’s income and the project was continued in the second IIPFF that started from 1972. The second IIPFF was merged with the new community movement  in 1974 and the name was changed to the SIISP.

 
3. Nurturing of Greenhouse-related Industries and Expansion of Cultivation under Structure 
 
(1) The Development of Petrochemical Industry and Agricultural Plastic Production and Distribution: Protected cultivation, that is growing crops in greenhouses, is not possible without agricultural plastics since greenhouses are usually covered by polyethylene films. Petrochemical industry is necessary to produce agricultural plastics and their basic raw material is naphtha that is byproducts during the process of refining oil. The construction of the Ulsan oil refinery was begun in 1962 and completed in 1964.
 
(2) The Development of Steel Industry Leading to the Improvement of Greenhouse Structure: The government invested the construction of the first blast furnaces of Pohang Steelworks (now POSCO )  by enacting the Nurturing Steel Industry Act in 1970 and steel production system was greatly improved. By constructing the two to four blast furnaces, structural imbalances in steel manufacturing were improved and small and deteriorated facilities were renovated. Self-sufficiency of upstream process, that is, the productivity of molten metal, was greatly increased and this led to a rapid growth of steel industry of Korea. It also provided a foundation for rapid development of greenhouse horticultural industry, which is now internationally competitive.
 
(3) The Development of Fertilizer and Agrochemical Industry Related to Horticultural Crop Production in Greenhouses: The Korean government distributed chemical fertilizers to increase food production from 1950s to 1960s and farmers preferred to use those fertilizers since they act faster and are easier to use than organic fertilizers such as compost and manure.