South Korea -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
KOREAN BRAND NAMES NOW span the world as South Korea continues to prove one of the great development success stories of recent decades.
Poverty levels have shrunk significantly. In the 1950s, war ravaged the Korean peninsula and South Korea was one of the poorest places on earth. Most people lived in extreme poverty. Even as late as the mid-1960s, an estimated 60-70 per cent of the population lived below the poverty level. By the 1990s, this figure had fallen as low as 3.4 per cent.
Yet South Koreans wanting decent homes face major obstacles. Escalating land prices have made it difficult for lower income families to afford decent shelter. The dramatic increase in population density has compounded the housing issue, resulting in the need for creative uses of available land.
In 1992, a group of volunteers investigated whether the Habitat for Humanity concept could be effective in South Korea. With land donated by a Christian communal village and funds provided by individual donors, these volunteers completed three houses in Uijeongbu-si, Gyeonggi, about 30 km. north of Seoul, two years later.
Today HFH Korea is one of the most active parts of the Habitat world, building houses at home as well as abroad. To date, Habitat has built more than 480 houses in South Korea and another 500 overseas. HFH Korea has been particularly active in responding to recent natural calamities at home and as far afield as Pakistan.
Land costs have traditionally been borne by the national organization, but it is now transferring the land titles to the homeowners under a revised contract.
On average, a Habitat house covers 53 sq. m. and costs some US$40,000 to build. Houses are made of concrete, lumber, plywood, drywall, styrofoam, siding, and shingle. Because of South Korea’s harsh winters, insulation is a must. Construction time takes from four to six months.
HFH Korea is a strong supporter of Global Village international volunteer builds. Each year, South Korea usually sends 25 to 30 teams to countries such as the Philippines, Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
• An 18-member South Korea team became Bangladesh’s first Global Village volunteers in February 2007. They worked on four houses in Gazipur district.
• In January 2007, a 16-member team from South Korea helped to build 15 more permanent homes for earthquake-affected families in the badly-hit Balakot region, Pakistan. The volunteers also assisted families to cut timber using Habitat’s free sawmill services.
• HFH Korea raised 260.2 million won (over US$291,500) in a fundraising fashion show in Seoul in January 2007. Ordinary people such as the chairman of HFH Korea board and wife took to the catwalk, modeling traditional costumes.
• South Korea delivered 50 shelters to flood victims in Gangwon province through a disaster-response program in August 2006.
• In May 2006, South Korean volunteers helped villagers of Guinsugon, Southern Leyte, to rebuild their homes after a devastating landslide in central Philippines in February 2006.
• South Korea’s Christian community donated US$1 million to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund in 2006 to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in the US.
• Habitat helped 160 poor families in South Korea to make minor repairs to their houses in 2006. This was an expansion of a 2005 program that benefited 40 families in Seoul.
• During the 2001 Jimmy Carter Work Project, some 10,000 volunteers from South Korea and overseas helped to build 136 houses at six sites including Asan in the country.
Population: 49 million (July 2007 est.)
Area: 98,480 sq. km.
Ethnic groups: Korean
Language: Korean, some English spoken
Religion: Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)
Updated September 2007