Rural electrification and development in South Korea (1965 - 1979) in Energy for Sustainable Development
In fifteen years, South Korea went from providing only 12% of rural households with electricity to providing 98% of rural households with electricity for lighting and productive uses. This paper provides an analysis of rural electrification and development in South Korea from 1965 to 1979 and finds that rural electrification contributed to a significant increase in rural household income levels and improved the quality of life in villages substantially. At the same time, rural electrification did not benefit the poorest quartile of rural households, increased economic and social inequality, led to a significant increase in household debt, and accelerated migration to urban areas. Central to the South Korean electrification experience was a top-down and a bottom-up approach that balanced local control and participation with central government control. This approach was crucial in overcoming many of the issues that continue to be found today in both grid-based and off-grid approaches to electrification.