It may be hard to imagine in 2018, but sixty years ago Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world to receive international assistance.
About 800,000 South Koreans died or went missing during the Korean War. 610,000 houses were destroyed and 7.6 million people were separated from their family members. Social infrastructure in Korea was almost wiped out, making the prospect for full recovery and reconstruction dark and gloomy. To be specific, 43% of industrial facilities, 41% of power generation facilities, and 312km of railways were destroyed.
Moreover, the President Syng-man Rhee ordered the Prime Minister to establish a "postwar reconstruction plan" after the Korean War on July 31, 1953. The document shows that the construction and expansion of national infrastructure such as cement and fertilizer factories, power plants, transportation network, and mining and shipbuilding industry was the primary goal of the plan.
The UNKRA was established in December 1950 under the UN resolution and started its works in 1953. The conclusion of the 'Agreement for a Program of Economic Assistance to Korea' between the Korean government and the UNKRA in May 1954 set the stage for the agency to fully implement reconstruction works.
The Korea Civil Assistance Command (KCAC) carried out various projects concerning transportation, telecommunications, public administration, power generation, public welfare, health, labor and rural enlightment while the UNKRA concentrated its efforts on industry, fishery, mining, housing and education. To better accomplish housing and education programs, two closely coordinated with each other.
Assistance from the U.S. and the International Cooperation Agency (ICA)
The U.S. government established the International Cooperation Agency (ICA) in 1955, which took over the roles of the Foreign Operations Administration (FOA). The ICA's assistance was concentrated in the provision of equipment and raw materials for the development of mining and transportation. The scale of assistance was so huge that it had substantial impacts on Korean society in 1950s.
The annual assistance reached as high as USD 200 million from 1953 through 1961. The ICA assistance peaked in 1957 and was scaled down afterwards.
Exhibition Curator l Ran Ro