SEOUL, South Korea—27 October. Science and technology have played important roles in South Korea’s successful economic development. Beginning in the 1960s, the country’s long collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) helped Korea achieve food security through high-yielding varieties and improved farm management. Thus, the country secured domestic self-sufficiency in rice and, on a strong agriculture and rural base, propelled its economy into export-oriented growth.
Building on its success, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and IRRI signed a memorandum of understanding (see photo) to fight poverty and hunger in developing countries through rice science and modern agricultural technologies.
The 5-year agreement enables mutual support in the formulation, design, and implementation of rice systems-based food security and agricultural development activities in countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America where IRRI and KOICA work. As an emerging donor and recently a member of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea is actively engaged in rural development efforts across the developing world to promote food security, better quality of life, and sustainable development that align with IRRI’s strategy.
For decades, South Korea’s cooperation with IRRI has been carried out through the National Institute of Crop Science (NICS) of the Rural Development Administration (RDA). Early in the partnership, one of the most important results of the RDA/NICS—IRRI collaboration is the development and deployment of Tong-Il rice, a high-yielding modern variety that sparked the Green Revolution in Korea.
The development of Tong-Il rice was named as one of the most important scientific achievements in the 20th century. More importantly, the variety ensured a stable supply of rice in South Korea in the years following the devastating Korean War.
Since then, the partnership has developed many other premium-quality rice varieties under the Large Scale Korean Seed Multiplication Project. For over 40 years, South Korea has also been an active participant in International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER). Through INGER, South Korean rice breeders acquired valuable germplasm for breeding better japonica rice varieties with economically important traits such as resistance to pest and diseases, tolerance for harsher environmental conditions, higher grain quality, productivity, and aroma.
The partnership between South Korea and IRRI continues to flourish and has increasingly evolved from a focus on domestic development to global development in recent years. The RDA and IRRI have signed a new rice research agreement to develop sturdier temperate rice varieties that can handle environmental stresses and disease. Future collaboration between NICS and IRRI will include improving rice grain quality, food science and nutrition, value chains, and profitability.