Uganda can leap into the first world if it can take lessons from the development journey of South Korea.

This was the consensus during a recent lecture to commemorate the 70th anniversary of South Korea’s independence at Sheraton hotel. The event was organised by the Uganda-Korea Cultural Friendship Association (UKCFA), a group that brings together Ugandans with social, economic or cultural ties with South Korea.

Prof Edward Kirumira, the keynote speaker at the lecture, said while both Uganda and South Korea suffered under colonialism, the latter developed faster because of a strong national identity and cultural solidarity.

“South Korea suffered greatly during colonialism under Japan. However they became more resilient after independence and forged a national identity that has enabled them to develop,” Kirumira said.

Uganda, on the other hand, lacked a national identity, Kirumira said. South Korea was colonized by Japan while Britain colonized Uganda. With a Gross Domestic Product of $1.435 trillion and a per capita income of $28,338, South Korea is the 13th largest economy in the world.

On the other hand, Uganda’s economy is $26 billion with a per capita income of $700. Yet in 1962 when Uganda got independence, the social economic conditions in Korea were not much different from those of Uganda.

Discussing Kirumira’s paper, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa, the chairperson of the National Planning Authority (NPA), said the “I don’t care” attitude of many Ugandans which has made them less productive originated from the liberal way the Britain governed Uganda during colonialism.

“The coerciveness exercised on the Korean [by Japan during colonialism] people aroused their consciousness that generated both determination and drive to work for cultural identity and development,” he said.

Mugerwa wondered why Uganda, which is heavily endowed with natural resources, had up to now failed to put in place fundamentals such as energy, infrastructure and human capital development to harness the resources.

The South Korean ambassador to Uganda, Park Jong-Dae, said Uganda and South Korea can become partners in many ways.