Community and Societal Development

How can cross-cultural development workers help communities and societies thrive by following godly principles?

Intentional Student Involvement in City-Building and Development in Cambodia

Hakchul Kim is Professor Emeritus of Architecture, Handong Global University, South Korea. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from William Carey International University for his work in inspiring and discipling a movement of Korean students, beginning with small group meetings on the campus of Handong University.

Hakchul Kim is Professor Emeritus of Architecture, Handong Global University, South Korea. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from William Carey International University for his work in inspiring and discipling a movement of Korean students, beginning with small group meetings on the campus of Handong University.

WCIU Journal: Community and Societal Development Topic

October 1, 2018

by Hakchul Kim

This article is an excerpt from the longer chapter in the WCIU Press book, Agents of International Development and Shalom.


“How can a rose bloom in the midst of a garbage can?” In 1953, three years after North Korea invaded South Korea, with 5 million people killed or wounded and more than 16 countries involved in the fratricidal war, the entire country was in ashes. Beggars and orphans crowded ruined streets and Koreans were overcome with a heavy sense of shame, asking, “what can a brass coin do?” (A brass coin = a small Korean nose compared to Western noses).

However, in the following six decades, the flower of the Republic of Korea (also known as South Korea or simply, Korea) has bloomed beautifully. Modernization through industrialization of the entire country has led South Korea to become a great economic power ranked 10th place in the world as well as being a country of political democracy. How was this miracle even possible? Is it possible for other ruined countries to have this experience?

My Encounter with South Korea’s Resurrection Experience

About 20 years after the end of the Korean War, at the age of 28, I went to America to study. Twenty years later, as a successful architect, I returned to visit Korea. It was like being in a different country from the one where I had grown up. A friend who taught economics explained that what Korea had experienced in the past 2 decades was equivalent to 200 years of changes in European countries. Moreover, he said, even though the economic policies Korea had implemented during those 20 years were terrible from an economist’s standpoint, still, the whole situation had turned evils into blessings. Even non-Christian economists called the situation unexplainable without God’s intervention and help. The first President, Dr. Seung Man Lee, confessed his Christian faith in the public. Just as the Puritans went to the New World to found a country with Christian principles and freedom of religion, the Republic of Korea was established by Christian leaders with good faith.

However, Korea was facing a huge food problem back then as a result of the Japanese occupation and then the Korean War. America and the United Nations provided emergency aid and food supplies and as a result, many Koreans were able to receive precious and timely help. Our country also received a great deal of assistance in the area of education. After the outbreak of the Korean War, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) built a printing factory to supply textbooks to many students. They offered guidance for Korean education by submitting a report of “Agenda for Korean Education Reconstruction” and established many technical institutions and schools to help Korean people live a self-supporting/sustaining life.

What about Developing Countries Today?

South Korea has established and achieved outstanding breakthroughs as a result of being led by leaders with a Christian worldview and with help from the international world. However, the countries that need international development today are not in the same position that Korea was in, with a new Christian leader who established a whole new country. Also, current developing countries would like to receive advanced knowledge and information necessary for them to live a sustainable life, rather than unilaterally receiving one-way provisions from developed countries.

To apply the lessons of Korea’s development to countries in need of development today, two things are necessary. International development needs to focus on conveying advanced knowledge and information to enable people to live independently, and there is a need to nurture local future leaders to have a Christian worldview from childhood, so that when they grow up, they will be able to work in various aspects of their country to bring about needed internal core changes.

We believe that we can experience Jehovah Rapha (God our Healer) and the grace of God when serving the needy with a pure heart, putting Christ first, gathering believers to be part of a fellowship, developing the community, founding a college, and finally developing a whole city.
In this regard, the mission I have implemented in South East Asian countries has passed through five “C Stages”:

  1. Christ Centered
    2. Church
    3. Community
    4. College
    5. City Development


In order for the ministry to be the work of God, as Jesus said, we have to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29). We have to put Christ at the center of what we do. Handong University in South Korea trains students through the integration of faith and learning to live out their faith through application of knowledge. A good example of the integration of faith and learning in the field of architecture is the work of Anoti Gaudi. A great Spanish architect, his faith was reflected in his architectural pieces that served the needs of local people. When I taught my students at Handong, I trained them during the semester and let them practice in outreach during vacation by using their talent as architectural students in relevant works, such as helping with the reconstruction of ruined countries struck by a natural disaster, providing pre-fabricated houses for victims of a tsunami in Myanmar, and implementing their project called “eco-city.”

At the beginning, the NIBC ministry did not have such a large city-building vision. It started with missionary Yang Byeong Hwa who set out to serve the least of brothers (Matt. 25:40), going to Thailand in 1982 to search for Hansen (leprosy) patients. The plan was to serve not only Hansen patients, but also drug addicts and AIDS-infected patients by building a general care center. Eventually NIBC was able to establish a hostel to provide daily food and a place to sleep for the patients’ children and homeless street children. In a hostel, we grouped not more than six children in each room according to their age, and assigned a leader to train the children to follow Christ in character and spirit. When the children became adults, they went back to their home towns to share the gospel.


When deciding where to first start the hostel, we purchased land in a main city where there were already local elementary, middle, and high schools. Children were sent to these schools during the daytime, and then after school were trained in character and spirit through community life when they came back to the center where the hostel was located.

In addition to the hostel, it was also necessary to have a place where all the Christians in the village could gather forworship and fellowship. With support from the Onnuri Church in Korea, where church members are Hansen patients, church buildings were built.


From education and church planting, we were able to expand our mission to social services covering homeless ministry, a nursing home for elderly, and rehabilitation ministry for drug addicts. In a drug rehab center we used our own healing method to contribute to regional development. The healing method used in the first month is clearing out the drugs in the muscles by exercising and showering often. In the process, there may be withdrawal symptoms such as twisting of the body. These symptoms were cared for in love and touch by giving massage therapy. The next step was to inscribe Bible messages in the hearts to fight the drug in faith. Then lastly, we test the patients by letting them go outside, to see if they try drugs again and decide whether they can be released to go home. The advantage of this method is that the patients often don’t do drugs again because of experiencing the pain of severe withdrawal symptoms.


Developing countries unable to provide adequate social services such as these, are more in need of knowledge and information support rather than physical supplies. Therefore, sponsorship through a university can be effective. The problem, however, is that the secular mass production education system of the industrial era can be unsuitable for teaching Christian values and worldview.

In order to establish a Christian college, the potential students need to have grown up with a Christian worldview and values. So NIBC established kindergarten and elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools to educate students until they are ready to go to college. The hostel in Bangkok has successfully nurtured thousands of students with Christian values. After graduation, some of these students have been able to study abroad, as in the United States.

Connecting the successful experience of education for children in Bangkok and Handong Global University’s educational philosophy of “integration of faith and knowledge,” NIBI (New International Bethany Institute) was established in Cambodia to provide a Christian environment for college-age students that integrates spiritual and character training with intelligence and skill training. NIBI aspires to develop global leaders to have exceptional abilities within their professions as well as a servant heart, who will serve the nations and the peoples of Southeast Asia and Cambodia. All students are required to go through an Education Enterprise Program that provides practical work experience and prepares them for life in the working world. NIBI is linked with companies, NGOs, and schools for internship programs not only in Cambodia but also outside of Cambodia.

The Institute provides programs in ESL, General Education, Business (in management, marketing), Graphic Design, Early Childhood Education, and Computer Skills. NIBI believes that a firm foundation of character, integrity, and organizational leadership skills are important attributes required for all servant leaders. A moral-based living and study environment is critical in the training of leaders with a conscience and a heart for promoting justice, particularly in the developing countries where the practice of morality and just leadership is seen as impractical to attaining wealth, status, and position. NIBI seeks to show that the long-term consequences of corruption and crime thwart the best interests of national development and positive change. At NIBI, honesty, zeal, and compassion are practiced through community life, work duty, social service in the community, and the Honor Code. NIBI is training men and women to stand upright before God and make a difference in the development of their societies.


For a developing nation, even the poor must serve as a resource for economic development. In Cambodia, this calls for the following factors that have been taken into consideration in NIBC students’ eco-cities projects.

The prioritization of developing quality education. Efficient farming practices so Cambodia can be self-sufficient. Development of an environmentally sustainable tourism that preserves, protects, and promotes Angkor Wat human heritage sites and Khmer culture Institution of Information Technology and English Language education to minimize the socio-economic gap between Cambodia and other countries and to globalize local education.

Food Determines the Fate of City Development

Historically, cities were developed near the mouth of a river where food could be easily obtained. This phenomenon naturally led to an agrarian society. As a society enters into an industrialized era, cities are developed around transportation hubs where foods products are carried around easily. As the cross-border trading becomes active, cities are developed around port areas. These become the central area of not only economics but also politics and culture.

City development will be delayed if the everyday food supply for urban residents is not circulating smoothly. An example of this is the need for North Koreans to have their desolated land healed in order to produce enough food to sustain development. Its fertile topsoil has been swept away by frequent floods and needs to be cultivated through the development of new agricultural technology using local enzymes. This is one way NIBC is preparing to serve North Korea when reunification takes place.

Relationships Determine the Fate of City Development

Therefore, the problem of the city will be solved when we understand the relationships between the Creator, God, nature, and people. Confucius, the wise man of Asia, replaced the relationships between humans and nature, and between humans and God, with teaching that was only about human relationships. “The three Bonds” (allegiance to father, king, and husband) shaped the ethics, law, and society of traditional Asian societies.

How can we understand the blueprint of future cities? The tourist city of Siem Reap is an example of our students’ research and proposals that illustrate how NIBC is trying to demonstrate what God’s will can look like in a city that needs development.

Siem Reap


Since there is no sewage system in Siem Reap, all the sewage and drainage water flows out to the waterway, and the unpurified water heads to Siem Reap River and Tonlesap Lake. The filtering of sewage at the soil layer is very important to the people of the village who use the underwater resources. The only sewage pipe, that is 4km long, was made in the 1950s and it only goes through the center of the city.

The first water supply system used from 1930 to 1960 was a French system operated by filtering the water of Siem Reap River. From 1960 to 1995 the old French system was changed into an American system that has the capacity of 300 m3/day and it was used until the function of the facility declined. In 1999 a system was installed that can provide 1500m3 underground water, however the price is a little bit expensive for the local residents. Due to the development of large sized hotels, the use of underground water is rapidly increasing. This is resulting in lack of water for agriculture and is causing sinking of the Angkor Watt Temple site, so strategies for protecting the water resources and finding new water resources are needed.


In addition to an inadequate water supply, Siem Reap does not have a power plant, and is drawing electricity from Phnom Penh. The supply of electricity is unstable, so big hotels and hospitals use their own generators. Due to a radical increase of tourists in Siem Reap City, the number of hotels is increasing and the use of electricity will also increase. Developing a sustainable energy source is an urgent problem.


The economy of Siem Riep is based on tourism. New hotels are being built, which provides employment and affects the regional economy in a positive way. During 2000 to 2020, the population of Siem Reap Province is estimated to show an annual increasing rate of 2.6%. The daytime population is estimated to increase from 134,000 to 275,000 people due to tourism.

The increase of hotels and tourists coming to the Angkor heritage is resulting in an increase in traffic. A rapid increase of traffic and the climate of Cambodia is making it hard to maintain and conserve the roads. Traffic accidents are frequent because of diverse forms of transportation all mixed up in the roads such as motorcycles, bicycles, cars, and tuktuk.

Summary of NIBC Efforts in Cambodia

NIBC students have taken these and many other factors into consideration in their proposals for improving the water and power supplies, road systems, urban grids, ecological agriculture and more. But most of all, for Cambodians to find the right way to develop their country, they need worldview education, biblical values education, and attitude or character education. NIBC has started many schools from kindergarten through college in order to provide a fresh start for the people recovering from the psychological and physical destruction caused by the Pol Pot regime and the killing fields. Through the love shown to the people and the knowledge offered and examples shown, perhaps Cambodia can become a nation that honors the Lord and bases its development on biblical principles, as Korea did when it began to recover from its disasters.