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Republic of Korea

Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The main institutions involved in water resources management and in irrigation and drainage include the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF), the Ministry of Environment (MOE), the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs (MLTM), the Rural Development Corporation (RDC), the Federation of Farmland Improvement Association (FFIA), the FLIAs and the WUAs.

The mandate of MIFAFF is to provide consumers safe agro-food in a stable manner, strengthen agricultural competitiveness so that rural society can become a place for sustainable agriculture, enjoyable life and leisure. MIFAFF, through the Rural Development Bureau (RDB), is responsible for policy, planning and financing of all rural infrastructure projects, and for the supervision of local government institutions, the RDC, the FFIA, the FLIAs and the WUAs.

The RDC is a semi-autonomous agency, which carries out the planning, study, design, and supervision of the rural infrastructure projects and overseas the execution of large-scale agricultural development projects, the O&M of the important facilities of large-scale agricultural development projects, and the provision of O&M training courses for FLIA staff as well as engineering and administrative training courses for its own staff.

The FFIA is a public corporation, which mainly carries out the planning, design, and supervision of the farmland improvement projects for farmland consolidation as well as providing guidance on the operational improvement of FLIAs. There are 105 FLIAs in the country, which are responsible for the O&M of public irrigation systems.

WUAs are organized by farmers for the O&M of small irrigation systems that are not included in FLIA systems. The small systems are constructed and/or rehabilitated by the Government through the cities or the counties before being transferred to WUAs.

The Korean National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (KCID) is involved in irrigation and drainage issues.

In 1999, the Office of the Prime Minister set up a plan to establish a “national information system for water management”to improve information exchange on water-related issues and thus avoid double work and investment. This led to the creation in 2003 of the “Rural and agricultural water resources information system (RAWRIS)” by MIFAFF (in charge of agricultural water), MOE (in charge of water quality) and MLTM (in charge of water quantity).

Water management

Even though the annual mean precipitation is more than 1 200 mm, the Republic of Korea often experiences drought because of the large variations in rainfall, making the management of water resources difficult (MAF, 2005).

The MIFAFF, within its environmentally-friendly agriculture promotion plan (1996-2010), reinforced water quality control and has implemented a water quality improvement programme for agricultural use.

Agricultural water withdrawal is generally decreasing, but peak irrigation water requirements are tending to increase because of the extensive use of rice-transplanting machines, which has led to a reduced duration of the spring transplanting period. As the remaining development options become increasingly expensive, emphasis is being placed on the efficient use of water resources and on the rehabilitation and upgrading of existing systems.

Urbanization and industrialization have caused water withdrawal in and near cities and industrial sites to increase more rapidly. Water quality is deteriorating rapidly in the natural channels and reservoirs.


The cost of developing conveyance systems down to secondary canals was approximately US$5 000/ha of irrigated area in 1989. Farmers still provide labour for the final land leveling of paddies to avoid possible dissatisfaction or disputes over quality control. In 1999, the cost of land acquisition was being paid for by the Government. Farmers paid more than 6 000 won (US$7.72) per 0.1 ha of paddy as an annual fee.

Policies and legislation

Rice policy reform is to abolish the government purchasing system, and to introduce a public stockholding system and direct income support mechanism.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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