Until the 1960s, food harvested in the fall ran out by May or June the following year in the rural areas in Korea, and people in the countryside had to endure hunger as barley, which gets harvested in the summer, was not ready. By the 1970s, hunger was no longer an issue, thanks to aggressive measures by the government to increase food production. President Park Chung-hee, who regarded food autarky was the first step towards eradication of poverty and key to maintaining national security, ordered development of new strains of produce in the mid-1960s.
In 1971, cultivation of a new variety of rice from Southeast Asia developed by the Rural Development Administration began. The official name of the rice was IR667-98-1-2. A normal full-eared rice paddy had 80 to 90 grains, but the new rice, dubbed Tongil, had 120 to 130 on average and up to 200-300.
Tongil Rice came to be seen as the national rice and was the driving force of increasing production. Whereas in 1972, only 16 percent of rice farmers planted the new kind, that had grown to 55 percent in 1977. Rice production surpassed 208,333 kg in 1974, and autarky was finally achieved in 1975. The year 1977 saw the greatest rice yield in history, with an average production of 494 kg per 1 sq. km. The Green Revolution became a reality in Korea, too, which was what the Southeast Asian countries had achieved at the time -- developing new strains of rice and increasing production. However, the production of Tongil rice was later stopped due to the less than satisfactory taste.
The Saemaeul or New Village Movement and comprehensive development plan around the four major rivers played a pivotal role in realizing the Green Revolution, as they laid the ground for massive rice production. The four-river comprehensive development plan, which was a part of the first comprehensive national development plan in 1972, involved building many dams, including the Soyanggang Dam (1967-1973), Andong Dam (1971-1976), and Daecheong Dam (1975-1980). That minimized possible flood damage and transformed much of the fields into drought-resistant irrigated paddies. Thanks to the Green Revolution, Korea finally broke the a cycle of hunger that had lasted for thousands of years. It has not been for very long that Koreans have been able to put food on their dinner table with relative ease.