World Council program supports cooperation among cooperatives

Peer-to-peer learning opportunity supports the credit union movement.

September 19, 2017

In June, the World Council of Credit Unions facilitated an international exchange between Panamanian and South Korean cooperative finance leaders.

As part of World Council’s International Training Program—which provides peer-to-peer learning opportunities that support the credit union movement—a Panamanian delegation from Instituto Panameño Autónomo Cooperativo (IPACOOP) and Corporación Fondo de Estabilización y Garantía de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Panamá, R.L. (COFEP) visited South Korea for ten days.

“On every visit, there are times when the teacher becomes the student, and that two-way exchange of ideas and opportunities is inevitable. This program demonstrates the power and potential that credit unions can achieve through the principle of cooperation among cooperatives,” says World Council program manager Thomas Belekevich, who led the exchange.

The Panamanian delegation explored the important role that credit unions played in the rapid development of South Korea and the impact possible when the cooperative spirit is backed with a modern technology infrastructure.

At Yesan-joongbu Credit Union, the delegation reviewed programs that allow the credit union to be member-centric, care for the financially challenged, reduce economic inequality, and provide services.

At Poolmoo Credit Union, the delegation witnessed how the credit union strengthens the natural networks that exist between them and other cooperatives.

At Jumin Credit Union, the Panamanians saw a credit union that plays a role in the social economy by supporting local cultural and environmental efforts such as yoga, dance, meditation, youth entrepreneurs, and senior activities.

Perhaps most impactful for the Panamanians was learning about the National Credit Union Federation of Korea (NACUFOK), which has successfully united all credit unions in South Korea onto its core banking system.

Today, the intra-network system processes all credit union transactions in the country, significantly reducing costs and improving efficiency for individual credit unions. This direct and real-time link to credit unions facilitates NACUFOK’s efforts to monitor and supervise the financial health of the system.

In addition to its important regulatory role ensuring public confidence in credit unions, NACUFOK provides a range of business services, including training, marketing and public relations, mutual insurance, advocacy and liquidity management. NACUFOK currently supervises and supports 920 credit unions, serving more than 6.1 million South Koreans and their $75.5 billion in assets.

“It is quite impressive to see how credit unions operate and the important roles they play in their communities. Our journey was a positive learning experience,” says Jacinto Villarreal, CEO of COFEP.

To learn more or request a personalized proposal for your credit union, contact Thomas Belekevich at