In 2001, the Korea Rural Community & Agriculture Corporation (KRC, former KARICO) launched the first Farmers’ Self-Governing Model District Program (FSMDP), which is a kind of participatory irrigation management (PIM) through the new institutional arrangements. This paper evaluates the performance of the first FSMDP based on the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework. Three research questions can be broadly raised: 1) what are the factors of sustainable self-governing irrigation systems? 2) how is the first FSMDP designed for sustainable self-governing irrigation systems? 3) how has the management performance or outcome of 62 Korean irrigation systems changed after the introduction of the first FSMDP? and what are the factors of such performance change? To answer these queries, research methods and data collection were conducted by KORIS DB, farmers’ perception surveys, and KRC data. First of all, the first FSMDP has been successfully designed and implemented with profound, sustainable self-governing factors. In terms of physical, community, and institutional attributes, most of the 62 irrigation systems under the FSMDP hold the conditions of the propositions for the sustainable governing irrigation systems. Reflecting on the propositions and three attributes in the IAD framework, most of the 62 irrigation systems produce a positive performance under the first FSMDP. Also, design principles for sustainable self-governance are identified in the FSMDP. Finally, most of the irrigation systems after the first FSMDP are being operated with de jure and de facto rules under the sustainable self-governance mechanism. In particular, these results come partially from the indigenous and traditional cooperation and trust of KRC officials and farmers before KRC reform, along with the experience of organizing farmers’ self-organization.