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Korea cited as model for overseas aid

Korea, with its unique experience of becoming a donor from an aid recipient in less than a century, has a lot to offer to both the developing and developed world, experts told a journalists’ forum Tuesday.

“We can share with other countries our experience in getting out of poverty. I think we provide the more immediate and relevant experience with developing countries,” Kim Eun-Mee, professor at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University Graduate School of International Studies, said at a forum in Seoul.

The forum, organized by the Asian Journalist Association, brought together dozens of journalists, scholars and ambassadors from some 40 countries to discuss Korea’s experience and its role as an international donor for developing countries.

“It is very important to talk about Korea’s ODA (official development assistance) issue to journalists from all over Asia because Asia is by far the largest collection of recipients from Korea’s ODA,” Kim said.

Seoul is unique with its track record of turning from recipient to a donor in less than a century. In November 2009, it entered the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, becoming the first country that used to be an aid recipient to join the exclusive club of donors. 
Asia Journalist Association Chairman Ivan Lim (second from left) hands a plaque to Park Dae-won, president of the Korean International Cooperation Agency, at a ceremony in Seoul on Tuesday. (KOICA)
Asia Journalist Association Chairman Ivan Lim (second from left) hands a plaque to Park Dae-won, president of the Korean International Cooperation Agency, at a ceremony in Seoul on Tuesday. (KOICA)

“Egypt is looking at Korea with a great eye, it is like a model for all developing counties,” said Sherif A. Ismail, first secretary at the Egyptian embassy in Seoul.

Raising awareness in Korea both among policy makers and the public is one of the most important challenges that Korea faces as a donor country, experts said.

“The Korean people need to remind ourselves about the gifts that we received from around the world when we were trying to obtain development,” Kim said.

Seoul plans to gradually increase its aid spending in the coming years, bringing its ratio of aid to gross national income to a quarter percent by 2015. In 2009, Korea’s ODA was about 0.1 percent of its GNI, worth $816 million. This year, it plans to spend about $1 billion.

At Tuesday’s forum, the AJA gave the “Cheer Challenge” award to the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), a state-run overseas aid provider. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that have become “exemplars” in the society by overcoming social challenges under difficult circumstances.

KOICA has been at the vanguard of the country’s overseas aid campaigns.

Founded in 1991 to administer aid grants for developing countries and assist them in achieving social and economic development, KOICA has gradually raised its budget, which is estimated at 500 billion won ($420 million) for this year.

It has offered aid to a total of 85 countries, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Peru, Tanzania, Laos and Indonesia.

By Robert Lee (rjmlee@heraldcorp.com)
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