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[Editorial] Overseas assistance

[Editorial] Overseas assistance

Seoul needs to keep pledge made in 2010

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Published : 2013-12-16 19:30
Updated : 2013-12-16 19:30

The Seoul government in 2010 announced a plan to increase its official development assistance to 0.25 percent of Korea’s gross national income by 2015. A year earlier, Korea joined the 24-member Development Assistance Committee, a core group within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development comprised of 34 affluent nations. With the DAC entry, Korea became the world’s first country that had advanced from a recipient of aid to a donor.

The plan set up in 2010, which is aimed at raising Seoul’s overseas assistance to the average level of DAC members, cannot be seen as excessive but appropriate for a country that owes part of its miraculous rise from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War to aid from the international community. Korea’s ODA budget for this year was set at 2.6 trillion won ($2.4 billion), accounting for 0.15 percent of its GNI. The proportion is far below the DAC average of 0.35 percent and the U.N.-recommended level of 0.7 percent.

In this regard, it is regrettable that the government is moving to lower the target for assistance to less developed countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In its written answer last week to questions from lawmakers, the Foreign Ministry said attaining the 0.25 percent goal “seems practically hard,” considering the current pace of budget increase. The government has earmarked 0.16 percent of the country’s GNI for next year’s ODA programs, compared with the originally planned 0.21 percent.

The ministry said it would be necessary to increase the proportion to at least 0.2 percent by 2015 to show Seoul’s sincerity toward implementing its pledge to the global community. Korea may deserve some credit for having expanded its ODA at the steepest rate among the DAC members over five years from 2008. But the country could not say it had done its best to keep its international promise if it would fail to reach the original goal.

In the ongoing process of budget deliberation in parliament, lawmakers and government officials should work out ways to increase Seoul’s ODA as planned. They should keep in mind that, as a beneficiary from global trade and cooperation, Korea is required more than any other state to help with development projects and humanitarian relief efforts across the world.

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