South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the proposed 5.7 percent increase in its budget next year included a record amount set aside for foreign aid, as the country seeks to expand its role on the international stage.
The ministry sought an allocation of 3.02 trillion won ($2.61 billion) for 2022, up from this year’s 2.84 trillion won, in what would be a record high if approved by the National Assembly later this year.
It earmarked 1.11 trillion won, over a third of the budget, to official development assistance, up 17.3 percent from this year. It is the first time that the ministry’s ODA budget has exceeded the 1 trillion-won mark.
Breaking down the ODA, 236.6 billion won is allocated to humanitarian assistance projects, up 90.7 percent on-year, with another 62.4 billion won for a fund dedicated to fighting infectious disease, which is up 45.8 percent on-year.
The record-high ODA amount also includes President Moon Jae-in’s pledge in June to contribute another $100 million next year to the COVAX program to supply coronavirus vaccines for lower-income countries. The donation will be provided via a combination of financial support and in-kind contributions.
“The ODA budget is set to support other countries and fulfill responsibility and stature in the international society as a developed nation,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity. He added that while the amount is small in comparison to other countries, it is meaningful considering that more than 30 percent of the ministry budget is dedicated to foreign aid.
The ministry also plans to spend 2.3 billion won, up from 1.3 billion won, on bolstering cooperation with multilateral institutions and other forums, including the United Nations, the Group of Seven and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
As part of efforts on the multilateral stage, Seoul plans to make a bid for a seat as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2024-25 term. The increased amount includes Seoul’s campaign activities for the election to secure a seat.
The ministry also allocated 4.4 billion won for climate change and energy-related affairs, up from 3.6 billion won last year.
It proposed a hike from 4 billion won to 7.2 billion won for commemorative events slated for 2022, as the next year will mark anniversaries of diplomatic relations with many countries, including 140 years with the US and 30 years with China.
The ministry’s request amounts to 0.5 percent of the 604.4 trillion-won government budget proposed for next year.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org