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Recent Development

Korea’s Enhanced Global Standing as a Middle-power Donor Country

Since its accession to the OECD DAC, Korea has been making proactive efforts to integrate development into the agenda of key global fora and to play a bridging role between developed and developing countries.

Setting a milestone for international development cooperation

At the 2010 G20 Seoul Summit, Korea exercised an active role in the presidency of the G20 based on its successful development experience and added development to the G20 agenda for the first time, leading to the adoption of the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth as well as the Multi-Year Action Plan on Development. Through this occasion, Korea laid a solid foundation for continued discussion of the development agenda at the G20—the most high-profile meeting for international economic cooperation. This is a prime example in which Korea served a bridging role between developed and developing countries.

Moreover, in 2011, the Korean government hosted the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan. As the host country, Korea took leadership in bringing about a paradigm shift from ‘aid effectiveness’ to ‘development effectiveness’ and the signing of the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which set forth a new framework for a global development partnership embracing a diverse set of development actors. Particularly, the Korean government brought together powerful emerging donors—e.g. China, India, and Brazil—and performed a leading role in launching the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). Since 2014, Korea has been organizing the Global Partnership Forum on an annual basis, with the objective of contributing to the achievement of development effectiveness and to the institutionalization of the GPEDC.

In 2015, Korea took up the chairmanship of the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), which is the only network of donor countries that assesses the effectiveness of multilateral organizations. Given that donor countries are using the assessment findings as an important source of input for decision-making on multilateral assistance, the Korean government’s assumption of MOPAN’s chairmanship was an opportunity to expand Korea’s influence on multilateral development organizations while playing a responsible and fair role in global development cooperation, and to raise Korea’s standing on the global stage.

Globally recognized for its proactive contribution as a donor country, Korea was elected to the presidency of the Executive Board of the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in 2019. As the president of the Board, Korea built a cooperative relationship with civil society and the private sector, and broadened participation in a wide variety of development issues, with a view to bringing about the systematic changes of these three organizations that perform a pivotal role in development cooperation. In the same year, Korea was also elected as vice chair of the OECD DAC. These occasions demonstrate the international community's appreciation of Korea as a model of development and expectation for Korea's decisive role in future development cooperation.

While already assuming a leading role in climate change response through the launch of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the establishment of the permanent secretariat of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Korea was elected in 2019 as vice chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At the SBI, which oversees the overall implementation of the Convention, the Korean government is performing a vital role in supporting the international implementation of the UNFCCC objectives.

Contributing to Global Development Efforts

Increasing the volume of ODA

Even before its accession to the OECD DAC, Korea was continuously scaling up its ODA volume and number of ODA projects. Most notably, the year 2018 saw the ODA budget exceeding KRW 3 trillion for the first time, a 2.4-fold increase from the year 2010 when Korea joined the DAC.

Since becoming a member of the DAC, Korea has raised its volume of ODA disbursements at a phenomenal rate. From 2010 to 2019, Korea’s ODA grew from USD 1.17 billion to USD 2.42 billion, increasing by approximately 106%. During the same period, Korea’s average annual growth rate of ODA disbursements stood at 13.5%, the highest among DAC members (the DAC average was 2.6%). These figures indicate the Korean government’s commitment to make substantive contributions to global development cooperation efforts by increasing its ODA volume.

Embracing efforts to achieve SDGs

The Korean government has contributed to the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its active participation in the intergovernmental negotiation process, and declared its commitment to meeting the SDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. Also, in the Framework Act on International Development Cooperation and the Second Mid-Term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2016-2020), the government set the contribution toward global implementation of the SDGs as one of its priority policy objectives. Throughout this process, the Korean government solidified its commitment to supporting the implementation of SDGs by developing countries.

While continuing active engagement in the discussions of the annual UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)—the central platform for follow-up and review of the SDGs’ implementation—Korea participated in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in 2016 and shared its progress toward the SDGs with the international society. Particularly, in line with the government’s vision of "Inclusive Korea," the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN took the initiative and chaired the Group of Friends of SDG 10 (“Reduce inequality within and among countries”). With a view to reducing inequality and increasing inclusiveness, Korea is taking part in the relevant international discussions.

Domestically, the Korean government introduced the framework for monitoring the nationwide progress made for the implementation of SDGs (“K-SDGs”) in 2018, which reflects the unique conditions and circumstances of Korea.

Enhancing humanitarian assistance

The Korean government has been stepping up efforts to contribute to resolving humanitarian crises around the world, actively participating in the global humanitarian response to large-scale conflicts (e.g. in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq), refugee crises, and peace-building and reconstruction challenges.

At the national level, the government has been establishing and consolidating the domestic legal and institutional framework for humanitarian assistance; in accordance with the Overseas Emergency Relief Act (enacted in March 2007), the government instituted Basic Overseas Emergency Relief Measures (revised in January 2020), and introduced the Humanitarian Assistance Strategy (revised in July 2019) for effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. In February 2020, Korea joined the Grand Bargain—an agreement between donors and humanitarian aid agencies on shared goals and commitments to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian aid—to take part in international efforts to enhance humanitarian assistance.

In addition to consolidating the domestic institutional framework for humanitarian assistance, the Korean government has continued to scale up its humanitarian aid budget since 2011. The latest figures indicate that the 2019 budget amounted to KRW 143.2 billion, a sevenfold increase since 2011. Moreover, the share of humanitarian aid budget in the total ODA budget has been on the rise since 2013.

The Korean government is also dispatching emergency relief teams to large-scale overseas emergencies, proactively undertaking relief efforts in hard-hit regions. Past examples include the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the 2015 Nepal earthquake, and the 2018 Laos dam collapse.

Establishing the Korean ODA model and sharing Korea's development knowledge

Capitalizing on its own development experience and on its internationally recognized strengths in ICT and public administration, the Korean government has endeavored to provide development assistance that is differentiated from traditional ODA. The 2012 OECD DAC peer review assessed that Korea’s comparative advantage as a donor is possessing the Korean model of ODA drawn from its actual development experience. Indeed, Korea has been supporting various development projects in a broad range of areas, offering policy consultations on development experience and consulting programs—e.g. the Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP) and the Development Experience Exchange Program (DEEP)—based on its successful experience in development, while the government is undertaking efforts to link these activities to actual ODA projects. Korea is also leveraging its comparative advantages in ICT and public administration, and expanding the scope of development assistance by linking them with other sectors such as education and health.