Monday, June 06, 2011

A view of international aid from South Korea

Over the last fifty years, South Korea has transformed itself from one of the world's poorest countries to one of the richest. Given that experience they feel they have a unique perspective to add to the international aid conversation.

From the Korean Herald, writer Shin Hae-in talks to the head of international aid assistance for the South Korean government on what they want aid to look like.

“We must admit that not much has changed in impoverished nations, although the world’s advanced countries have been assisting them for more than 50 years,” Park Dae-won, president of the Korea International Cooperation Agency, told The Korea Herald.

“This is largely due to the fact that these advanced countries don’t really have a first-hand experience of becoming rich from poor in a short period like Korea,” he added. “It is time for us to reflect our unique experience in the aging guidelines for international aid.”

“There are several factors we can share with the world,” said Park. “We have, for instance, the new village (Saemaeul) movement that helped increase income of farmers and fishermen, which we see as one of the most important experiences to be shared with underdeveloped countries.

“It is these people who will send their children to college, a generation that will eventually raise their country to a higher level, that’s something we experienced decades ago.”

New global concerns such as the environment, poverty reduction and gender mainstreaming have been gaining significant importance in the international community, an aspect KOICA also strives to keep in mind, Park said.

“Let me talk about climate change as one example,” he said. “While helping a Southeast Asian country to improve its rice farming skills, we used to build facilities operated on oil, which is not only expensive but environmentally harmful.

“By building facilities using solar heat and other natural resources, we are not only helping this country, but are also accumulating new technologies that can later be applied to our own environmentally-friendly development models,” Park said. “This is a typical win-win strategy.”

With its goal of becoming “a thanking nation,” South Korea prioritizes backing countries that fought on its side during the Korean War, Park said.

“Countries such as Ethiopia, the Philippines and Columbia were wealthier than us 60 years ago but are in need of our help today,” he said. “Neighboring Asian countries and newly emerging African allies are also major recipients of our aid.”

South Korea also needs to increase the total volume of its development assistance to match its economic status in the world, the KOICA president said.

The total volume of Korea’s ODA this year is estimated at 1.7 trillion won ($1.58 billion), an increase by 23 percent from the previous year. But this is still a small amount compared to other OECD Development Assistance Committee member states, according to KOICA.

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