Korea

Korea has sustained steady growth in its official development assistance (ODA) budget and plays an active role as a champion for effective development co-operation at the international level. It has an impressive track record in sharing its own development experience. ODA grants are the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its development agency, KOICA, while concessional lending is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance and its agency, Korea Eximbank. Korea has significant private investment in developing countries, but has a small portfolio of blended finance.

Korea is a staunch supporter of country-led development processes and works largely through direct bilateral programmes with partner country governments, using country systems where possible, particularly where it provides highly concessional loans. The second OECD-DAC peer review of Korea’s development co-operation was undertaken in 2017-18 and an OECD-DAC mid-term review is due in 2021.

Korea’s development co-operation policy is set out in the 2010 Framework Act and the 2016-2020 Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation, which is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2016-20 strategy includes an updated list of partner countries and ODA targets and helps to identify Korea’s policy priorities, including sharing Korea’s development experience and building economic and social infrastructure. In addition, sectoral strategies are approved by Committee for International Development Cooperation, including the 2015 Humanitarian Assistance Strategy and 2016 Multilateral Aid Strategy.

Korea provided more ODA in 2019 than in the previous year. Total ODA on a grant-equivalent basis stood at USD 2.5 billion (preliminary data), representing 0.15% of Korea’s gross national income (GNI) in 2019.1 The increase of 13.9% in real terms from 2018 reflects a steady growth in ODA over time. Korea ranked 25th among DAC member countries in relation to its ODA/GNI ratio in 2019. The government has committed to a steady increase in its ODA/GNI ratio, including a commitment to achieve 0.25% ODA/GNI by 2020 (originally by 2015). Under the cash-flow methodology used in the past, net ODA was USD 2.6 billion in 2019. Within Korea’s gross ODA portfolio in 2019 (USD 2.7 billion), 58.2% was provided in the form of grants and 41.8% in the form of non-grants.2

Three-quarters of Korea’s ODA are channelled through the public sector and are programmable in country. Highly concessional, bilateral loans represent over a third of its ODA, primarily focusing on economic infrastructure sectors such as transport and energy. Compared to other DAC members, civil society partnerships represent a small proportion of Korea’s development portfolio. See the methodological notes for details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied.

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In 2018, Korea provided the largest proportion of its ODA bilaterally. Gross bilateral ODA was 75% of total ODA, of which 16% was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Korea allocated 25% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

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In 2018, Korea increased its total support (core and earmarked contributions) to multilateral organisations. It provided USD 937 million of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 13.7% in real terms from 2017. Of this, USD 624 million was core multilateral ODA and the rest was earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project aid earmarked for a specific project or purpose (tight earmarking) accounted for 55% of Korea’s non-core contributions, while the remaining 45% was softly earmarked (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

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In 2018, Korea’s total contribution to multilateral organisations was mainly allocated to the United Nations (UN), regional development banks and the World Bank Group. These contributions together accounted for 89% of Korea’s total support to the multilateral system. The UN system received 37%, mainly through earmarked contributions. Out of a total gross volume of USD 348 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Korea’s support (core and earmarked contributions) were: the World Food Programme (USD 68 million), the United Nations Children’s Fund (USD 45 million) and the United Nations Development Programme (USD 35 million).

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Note: See the list of UN acronyms.

See the section on “Geographic and thematic focus of ODA” for the geographical and thematic breakdown of bilateral allocations earmarked through the multilateral development system. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

In 2018, Korea’s bilateral spending increased compared to the previous year. It provided USD 1.9 billion of gross bilateral ODA (including earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations), which represented an increase of 8.3% in real terms from 2017.

In 2018, country programmable aid was 79% of Korea’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 49%.

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Note: NGO: non-governmental organisation.

In 2018, Korea channelled its bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector.

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Note: NGO: non-governmental organisation; PPP: public-private partnership.

In 2018, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 39 million of gross bilateral ODA. Two per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by Korea (earmarked funding), with no ODA allocated to CSOs as core contributions. Between 2017 and 2018, core and earmarked contributions to CSOs marginally decreased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 3% to 2%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs and civil society engagement in development co-operation.

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In 2018, Korea’s bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Asia and Africa. USD 891 million was allocated to Asia and USD 515 million to Africa, accounting respectively for 47% and 27% of gross bilateral ODA. Europe and Africa were the main regional recipients of Korea’s earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations. Fourteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was unspecified by region in 2018.

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Bilateral ODA by recipient country

In 2018, 43% of gross bilateral ODA went to Korea’s top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are mainly partner countries spanning Asia, Africa and Latin America, with Egypt as an outlier in terms of alignment with its mid-term strategy. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 17%.

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In 2018, least developed countries (LDCs) received 35.2% of Korea’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 671 million). This is above the DAC country average of 23.8%. Korea allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (38%) to lower middle-income countries in 2018, noting that 17% was unallocated by income group. Korea allocated 1.7% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states in 2018, equal to USD 33 million.

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Note: LDC: least developed country; LIC: low-income country; LMIC: lower middle-income country; UMIC: upper middle-income country; MADCTs: more advanced developing countries and territories.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 773 million of gross bilateral ODA in 2018 (40.5% of gross bilateral ODA). Extremely fragile contexts received 27.8% of this amount. Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

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Note: The chart represents only gross bilateral ODA that is allocated by country.

In 2018, most of Korea’s bilateral ODA was allocated to economic infrastructure and services. Investments in this area accounted for 40% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 1.1 billion), with a strong focus on support to energy (USD 469 million) and transport and storage (USD 445 million). ODA for social infrastructure and services totalled USD 861 million, with a focus on education (USD 364 million). Bilateral humanitarian aid amounted to USD 119 million (4% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused also on social infrastructure and services in 2018.

In 2018, Korea committed USD 10.9 million of ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.4% of bilateral allocable aid. Korea also committed USD 1.6 billion (56.8% of bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2018. Korea is among the top providers of aid for trade globally.

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In 2018, Korea committed 18% of its bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment as either a principal or significant objective (up from 11% in 2017),3 compared with the DAC country average of 42%. This is equal to USD 471 million of bilateral ODA commitments in support of gender equality. Out of this, the share of bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal objective was 2%, compared with the DAC country average of 4%. A significantly higher share of interventions on population and reproductive health addresses gender equality than those in other areas. Korea screens virtually all activities against the gender marker (96.4% in 2018). Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality and the DAC Network on Gender Equality.

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In 2018, Korea committed 10% of its bilateral allocable aid (USD 264 million) in support of the environment as either a principal or significant objective, down from 15% in 2017 (the DAC country average was 33%). Five per cent focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC country average of 11%. Seven per cent (USD 182 million) focused on climate change as either a principal or significant objective, down from 10% in 2017 (the DAC country average was 26%). Korea has a greater focus on adaptation (6%) than on mitigation (2% in 2018). Learn more about climate-related development finance.

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Data analysis for the OECD initiative Sustainable Oceans for All shows that Korea committed USD 10.6 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2018, amounting to 0.4% of bilateral allocable aid. Learn more about ODA focused on the ocean economy.

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In 2018, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) mobilised USD 29.2 million from the private sector through simple co-financing arrangements.

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Of the country-allocable finance mobilised from the private sector in 2017-18, 45% targeted middle-income countries and 55% targeted the LDCs.

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Note: LDC: least developed country; LIC: low-income country; LMIC: lower middle-income country; UMIC: upper middle-income country.

Korea’s private finance mobilised in 2017-18 mainly related to activities in the education (41%); health (20%); agriculture, forestry and fishing (10%); and industry, mining and construction (10%) sectors. Learn more about the amounts mobilised from the private sector for development.

Korean development co-operation policy sits with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) and programmes delivered by their respective implementing agencies, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for grants and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea EXIM Bank) for concessional loans. Together these two ministries manage around 80% of Korea’s ODA budget, with the balance spread over a large number of government departments and institutions. The Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC), chaired by the Prime Minister, oversees Korea's development co-operation. The CIDC makes an effort to enhance development effectiveness through better co-ordination across ministries.

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Evaluation procedures for Korea’s international development co-operation are carried out under the supervision of the Subcommittee for Evaluation under the CIDC. The subcommittee is made up of key supervisory ministries and executing agencies for ODA, as well as civilian experts.

The subcommittee reviews the process and results of self-assessments reported by the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), KOICA and other ministries, and examines the status of feedback. The EDCF and KOICA have their own evaluation units. Both agencies adopt the same reporting structure, where the ministry of each agency (MOEF for the EDCF and MOFA for KOICA) reports to the subcommittee.

The subcommittee also selects major projects in the field of policy and strategy, by country and by sector, and evaluates them through an external assessment. Moreover, it conducts a meta-evaluation every two years to diagnose and improve the quality of self-assessments conducted by the ministries and agencies.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the CIDC makes evaluation results publicly available on its ODA website (www.odakorea.go.kr). Read more about Korea’s evaluation system.

Visit the DAC Evaluation Resource Centre website for evaluations of Korean development co-operation.

Explore the Monitoring Dashboard of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

ODA Korea portal: http://www.odakorea.go.kr/ez.main.ODAEngMain.do

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) since 2010.

The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including the grant-equivalent methodology, core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, country programmable aid, channels of delivery, bilateral ODA unspecified/unallocated, bilateral allocable aid, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.

← 1. Korea does not report to the DAC on ODA-eligible assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The ODA-eligible portion of its assistance to the DPRK was estimated at approximately USD 9.4 million in 2019.

DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the provider’s effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 2. All 2019 statistics in this paragraph are expressed in current prices and, therefore, they may differ from values in the ODA volume chart, which uses constant prices. Non-grants include sovereign loans, multilateral loans, equity investment and loans to the private sector.

← 3. The use of the recommended minimum criteria for the marker by some members in recent years can result in lower levels of aid reported as being focused on gender equality.

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https://doi.org/10.1787/2dcf1367-en

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