Korea

Introduction

The 2017 DAC Peer Review commended Korea for the steady growth in its official development assistance (ODA) budget, its role as a champion for development co-operation at an international level and an impressive track record in sharing its own development experience. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) encouraged Korea to plan for further budget increases with increasing levels of untied aid.

Korea’s development co-operation policy is set out in the 2010 Framework Act and the current Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation for 2016-20, 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.

Official development assistance

Korea’s ODA has grown steadily since joining the DAC, but ODA budgets and projections remain well below internationally agreed targets. While Korea programmes a high proportion of ODA at country level, half of Korea’s ODA budget remains tied to Korean goods and services.

In 2018, Korea provided USD 2.35 billion in total ODA (preliminary data, current prices), using the new “grant-equivalent” methodology (see the methodological notes for further details) adopted by DAC members on their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans.1 This represented 0.15% of gross national income (GNI). Under the “cash-flow basis” methodology used in the past, 2018 net ODA was USD 2.42 billion, which represented an increase of 6.1% in real terms from 2017.

Korea’s share of untied bilateral ODA (excluding administrative costs and in-donor refugee costs) was 50.2% in 2017 (down from 56% in 2016), while the DAC country average was 82.1%. The grant element of total ODA was 93.2% in 2017. Non-grants represented 29.2% of gross ODA.

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In 2017, 74% of gross ODA was provided bilaterally, of which 13% was channelled through multilateral organisations (multi-bi/non-core contributions). Korea allocated 26% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

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In 2017, country programmable aid was 80% of Korea’s bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 48% (see the methodological notes for further details on country programmable aid). Project-type interventions accounted for 83% of this aid.

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In 2017, Korea channelled 82.6% of gross bilateral ODA through the public sector (down from 84% in 2016). The share of bilateral ODA channelled through private sector institutions was 0.3%. In 2017, Korea channelled USD 18 million through public-private partnerships, equal to 1.1% of its gross bilateral ODA, and USD 6 million through academic institutions, representing 0.3% of its gross bilateral ODA. See the methodological notes for further details on channels of delivery.

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In 2017, USD 46 million of gross bilateral ODA was channelled to and through civil society organisations (CSOs). Between 2016 and 2017, ODA channelled to and through CSOs increased as a share of bilateral aid (from 2.4% to 2.7%). Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs and the Civil Society Days.

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In 2017, bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. USD 458 million was allocated to Far East Asia, and USD 283 million to South and Central Asia. USD 392 million was allocated to sub-Saharan Africa.

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In 2017, 40.3% of gross bilateral ODA went to Korea’s top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are largely in the Asia-Pacific region. Support to fragile contexts reached USD 643 million in 2017 (37.7% of gross bilateral ODA). Learn more about support to fragile contexts.

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In 2017, 35.8% of Korea’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 609 million) was allocated to the least developed countries (LDCs), compared to the DAC country average of 23.5%. This is down from 36.6% in 2016. Lower middle-income countries received the highest share of bilateral ODA in 2017 (38.8%), noting that 17.2% was unallocated by income group.

At 0.05% of GNI in 2017, total ODA to the LDCs (including imputed multilateral flows) was lower than the UN target of 0.15% of GNI.

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In 2017, USD 970 million (39.7%) of bilateral ODA commitments was allocated to economic services, while USD 903 million (36.9%) of bilateral ODA commitments was allocated to social infrastructure and services, with a focus on transport and communications (USD 849 million) and health and population (USD 406 million). Humanitarian aid amounted to USD 88 million. In 2017, Korea committed USD 1.2 billion (50.9% of bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy.

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USD 253 million of gross bilateral allocable ODA supported gender equality. In 2017, 10.8% of Korea’s bilateral sector-allocable aid had gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal or significant objective (down from 15.4% in 2016), compared with the DAC country average of 36%. Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality and the DAC Network on Gender Equality.

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USD 341 million of bilateral ODA commitments supported the environment. In 2017, 14.6% of its gross bilateral allocable aid supported the environment and 10.4% (USD 245 million) focused on climate change, compared with the respective DAC country averages of 33% and 25%. Allocations supporting the environment dropped from 15.4% in 2016, while those focused on climate change rose slightly from 10.1% in 2016. The proportion of bilateral allocable ODA focusing specifically on adaptation remained stable at 10% between 2016 and 2017, while the proportion focusing specifically on mitigation rose from 2.7% in 2016 to 3.3% in 2017. Learn more about climate-related development finance.

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Other financial flows and amounts mobilised from the private sector

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In 2017, Korea mobilised USD 19.8 million from the private sector through simple co-financing arrangements with the private sector.

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Of the country-allocable private finance mobilised in 2012-17, 46% targeted middle-income countries and 54% the LDCs.

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Korea’s private finance mobilised mainly related to activities in the education (29%); health (21%); and agriculture, forestry and fishing (10%) sectors. Learn more about the amounts mobilised from private sector for development.

Institutional set-up

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 Co-operation (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 system

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 (Ministry of Economy and Finance for the EDCF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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.

Performance against the commitments for effective development co-operation

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

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

← 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 1.09 million in 2018.

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