Korea

Korea’s development co-operation focuses on least developed and lower middle-income countries in Asia and Africa. The bulk of Korea’s official development assistance (ODA) is provided as bilateral co-operation, with a significant share of sovereign loans. Total ODA (USD 2.9 billion, preliminary data) increased significantly in 2021, representing 0.16% of gross national income (GNI). ODA increases exceeded COVID-19 vaccine donations.

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

The 2021-2025 Comprehensive Basic Plan for International Co-operation steers Korea’s development co-operation. Korea maintains its focus on Asia and Africa, increasing the number of partner countries to 27. Under the goal of Inclusive, Co-prosperous, Innovative and Together ODA, Korea prioritises health and support for vulnerable groups, infrastructure and the green transition, as well as science and technology. Recent policy documents include ODA strategies for: a Green New Deal; Science and Information and Communications Technology; and the Humanitarian-Development-Peace (HDP) Nexus.

Korea is currently developing an overarching multilateral strategy for its engagement notably with United Nations (UN) institutions and multilateral development banks. Having hosted the fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in 2011, Korea actively supports the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), of which it is a founding member. In addition to sharing insights and lessons from its development experience, Korea also regularly hosts development effectiveness exchanges, such as the Sixth Busan Global Partnership Forum in Seoul in 2021.

The 2021 OECD mid-term review praised Korea’s follow-up to the 2018 peer review by updating its policy framework, reinforcing co-ordination across its development co-operation system, and strengthening the effectiveness of interventions in partner countries. It welcomed that Korea laid a new foundation for civil society partnerships by adopting a first civil society policy and implementation plan. The mid-term review underlined the need to increase ODA not only in volume but relative to GNI. It encouraged dialogue at partner country level and indicated opportunities for advancing policy coherence for sustainable development. Learn more about Korea’s 2021 mid-term review.

Korea provided USD 2.9  billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2021,1 representing 0.16% of GNI. This was a significant increase of 20.7% in real terms in volume and an increase in share of GNI from 2020. While Korea has steadily increased ODA volume since it joined the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the ratio of ODA to GNI has improved less substantially since 2011, when it had stood at 0.12%. The 2021-2025 Comprehensive Basic Plan recognises the need to continuosly increase ODA considering that Korea’s ODA/GNI ratio is below the DAC country average. Korea therefore aims to double ODA volume from 2019 to 2030 as a minimum target. Within Korea’s ODA portfolio in 2020, 68.2% was provided in the form of grants and 31.8% in the form of non-grants.2

Korea ranked 25th among DAC member countries in relation to its ODA/GNI ratio in 2021. Among DAC members in 2020, Korea had one of the highest shares of country programmable aid (81.6% of gross bilateral ODA in 2020) and ODA to fragile contexts (43.4%). It is also among the largest providers of aid for trade. In 2020, Korea had the highest share of bilateral ODA for the health sector among all DAC members.

Korea is committed to several international targets and Development Assistance Committee standards and recommendations. Learn more about DAC recommendations.

Korea provided a higher share of its ODA bilaterally in 2020. Gross bilateral ODA was 79.4% of total ODA. Nineteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Korea allocated 20.6% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2020, Korea provided USD 556.7 million of gross bilateral ODA for the COVID-19 response, representing 28.9% of its total gross bilateral ODA. Twenty-three per cent of total gross bilateral ODA was provided as health expenditure within the COVID-19 response.

In 2020, Korea provided USD 871.7 million of gross ODA to the multilateral system, a fall of 7.0% in real terms from 2019. Of this, USD 498.6 million was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding that is earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 70.7% of Korea’s non-core contributions and 29.3% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Seventy-two per cent of Korea’s total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2020 was allocated to the UN system and the World Bank Group.

The UN system received 49.6% of Korea’s gross ODA to the multilateral system, mainly through earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 432.5 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Korea’s support (core and earmarked contributions) were: the WFP (USD 75.7 million), the UNDP (USD 49.8 million) and the UN Secretariat (USD 45.8 million).

See the section on Geographic and sectoral focus of ODA for the breakdown of bilateral allocations, including ODA earmarked through the multilateral development system. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

In 2020, Korea’s bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 1.9 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 5.9% in real terms from 2019. In 2020, Korea focused most of its bilateral ODA on addressing the health, education and peace and justice goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

In 2020, country programmable aid was 81.6% of Korea’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 49.7%. Korea reported 0.1% of ODA as in-donor refugee costs.

Korea disbursed USD 4.6 million for triangular co-operation in 2020 and a strategy guides its approach. Its regional priorities are Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia. Paraguay and Indonesia are its main partner countries. Learn more about specific projects at the OECD’s voluntary triangular co-operation project repository and more broadly.

In 2020, Korea channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector. Technical co-operation made up 11.8% of gross ODA in 2020.

In 2020, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 53.7 million of gross bilateral ODA. Almost no bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 2.8% of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2019 to 2020, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 2.2% to 2.8%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs, civil society engagement in development co-operation, and the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid.

In 2020, Korea’s bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Asia and Africa. USD 981.7 million was allocated to Asia and USD 445.5 million to Africa, accounting respectively for 51.0% and 23.1% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 180.0 million was allocated to ODA-eligible countries in the Americas. Asia and Africa were also the main regional recipients of Korea’s earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, in line with the policy priorities of its overall strategy.

In 2020, 51.6% of gross bilateral ODA went to Korea’s top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are all priority countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, in line with its policy focus. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 15.5%, mainly due to administrative cost, contributions to specific-purpose programmes and regional projects.

In 2020, least developed countries (LDCs) received 39.8% of Korea’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 766.7 million). This is well above the DAC country average of 24.4%. Korea allocated the second highest share of gross bilateral ODA (34.2%) to lower middle-income countries in 2020, noting that 15.5% was unallocated by income group. Korea allocated 1.9% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states (SIDS) in 2020, equal to USD 36.0 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 836.0 million in 2020, representing 43.4% of Korea’s gross bilateral ODA. Twelve per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 10.5% in 2019, while 4.4% was allocated to peace, a decrease from 5.9% in 2019. Less than 1% went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, similar to 0.7% in 2019. Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

In 2020, more than half of Korea’s bilateral ODA was allocated to social infrastructure and services. Investments in this area accounted for 57.8% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 1.4 billion), with a strong focus on health (USD 780.4 million), support to government and civil society (USD 274.8 million), and education (USD 227 million). ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled USD 293.6 million, with a focus on transport (USD 131.5 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 150.7 million (6.5% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused also on social sectors and humanitarian assistance in 2020.

In 2020, Korea committed USD 14.5 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.7% of its bilateral allocable aid. Korea also committed USD 501.9 million (22.6% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2020. Korea is among the top 10 providers of aid for trade globally.

In 2020, Korea committed 27.9% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (up from 23.2% in 2019),3 compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 44.6%. This is equal to USD 577.3 million of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. The share of screened bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal objective was 7.9%, compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 4.8%. A significantly higher share of interventions on population and reproductive health addresses gender equality than in other sectors. Korea screens nearly all activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (93.3% in 2020). Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality, the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation in Development Co-operation.

In 2020, Korea committed 12.7% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 281.8 million) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (the DAC country average was 38.8%), decreasing significantly from 38.0% in 2019. Six per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid in 2020 focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC country average of 10.8%. Nine per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 202.7 million) focused on climate change overall, down from 29.5% in 2019 (the DAC country average was 34%). Korea had a greater focus on adaptation (8%) than on mitigation (3.6%) in 2020. Learn more about climate-related development finance and the DAC Declaration on Aligning Development Co-operation with the Goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The OECD initiative Sustainable Oceans for All shows that Korea committed 23.6 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2020, 79.1% less than in 2019. The 2020 value is equivalent to 1.1% of Korea’s bilateral allocable aid. Learn more about development co-operation in support of a sustainable ocean economy and the data platform on development finance for a sustainable ocean economy.

Korea provides resource flows to developing countries beyond ODA and makes use of leveraging instruments to mobilise private finance for development.

Korea uses its ODA to mobilise private finance for development. In 2020, the Korea International Cooperation Agency mobilised USD 12.3 million from the private sector through simple co-financing.

A share of 39% targeted middle-income countries and 61% the LDCs in 2020. Furthermore, Korea’s private finance mobilised for fragile contexts amounted to USD 6.6 million and for SIDS USD 900 000.

Private finance mobilised by Korea in 2020 related mainly to activities in the health (25%) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (22%) sectors. Moreover, 18% of Korea’s total private finance mobilised was for climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

Learn more about the amounts mobilised from the private sector for development.

Korean development co-operation policy sits with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy and Finance 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 most of Korea’s ODA budget, with the remainder spread over a large number of government departments and institutions. Although project approval rests with headquarters, project management is becoming increasingly decentralised to country level. 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.

Since 2019, Korea organises an annual government-civil society policy conference. CSOs active in development co-operation, humanitarian assistance and global citizenship education co-ordinate through the umbrella body Korea Civil Society Forum on International Development Cooperation (KoFID).

Internal systems and processes help ensure the effective delivery of Korea’s development co-operation. Select features are shown in Features of Korea’s systems for quality and oversight.

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

2021 OECD-DAC mid-term review of Korea: https://www.oecd.org/dac/peer-reviews/DAC-mid-term-Korea-2021.pdf

2018 OECD-DAC peer review of Korea: www.oecd.org/dac/oecd-development-co-operation-peer-reviews-korea-2018-9789264288829-en.htm

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

Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA): www.koica.go.kr/sites/koica_en/index.do

Korea Eximbank Economic Cooperation Development Fund: https://www.edcfkorea.go.kr/site/main/index005

CSO platform Korea Civil Society Forum on International Development Cooperation (KoFID): http://kofid.org/en

Korea’s practices on the Development Co-operation TIPs: Tools Insights Practices learning platform: https://www.oecd.org/development-cooperation-learning?tag-key+partner=korea#search

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee 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.

Notes

← 1. DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 2. 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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