South Korea has launched three new global health initiatives for 2016 to 2020

South Korea’s health ODA stood at US$203 million in 2015, equivalent to 10% of total ODA. This is slightly above the average share of ODA spent on health by other members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC; 9%).

Global health is not an explicit priority in South Korean ODA but has gained importance in recent years. Three of South Korea’s abolished flagship initiatives focused on global health. The ‘Better Life for Girls’ initiative aimed at assisting 15 priority countries in developing projects that aim to promote girls’ education and health. The ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for Better Life’ planned to projects to build scientific capacity, conduct research and development (R&D), and encourage entrepreneurship, including initiatives related to health. Each of these projects was budgeted with US$200 million in financing over the five-year period. Lastly, South Korea introduced the ‘Safe Life for All’ initiative, which commited US$100 million towards combating infectious diseases. This initiative came out of the Second Global Health Security Agenda High Level Meeting that was held in Seoul in September 2015. It is expected that most of the committed funding will be allocated to other government programs with a similar health focus.

South Korea channels most of its health ODA bilaterally (84% in 2015). Bilateral investments increased by 10% from US$155 million in 2013 to US$170 million in 2015. Within bilateral health ODA, funding focused on supporting basic health infrastructure (26%), basic health care (16%), medical services (14%), and health policy and administrative services (14%). Funding is largely channeled through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the public Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH). KOICA’s health strategy for 2011 to 2015 highlighted health system strengthening (HSS) and the provision of essential health services for women and children as priority areas. Key objectives and programs include: nurturing human resources in the health sector, enhancing policies and institutions, improving maternal and child health as well as family planning, preventing infectious diseases, and strengthening management systems. The health-sector strategy for 2016 to 2020 has not been announced.

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South  Korea channeled around 16%, or US$33 million, of its health ODA multilaterally in 2015, far below the OECD DAC average (55%). Assessed contributions to the WHO and the World Bank accounted for 62% of this amount. The remaining 38% went to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund; 12%), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi; 12%), regional development banks (10%), and UN organizations (4%).

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At the Global Fund’s September 2016 Replenishment Conference, South Korea committed US$12 million to the Global Fund for its 2017-2019 funding period. Funding for Gavi (an official pledge of US$8 million from 2016 to 2020, to be disbursed in 2016 and 2017, with contributions for 2018 to 20 still unclear) and UNITAID (US$20 million from 2013 to 2017) is raised through an air-ticket solidarity levy. In June 2017, South Korea has committed US$4 million to GPEI.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation Bureau leads on global-health strategy

South Korea’s global health policy is largely determined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Within MOFA, the Development Policy Division is in charge of developing global-health policies. The Multilateral Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Division manages relations with multilateral health initiatives like the Global Fund and Gavi.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), as well as the Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH) under the MOHW, are also engaged in improving global health. Their global health programs include medical and health-care assistance programs, including the provision of medical devices and equipment, and disaster relief.