Last updated : June 2017. US$ amounts in this profile are shown in 2015 prices.
Strategic priorities
  • The ‘Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation for 2016-2020’ outlines the current strategic priorities of South Korea’s development policy and indicative volumes of ODA. Among other things, it specifies that the country will continue to channel around 40% of its ODA in the form of loans.

  • In 2017, during a presidential impeachment process and subsequent change in government, South Korea abolished its four flagship development initiatives. The initiatives were launched in 2016 and accompanied the country’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020: The ‘Better Life for Girls’ initiative supported projects on girls’ health and education (US$200 million); the ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for Better Life’ initiative aimed to promote science capacity, research and development, and entrepreneurship (US$200 million); the ‘Safe Life for all’ initiative focused on combatting infectious diseases (US$100 million); and the ‘Better Education for Africa’s Rise’ initiative aimed to foster industrial and technical manpower (another US$100 million). It is expected that most of the committed funding will be allocated to other government programs with a similar focus.
Key opportunities
  • Though South Korea is expected to increase its ODA in years to come, a large part of the anticipated additional funds has not yet been allocated. This provides opportunities to engage with the South Korean government and shape future funding allocations.

  • In December 2016, the South Korean Parliament impeached President Park Geun-hye following a corruption scandal. The impeachment was upheld by the Constitutional Court in March 2017. Subsequently, South Koreans elected Moon Jae-in as president on May 9, 2017. This may affect the strategic priorities of South Korea's development policy.

Key Questions

the big six

Vietnam is the largest recipient of South Korea’s development assistance, receiving 16% of the country’s ODA between 2012 and 2014, mostly as loans.

South Korea

Outlook

How will South Korea's ODA develop? — What will South Korea's ODA focus on? — What are key opportunities for shaping South Korea's development policy? read more

How will South Korea's ODA develop?

  • South Korea has increased its ODA steadily in recent years, and the government plans to continue to do so. ODA is expected to reach 0.2% of South Korea’s GNI by 2020, up from 0.14% in 2016.

What will South Korea’s ODA focus on?

  • In 2017, South Korea abolished its four flagship initiatives in the context of the presidential impeachment and the change in government. The initiatives were launched in 2016 and accompanied the country’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020: The ‘Better Life for Girls’ initiative supported projects on girls’ health and education (US$200 million). The ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for Better Life’ initiative aimed to promote science capacity, research and development, and entrepreneurship (US$200 million) The ‘Safe Life for all’ initiative focused on combatting infectious diseases (US$100 million); and the ‘Better Education for Africa’s Rise’ initiative aimed to foster industrial and technical manpower (another US$100 million). It is expected that most of the committed funding will be allocated to other government programs with a similar focus.
  • Overall, South Korea will likely continue to focus its bilateral investments on supporting transport and energy infrastructure projects in Asia, a vast share of which is in the form of loans. Eleven of the 24 priority countries are in Asia. 
  • South Korea will likely continue promoting rural development, however the community-based ‘Saemaul Undong’ (‘New Village Movement’) approach is expected to undergo scrutiny under the new leadership, as this approach was introduced by the current President’s father during his time in office as President from 1963 to 1979.

What are key opportunities for shaping South Korea’s development policy?

  • ODA is expected to grow further in the coming years. As much of the increased funding is not yet strictly allocated to specific projects, this provides opportunities to engage with the South Korean government. This is especially the case for proposals that are linked to South Korea’s five-year flagship initiatives (see above).
  • The impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in December 2016, which was upheld in March 2017, and led to a change in political leadership. South Korean voters elected Moon Jae-in as president on May 9, 2017. This will lead to shifts in South Korea’s priorities for its development cooperation, and provides an opportunity to engage with government and other stakeholders to shape the direction of South Korea’s development policy moving forward.