This profile has been updated in March 2018.
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.
  • After the presidential impeachment in 2017, South Korea restructured its government and abolished its four flagship development initiatives. However, the committed funding will be allocated to other ODA programs with a similar focus, e.g., funding for the ‘Better Life for Girls’ flagship initiative (US$200 million) will be used for maternal and child health programs.
  • According to the ‘2018 Annual Implementation Plan for Development Cooperation’, funding is expected to focus on five sectors: industrialization; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); health; education; and agriculture.
Key opportunities
  • South Korea is expected to increase its ODA in years to come, and a large part of the anticipated additional funds have yet to be 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. The administration’s overall priorities for development are expected to be largely in line with the ‘Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation for 2016-2020’.

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 increased its ODA steadily between 2010 and 2016. Funding slightly decreased in 2017 according to OECD DAC preliminary data, but the government remains committed to continue its growth trajectory and strengthen its commitment to international cooperation.
  • ODA is expected to reach 0.2% of South Korea’s GNI by 2020, up from 0.14% in 2017. South Korea aims to reach an ODA level of 0.3% ODA to GNI by 2030.

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 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. The 2018 Action Plan calls for greater synergies between loans and grants, enhancing performance and international partnerships, and increasing investments in its strategic priority sectors, including humanitarian assistance.
  • As ‘Saemeul Undong’ (the New Village Movement promoting rural development) is associated with President Park Chung-hee, the father of impeached President Park Geun-hye, it is expected that the new administration will scrutinize existing projects and set a stronger focus on transparency and effectiveness of implementation. Nevertheless, rural development will likely remain a priority of South Korean ODA, and ‘Saemeul Undong’ will likely remain a key program for implementation.

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

  • ODA is expected to continue to increase in the coming years. As much of the additional funding has yet to be strictly allocated to specific projects, there will be opportunities to engage with the South Korean government on allocation.
  • The impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in 2017 led to a change in political leadership. South Korean voters elected Moon Jae-in as president on May 9, 2017. Although current development policies are largely in line with already existing long-term strategies, this provides an opportunity to engage with the new government and other stakeholders to shape the direction of South Korea’s development policy moving forward.