South Korea

At a glance

Funding trends

  • South Korea is the 15th-largest donor country on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), spending US$2.9 billion on official development assistance (ODA) in 2021. This corresponds to 0.16% of its gross national income (GNI) making South Korea the 25th-largest DAC donor in proportion to the size of its economy. 
  • Since 2017, South Korea’s ODA/GNI ratio has been relatively stable and has fallen between 0.14%-0.16%, with its 2021 ODA/GNI ratio equating to 0.16%. South Korea committed to reaching an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.2% by 2020, but the government acknowledged its failure to reach the target in the ‘Midterm Strategy for Development Cooperation (2021-2025),’ citing worsening public finances as a reason. The government also reported that ODA disbursements in 2021 have decreased due to disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The National Assembly, the national legislator of South Korea, approved the final 2022 ODA budget of KRW4.04 trillion (US$3.4 billion), an increase from KRW3.7 trillion (US$3.1 billion) in 2021. The ODA budget surpassed KRW4.0 trillion for the first time ever in South Korea. The increase in ODA has in part been influenced by a growing sense of South Korea’s commitment to expanding the scale of health ODA to respond to COVID-19 pandemic with a multilateral approach.

Strategic priorities

  • South Korea adopted the ‘New Northern Policy’ and ‘New Southern Policy’ in 2018 to strengthen ties with partner countries north and south of the Korean peninsula. The 2020 update, called the ‘New Southern Policy Plus,’ prioritizes cooperation on health and medicine, education, sustainable investments in trade, infrastructure, future industries, and security.  
  • The ‘Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2021-2025)’ has twelve priority goals, including strengthening global health risk response, increasing humanitarian assistance, promoting South Korea's ‘Green New Deal,’ diversifying development finance, and strengthening partnership with civil society. 
  • South Korea pledged a historic US$200 million to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in June of 2021 to expand the COVID-19 vaccine supply to low and middle-income countries.  This is a significant increase from the previous pledge of US$10 million in 2020 and further strengthens South Korea’s multilateral response to the COVID-19 crisis as a policy priority. 
  • As part of the government’s endeavors to establish itself as a ‘middle power’ country, South Korea hosted a scaled-down version of the ‘Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals (P4G) Summit’ in May 2021, in which it highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships in the areas of water, energy, food and agriculture, cities, and circular economy.

Outlook

  • Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition ‘People Power Party’ won the presidential election on March 9, 2022 and was inaugurated on May 10, 2022. His election focused on strengthening the global response system to infectious diseases, with the aim of making South Korea a vaccine powerhouse. However, South Korean ODA for gender equality could be at risk. The former conservative prosecutor considers himself an ‘anti-feminist’ and called for the abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. He has blamed the low birth rate in South Korea on feminism and capitalized on young men's fears about feminism and modest women's rights gains to win votes in the recent election. He has also stated that he does not believe that gender-based systemic and structural discrimination exists in South Korea. 
  • In the ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan,’ an annual spending review, South Korea will focus on climate change response, digital transformation, and health as development priorities for societal and economic change in partner countries. It also committed to doubling the ODA budget between 2019 and 2030.
  • South Korea will prioritize helping neighboring countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and will focus its ODA spending on five key sectors: infrastructure; health; education; agriculture and fisheries; and water, sanitation, and hygiene. Grant assistance will be prioritized in the following five sectors: education; humanitarian assistance; agriculture and fisheries; health; and public administration.

Policy Priorities

South Korea, itself an ODA recipient until 1995, prioritizes sharing its successful development experience and promoting inclusive development partnerships

The ‘Framework Act on International Development Cooperation,’ first published in 2010 and amended in 2018, outlines the overarching principles of South Korean development cooperation and clarifies the responsibilities of different actors. The ‘Framework Act’ sets out six pillars for development: 1) poverty reduction; 2) the human rights of women, children, adolescents, and people with disabilities; 3) gender equality; 4) sustainable development and humanitarianism; 5) economic cooperation; and 6) peace and prosperity in the international community. Supporting low-income countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protecting the human rights of adolescents, were added with the amendments made in 2018. 

The ‘Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2021-2025)’ translates the ‘Framework Act’ into concrete strategic priorities for medium-term development policy and indicative volumes of the official development assistance (ODA). The strategy has twelve priority goals, including strengthening global health risk response, increasing humanitarian assistance, promoting South Korea's ‘Green New Deal,’ diversifying development finance, and strengthening partnership with civil society. The strategy also states that ODA will be closely aligned with South Korea’s foreign strategy.


South Korea’s key development priorities for 2021 to 2025:

  • Increase ODA: Double ODA volume between 2019 and 2030 (modified from a former commitment to reach 0.30% ODA/GNI by 2030);
  • Focus on bilateral ODA: Focus on bilateral ODA: Provide over 70% of bilateral ODA to the 27 priority partner countries; and
  • Grant/loan ratio: More flexible ratio of grants/ loans ODA at 60 (±3%): 40 (±3%).

Within the ‘Mid-term Strategy,’ South Korea’s development cooperation is guided by an ‘Annual Implementation Plan’ that outlines specific priorities. In the ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan,’ South Korea recommitted to doubling its ODA budget between 2019 and 2030. It will significantly expand its support to the health sector with a focus on increasing assistance for global health, such as COVID-19 vaccine development and global partnerships with multilateral health organizations. This includes the government’s active commitment to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), and Global Vaccine Partnership. The share of loans and grants will be approximately 40% (±3%) and 60% (±3%), respectively. South Korea will also aim to increase the share of untied grants – development assistance that can be used to purchase goods in any market, rather than just the donor country - to 95% through 2025. The government will prioritize helping neighboring countries achieve the SDGs and will focus its ODA spending on five key sectors: infrastructure; health; education; agriculture and fisheries; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Grant assistance will be prioritized in six sectors: education; humanitarian assistance; agriculture and fisheries; health; and public administration. 

In October 2018, South Korea adopted two policies to guide its future foreign relations: the ‘New Northern Policy’ and ‘New Southern Policy,’ both of which serve to strengthen ties with partner countries to the north and south of the Korean peninsula. At the South Korea Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November 2020, the government announced an updated version of the ‘New Southern Policy,’ known as the ‘New Southern Policy Plus.’ It lays out seven areas for cooperation: 1) health and medicine, post-COVID-19; 2) human resource development and sharing of South Korea’s education model; 3) mutual cultural exchange; 4) mutually beneficial and sustainable investment in trade; 5) infrastructure development of rural and urban areas; 6) future industries for mutual prosperity; and 7) non-traditional security sectors. These policies demonstrate South Korea’s intention to strengthen engagement with India and ASEAN, and to engage in more regional infrastructure connectivity projects (such as railways and power generation) in cooperation with North Korea, Russia, China, and Central Asian nations as part of the ‘New Northern Policy.’ These policies are expected to increase South Korea’s ongoing development focus on infrastructure activities in Asia. 

In addition to its thematic initiatives, the government has taken on a leadership role in the international push for increasing adherence to ODA effectiveness principles. Following the ‘Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness’ (HLF-4) in Busan in 2011, South Korea has hosted regular ‘Busan Global Partnership Forums,’ bringing together stakeholders to reinforce the commitment to and track progress against the ‘Busan principles;’ 1) countries should define the development model that they want to implement, 2) sustainable impact should be the driving force behind investments and efforts in development policymaking, 3) need for partnerships for development, and 4) development co-operation must be transparent and accountable to all citizens. In 2020, South Korea also re-joined the ‘Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) Steering Committee,’ a vehicle for driving development effectiveness. South Korea places particular importance on both the ‘Busan Global Partnership Forums’ and the ‘Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) Steering Committee’ as they emerged from HLF-4. 

South Korea’s multilateral approach has been influenced by its status as a ‘middle power’ and its ongoing strategic priorities, as detailed above. South Korea also seeks to promote green ODA in lower-income countries as the Chair of the ‘Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030’ (P4G) until the next Summit in Colombia in 2023. P4G is a global platform that drives investments in green solutions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. 

As outlined in the ‘International Development Cooperation Government-Civil Society Partnership Basic Plan’ published in January 2019, civil society will play a key role in enhancing the transparency and accountability of South Korea's ODA. Through partnerships with civil society, South Korea will strengthen accountability on the development cooperation process and results.

ODA Breakdown

South Korea channels most of its ODA bilaterally

South Korea disbursed 79%, or US$1.9 billion, of its total official development assistance (ODA) bilaterally in 2020, above the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 58%. This includes 15% as earmarked funding to multilaterals which are reported to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as bilateral ODA. Current ODA flows are, therefore, relatively consistent with the target bilateral-to-multilateral ratio of 75:25. 

Loans and equity investments accounted for 40% of South Korea’s bilateral ODA in 2020, almost four times the DAC average of 11%. South Korea itself had a positive experience as a recipient of ODA loans, and the South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance sees ODA loan provision as a tool for promoting fiscal discipline in partner countries. Despite some debate within the government about the risks of creating high levels of debt in partner countries through loans, South Korea intends to maintain a stable, high share of loans.

South Korea channels most of its bilateral grants and loans through its own implementing agencies (85% went through the public sector in 2020), mainly Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Korean Export-Import Bank (Korea Eximbank). It seeks to diversify its activities by promoting public-private partnerships such as the ‘Global Corporate Social Responsibility Program,’ which encourages the involvement of the South Korean private sector in development cooperation. Despite this goal, only 1% of bilateral ODA was channeled through public-private partnerships in 2020. The ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan’ intends to increase the total grant share for PPPs by 4% from 2021. It also prioritizes civil society engagement, promoting a competitive ODA model and reducing fragmentation of development assistance.

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South Korea’s bilateral ODA primarily targets global health and the COVID-19 response

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is a key focus of South Korea’s bilateral ODA investments. In 2020, the government disbursed 33% of its bilateral ODA to ‘health & populations,’ a shift away from a previous trend that strongly prioritized agriculture. While the majority of the 235% increase in this sectoral funding was largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea intends to position itself as a global health and bio-industry powerhouse on the global stage in the future. In 2020, the government disbursed 11% of its bilateral ODA to infrastructure projects, 10% to education, and 8% to water and sanitation. Most of this funding came in the form of loans to Asian countries. Promoting inclusive and sustainable rural development, partially based on their own experience as a recipient of ODA funding, is another priority of South Korea’s development policy.

 

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Bilateral ODA is concentrated in Asia

South Korea’s bilateral assistance centers on Asia, particularly its Southeast Asian neighbors. This focus was reaffirmed by the ‘2021 Annual Implementation Plan.’ In 2020, 49% of bilateral ODA went to Asia, significantly above the DAC average of 14%. 
South Korea reselected its priority partner countries at the end of 2020, as part of the New Southern and Northern Policies (see ‘Strategic Priorities’).  It currently has 27 priority countries for the period of 2021-2025. Of these, 12 are in the Asia-Pacific region, seven in sub-Saharan Africa (meaning the regions of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, as designated by the African Union), four in Latin America, and four in Central Asia. The largest recipient of South Korea’s bilateral assistance in 2020 was the Philippines, receiving 8% (US$157 million) of all bilateral ODA, with US$28 million in grants and US$129 million in loans. 

 

Programming of bilateral funding for priority countries is set through ‘Country Partnership Strategies’ (CPSs). ‘Country Partnership Strategies’ outline two to three priorities for bilateral funding in priority countries. South Korea will update its ‘Country Partnership Strategies’ for each partner country following the reselection. 

South Korea has a strong preference for bilateral funding to lower-middle-income countries, but more emphasis might be given to low-income countries in the future. 71% of South Korea’s bilateral ODA went to middle-income countries in 2020, while 60% went to lower-middle-income countries and 11% to upper-middle-income countries. Low-income countries received 13% of total bilateral ODA. This is significantly different from the DAC average of 42% of bilateral ODA to middle-income countries, of which 23% went to lower-middle-income countries and 19% to upper-middle-income countries. Low-income countries received 18% of total bilateral ODA from DAC donors, on average. South Korea has said it will allocate more ODA to low and lower-middle-income countries, but no target was set in the ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan.’

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South Korea provides a low proportion of ODA to multilateral organizations, but its support to global health has dramatically increased

Only 21% of South Korea’s ODA is channeled as core funding to multilaterals, compared to the DAC average of 42%. This share has been relatively consistent since South Korea joined the DAC in 2010. 15% of funding in 2020 was earmarked funding to multilaterals, close to the DAC average of 14%. 
Historically, South Korea has not prioritized financial support for multilateral organizations. However, its COVID-19 response included a stronger multilateral approach and increased funding to multilaterals. South Korea was invited to the Group of Seven (G7) summit as a guest nation in June 2021, where it pledged a historic US$200 million to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC); a significant increase from the previous pledge of US$10 million in 2020. The pledge allocates US$100 million for 2021 and an additional US$100 million in financial and in-kind contributions for 2022 to expand the COVID-19 vaccine supply to lower-income countries. 

South Korea made two major pledges for the 2020-2022 period, pledging US$25 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) at its sixth replenishment, and US$9 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate vaccine development for emerging infectious diseases with epidemic potential, and enable equitable access to vaccines in lower-income countries. South Korea joined the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) as a ‘Facilitation Council’ member, providing strategic advice and guidance to ACT-A, and is one of eight countries—with the US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico—in the 'market leader group'. 

South Korea’s funding to COVAX AMC, the Global Fund, CEPI, and ACT-A have dramatically increased over the course of the pandemic, but funding from the Global Disease Eradication Fund (GDEF, a government program that aims to prevent and eradicate infectious diseases in partner countries) suffered significant losses.  GDEF funds are raised through taxation on international flights departing from Korea. In the past, South Korea has supported several projects of multilateral organizations with GDEF funding, but limited travel during lockdown directly impacted its resource levels, with financing shrinking by 36% from KRW63.2 billion (US$54 million) in 2020 to KRW40.7 billion (US$35 million) in 2021. GDEF funding to multilaterals decreased by 73% between 2020 and 2021, from KRW31.2 billion (US$27 million) to KRW8.3 billion (US$7 million). GDEF funding to multilaterals is projected to be KRW9.6 billion (US$8 million) in 2022, remaining similar to 2021 levels. 

According to the ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan,’ South Korea will further strengthen ‘strategic partnerships’ for health with the Global Fund, Unitaid, Gavi, and CEPI, with a commitment of KRW48.7 billion (US$40 million) for global health organizations such as these in 2022. South Korea joined the board of the Global Fund in 2018 and is the Global Fund’s third-largest supplier of diagnostic tests and the sixth-largest supplier of essential health products. South Korea provides limited core contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It makes no contributions to the United Nations Population Fund Supplies Partnership that delivers contraceptives and maternal health medicines to adolescents and women. It has made other non-core contributions for various UNFPA programs in recent years. 
The South Korean government has stated its intention to expand multilateral collaboration in response to global challenges, including climate change and humanitarian crises. In 2016, the South Korean government published a ‘Multilateral Aid Strategy’ identifying the following five United Nations (UN) agencies as compatible partners with their policy focus: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In the 2023 proposed budget, 16% of total multilateral funding will be provided to these five UN agencies.

Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the cash-flow basis measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

For more granular and up-to-date development finance data on South Korea, including information on where and in which sectors it is spending both ODA and non-ODA funds, please consult the IATI d-portal. IATI is a reporting standard and platform on which organizations and governments voluntarily publish data on their development cooperation.

Main Actors

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Economy and Finance steer policy; KOICA and the Korea Eximbank lead implementation

President Yoon Suk-yeol (People Power Party) currently leads the government and sets broad strategic guidelines for development cooperation including official development assistance (ODA) volumes and thematic priorities. 

The President is supported by the Prime Minister. The President’s directions are honored by ministries and agencies. President Yoon Suk-yeol was inaugurated on May 10, 2022, after winning the presidential election on March 9, 2022, taking over for former President Moon (Democratic Party). South Korea approved the appointment of a new prime minister, Han Deok-Su, of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) in May 2022. The executive and the legislature in South Korea are currently split between the conservative and liberal parties, so bills could face stalemates moving forward. Within the Prime Minister’s office, Kim Young Soo is the Director-General of the ODA Bureau. 
Two ministries guide development policy under the overall policy and decision-making authority of the President: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF).

  • MOFA, led by Minister Park Jin, sets policies and priorities for bilateral grants and multilateral ODA channeled through the UN and other multilateral instruments, such as the Global Fund. The Director-General (currently Won Do-Yeon) is responsible for the Development Cooperation Bureau that oversees policies regarding ODA and grant policies, multilateral aid with non-international financial institutions, and humanitarian assistance. It also works with implementing agencies.
  • MOEF, led by Minister Choo Kyung-Ho, sets policies for ODA loans and manages contributions to international financial institutions. It also supervises South Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), which finances bilateral loans, and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank) which implements them. In addition, MOEF sets the national budget, and its Budget Office can veto grants and loans proposed by MOFA that do not meet project approval criteria. The Director-General (currently Kim Kyung-Hee) is responsible for the Development Finance Bureau that oversees concessional loan policies, dictates multilateral assistance for international financial institutions, and works with EDCF in the implementation of concessional loans.

SK_devcooperation

Within these ministries, key actors include:

  • The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), overseen by MOFA, is a key player in development policy implementation in South Korea. The agency was founded in 1991 and provides bilateral grants and technical cooperation. It has 44 country offices as well as representatives dispatched to the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Hyuk-Sang Sohn took over as President of KOICA in 2020, though he may soon be replaced by a Yoon Suk-yeol appointee.
  • The Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) was established in 1987 to promote economic cooperation between South Korea and partner countries through loans. MOEF is responsible for the operations and policymaking of the Economic Development Cooperation Fund. Eximbank manages and implements loans from this fund. Eximbank supports South Korea’s economic development through strengthening exports, imports, and overseas investment projects. 

KOICA and EDCF are overseen by the Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC), the coordinating body responsible for deciding on major ODA-related policies. CIDC was established in 2006 and meets approximately three times per year. It consists of 25 members including the Prime Minister (the Chair), cabinet members, the President of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Chair of the Korea Eximbank, and eleven civilian experts. The ‘Sub-Committee for Evaluation’ is composed of 1) the Head of the Planning and Coordination Office of the Prime Minister’s Office (chair), 2) the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), 3) the Director-General of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF), 4) executives from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), 5) executives of the Korea Eximbank, and 6) eight representatives from academia and civil society. The latest OECD Development Co-operation Peer Review, published in 2018, found that the CIDC’s involvement in priority-setting has strengthened quality assurance and result management in South Korea's development cooperation.

Parliament: The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, the Parliament, can influence the direction of South Korea’s development policy and budget. The National Assembly votes on, amends as necessary, and approves the budget bill presented by the government. Within the National Assembly, the ‘Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee’ is responsible for development cooperation and can change overall ODA spending amounts and specific allocations through its ‘Sub-Committee on Budget.’ The Parliament provides the legal basis for South Korea’s ODA policies. The ‘People Power Party,’ a conservative political party led by President Yoon Suk-yeol, gained traction in the last parliamentary elections, which took place on June 1, 2020. The new chair of the ‘Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee’ is Yun Jae-ok (People Power Party).

Civil Society: South Korean civil society organizations (CSOs) are involved in policymaking and are increasingly playing a greater role in ODA implementation.

Budget Structure

MOFA and MOEF manage three-quarters of the ODA budget with limited ministerial discretion over respective budgets

According to the ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan,’ the majority (84%) of South Korean official development assistance (ODA) is provided by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF, 44%) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, 40%). The remaining 16% is divided across other ministries and agencies, including regional or provincial governments, all of which have their respective ODA budgets. 

South Korea’s overall ODA budget includes breakdowns by sector, region, ministry, and implementing agency. It also sets out how much funding is allocated to bilateral and multilateral channels within each ministry’s budget. The annual budget also lists concrete activities to be funded from each ministry’s budget, allowing very limited ministerial discretion over their respective budgets once each has been approved by the Parliament. 
According to the approved ODA budget for 2022, 80% will be allocated as bilateral ODA (including earmarked funding to multilateral organizations) and the remaining 20% will be channeled as core funding to multilaterals. Within bilateral assistance, 59% will be allocated as grants and 41% as concessional loans. South Korea will continue to focus its development cooperation on the African continent (19%), while its focus on Asia (37%) has decreased slightly.

Within individual agencies, 88% (KRW1.3 trillion, US$1.1 billion) of MOEF’s ODA budget will be delivered bilaterally, almost exclusively as concessional loans through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF). Only 5% of MOEF’s bilateral ODA (KRW70.3 billion, US$60 million) will be delivered as grants. KRW192.4 billion (US$163 million) will be provided as multilateral funding. 

The ODA-related budget of MOFA has two major funding lines: bilateral grants and multilateral organizations. Bilateral grants account for 87% of ODA (KRW1.3 trillion, US$1.1 billion) from MOFA, broken down into projects/programs, technical assistance channeled through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and funding delivered through public-private partnerships. Multilateral ODA accounts for the remaining 13% of the MOFA’s ODA-related budget (KRW184.3 billion, US$156 million) and comprises of assessed and voluntary contributions to international organizations, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund).

Korea's ODA budget 2022

millions
US$

billions
KRW

Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) 1,363 1,608
Bilateral 1,199 1,416
   Economic Development Cooperation Fund loans 1,130 1,333
   Grants (including Committee for International Development Cooperation spending) 70 83
Multilateral (assessed and voluntary contributions incl. Global Agriculture and Food Security Program) 162 192
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) 1,224 1,445
Bilateral grants 1,069 1,261
   Project and programs 495 584
   Technical assistance 139 164
   Development consultation and other spending  370 436
   Public-private partnerships 56 66
   Admin costs 9 11
Multilateral (assessed and voluntary contributions incl. funding to the Global Fund) 156 184
Other ministries 421 497
Ministry of Health (incl. funding for the World Health Organization) 53 62
Ministry of Agriculture (incl. funding to Food and Agriculture Organization 88 105
Prime Minister’s Office (including Committee for International Development Cooperation spending) 8 10
International financial institutions (IFI) 491 580
UN and other agencies (including UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, UN Women) 206 243
Total ODA spending 3,425 4,042

The figures presented in the table above do not add up or fully reflect all ODA spending for several reasons associated with a lack of transparency. First, funding flows from ministries beyond the 14-largest in the South Korean government, as well as regional and provincial governments, are not included in the budget table, but do disburse some ODA. Discrepancies also result from double counting of funding for some international financial institutions (IFIs), United Nations agencies, and other agencies. The ‘2022 Implementation Plan’ makes clear that the double-counted amount for IFIs is KRW38 billion (US$32 million) worth of concessional loans to Asian Development Bank (ADB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Green Climate Fund (GCF), which are included in MOEF’s budget as well as in the budget line for total IFIs. The document also states that South Korea’s total multilateral assistance to 16 "UN and other agencies" in 2022 is KRW243 billion (US$206 million), but it stops short of specifying which agencies are included in this category. This makes it difficult to determine the exact amount of funding that has been double counted in the budget table. 

Budget Process

Budget

Overall, ODA levels are set by MOEF between January and April; specific allocations are made between July and October

  • Ministries submit medium-term finance plans: Each ministry submits a medium-term spending plan to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) by the end of January. Based on this, MOEF draws up budget guidelines, including spending limits for each ministry.
  • Ministries develop budgets: Between May and June, ministries develop their budgets for the coming year, based on the limits set by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. At this stage, relevant ministries, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), develop proposals for sectoral and geographic allocations of the official development assistance (ODA). Key stakeholders are the Directors-General of the ministries, as they submit the ministerial budgets for review in June.
  • The ‘Committee for International Development Cooperation’ debates budget allocations: Between July and September, ministries that have a role in dispersing ODA negotiate their sectoral and geographic allocations. This process is led by the ‘Committee for International Development Cooperation’ (CIDC). It includes expert consultations followed by a review by the committee and final approval by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
  • The government submits its draft budget: By the beginning of September, the government submits its draft budget to the Parliament (National Assembly) for debate, amendments, and approval. Once the budget has been submitted, committees within the National Assembly review the draft budget in detail. The ‘Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee’ is responsible for the ODA budget. Following the review, the ‘Special Committee on Budget and Accounts’ conducts an overall review of the budget draft.
  • Parliament approves the budget: In December, the National Assembly votes on the ODA budget in a plenary session