Nutrition is a focus of South Korea’s new global health strategy; funding is low but increasing

South Korea has not made nutrition a top priority in its overall development policy. However, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) identifies ensuring the stable supply of key nutrients and creating a self-sustaining environment where communities leverage their resources to adequately supply nutrients as one of its focus areas within the mid-term health strategy for 2016 to 2020. Major programs emphasized in the strategy are exclusive breastfeeding, preventing and treating malnutrition, community-based nutrition, and supplying essential micronutrients for pregnant women and children.

According to OECD data, South Korea spent US$8 million on basic nutrition in 2016, a strong increase from US$3 million in 2015 and US$1 million in 2014. This increase was driven by larger contributions to UNICEF and the World Food Program (WFP) in 2016 for nutrition support in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste, and ’Korea Aid Projects’ for improved food production techniques in sub-Saharan Africa. The Korea Aid Projects are part of the ‘Saemaul Undong’ rural development movement.  South Korea plans to continue this partnership and intends to contribute US$50 million to WFP in 2018.

South Korea does not participate in the reporting framework set by the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ (SUN) initiative to track nutrition-sensitive interventions. The country also did not make a commitment to Nutrition for Growth, an initiative where participating countries signed on to a ‘global compact’ to improve nutrition and made a range of international commitments.

According to OECD data, South Korea spent US$8 million on basic nutrition in 2016

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs leads South Korea’s nutrition strategy development

South Korea’s nutrition policy is largely defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The Development Policy Division, within MOFA’s Development Cooperation Bureau, is responsible for nutrition policies. The Multilateral Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Division manages relations with multilateral organizations like the WFP.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and its International Cooperation Bureau are also engaged in nutrition policy. The Ministry’s total ODA budget for food and agricultural projects amounts to KRW 46 billion (US$40 million) in 2018 and is mainly channeled through WFP.