Rural development is a key priority of South Korean development cooperation

South Korea’s ODA for agriculture (which, as a sector category, includes forestry and fisheries) and rural development stood at US$176 million in 2016 (the latest year for which complete data is available), accounting for 7% of total ODA. This is on par with the average of other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC).

The focus on rural development is based on the country’s promotion of ‘Saemaul Undong’ (New Village Movement)

South Korea has identified rural development as a priority sector of its development policy, with the view that it can share best practices in this area from its own history as a developing country. The focus on rural development is based on the country’s promotion of ‘Saemaul Undong’ (New Village Movement) – a community-based approach that improved local economies in the South Korean countryside in the 1970s. Although the movement is associated with former President Park Chung-hee, the father of impeached President Park Geun-hye, it has retained support from the current government. The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Ministry of Public Administration, and regional governments are still implementing Saemaul Undong projects. Rural development is expected to remain a priority of South Korean, and Saemeul Undong will likely remain a key program for implementation. Saemaul Undong agriculture development projects in Laos, Vietnam, and Ethiopia were among South Korea’s largest agriculture investments in 2017, all with a focus on local participation and sharing best practices.

South Korea channeled US$132 million to agriculture ODA bilaterally in 2017, at a similar level to 2016 (US$136 million). Bilateral ODA focused on agricultural development (34%), rural development (18%), and agricultural water resources (10%). Other subsectors receive only smaller shares of funding.

KOICA has identified ‘inclusive and sustainable rural development’ as one of its three priority sectors in its ‘Agriculture and Rural Development Mid-Term Strategy 2016-2020’. The other priorities are sustainable production and expanding market access, and conservation of rural production system and natural resources by responding to climate change. In addition, agriculture is a priority sector of South Korea’s 2019 International Development Cooperation Plan, with a specific priority for improving the self-reliance of rural areas through comprehensive rural development programs, training, and agricultural technology.

Less than a quarter (US$40 million, or 23%) of agriculture ODA was channeled multilaterally in 2016, which was well below the OECD DAC average of 45%. The largest share of this was made up of contributions to the World Bank through the International Development Association (IDA; 45%), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO; 26%), and regional development banks (18%).

South Korea pledged US$69 million to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) for 2011 to 2015 and an additional US$15 million in 2016. South Korea has budgeted to support the World Food Programme (WFP) with KRW110 million (US$97,000 million) in contributions in 2019 and KRW 113 million (US$100,000) in 2020; the FAO with KRW6.1 billion (US$5 million) in core and voluntary contributions in 2019; and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) with KRW3.9 billion (US$3 million) in 2019 and KRW4.4 billion (US$4 million) in 2020. The FAO opened a partnerships and liaison office in Seoul in May 2019 to strengthen collaboration between South Korea and the organization.   

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For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Offices within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs steer agriculture strategy

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) leads on the development of policies related to agriculture and rural development. The Development Policy Division, within MOFA’s Development Cooperation Bureau, leads on developing ODA policies, including on agriculture. The Multilateral Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Division manages relations with multilateral agricultural organizations like WFP. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, specifically its International Cooperation Bureau, allocates some additional funding to agriculture and food-related projects including contributions to FAO, WFP, and IFAD.