Two members of the South Korean ruling party have criticized the government for a lack of clear standards in selecting priority partner countries of official development assistance (ODA); they also criticized the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) for a lack of development assistance effectiveness at the National Assembly’s annual audit of the government.
Representative Lee Yong-sun of the Democratic Party of Korea pointed out that the South Korean government’s selection of 24 priority partner countries in 2015 included four countries that are categorized as upper-middle-income countries (UMICs), which goes against the principle of providing more ODA to those in need, including to low-income countries (LICs) and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs). He also pointed out that the share of the grant to LICs and LMICs was around 38.4% and 31.6% respectively whereas 89.1% of ODA to UMICs was in the form of grants, which only exacerbates the debt burden in partner countries most in need of foreign development assistance. He argued that the priority partner countries should be LICs or those that receive the least amount of development assistance while increasing the share of the grant.
Representative Cho Jeong-sik of the ruling party specifically focused on the ODA activities of MSIT. He pointed out that despite investing KRW111.9 billion (US$93 million) in the science and technology sector for the last five years, MSIT only dispatched ten government officials to international organizations. He also criticized the MSIT for continuing to fund similar ODA projects without cultivating new projects in light of changing circumstances and called for quality improvement of MSIT’s ODA for stronger development assistance effectiveness.
Key ministries on South Korea’s ODA, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, are in the process of forming a five-year midterm strategy for international development cooperation for 2021-2025 as well as selecting the new list of ODA priority partner countries. Both the midterm strategy and priority partner countries are developed and selected every five years.