South Korea - Agriculture

Rural development is a priority of South Korean development cooperation

South Korea spent 9% of total official development assistance (ODA) on agriculture or US$228 million in 2019, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC). It is the 10th-largest DAC donor in absolute terms and the fifth largest in relative terms of ODA as a share of gross national income (GNI). 77% of South Korea’s ODA to agriculture or US$175 million was channeled bilaterally in 2019 (significantly above the DAC average of 53%), including 12% or US$27 million as earmarked funding to multilateral organizations. Bilateral ODA targeted primarily agricultural development (28% of bilateral ODA to agriculture; US$50 million), agricultural water resources (26%; US$46 million), and rural development (12%; US$20 million). The main recipients of South Korea’s multilateral ODA to agriculture in 2019 were the International Development Association (IDA; 17%), the African Development Fund (ADF; 2%,), the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD; 2%,), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO; 1%).

Total ODA to agriculture rose by 21% from US$189 million in 2018 to US$228 million in 2019. This increase is likely linked to the significant expansion of the ODA budget assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA). Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), South Korea’s implementing agency, identified ‘inclusive and sustainable rural development’ as one of three priority sectors in its ‘Agriculture and Rural Development Mid-Term Strategy 2021-2025’.

Other priorities are expanding market access for sustainable production, promoting resilience to climate change in rural production systems and natural resources, and scaling of innovative ICT, high-tech systems, and machinery in ‘smart farms’. The ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan’ emphasizes the importance of smart farming in its development approach. Partner countries in the Mekong Region as part of the New Southern Policy (see ‘Strategic Priorities’) are the primary regional focus for ODA funding for smart farming.

South Korea committed US$84 million to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) between 2011 and 2015 but has not made any subsequent pledges. It will contribute KRW357 million (US$310 thousand) in 2021 to CGIAR. Funding for CGIAR comes from the Rural Development Administration’s ODA budget. 

Offices within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs steer agriculture strategy

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) leads the development and implementation of South Korea’s development policy for agriculture and rural development. It is responsible for coordinating grant funding and contributions to United Nations agencies. The Development Policy Division, within MOFA’s Development Cooperation Bureau, leads the development of agriculture ODA policies, while MOFA’s Multilateral Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Division is responsible for managing relations with multilateral agricultural organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP). Some funding for ODA-related agriculture and food-related projects, including South Korea’s contributions to FAO, WFP, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) comes from the International Cooperation Bureau of MAFRA.  MAFRA works with MOFA to coordinate and report on their contributions to international organizations.