South Korea - Agriculture

Agricultural development is a priority of South Korean development cooperation

South Korea spent 6%, or US$156 million, of total official development assistance (ODA) on agriculture in 2020, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC).  It is the 15th-largest DAC donor in absolute terms and the 14th-largest in relative terms of agriculture ODA as a share of gross national income (GNI). 78% of South Korea’s ODA to agriculture, or US$121 million, was channeled bilaterally in 2020 (significantly above the DAC average of 53%), including 19% or US$30 million as earmarked funding to multilateral organizations. Total ODA to agriculture decreased by 26%, from US$210 million in 2019 to US$156 million in 2020. The decrease in total ODA to agriculture is likely linked to South Korea’s vast expansion of ODA to global health in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as 2020 levels for other forms of ODA dropped significantly below those from 2016-2019 in response.

Bilateral ODA to agriculture targeted primarily agricultural development (32% of bilateral ODA to agriculture), rural development (11%), and agricultural education and training (10%). The main recipients of South Korea’s multilateral ODA to agriculture in 2020 were the International Development Association (IDA; 11%), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO; 3%), the Green Climate Fund (GCF; 3%), and the African Development Fund (ADF; 3%).  

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 include expanding market access for sustainable production, promoting resilience to climate change in rural production systems and natural resources, and scaling of innovative information and communication technology, high-tech systems, and machinery in ‘smart farms.’ The ‘2022 Annual Implementation Plan’ emphasizes smart farms, or using modern ICT to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products to optimize output from human labor, 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 KRW339 million (US$287 thousand) in 2022 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 The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA).  MAFRA works with MOFA to coordinate and report on their contributions to international organizations.