South Korea - Gender equality

South Korea’s funding for gender equality is low despite important policy commitments to gender equality 

In 2018, South Korea spent US$235 million on bilateral development activities that targeted gender equality in a principal or significant way, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) gender equality policy marker. This represents only 13% of South Korea’s bilateral allocable ODA, significantly below the DAC average of 44%, making South Korea one of the lowest funders of gender equality in relative terms. The share of South Korea’s bilateral ODA that targets gender equality has been relatively stable at around 12% since 2014.

In its 2021 International Development Cooperation Implementation Plan, the Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC) stated that it plans to review the use of the gender marker across ODA implementing agencies and ministries since currently, it is mostly only used by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Despite the low levels of reported funding, gender equality is included as one of the six basic ideas for development in South Korea’s ‘Framework Act on International Development Cooperation’. In KOICA’s Mid-term Sectoral Strategy 2016-2020, gender is included as a cross-cutting sector, critical to maximizing South Korea’s contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The gender equality mid-term strategy focuses on three strategic objectives: economic empowerment for gender equality; social status for gender equality; and basic rights for gender equality. Gender mainstreaming is included within individual Country Partnership Strategies (CPS). 

Consistent with South Korea’s focus on strengthening the education and health of adolescent girls and women, education received the largest share (US$61 million or 26%) of South Korea’s gender-focused funding (including both principal and significant). Health and populations received a similar amount (US$58 million or 24%), followed by infrastructure (US$50 million or 21%). 

In addition to its bilateral contributions, South Korea also channels some funding for gender equality through multilaterals. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family contributed KRW5.6 billion (US$5.1 million) to UN Women in 2020.  In 2020, MOFA will provide voluntary contributions of KRW1.5 billion (US$1.4 million) to UNFPA to implement the ‘Action with Women and Peace’ initiative. The Ministry of Health and Welfare will also provide contributions of KRW220 million (US$200,00) to UNFPA. 

In recent years, South Korea has increased its collaboration with multilaterals on gender equality including through a partnership between KOICA, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Women. This partnership was launched in 2018 to accelerate progress towards SDG 5 (“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”) through innovative country-level programming. UNFPA opened a regional office in Seoul in February 2019 and has strengthened its engagement with South Korea on matters related to public health, sexual and reproductive health, and an aging population. In November 2020, South Korea will host the second international conference on ‘Action with Women and Peace’ following the inaugural conference in July 2019. The event brings together stakeholders from the global development and security community to discuss and develop concrete solutions to gender-based violence in conflict and other related issues. 

A third of gender funding principally targets gender equality; the majority of projects are screened for the gender marker 

Of the US$235 million spent on gender equality in 2018, 29% (US$68 million) went toward projects and programs that targeted gender equality as a principal goal. This corresponds to 4% of South Korea’s overall bilateral allocable ODA, below the DAC average of 6% but an improvement on the 2% principally targeting gender equality in 2014. In addition, South Korea spent US$167 million (9%) of its bilateral allocable ODA on projects that included gender as a significant objective, significantly below the DAC average of 38%.  

Most of the remainder of South Korea’s bilateral ODA (US$1.5 billion or 81%) was spent on projects that were marked as screened but not targeting gender equality, US$97 million or 5% was spent on projects not screened against the gender marker in 2018.

Committee for International Development Cooperation has overall responsibility for promoting gender equality within South Korea’s ODA portfolio

Gender equality cuts across all sectors of development and therefore the CIDC has primary responsibility. The key ministries and agencies that implement South Korea’s gender-related ODA are KOICA and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. In the 2021 Implementation Plan, the CIDC said it will try to strengthen gender awareness and sensitivity within other ministries and agencies responsible for implementing South Korea’s ODA. 

South Korea's bilateral ODA for gender equality

South Korea's bilateral ODA for gender equality by sector

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