South Korea - Global health
At a glance
Global health is one of South Korea’s five priority issues
In 2016, South Korea spent US$263 million on global health-related ODA, equivalent to 10% of total its total ODA in that year (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral data is available).
15% of South Korea’s health ODA was provided as core contributions to multilaterals in 2016, much lower than the DAC average of 56%. South Korea’s funding for health multilaterals including Gavi, the Global Fund, UNITAID, and the WHO is raised through an innovative air-ticket solidarity levy on international flights, which is pooled in and disbursed from the ‘Global Disease Eradication Fund’. The size of this fund is being directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis as a result of reduced air travel. The main recipients of these funds in 2016 were: the International Development Association of the World Bank (IDA, US$13.2 million); the World Bank (US$11.4 million); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi; US$4.3 million); and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund; US$4.1 million).
South Korea has increased its pledges to health multilaterals in recent years, including committing US$30 million to Gavi between 2021 to 2025 and pledging US$25 million to the Global Fund for 2020 to 2022 at its sixth replenishment. South Korea has supported the international response to polio through contributions to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), including a US$2 million contribution in 2018 to fund outbreak responses in the horn of Africa.
The other 85% of health ODA funds in 2016 were provided bilaterally (including earmarked funding for multilaterals). Between 2016 and 2018, South Korea’s bilateral funding for health has decreased slightly from US$224 (13% of bilateral ODA) to US$204 million (11%). In 2018, of the total US$204 million in bilateral health ODA, US$44 million was channeled as earmarked funding through multilaterals. This is funding given to multilateral organizations for specific sectors or regions. South Korea’s bilateral funding for health focuses on medical services (30%), basic health infrastructure (18%), health policy and administrative management (10%), basic health care (10%) and infectious disease control (9%). Bilateral funding for health is largely channeled through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the public Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH).
Global health has been a priority issue in South Korea’s development policy since its inclusion in the second Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation for 2016-2020. KOICA’s mid-term sectoral strategy for health covering 2016 to 2020 highlights the importance of health as a human right and essential factor for socio-economic development. According to the strategy, South Korea’s goal is to contribute to the achievement of universal health objectives by improving access to quality health and medical services and care for all. Health is one of five priority sectors in the government’s 2021 International Development Cooperation Action Plan, which states that South Korea will focus on developing therapeutics, providing healthcare training, and establishing healthcare facilities for vulnerable groups including women and children. As South Korea increases its ODA spending to meet the government’s 0.3% of GNI target, more funding is likely to be made available for health as a priority sector.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has led the development of three solidarity groups at the United Nations (UN), WHO, and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which aim to strengthen global health security and create effective mechanisms for the global response to infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19. KOICA announced its plan to prioritize health and medical assistance, build infectious disease response capacity in partner countries, and protect the most vulnerable people. As part of the government’s ‘COVID-19 Response ODA strategy’, health ODA is expected to increase. South Korea has joined the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator as a Facilitation Council member and is one of the eight countries — with US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico — in the 'market leader group'. South Korea announced its first commitment of US$3 million a year from 2020 to 2022 to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and a US$10 million contribution to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to support the international response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Development Cooperation Bureau leads on the development of global health policy