South Korea - Nutrition

Nutrition is a focus of South Korea’s global health strategy; funding is low but increasing

Nutrition is not one of the top five priority issues in South Korea’s overall development policy; however, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has prioritized “creating self-sustaining environments where communities can leverage their resources to adequately and stably supply nutrients” within its mid-term health strategy for 2016 to 2020. The strategy emphasizes breastfeeding, preventing and treating malnutrition, community-based nutrition, and supplying essential micronutrients for pregnant women and children.

Nutrition-specific: Interventions that address immediate causes of undernutrition and have the improvement of nutrition (i.e., support for exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, etc.) as their primary objective.

Nutrition-sensitive: Interventions that address underlying causes of malnutrition and that take into account cross-sector actions and impacts (i.e., improving access to diverse foods).

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea spent US$8 million on basic nutrition in 2018, up from US$6 million in 2017. South Korea does not participate in the reporting framework set by the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ (SUN) initiative to track nutrition-sensitive interventions. The country also did not make a commitment to Nutrition for Growth, an initiative where participating countries signed on to a ‘global compact’ to improve nutrition and made a range of international commitments. 

The World Food Programme (WFP) has an office in Seoul and South Korea makes ongoing contributions in support of specific appeals. In 2020, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) committed to providing US$4 million of humanitarian assistance to tackle food insecurity in partner countries across the Asian and African regions through the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and in collaboration with the WFP. In addition, KOICA has announced US$6 million over a five-year period (2020 to 2024) via the WFP, to address malnutrition in Madagascar. KOICA's funding will be used to improve maternal and children’s nutritional health, establish a collective farm, and provide lunches at schools. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs leads South Korea’s nutrition strategy development

South Korea’s nutrition policy is largely defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The Development Policy Division, within MOFA’s Development Cooperation Bureau, is responsible for nutrition policies. The Multilateral Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Division manages relations with multilateral organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP). KOICA plays a role in implementing nutrition ODA projects. 

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and its International Cooperation Bureau are also engaged in nutrition policy. The ministry’s total ODA budget for food and agricultural projects was KRW89 billion (US$81 million) in 2020. For 2021, it has requested an increased budget of KRW113 billion (US$103 million).