Korea joined the OECD Development Assistance Committee late last year, a group of OECD member states that provide overseas aid more than other countries. Korea can take pride in turning from a receipient of aid to a donor country but its overseas development aid was 0.11 percent of GNI last year, the lowest among committee members, and also fell below the average of 0.31 percent.
A government official said, Next year, we will allocate 10 percent more than this year in overseas development aid. There is also room for additional expansion. Seoul set a goal to increase overseas development aid to 0.25 percent of GNI by 2015, with room for an additional rise if the situation allows. Overseas development aid directly influences national status and thus should be properly promoted, meaning fiscal soundness should be handled separately. Overseas aid should be drastically expanded according to the countrys economic level and world expectations of Koreas international role, even if it means cuts in other expenses. Korea can match the level of industrialized countries by 2015 only if overseas development aid reaches 0.35 percent of GNI.
Northern European countries such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark provide considerable aid to poor countries based on humanitarian principles. The U.S. and Japan give aid for the sake of their own interests. China is not a member of the development committee but gives significant support to not only Asian countries but also certain African and Latin American nations with the aim of securing resources. Korea should at least signal its intent to provide more aid to compete with China and Japan in resource diplomacy and make inroads into Africa and Latin America.
Korea received 12.8 billion U.S. dollars in aid between 1945 and 1999, which translates into 46 billion dollars in current value. Goodwill should be repaid with goodwill. Seoul should increase aid free of charge to the poorest countries and sectors on humanitarian grounds where economic development and export effects can be felt. If Korea sends professional human resources and volunteer groups abroad and builds human networks there rather than just money, the country will gain a strong global network. Also crucial is publicizing the appropriateness of overseas aid to the Korean public.
Editorial Writer Hong Kwon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)