You might have heard about ODA. If you have not, you will hear about ODA for sure in your lifetime. Korea is now stable and is also making progress on ODA as a donor country. However, Korea did not start as a donor, but as a recipient country after the Korean War. Korea received a large amount of assistance from many foreign countries and eventually became a donor country. These days, many developing countries are acknowledging Korea as an advanced donor country and trying to learn Korea’s ODA skills.
● What is ODA?
ODA stands for Official Development Assistance. It is about providing resources to developing countries through the central or local government of donor countries or international agencies. Donor countries or agencies provide their financial and technical assistance to promote developing countries’ economic and social progress. This started from the Marshall Plan and has now become a huge exchange among nations.
There are two types of financial resources: concessional and non-concessional. ODA is in the concessional part and it is divided into bilateral and multilateral.
In 2000, MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) became the ultimate goal of ODA until 2015. Now it has changed into SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) since 2015. SDGs have 17 goals and 169 detailed goals to be more universal, transforming, and inclusive. The goals have become more various and detailed to adapt to the changing world.
● What are the motives of ODA?
There are three main motives: idealism, realism, and mutual interests. Idealism is about humanitarian motive and it stresses the moral duty of ODA. Realism has two different motives: diplomatic motive and economic motive. In fact, realism does not fit ODA’s primary purpose, but these days, realism prevails in many countries because each nation also pursues its own profit. ODA for mutual interests is a motive for dealing with worldwide problems or tasks. Today, dealing with global problems is quite important because there are so many tasks like protection of the environment, controlling population, nuclear problems and so on.
ODA in Korea
● History of Korea ODA
Korea started ODA in the 1960s, and the reason why Korea started ODA was because of a diplomatic competition with North Korea. In the 1980s, the motive changed from a diplomatic or political reason to economic cooperation with developing countries. In the 1990s, today’s assistance programs and governance systems were established. After the 2000s, the scale of ODA increased because of terror, war, natural disaster, and so on. In 2009, Korea entered the OECD DAC(Development Assistance Committee) as a first country to move from a recipient country to a donor country, and, one year later, the G20 Summit was held in Seoul. In 2013, the Post-2015 Korea Forum was established and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade held the “Seoul Post-2015 conference” along with with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). Korea made big contributions to making SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) within the short period of their ODA experience. Also, Korea carried through with some projects like the Saemaeul Movement in Ethiopia to achieve the SDGs’ ultimate goal. Korea’s ODA history is relatively short and Korea is still ranked at 16th out of 28 DAC members in terms of total ODA. However, Korea’s future is bright and expected to grow rapidly.
● Problems with Korea’s ODA
Even though the ODA system in Korea has improved rapidly, there are still some problems. First, the purpose of ODA is not clear. As already mentioned, there are four motives but Korea’s motive cannot be defined as one motive. Second, Korea has many agencies or organizations that are in charge of different fields, and this causes problems during negotiations with another country. This is called “aid fragmentation.” Counterpart countries will be confused and will handle ODA poorly through many agencies. Third, the proportion of each grant and concessional loan is almost the same. Lastly and also most importantly, there is still a lack of interest in ODA in Korea. To be a powerful donor country, these problems have to be resolved.
● Solutions to Korea’s ODA
Many experts related to ODA are still making great effort to find suitable solutions to Korea’s ODA problems, but it is hard to fulfill them. However, there are ideals that the international society expects to accomplish. The international society wants “more aid” and they pursue countries to accomplish 0.7% of ODA/GNI (Gross National Income) proportionally. Also, they want “better aid,” creating a synergy effect between various ODA agencies. Moreover, they want policy coherence for development. This is related to “aid fragmentation” and can be resolved by internal coherence within development co-operation policies. Lastly, to increase people’s interest in ODA, it is necessary to educate people through programs or ODA courses.
Korea made a miracle by going from a recipient to a donor country with foreign assistance and now it is time for Korea to share their experiences with many developing countries. To do so, Koreans’ interest is the most important thing to achieve. CBNU has a class about basic ODA understanding and there is also the Jeonbuk International Development Cooperation Center near CBNU. If you have some time to spare, visit the center and learn more about Korea’s ODA.