On 25 November, the DAC welcomed South Korea as its newest member. The Committee made its decision in a special session, during which Mr. Oh Joon, Korean Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted Korea’s eagerness to share its development experience – and success.
“Half a century ago,” said Oh Joon, “Korea was one of the poorest nations in the world, endeavouring to emerge from the ashes of the Korean War to rebuild itself.”
Korea relied heavily on foreign assistance to rebuild its economy, receiving a total of USD 13 billion between 1945 – when it became independent – and the late 1990s. Today, it is a major global economy. Next year, the country will chair the G20. And its aid to other countries – in particular in Asia – was USD 803 million in 2008, up from USD 696 million just one year earlier.
Korea’s story demonstrates the changing face of international development assistance. “Making good use of this assistance,” said Oh Joon, “we worked hard to overcome poverty and achieve development. For many Koreans, including myself, it happened in our own lifetime. As a child, I went to an elementary school where we drank milk and ate corn bread that came in containers marked ‘United Nations’ or ‘US Government’. A few months ago, I visited a kindergarten in Mongolia where children were studying with textbooks marked as gifts from the Republic of Korea.”
“This is happening in the middle of an economic crisis,” remarked OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, “when many countries are holding back, Korea is signalling the way forward, as it has done in many areas.”
Korea joined the OECD in 1996 and a decade later began motions to join the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.
A team of experts from the DAC Secretariat visited Korea in June 2009 to verify that its aid programme meets DAC standards. Based on their report, DAC members unanimously agreed to extend a warm welcome. They noted, among other things, Korea’s sound aid volumes, strategies, policies and institutional frameworks, as well the country’s reliable system for monitoring and evaluating performance.
Welcoming Korea to the DAC, the Committee Chair, Eckhard Deutscher, remarked: “We have had many opportunities to observe Korea’s great progress, as a nation, as an economy and as a provider of aid to the world’s poorest countries. Korea’s joining us today has paved the way for a more open and inclusive Development Assistance Committee.”
Yesterdays’ welcome by the members of the Committee was met by solid commitments from the Korean government: it has pledged to increase its aid from the present 0.09 per cent of its GDP to 0.15 per cent of GDP by 2012 and 0.25 per cent by 2015.
In 2011, Korea will host the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, where progress on global efforts to make aid more effective in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth will be assessed.