South Korea celebrates ten years of officially giving back to the world.
From the ashes of war to a tech titan nation, South Korea made a miraculous leap from where it was 7 decades ago, to where it stands now as the world’s 11th largest economy.
And the transition couldnt haven’t been made without the support of the global community.
In 2009, the country became the first in the world to transition from a recipient of international aid to an official donor and active partner of development assistance.
Since then, it’s been increasing its contribution as a member of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, becoming the 15th largest contributor in terms of volume.
Today, we discuss this milestone and how South Korea increase its role in helping partners in the global community. For this, there’s no better person to turn to than Ambassador Oh Joon, whose speech ten years ago marked Korea’s historic transition. He has served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Republic of Korea to the United Nations, and as the 71st President of the Economic and Social Council.
Welcome back, Ambassador. It’s wonderful to speak with you again.

When South Korea became an official donor country, on November 25th of 2009, in Paris, you were there making the transition as Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs, telling the DAC committee in Paris that South Korea is ready and committed to give back.
How significant was this transition, for a country that was one of the poorest in the world?

South Korea’s development assistance didn’t begin in 2009, though. How did South Korea systematically start preparing to officially give back?

What strengths has South Korea shown in ODA and how has its development experience has set the country apart in the way it delivers development assistance or knowledge-sharing?

Although South Korea recorded the highest increase in ODA from 2010 to 2019 at 11.9%, South Korea’s ratio of contribution against GNI was 0.15 percent. Only five out of 29 countries met the 0.7 percent goal. What is the significance of the 0.7 figure and why is it hard for countries to meet this goal?

Some countries have said they would cut foreign aid due to the fallout of the pandemic. Last month, the UK government said it would cut ODA by 5 billion pounds from 0.7 to 0.5 percent of GNI this year due to the “economic emergency”. A foreign office minister resigned in protest and the decision has still faces great criticism from media and experts. Some, of course, argue that charity starts at home, and a lot of foreign aid was being misused or misdirected. What could be the consequence of reducing aid during this pandemic, especially in impoverished and politically unstable countries?

There has arguably been a rise of nationalism amid this pandemic, especially when it comes to a vaccine. We’re seeing the G7 countries procure millions of doses of mRNA vaccines. They could inoculate everyone nearly three times over while developing countries can only vaccinate one in ten next year, according ot the People’s Vaccine Alliance. Why should rich countries care about equal access, and what kind of systematic support do developing countries need?

Emerging from this pandemic, it’s clear the world has many challenges on its hands as it tries to move forward towards a sustainable world. What kind of leadership or partnership do you hope to see from Joe Biden’s administration, and do you see a greater role for countries like South Korea to work with America in restoring multilateral values and order?

It’s clear that recovery from the pandemic will be deeply unequal. We keep hearing about a digital transformation, and over the course of the pandemic, we saw IT giants get bigger and bigger. Some are getting by or even faring better than ever with telecommuting and their stock portfolios, while some won’t see their jobs come back even after economies reopen. What key issues or discussions do you expect or hope to see the international community prioritise in 2021?

In the post-Pandemic, highly digitalised era, how can South Korea increase its aid effectiveness, to help developing countries build sustainable cities and communities?

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