International Policy Digest

World News /12 Dec 2019
12.12.19

The Miracle on the Han River

At the end of the Korean War, more than half of the population of South Korea lived in absolute poverty and more than half were illiterate. Through international assistance and its own hard work, South Korea transformed itself into a wealthy, developed country. This new status was recognized in 2010 when South Korea became a member of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Today, South Korea provides only limited official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries. It is time for South Korea to recognize that efforts to alleviate poverty and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require ODA efforts from developed countries. It is time for South Korea to recognize that it can contribute more. Increasing ODA will improve the reputation for South Korea and contribute to positive diplomacy and peace and stability in the world.

The scale of South Korea’s economy and ODA contribution is not balanced. South Korea currently contributes only 0.14% of gross national income to ODA. Its policy fails to fulfill the UN’s recommendation of 0.7%. Therefore, South Korea has a responsibility to compensate by increasing its ODA budget and contribute to the achievement of SDGs through these actions.

South Korea can form an impressive reputation and foster positive diplomacy. These actions will create a positive brand image of South Korea in the world. Citizens of benefitted countries will prefer South Korean products and services. This can lead to strengthening the socio-economic relationship between nations. South Korea will have an advantage when exporting soft skills such as education and culture and importing various natural resources such as oil, minerals, and wood. It is an excellent chance to enhance South Korea’s appeal to 7.7 billion people around the world.

South Korea can share its cumulative knowledge and experience in development. During the period of ‘Miracle on the Han River,’ South Korea concentrated on exporting manufactured products and investing in human capital. South Korea became the 12th ranked country in gross domestic product with a poverty rate of 0.17%. As a pioneer of transformation from a developing country to a developed country, South Korea can share its agricultural, education, and information and communications technology (ICT) knowledge with developing countries.

South Korea can contribute to achieving peace and stability in the world. Poverty is the leading cause of conflict. Development can be the primary intervention to alleviate conflict and poverty. South Korea experienced devastating conflicts in the early 1950s and recovered through development. Although South Korea is still in a state of war with North Korea, the South Korean government seeks to resolve differences through peaceful means. By forming a stable democracy and pursuing socio-economic development, citizens in South Korea live in peace and stability.

Although this policy is costly and will require higher taxes from citizens, it will bring great benefits over time. Economic growth from trade with developing countries will raise citizens’ incomes. Development assistance is a wise long-term investment.

It has been 70 years since a poor South Korea relied on the development assistance of others. Today, South Korea is a wealthy member of the DAC. It should act as a responsible, leading member of the international community by increasing development assistance to alleviate poverty and achieve SDGs. South Korea can contribute to peace and stability in the world.