Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

South Korea’s global health outreach through official development assistance: analysis of aid activities of South Korea’s leading aid agencies, 2008–2012

By Eun-Mee Kim, Eun-hee Ha, and Mi-jin Kwon

28th May, 2015 - Development, Health | East Asia

Although South Korea is one of the newest members to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee in 2010, it has a long history of official development assistance (ODA), first as a recipient of aid (1945–1995) and later as an emerging donor (with the establishment of aid-implementing agencies for concessional loans in 1987, and for grant aid in 1991, respectively). And, global public health has been one of the three largest outreach areas of South Korea’s foreign aid programmes. This article examines the global public health outreach activities of South Korea’s leading aid-implementing agencies, namely Korea International Cooperation Agency, Korea Foundation for International Healthcare and Economic Development and Cooperation Fund, using data for the latest period, 2008–2012. South Korea’s innovative global public health ODA through the Global Poverty Eradication Contribution is also examined. The analysis of global public health outreach activities has shown that South Korea has concentrated its foreign aid to Asia and Africa, and that a large share of its aid has been focused on health care services; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); maternal and child health (MCH); and infectious diseases. A significant regional difference was found: South Korea’s aid focused on health care services and MCH in Asia, while it focused on WASH and infectious diseases in Africa. Findings have also shown that South Korea’s priority countries for development cooperation have received more aid compared with non-priority countries. In conclusion, we have found that South Korea’s global health outreach activities were in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but that they lack a clear focus and do not have globally recognised initiatives or projects compared with large and traditional donors such as the United States and Japan. Further research is needed to examine the impact of the rapidly rising aid activities of South Korea, especially in global public health.

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