• emerging donor;
  • international aid;
  • Korea;
  • official development assistance


South Korea's official development assistance (ODA) has been increasing rapidly and will continue to do so. Korea is one of the few countries which have successfully transitioned from a recipient to a donor. It became a member of DAC (development assistance committee), OECD in November 2009. Korea's ODA policy, along with its growth in quantity, is at a crossroads for the enhancement of its quality. Discussions and debates are going on regarding the reforms in Korea's ODA activities, and this paper examines key issues raised. It first reviews the past and present of Korea's ODA, and identifies major characteristics including a low ODA/GNI ratio, a high percentage of concessional loans compared to grants, a high portion of tied aid, regional bias and a relatively large number of recipients. The paper argues that those characteristics arise from a lack of consensus on some fundamental issues like the objective of ODA, positioning of Korea's ODA as an emerging donor and the nature of aid to North Korea. We also argue that a shift of ODA policy is required to promote reform, based on a thorough reflection on the role of ODA in the alleviation of poverty and promoting sustainable development in developing countries, rather than serving as an economic tool. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.