South Korea Joins the Donor Club

November 23, 2009

The Korea Times reports that the Paris-based Development Assistance Committee is set to endorse South Korea's application for membership on Wednesday. DAC is the official club of Northern government donors. Korea will join Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the U.S., Western European nations and the European Commission in one of the world's most exclusive clubs. Meanwhile, Korea and the U.N. Development Programne (UNDP) have just agreed to start a new UNDP branch with the felicitous name, "Seoul Policy Center for Global Development Partnership":

"It is a sort of a knowledge center tasked with helping craft policies for assisting underdeveloped countries in the Asia-Pacific region on the basis of South Korea's experience in having become a benefactor from a recipient, " a foreign ministry official said.
Both bits of news are indeed signs of South Korea's graduation from receiver of aid to giver. I hope they will also mark a progression in Korea's conception of something broader than aid, development policy. Last year, anticipating South Korea's entry into DAC, we added the country to the Commitment to Development Index (CDI), which ranks wealthy nations on a spectrum of policies that affect poorer ones, from aid to farm subsidies to gasoline taxes. A key message of the CDI is that development policy embraces far more than aid. Korea now ranks last on the CDI, with a profile similar to that of Japan: little aid for its size, and high entry barriers to goods (read: "rice") and workers from other countries. On the other hand, it scores a 2.5 in 2009 (where 5 is average), a level Japan did not surpass until 2006, so it is not far behind for a new entrant. (See the Korea CDI report in English or Korean.)Before releasing the CDI last year my colleague Cindy Prieto and I visited the Korean embassy here in Washington to brief officials. We were impressed with their constructive attitude, which blended respect for the CDI and hope that Korea would improve as it took its place among donors. We congratulate South Korea on its new status and wish it the best as it accepts the attendant responsibilities.


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