South Korea—A Development Success

April 15, 2011 By Jane Kaminski

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in South Korea this weekend, visiting a country that highlights the potential for transformation from foreign assistance beneficiary to donor and trading partner.  Between 1945 and the early 1990s, South Korea received sustained international assistance that supported broad economic growth and led it to “graduate” from the World Bank Lending list of recipient countries in 1995.  The Korean economy has continued to flourish and today, it has the 13th largest GDP in the world with two-way trade between the US and Korea totaling $65.7 billion.

U.S. engagement with South Korea incorporates a true whole-of-government approach.  While the U.S. military helped keep South Korea secure, its civilian leadership helped support South Korea’s transformation into a prosperous, democratic partner.  As the United States’ seventh largest trading partner, South Korea has been working with the Obama Administration to implement the KORUS Free Trade Agreement, signed last year, which will strengthen both economies.

South Korea has recently begun to assume a leadership position in the development community. At the G-20 summit in January of 2010, South Korea, alongside Canada, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S., and Spain, became founding donor to the World Bank Food Fund, which aims to tackle intrinsic global food security problems.  And in November, Korea will host the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan to discuss how donor countries can better in corporate ownership into their development programs.  South Korea’s success, its economic partnership and valued leadership demonstrate the importance of effective long-term development strategy and the potential for foreign aid beneficiaries to become global donors.