[VIEWPOINT]Korea has duty to rest of world

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea has duty to rest of world

The whole country is clamorous. The scenes of lawmakers fighting and throwing the ballot box away were broadcast all day. I feel embarrassed to think how long our country, the world’s 12th-largest economy, will make a spectacle of itself before the world.
Is there any country that has received more care and “love” from the world than Korea? To protect liberal democracy, the United Nations organized its troops and fought for us. After the war, South Korea was provided with relief supplies and all kinds of grants and loans amounting to $12 billion, which laid the foundation for our five-year economic development plans.
Anyone over 40 will remember free meals of corn bread and milk, plastic bags for a stool test, vermicide, Christmas seals and the slogans people shouted without knowing their meaning, such as “Let’s become rich” and “Let’s have only two children and raise them well.” Those projects were generally carried out with funds from other countries. Now our non-governmental organizations do the same for the poorest countries.
World Vision, which assists 100 million people in 100 countries, was organized by an American missionary, Bob Pierce, and a Korean pastor, Han Kyung-jik, to help Korean widows and orphans in 1950. It is rare that a country overcome its poverty with the help of a relief organization and then help the same organization to collect funds to assist other countries. Including indigenous organizations such as Good Neighbors, Korean Foundation for World Aid and Global Civic Sharing, our 39 NGOs now work hard around the world.
After joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the government esta-blished the Korea International Cooperation Agency under the Foreign Ministry and gave about $2 billion over 10 years. Particularly after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the government is doing lots of work in cooperation with NGOs. For example, if the government decides to support Afghanistan with $1 million and gives $500,000 of that to the NGOs, the NGOs add to this $2.5 million they raised and go to Afghanistan to work with the people there.
In Iraq, civic groups, which received $1.5 million in government subsidies last year, are working more actively. They carried out $8 million worth of projects together with their collected funds. This year, when troops are dispatched to Iraq, they plan to carry out about $15 million worth of projects after receiving $3.5 million in government support.
Iraq, whose per capita gross national product was $30,000, created masses of poor people waiting for assistance in just 10 years due to its unstable political situation and war. Because of its huge petroleum reserve, Iraq’s economy can recover instantly when it gets even a little support for building key facilities. Helping the Iraqis with their reconstruction is a meaningful opportunity to both Iraq and Korea.
Despite these activities and efforts, Korea’s share of official development assistance is 0.06 percent of GNP, 10 times less than 0.6 percent, a figure recommended by the OECD and less than 0.22 percent, the average of OECD member countries. As the biggest beneficiary and a successful example of development assistance from abroad, it is a pitifully low level. We rail at the conglomerates and resent stingy rich people, but we don’t realize that we may appear like stingy rich people to the world.
Our country’s major export partners shifted long ago from developed countries to developing countries, including China, India, and those in Eastern Europe. They look at our country enviously as a model of success. We should be careful not to turn their envy into jealousy. We should take the lead in sharing with others, so that our country can share the “intellectual property” called poverty eradication.

* The writer is the general secretary of Korea NGO Council for Overseas Cooperation. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Yoon Hyun-bong
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