[FOUNTAIN]Revamp the miser’s image by donating

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[FOUNTAIN]Revamp the miser’s image by donating

As the mercury falls below zero at this year’s end, heart warming news is more welcome than any other time. An anonymous elderly couple’s donation of an enormous amount of money is one of them. Around this time of the year, compassionate hands help fill Salvation Army kettles on the street.
We should all take a moment to consider how generous we have been to our neighbors and community. As an extension, let’s balance the book and reconcile how much we have contributed compared to the international community.
The contribution to the international community is measured by official development assistance, a grant-type aid a government offers to underdeveloped nations. However, we should be ashamed. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Korea has received a total of $12.7 billion in that kind of aid. We started giving meager contributions in 1963. The Korea International Cooperation Agency was established in 1991 and systemized the assistance program. In 2003, we gave $366 million, 31 percent more than the year before and 6.5 times 1991 spending.
Despite the impressive increase, structural problems remain. The per-capita official development assistance takes up 0.06 percent of per-capita national income. Although we proudly wear on our sleeves that Korea is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we are only giving a quarter of the average 0.25 percent contribution of OECD member countries. As we go into specifics, it burns us even more.
The Netherlands, whose economy is similar in size to Korea’s, gives 0.8 percent. Spain and Australia give 0.23 percent and 0.25 percent. We should not console ourselves that they are much better off nations than us. We are not contributing as much as countries whose per-capita national income is similar to Korea’s, such as Greece and Portugal, which give 0.21 percent and 0.22 percent.
Official development assistance isn’t a freebie: 40 percent of it consists of loans. As Korea’s status rises and its economic size grows, we are hoping the next U.N. secretary general is Korean. It’s about time that we work hard to revamp the image of a miser. If not, the international community might point fingers at Korea that we are only after the high positions.

by Ahn Sung-kyoo

The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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