[FOUNTAIN]Korea must do more for the hungry

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[FOUNTAIN]Korea must do more for the hungry

In 2000, the United Nations established its Millennium Development Goals, meant to improve the state of mankind in the new century. These goals are universal primary education; environmental stability; the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; women’s empowerment; reduction in child mortality; improvements in maternal health, stopping diseases such as AIDS and malaria, and establishing a global partnership for development. These will require enormous resources, and the United Nations’ main source of revenue to achieve them is each member country’s official development assistance (ODA) contribution.
The United States, whose 2002 contribution was $13.2 billion ―nearly 50 times Korea’s, which was $280 million ―has been criticized for being stingy. Its Millennium Development Fund is expected to raise $5 billion more between 2004 and 2006. Around the same time, the French government said it would increase its ODA to 0.5 percent of its gross national income by 2007, and to 0.7 percent by 2012.
It’s hardly news that Korea’s ODA contribution is meager. The global standard is about 0.7 percent of a country’s gross national product; Korea’s contribution has been about 0.06 percent, far below that of other countries with economies of comparable size, such as Australia (0.25 percent of GDP), Spain (0.23 percent) and the Netherlands (0.8 percent). Greece and Portugal, whose per-capita incomes are about the same as Korea’s, contribute 0.21 percent and 0.22 percent, respectively. The Korean government claims to be working hard on raising the amount, but there hasn’t been much improvement.
Last week, the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice hosted a forum titled “The Millennium Development Goals and the Role of Korea.” Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Finance and Economy explained that there were technical, budgetary difficulties involved in raising Korea’s contribution. Civil groups criticized the government for being inflexible. Some pointed out that it is wrong to think we can wait to help others until after we become more prosperous. A United Nations Development Project official condemned Korea for being obsessed with growth.
A foreigner at the meeting noted that a child dies of hunger or poverty every three seconds, and that hundreds had died during the discussion. A UN study says 11 million children under five died of hunger and poverty in 2002. The foreigner was correct. Korea has to act quickly to create a society that’s concerned about the poor.

by Ahn Sung-kyoo

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