[EDITORIALS]A timely increase

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[EDITORIALS]A timely increase

President Roh Moo-hyun, making a round of calls to three African countries, is scheduled to announce in Nigeria today a development assistance plan for Africa. It is said that the project will include tripling the budget for development assistance to Africa by 2008 and inviting a total of 1,000 Africans to Korea in the coming three years to teach them about Korea’s development experience.
The project is said to also include expansion of the scale of medical teams that are dispatched to African countries. It is a somewhat late but proper move for a government that has declared that it would conduct international relations at a level suitable for the nation’s expanded power.
Korea’s foreign assistance record is shamefully poor compared to its gross domestic product, which is the 11th-largest in the world. As of 2004, Korea’s overseas development assistance stood at $430 million, only 0.06 percent of the gross national income.
The ratio is the lowest among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We deserve criticism such as “Stingy Korea,” considering that 70 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product is created from international trade. With such a poor performance in foreign assistance, we cannot expect to be treated as a developed country with a sense of responsibility.
Korea’s overseas development assistance has many problems, not only in its poor scale but also in its concentration on Asia. Nearly 95 percent of the nation’s foreign aid budget is allocated to Asian countries. However, the country should not neglect the poverty of Africa any longer.
In the continent, nearly half of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Considering that, the government’s decision to expand its aid to Africa is proper.
In the medium and long term, the nation should increase the ratio of its overseas development assistance to 0.25 percent of its gross national income ― the average among the OECD member countries, even if it is unable to reach 0.7 percent, the target recommended by the United Nations.
The country also needs to consider positively participating in the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD as a regular member. In accordance with global trends, Korea should consider expanding the ratio of grant-type aid among its total overseas development assistance.
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