Quality overseas aid top goalSouth Korea has been supporting a hospital in Thimi, a small town southeast of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. The 50-bed hospital was built for free by the Korean government in April last year.
But a few months after its opening, the walls and ceilings started to come apart, allowing in water from torrential rains. The local press criticized the Korean builder for ignoring calls for repairs. We can only express regret for the lack of expertise from this part of the Korean International Cooperation Agency, the government agency that spearheads overseas aid projects.
Korea has now become a major donor country after the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development accepted it as a member of the Development Assistance Committee. Koica plans to establish a training center to train experts in official development assistance, committed to organizing and overseeing overseas aid programs. To a donor country, appropriating projects wisely is as important as the amount of charity spending and the work it offers. Expediting aid programs requires special expertise.
We need to foster project management professionals to plan and create feasible projects to help aid recipient countries. They should be competent in local language, culture and customs and have prowess in organizing and facilitate large projects. The new ODA institute should be focused on incubating experts who meet those qualifications.
The government at the same time plans to encourage a private overseas volunteer group called World Friends Korea to expand its membership to 20,000 by 2013 from the current 3,000.
Yet quality rather than the quantity of the volunteer work should matter. They must be well trained and systematically supported so that they can bring honor to the name “Korea” everywhere they go.