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Korea’s ODA to Africa: Strategic or Humanitarian?

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South Korea’s growing economy, expanding role on the global stage, and history of rapid development, have made it an increasingly important provider of international aid and development assistance. Seoul’s aid to Africa, in particular, has greatly expanded in recent years, reflecting both humanitarian goals and strategic interests in the continent. While these development programs are partially driven by a humanitarian interest in replicating Korea’s development success abroad, they are also shaped by Korea’s interest in securing energy and other resources from Africa. This paper provides an overview of Seoul’s development assistance programs in Africa, and examines the scope of Korea’s economic and resource-oriented interests, concluding that a middle ground, balancing humanitarian and strategic goals, can be reached.

Rob Folley is an M.A. student at SAIS, concentrating in China Studies with a specialization in quantitative economics. After graduating from Luther College with a B.A. in English Literature and Music, Rob served in the Peace Corps in southwest China and was also a visiting student at Beijing Normal University. In his first year at SAIS, Rob completed internships with the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, working on trade promotion at the 2010 World Expo. Most recently, Rob worked for the Commerce Department’s Office of China and Mongolia. His academic interests include East Asian trade and investment in Africa, and China and Korea’s approaches to food security.