Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan speaks in an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Wednesday, to mark the newspaper’s 59th anniversary, which falls on Sunday.
/ Korea Times Photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Kim Sue-young
The government will increase assistance to developing countries about three-fold by 2015, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan said Wednesday.
Yu said Korea will join next month the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the principal body through which the Organization of Economic Development (OECD) co-operates with developing countries - meaning an elevation to developed world status.
"We applied for the committee and our participation will be determined in a review conference meeting on Nov. 25," he said in an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul to mark the newspaper's 59th anniversary, which falls Sunday.
"The DAC entry is an essential step to realize the vision of 'Global Korea,'" the minister said.
The committee is an international forum where donor governments and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations seek to help partner countries reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Of 30 OECD member states, 22 have joined the group.
"As a would-be donor government, we plan to increase official development assistance (ODA) from the current 0.09 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to 0.25 percent," he said.
Yu said that Korea will host the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, a large-scale international gathering on development assistance, in 2011.
"It will be a venue for donor governments to assess how effectively and transparently the ODA has been executed," he said. "All the advanced countries around the world will participate in the meeting."
On the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), Minister YU said there will be no reduction in scale but flexible positioning of its troops could be beneficial for both Korea and the U.S.
"The two countries had no discussions on a reduction of the USFK but instead, we agreed to maintain the current size of about 28,500 troops," he said.
Under "strategic flexibility," the United States has been reviewing its forces stationed in foreign countries.
"By securing strategic flexibility of American troops, the United States, in my judgment, can deploy cutting-edge arms and forces here more freely," he said.
An extended period of service can also help more commissioned officers come to the nation, Yu added.
"I think we need to fine-tune U.S. strategies and our requests," he said.
On Afghanistan, Yu said that the country should make more contributions to the reconstruction of the Asian country.
"Korea is a member of the G20 and the OECD but our commitment to rebuild the war-torn country reaches only 0.17 percent of the global contribution," he said.
"We have dispatched only 25 reconstruction workers to Bagram Air Force Base, which does not fit with the nation's international status and reputation."
The government plans to increase the number to 85 and then from 130 to 150 next year for medical treatment and vocational programs, he added.
The minister, however, said that it has yet to be determined whether to send combat troops or police to Afghanistan.
As to President Lee Myung-bak's "grand bargain" proposal, Yu downplayed speculation that Seoul and Washington have different views regarding a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.
As incentives to make North Korea give up its nuclear ambitions, the United States presented a comprehensive package, while Korea suggested a "grand bargain."
"It's like heads or tails. There is one substance but it has two different names," he said. "When President Lee visited Washington and met with President Barack Obama in June, he discussed the North Korean nuclear issue and already talked about the 'grand bargain' proposal."