Korea is particularly recognized for being an inspiring global actor, as the first country to evolve from recipient to donor, with a predominant emphasis on its admirable economic trajectory. Yet, as an official development assistance (ODA) actor, the long and arduous struggles for democracy rarely feature in its development policies, programs and practices. These struggles, exemplified by the role of civil society to free Korea of its authoritarian rule and also more recent examples, such as the candlelight protests resisting the corruption of the Park Geun-hye administration, deserve more consideration in its ODA interventions. When president Moon Jae-in – with its roots in progressive society – was elected in 2017, a period of closer collaboration between the government and progressive civil society commenced again. In this article we explore how and whether this renewed constructive relationship could help address some of the structural problems in Korean ODA. Moreover, we investigate how this improved relationship can be more fundamentally institutionalized in the field of Korean ODA, thereby also inspiring actors in developing countries.
- South Korea, Official Development Assistance, Civil Society, Partnership, Governmentality