▲ Officials say Jeju shares a bond of history with the East Timorese people. Photo courtesy Jeju Peace and Cooperation Division.
Korea is in many ways the poster child of international aid. Post-civil war, the country was among the very poorest in the world and between 1945 and the 1990s received a total of 12.69 billion in aid from the international community.
Now the 15th strongest economy, Korea stopped receiving World Bank assistance in 1995 and was only removed from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipient list in 2000. By 2010, Korea became the only ever country to graduate from ODA recipient to donor within the OECD.
ODA is normally provided through central government or specialized agencies such as JICA (Japan Interna-tional Cooperation Agency), or CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). In Korea this role is fulfilled by KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency), which now has priority pro-grams in 44 nations worldwide, provid-ing approximately two thousand volunteers. Ban Ki Moon believes the country is now a “lighthouse for developing countries.”
Jeju shares Korea’s history of develop-ment assistance and aims to be a ‘lighthouse’ in itself. Governor Woo Keun-min said:
“We, Jeju Island, have received inter-national aid in the past. As a member of the global community, Jeju has a responsibility to seek out others in need and help them,” said Woo.
Jeju began its ODA program in 2012, contributing 10 million won to dig Abyssinian wells in two regions of Cambodia. This was a joint project with Jeju Gukhwawon, a local NGO. In another non-ODA project, the Kim Mandeok Association constructed two schools in Vietnam, donating them to the local authorities.
The current 2013 project targets East Timor and is the largest to date. Ko Bong gu, Deputy Director of International Relations, explained further.
“On March 15 last year we established a cooperative partnership with KOICA to exchange information in the field of ODA and consultation alongside central government, but this project is led by the Peace and Cooperation Division of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province,” said Ko.
▲ Jeju is looking to broaden its horizons, like these East Timorese youth on the seashore. Photo courtesy Jeju Peace and Cooperation Division.
This elevation of Jeju on to the inter-national stage, performing a role more often fulfilled by Seoul, is part of the increasing realization of the island’s free international city status. Like Korea, Jeju has its own history of poverty and officials feel it has a duty to the inter-national community..
“The concept of ODA is to contribute to developing countries and improve the quality of life, living conditions and economic environment. Jeju received [ODA] and now wants to give back, moving from a recipient to a donor...it is time for Jeju to become active and contribute to society.”
The decision to support East Timor was born from a shared history.
“East Timor shares some key historical experiences with Jeju. Jeju has the bitter experience of being a colony of Japan and then after liberation the tragic 4.3 Incident occurred, leaving a deep scar in Jeju...East Timor was also colonised, by Portugal, in the 18th century and then after liberation was invaded...by neighboring Indonesia in 1975. It was finally liberated in 2002 after a long war of independence claiming many lives.”
This shared experience of colonization and conflict led to Jeju officials wanting to reach out and provide help to the East Timorese.
“Through the concept of building peace, East Timor was chosen to be a donor recipient and partner to Jeju. As an island of world peace - and with a shared history with East Timor - Jeju selected the country for the ODA project.”
Despite the shared history, the foundation for ODA necessitates a long and thorough assessment of beneficiary needs.
“When we thought about what kind of ODA would be appropriate the most important point was to consider the needs of the recipient country. Officials from Jeju visited East Timor in 2012, met with East Timorese officials and consulted with KOICA and the Korean Embassy in Dili. We asked them, “what does your government need?”
The East Timorese requested essential medical items from Jeju officials, including suction pumps, stethoscopes, PC-based digital oscilloscope and more. The total ODA value is 60 million won and the procurement will be completed before the team’s visit to Dili in July this year, when further research will be conducted.
A common criticism of aid is the short-termism of fly-by-night projects that serve organizational growth as much as beneficiary needs. Ko says Jeju is in it for the long haul, with this being merely a first step. Their first visit involved consultation with a number of East Timorese ministries where various long-term projects were discussed.
“One ministry [said] East Timor... imports most of its crops [so] they want to receive Jeju’s expertise in the agricultural field through technological transfer. Some experts could train East Timorese in growing tangerines and flowers...Another project is to build a sister relationship between Jeju National University Hospital and Dili Hospital to train doctors in Jeju before they return to Dili to improve services there.”
The transfer between Jeju and East Timor is clearly expected to grow, benefiting both donor and recipient.
“In the long term, we think we need to expand this ODA program, but for the time being we are going to focus on East Timor. Once the capacity of our ODA program grows we can look at other destination countries for Jeju support.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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