From development to development cooperation: Foreign aid, country ownership, and the developmental state in South Korea

Eun Mee Kim, Pil Ho Kim, Jinkyung Kim

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25 Scopus citations


As an emerging donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA), the South Korean government has announced that it will provide a 'South Korean Model of Development Cooperation'. This paper explores how the South Korean development experience from the twentieth century can be transformed into an alternative for development cooperation in the twenty-first century. The early aid management system in South Korea contributed to the bureaucratic capacity-building that was necessary for the installation of the developmental state. In its quest for industrialization, the authoritarian developmental state in South Korea maintained autonomy vis-à-vis foreign donors, foretelling the 'country ownership' principle in today's global norms of ODA. However instructive the South Korean experience may be, it will not work as a 'one size fits all' model for the twenty-first century development due to such fundamental changes in the global political economy as the WTO regime and democracy promotion. In this regard, South Korea's own double transition of economic liberalization and democratization offers another important lesson. Therefore, we suggest a South Korean 'alternative' that respects both the global norms for development cooperation and the national democratic aspirations. It would be a democratic developmental state whose autonomy is more deeply embedded in civil society and whose capacity further expands human capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-336
Number of pages24
JournalPacific Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Eun Mee Kim is Dean and Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies and Director of the Institute for Development and Human Security at Ewha Womans University, Korea. She served as a civilian member on the Committee for International Development Co-operation under the Prime Minister’s Office. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University, U.S.A. This research was supported by the WCU (World Class University) program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of the Republic of Korea entitled, “Cross-National Comparative Analysis of the Effectiveness of Development Assistance” (Grant No.: R32-20077).


  • Democratic developmental state
  • country ownership
  • development cooperation
  • foreign aid


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