SEOUL– Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Tuesday South Korea will enlarge its pool of money established to lend to developing countries as the country should pay back foreign aid that helped transform it into an economic powerhouse.

Lee made the remark during an international conference marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), a pool of money the country created in 1987 to provide low-interest loans to developing countries.

“It’s difficult for developing countries to borrow money at market interest rates,” Lee said. “The EDCF has contributed to building infrastructure and fighting poverty in developing countries by providing low-interest funds for a long time. We will diversify ways to provide funds and enlarge the amount of assistance.”

Lee said that the EDCF has played a central role in South Korea’s foreign assistance programs, providing a total of 15.2 trillion won ($13.4 billion) in loans to 375 projects in 53 developing countries for the past 30 years.

“Not a few countries developed from one of the poorest countries suffering from hunger into developing and mid-power countries. The Republic of Korea is one of the countries that completed such a development process dramatically in the shortest time,” Lee said.

Lee said South Korea’s per capita national income stood only at US$60 after the 1950-53 Korean War. At that time, the country was even unable to put together a budget unless U.S. assistance was determined, he said.

South Korea has also benefited a lot from foreign assistance, building its first milk cow farm with German aid and an industrial complex near Seoul with assistance from ethnic Koreans in Japan. That, together with hard work from its citizens, lifted the country out of poverty and the country is now on the threshold of reaching a per capita income of $30,000, he said.

“The Republic of Korea should help developing countries and I believe it can,” Lee said. “As the Republic of Korea pulled itself out of poverty thanks to foreign help, it should help developing countries. In addition, as the Republic of Korea has the experience of developing from the poorest nation to a mid-power country, it can share that experience.”



Source: Yonhap News Agency