Korea's star rises in development

Oct 11, 2012

Trainees at the Korea-UNDP supported Centre for employment and and entrepreneurship in Cartagena, Colombia. PHOTO: UNDP Andrew Heinn

The following article appeared in the Korea Herald newspaper on 11th of October 2012.


After more than a year of fruitless job hunting, Dawin Perez no longer worries where his family’s next meal will come from. 

With help from the Korean government and the United Nations Development Programme, Perez took part in a month-long training session at Cemprende, a local employment and entrepreneurship support center in his hometown of Cartagena, Colombia.

“I couldn’t find work for a year and a half. Raising a family isn’t easy when there’s no money, but this opportunity was given to me and the program helped me change my life,” Perez said.

“I’ve been trained as a construction supervisor and I’m now working as a warehouse assistant in an important enterprise.”

The project is one of eight worldwide that have been commissioned under a joint Korea-UNDP Trust Fund launched in 2009 with $10 million. Programs are designed to help some of the world’s poorest countries cut poverty, tackle climate change and work to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. 

Colombia bounced back quickly from the 2008 financial crisis, with its economy growing around 6 percent each year. 

Not everyone benefits from the boom, however. In some cases, people with low incomes and a lack of skills are still being left behind. 


Perez and other members of his community face poverty, unemployment and often high crime rates. Like 230 of the 600 others who passed through the training, Perez and his family now have a chance at a better life through his new job at Cartagena’s largest oil refinery. Cemprende, for its part, helps match trainees’ skills with the needs of local businesses. 

Six other facilities operate across the Latin American country. Since 2009, more than 21,000 residents have received training and small business development support including microloans. That, in turn, has churned out more than 2,000 jobs in the communities. 

“I trust their pre-selection process. They refer good potential employees to us,” said Jorge Navia, an official at the Cartagena Public Service Sanitation Company. 

Sigrid Kaag, Director of UNDP's Bureau for External Relations and Advocacy, said, “From reports from Colombia, Haiti, Laos and other countries, it’s clear that projects under the joint Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund enable people to build better lives.”

“This is the type of transformational impact that Korea and UNDP can achieve together at the country level.”

Korea is one of the few OECD member-states to increase its official development assistance in recent years. While most donors cut or froze contributions, its ODA rose 5.8 percent on-year to $1.32 billion in 2011. Seoul aims to transfer 0.25 percent of gross national income by 2015. 

The country is also playing a bigger role in tackling development issues. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan recently joined the U.N. Secretary General’s high-level panel that will provide recommendations on a global development framework for when the MDGs expire in 2015. 

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry and KOICA, a state-run aid agency, are hosting international development leaders at its annual ODA conference to discuss the implementation of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which was initiated in Busan last year, and its role in supporting the global development agenda.

“Korea is taking an increasingly important role in development. With this increasing role, both in the field and internationally, and with the clear, growing interest in Korea’s development experience from developing countries, there is much more we can do together worldwide,” said Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau, director of the UNDP Policy Center in Seoul.