Korea's Overseas Volunteer Corps 3rd Largest in World

      March 22, 2010 11:22

      Korea's corps of overseas volunteers is the third largest in the world, statistics revealed on Sunday. According to the statistics by the state-run Korea International Cooperation Agency, Korea sends 1,000 new volunteers to 43 countries every year, third only to the Peace Corps of the U.S. (3,801 volunteers to 72 countries) and the Japan's Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (2,000 volunteers).

      Even when considering the total number of volunteers at work, as volunteers usually have a two-year contract with the KOICA, Korea still ranks third with 1,538 volunteers in 43 countries. The U.S. has 8,079 volunteers in 74 countries, and Japan has 3,147 in 77 countries. Germany is in fourth place with 970 volunteers in 42 countries.

      "Korea's ranking is significant in terms of its size as many OECD countries such as the U.K., Germany and Australia run similar overseas development assistance programs," KOICA said.

      Korea launched its overseas assistance program in 1990 by sending 44 volunteers to four countries in Asia -- Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines -- through the Korean National Commission for UNESCO. Its entry into the field was late, compared to the U.S. which started the Peace Corps in 1961 and Japan which began offering overseas assistance in 1965.

      The budget for KOICA's overseas volunteer program is just one-sixth of that of the U.S. and less than half of Japan's, but with the high quality work of Korean volunteers, increasing demand from developing countries has led the program to grow quickly.

      A KOICA official said, "The objective of the U.S.' Peace Corps was to disseminate the values of American democracy, and Japan's goal was to improve its post-war image and to gain economic benefits. But Korea focused on transferring the Korean model of economic development."

      The U.S. refused to send volunteers to some dictatorial countries, and Japanese volunteers were not always welcomed by local populations as Japan's intentions were sometimes viewed with skepticism. However, Korea was able to expand its program relatively easily as many countries wanted to learn from its unique experience of overcoming poverty. Korea also has a large pool of volunteers in various fields including education, agriculture, medicine and administration.

      The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy has decided to recruit some 100 retired experts to transfer Korean know-how on economic development to developing countries. They will share their expertise by staying in developing countries for between six months and two years.

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