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Welcome, Grand Challenges Korea

  • Steven Buchsbaum, Hani Kim, Jul 14, 2016

Once one of the world's poorest countries, South Korea's GDP per capita grew from $876 in 1950 to $36,500 in 2015, with the GINI index of 30.2, indicating a fairly equitably distributed economic wealth (cf. Sweden, 24.9; US, 45; S Africa, 62.5).[1] The economic gain in South Korea has accompanied a significant improvement in population health; average life expectancy improved by 26.7 years between 1960 and 2006, and the infant mortality decreased by 83% between 1970 and 1999.[2] These indicators reflect the tremendous success of South Korea in reducing poverty, improving sanitation, nutrition status and delivery of treatment for preventable infectious diseases.

Formerly a recipient of foreign aid, South Korea officially switched to donor status when it joined the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 2010.[3] While South Korea's total Overseas Development Aid (ODA) remains relatively small compared to other OECD countries (ranked 16th out of 29 DAC members), it has been steadily growing over the years. The top two priority sectors for the South Korean government ODA are infrastructure and education, followed by health and water & sanitation, with health representing 11.5% of the total ODA funding according to the OECD 2014 data on ODA.

The Creative Technology Solution (CTS) is one of the latest global health initiatives, launched by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and funded by the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[4] A Grand Challenge-like mechanism of fostering innovation, KOICA CTS aims to support the achievement of stable and sustained socio-economic growth, creation of decent jobs and the promotion of the science, technology and innovation in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with three goals:

  1. Tackle and reduce inequalities between countries and between social classes.
  2. Strengthen the effectiveness of development through science, technology and innovation.
  3. Enhance the capacity to adapt to the changing global landscape, and be ready for the future.

From its first round, KOICA CTS has funded 10 innovators in health, rural development, energy and education, and is looking in its future to expand its focus on health. On July 18th, 2016, KOICA CTS celebrates the launch of its second round and, in anticipation of closer collaboration with a growing global network of Grand Challenge partners, we celebrate this launch as the start of the Grand Challenges Korea.

The global Grand Challenges community draws its strength from its individual members, each of whom brings a unique approach to fostering innovation to reduce inequalities, and, with it, brings an opportunity to share learning in our journey towards the world where every life has an equal chance to flourish.

We welcome our KOICA partners, and look forward to our shared journey.


[1] CIA Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/korea-south/

[2] OECD: Society at a Glance 2009; OECD Social Indicators; 2009.

[3] Korea Official Development Assistance, https://www.odakorea.go.kr/eng/Main

[4] KOICA CTS Program, http://koica-cts.com/

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