2016 National Voluntary Reviews at the High-level Political Forum
In September 2015, the Member States of the United Nations committed themselves to the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development (herein the 2030 Agenda) containing 17 Goals and 169 Targets, most of
which are to be achieved by 2030. The 2030 Agenda goes much further than the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs), addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for sustainable development
that works for all people. Encompassing universal, transformative, inclusive and integrated goals and
targets that herald a historic turning point for our world, the 2030 Agenda is arguably the most
comprehensive global agenda adopted since 1945.
This Executive Summary outlines the Voluntary National Review of the Republic of Korea, entitled From a
Model of Development Success to a Vision for Sustainable Development (tentative title) (herein the
Review), which analyses the enabling environments, prospects, challenges and opportunities for achieving
the Sustainable Development Goals (herein the SDGs) in the Republic of Korea (herein the ROK), and
explains its best practices to share knowledge with all the stakeholders within and outside the ROK. The
Review aims to help the Member States to cooperate with and learn from each other to successfully
attain the SDGs.
Six main steps have been taken to produce this Review: i) reviewing national social, economic and
environmental conditions against the SDGs; ii) analyzing goals with special attentions to trade-offs and
synergies between goals and targets; iii) mapping and screening of governmental and non-governmental
institutions to address the SDGs; iv) selecting relevant national indicators to the SDGs; v) collecting
relevant data from both government and non-governmental organizations; and vi) identifying
organizations and actors with potentials to contribute to achieving the SDGs in the three pillars of
sustainability (economy, society, environment). Literature reviews and semi-structured interviews with
key stakeholders of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations within and
outside the ROK have been used to collect data.
Efforts toward Sustainable Development: prior to the adoption of the
The success of the ROK is not only about economic growth but also about the rapid reduction of poverty
and inequality and the transition to democracy. Consistent efforts to further develop an inclusive society,
which include the successful economic and social policy responses to the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997
and the Global Economic Crisis in 2008, are particularly notable features of the ROK’s development
The Korean government’s commitment to sustainable development, which started with the Earth Summit
in 1992, is a continuation of these consistent developmental efforts. After the Summit, the government
established the National Action Plan to implement the Rio Agenda 21 in 1996 and the Presidential
National Commission on Sustainable Development (PNCSD) in 2000. Since its inception, the PNCSD has
developed sectoral strategies for sustainable development in various areas (energy, water, gender, social
welfare, land, climate change, transportation, conflict management and ODA) and integrated these
sectoral strategies into national policies through effective coordination and consensus-building processes
among different line ministries. The Presidential Declaration of 2005, “A National Vision for Sustainable
Development” the goal of which was to continue the growth of the ROK as “an advanced country while
maintaining balance among economy, society and the environment,” clearly resonates the integrative
approach of the 2030 Agenda to sustainable development.
Since then, a series of laws and policies have been introduced to establish organizations to implement
sustainable development related goals. They include the Standard Guideline for the Management and
Support for Implementing Organization of Local Agenda 21(2004), and the Framework Act on Sustainable
Development (FASD) (2007). The National Commission on Sustainable Development (herein the NCSD) has
been established by the FASD, and the NCSD prepares a report every two years, which consolidates the
results of the evaluation of sustainability, and publishes it after reporting to the President. The report is
also submitted to the National Assembly.
Another feature of the ROK’s developmental success is its sharing of knowledge and experience on
development through international development cooperation. Focusing on disseminating what the ROK
did rather than imposing what other countries should do, the ROK incorporates the lessons drawn from its
own development experience into international development cooperation, and establishes a genuine
partnership for mutual learning and sharing development lessons. In addition, as the host country of UN
Office for Sustainable Development under UN DESA, the ROK is actively supporting UN member states in
planning and implementing sustainable development strategies, notably through knowledge sharing,
research, training, and partnership building.
Policies and Enabling Environment for Sustainable Development Goals
The government has continued its efforts to incorporate sustainable development concepts into its
national and international development strategies since the early 1990s. However, as the framework and
details of goals and targets of the SDGs were solidified, the necessity for building an institutional
framework that can monitor and review the process of SDGs implementation from a broader perspective
that fully integrates the three pillars of the SDGs has emerged. At present, relevant ministries to the
implementation of the SDGs including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ministry of Environment
(MOE), Statistics Korea, and the Office for Government Policy Coordination are making concerted efforts
in further mainstreaming the SDGs into the government’s policy.
Integrating the SDGs into National Framework
In January 2016, the Third National Basic Plan for Sustainable Development, which is updated every five
years, was established by consultations with 26 government ministries and agencies. The Third Plan
envisions a “harmonized development of the environment, society, and economy.” It also outlines 14
strategic targets around four overarching goal areas including: healthy land; integrated and safe society;
inclusive creative economy; and global prosperity. The government has also adopted the Road Map to
Achieve National Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals (herein the Road Map) in 2014 which contains detailed
implementation plans to achieve the national greenhouse gas reduction goals set in 2009. Considering the
impact of greenhouse gas on various aspects of development including climate change, the Road Map is
expected to contribute to achieving many SDGs, particularly Goal 13.
Furthermore, the government has been implementing 140 policy goals within the framework of the 140
Government Policy and Governance Tasks (herein the Tasks). The Tasks include 42 economic development,
52 social development, 13 environment, and 23 governance associated goals. The government has
developed policies to achieve these tasks in a way to create synergies with the SDGs.
In addition, the government has been implementing the Three Year Plan for Economic Innovation which
aims at reforming the public sector, promoting a creative economy and boosting domestic demand. It is
targeting SDGs that are mainly associated with social and economic development such as fair and efficient
economy, growth through innovation, and the balance between exports and domestic consumption. Its
expected outcomes associated with welfare and income of the youth, women and the elderly, economic
participation, and fair and transparent business environment are particularly conducive to achieving the
economic and social development related SDGs such as Goal 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, and 17.
The government is paying special attention to the gender equality issue. The Framework Act on Gender
Equality (2015) (herein the FAGE) and the Act on Promotion of Economic Activities of Career-Interrupted
Women (2010) are in effect. In particular, the FAGE contains reinforced policies for gender equality such
as implementing quota for administrative positions in public organizations and promoting participation of
women in decision making process of public, political, and economic spheres.
Last but not least, the government has established a series of laws and policy proposals to respond to the
ageing population in the ROK, particularly those addressing social and economic insecurity of people in
various stages of their life course. They include the Plan for Ageing Society and Population (2015), the
Framework Act on Low Fertility and Population Ageing (2014), and the Law for Promoting the Elderly
Friendly Industries (2013).
The framework of existing government policies and plans, despite their direct and indirect relationship to
the SDGs, was established before the adoption of SDGs and therefore needs to be fine-tuned accordingly
to incorporate SDGs into the policies and plans. The government is making efforts to mainstream the
SDGs so that the government policies can address integrated and indivisible SDGs goals and targets with
full attention to trade-offs, synergies and complementarities among social, economic and environmental
In that context, the Office for Government Policy Coordination (OGPC), MOFA, and MOE together with
Statistics Korea that are playing a main role in mainstreaming the SDGs, have recently begun mapping
exercises to identify existing laws, rules, regulations and policies conducive to achieving the SDGs. In
parallel, the government will also identify the relevant targets of the SDGs to the national context.
Particularly, Statistics Korea is conducting a SDG indicator analysis which will lay the foundation for the
modification of national sustainable development indicators so as to ensure the availability of solid,
disaggregated data for monitoring and evaluating the progress of SDG implementation in the ROK.
Engaging with the National Assembly
The National Assembly has been playing a significant role in shaping the political impetus for SDGs
implementation in the ROK. In 2014, the special committee on sustainable development has been
established with 18 members of the National Assembly. It proposed a position paper on the amendment
of the FASD to accelerate the sustainable development. In the same year, the Korea National Assembly
UN SDGs Forum (NSD) was founded by 43 members of the National Assembly collaboratively with the
Korea Association for Supporting the SDGs for the UN (ASD), a NGO with special consultative status with
the ECOSOC. The NSD has engaged in diverse congressional activities related to the SDGs including
holding seven regular forums, launching two campaigns, and visiting the UN headquarter in New York. It is
arguably the world’s first consultative group of congressional leaders for the SDGs. Such efforts will be
continued to develop practical and diverse global initiatives to implement the SDGs in the ROK.
Engaging with Various Stakeholders
Civil society organizations’ active participation in designing and implementing policies for sustainable
development is a result of synergy-making interactions between the government and civil society. Since
the 1992 Rio Summit, civil society organizations and the government, in particular at the local level, have
engaged with each other to establish local agendas and action for sustainable development. Concerted
efforts of the government and civil society organizations have culminated in the establishment of the
Local Sustainability Alliance of Korea (herein the LSAK) as a nation-wide network of Local Agenda 21
organizations (Local Councils for Sustainable Development) in 2000, and the Standard Guideline for the
Management and Support for Implementing Organization of Local Agenda 21 (2004). In particular, the
LSAK, which consists of about 200 organizations in 17 provinces as of 2016, has played a significant role in
establishing local institutional and organizational frameworks for the SDGs in close collaboration with nine
major local groups, including local governments, and addressing the SDG related goals and targets. The LSAK continues its operations to further promote SDGs implementation in the local context.
The role of local governments remains crucial in ensuring coherent implementation of the SDGs across
the country. For instance, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will organize International Forum on
Urban Policy for the SDGs (2016) to discuss SDGs related to urban issues. The Forum will provide a
platform to support policy actions for the implementation of the SDGs at the local government level.
Combined with the policies and frameworks at the national level, such contributions from local
governments will create synergies for a more inclusive and coherent SDGs implementation.
There are also a number of grassroots movements. Many organizations committed to making
contributions to implementing the SDGs are holding meetings and consultations to strengthen their
partnership with other stakeholders in enhancing public awareness of the SDGs and sharing the
information and knowledge with the government. They include Korea Civil Society Forum on International
Development Cooperation (KoFID), a network of Korean civil society organizations working to make
development cooperation more effective, Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development Cooperation
(KCOC), the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Korea to name a few. Recognizing the
importance of multi-stakeholder partnership in achieving SDGs, the Government of ROK will promote
participation of various stakeholders, in particular, vulnerable groups such as the persons with disabilities,
women, children, and the elderly.
The ROK’s Contributions to the Revitalization of Global Partnership
To contribute to the revitalization of global partnerships to ensure the implementation of the SDGs, the
ROK government established the Second Mid-term ODA Policy 2016 - 2020 (herein the Second Policy),
which goes beyond the provision of specific means to meet the sectoral needs towards the integrated and
inclusive approach to achieve the SDGs and enhance the effectiveness of development cooperation.
Integrated ODA for SDGs Implementation
The government has established a new decision making process to better align various development
projects in a more coherent and concentrated manner. In accordance with the new principles and
strategies laid out in the Second Policy, each ministry and agency in charge of ODA is requested to come
up with annual ODA plans. In an effort to strengthen strategic cooperation between development
cooperation agencies that are respectively in charge of grants and concessional loans projects, the
government has established a consultative mechanism between Office for Government Policy
Coordination (OGPC), MOFA, and Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) and government aid agencies
such as Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and EXIM Bank.
In addition, to maximize the advantage of global partnerships through the strategic selection of partners
and concentration of resources, the International Development Cooperation Committee, composed of the
Prime Minister and Ministers of relevant ministries including MOFA and MOSF, established the Country
Partnership Strategy for sustainable development of 24 prioritized countries.
Building a Robust Framework for ODA
In order to come up with new models for ODA programs, the government is examining its existing ODA
programs by analyzing success cases to derive lessons that can be applied to different regions, situations,
and various demands of development partners. In the meantime, the organizational structure of KOICA
has been changed with increased manpower to enhance its project management and ODA program
In order to guarantee systematic evaluation of ODA programs, the government has made it mandatory for all national agencies for international development cooperation to undertake evaluation of
implementation of projects twice a financial year, and has established a new mechanism to check the
contribution of projects with regard to achieving SDGs. From this year, each ministry and agency carrying
out various ODA projects are requested to specify the SDGs goals and targets that are relevant to the
particular projects submitted. At least 70% of the projects submitted had close relevance to achieving
SDGs. In addition, the Korean government will enhance the transparency of ODA by submitting
comprehensive information on ODA projects in a timely manner to the International Aid Transparency
Initiative (IATI) from 2016, with a view to promote effectiveness and predictability of development
cooperation. It will also try to gradually expand coverage and quality of the ODA data.
Inclusive ODA Approach that Leaves No One Behind
In order to maximize synergies between diverse actors of both public and non-governmental sectors, the
government has established the principle of “Inclusive ODA” and facilitated the participation of the
private sector via the Academy Partnership Program, Business Partnership Program (BPP), Civil Society
Partnership Program, and Creative Technology Solution. The BPP, for instance, deliberates on innovative
solutions to development financing to utilize private financial resources and new inclusive business
models, in collaboration with organizations such as the Federation of Korean Industries, and Korea
Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises.
In order to raise public awareness of the SDGs, the government has been encouraging education
institutions to include the contents addressing ODA and the SDGs in the textbooks for primary and
secondary school students, carrying out nation-wide campaigns for the implementation of SDGs, and
expanding funds for sending more youth to the project sites of international development cooperation.
While leaving no one behind is a key value for the Korean ODA, emphasis on humanitarian work is one of
the pillars that constitute the ROK’s Inclusive ODA principle. The government puts “humanitarian
diplomacy” at one of its top diplomatic agenda and has come up with the Strategy for Humanitarian
Assistance in March 2015. Moreover, its budget for humanitarian assistance has doubled over the last
Key initiatives for the SDGs
The Second Policy particularly emphasizes the efforts of Korean international development cooperation to
address areas such as education, health, science and technology, and rural development where the ROK’s
own experience can create comparative advantages.
The Better Life for Girls Initiative, announced by President Park Geun-hye at the UN Development Summit
September 2015, focuses on girls’ education, health and profession and takes a gender-focused and goaldriven
approach to empower girls and reinforce their position in society. By addressing the needs of the
most vulnerable, the Initiative is expected to serve as the surest investment in securing a sustainable
The Safe Life for All Initiative is a manifestation of the ROK’s strong commitment to keeping with the goals
of the Global Health Security Agenda and making this world safe and secure from infectious diseases. It
aims to support the enhancement of health security partner countries to proactively prevent infectious
diseases, detect them as early as possible, and respond rapidly to public health crises.
The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for Better Life Initiative is designed to help developing
countries to overcome major stumbling blocks for their insufficient R&D expenditure and inadequate
capacity of research institutes. Given the fact that STI constitutes a critical means for economic growth,
the ROK aims to establish and develop an appropriate innovation system, by supporting science and technology education, to strengthen the R&D capacity of developing countries.
The knowledge and experience sharing of Saemaul Undong draws a lesson from the ROK’s unique rural
development case in the 1970s. According to a recent OECD report, it was a multi-dimensional and multisectoral
strategy that buffered large-scale migration from rural to urban areas and increasing rural-urban
income gap during the time of industrialization. The ROK is committed to sharing the formula for the
development of rural areas where more than three billion people live. In this regard, the Special High-
Level Event on Saemaul Undong on the occasion of the Development Summit 2015 which was chaired by
the ROK President herself and joined by heads of states and international organizations was a very
meaningful occasion in translating the ROK’s rural development experience into shared knowledge for all.
These initiatives address the most vulnerable through the intervention in key areas of sustainable
development particularly the Goals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 17. They have been formulated on the
basis of the development experience of the ROK and its accumulated expertise, which is the basis of
creating synergies between knowledge and resources.
Means of Implementation
ODA should remain as an important development resource in the SDGs era, especially for poor and
vulnerable countries with special needs. As such, Korea will continue to increase its ODA. Korea’s second
mid-term ODA policy (2016-2020) states that the government will aim at increasing the total volume of
ODA so that it reaches 0.2% of GNI by 2020. The current level is at 0.14%. Korea also supports the Addis
Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) which provides a comprehensive framework to maximize the potential of all
development actors and resources for financing sustainable development. Also, Korea has been actively
engaging in various initiatives and activities to promote collective efforts. In this regard, Korea is taking
part in the Addis Tax Initiatives and it has continued to provide assistance to developing countries to
modernize their tax administration system and build capacity.
The early and proactive engagement of the Korean government and civil society with sustainable
development has created a favorable environment for building systems for the implementation of the
SDGs. A series of laws and regulations and a variety of governmental and non-governmental organizations
for attaining sustainable development have developed in a mutually reinforcing way, which have already
begun addressing many of the SDGs. However, policy efforts of various governmental ministries and
agencies to address sustainable development goals pose both opportunities and challenges.
The active participation of multi-stakeholders in the formulation of the SDGs in its early phase has
produced a set of good conditions for inclusive and integrated approach to the SDGs. The encouragement
and facilitation by the government for meaningful participation of civil society organizations and the
active roles of local governments and their interactions with local civil society organizations in
implementing SDGs will be particularly important in leaving no one behind over the next 15 years.
Reshaping international development cooperation strategy in line with the SDGs is also important.
Through both bilateral and multilateral partnerships, the ROK’s new strategy contributes to leaving no
one behind by forging global partnerships for the SDGs. Its key initiatives for sharing knowledge and
experience of the ROK such as the Better Life for Girls, Saemaul Undong for rural development, Scientific
and Technological Innovation for Better Life and Safe Life for All also offer an innovative pathway to
enhance the effectiveness of ODA in the SDGs period and beyond.
All these institutional and policy environments and conditions in the ROK have both opportunities and
challenges for the implementation of the SDGs. The successful development of enabling environments for
attaining the SDGs will be ultimately dependent upon the willingness and capacities of all the
stakeholders to make inclusive and integrative approaches to the SDGs. The initial responses of the ROK