KOICA helps shape the future

Tuesday, 23/05/2017
Vietnam is the first partner country for the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in Asia. VIR talks with Kim Jinoh, the newly-appointed country director of KOICA, on his mission and the agency’s efforts toward supporting Vietnam’s education, healthcare, and green growth sectors.

As the newly-appointed country director of KOICA in Vietnam, what impressed you most about Korean ODA-funded projects in Vietnam?

Official development assistance (ODA) for Vietnam includes both concessional loans and grants. As a Korean government-funded agency, KOICA is dedicated to providing all kinds of aid programmes. Within the framework of this talk, I will focus on KOICA’s grant projects in Vietnam.

Vietnam is currently ranked as the first partner country of KOICA in Asia. In 2016, the ODA grant volume for Vietnam consumed 15.6 per cent and 5.87 per cent of KOICA’s total budget for the region and the world respectively. It is also likely that this trend will be maintained in the coming years. That explains why KOICA Vietnam receives the highest number of ODA grant projects, and has become the biggest overseas KOICA office in terms of employee numbers.

What impressed me regarding Korean ODA grant projects in Vietnam is the wide coverage of the projects throughout the country, and the effectiveness of project formulation and implementation. According to both the Vietnamese and Korean governments’ periodical evaluation of KOICA’s grant projects, not only do they meet the actual developmental needs of Vietnam – mentioned in the Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDP) – but they also fit with sectors where Korea shows strength. That has created advantages for project implementation in the sense that KOICA grants always satisfy grant evaluation criteria such as effectiveness, efficiency, local ownership, sustainability, and integration of cross-cutting issues.

Over many years, KOICA has been focusing on supporting Vietnam’s education and healthcare sectors. What are some of KOICA’s most significant projects here?

With regards to education, KOICA’s projects in Vietnam are centred on technical and vocational education and training (TVET), which is essential for Vietnam as it experiences the transformation from an agriculture-based economy to an industrialised economy. The Vietnamese economy is seeking more workers who are well-educated and have advanced technical skills in order to catch up with the requirements of foreign investments and ODA support.

In just the past five years, significant projects have included the establishment of the Korea-Vietnam College of Technology in Bac Giang province (2010-2013); improvements to the  Central Highlands Vocational College for Ethnic Youths in Dak Lak province (2013-2016); and improvements to the Vietnam-Korea Industrial Technology Vocational College in Nghe An province (2014-2016).

Regarding healthcare, KOICA’s contribution towards enhancing the quality of basic healthcare services is remarkable. As part of the effort, KOICA has initiated Q-Health projects that support previously completed health sector projects in Thua Thien Hue province; Danang (2015-2018); and Quang Nam (2013-2017).

KOICA also developed a national volunteer network which is very active in the health and education sectors. Some noteworthy activities include organising Korean language classes in cultural centres and providing nursing and functional recovery services in hospitals and medical clinics.

KOICA is a significant partner for Vietnam with regard to green growth efforts and environmental protection. What are the most remarkable KOICA projects in Vietnam to date?

Vietnam considers green growth as an inevitable trend and a key force for development in the modern age, with much attention paid to lowering carbon emissions, green production, and promoting environmentally-friendly lifestyles. Given Korea’s experience and expertise in this area, a $2 million project for supporting the implementation of a green growth strategy in Vietnam was initiated in 2013. The project has seen positive results in establishing policy framework and the Inter-ministerial Coordinating Board for the implementation of the Vietnam National Green Growth Strategy (VGGS); making contributions to improving the provincial development strategies and promoting  human resources in the fields of development, implementation, and evaluation of policy-mixes within the context of the VGGS.

Following this project, KOICA continued with the $6.5 million Green City Planning project (2015-2017), another effort to pursue green growth development goals. As a technical assistance project, it aided local government to integrate green growth concerns with urban planning – by developing comprehensive planning software that developed and evaluated planning scenarios. The ongoing project has greatly improved the capacity of urban planning staff to date.

What are your plans to make KOICA Vietnam a greater success during your term in office?

I came to Vietnam in 2008 on a business trip for the Danang IT University project. Returning after nine years, I was amazed to see the incredible changes in Vietnam. I want to promote these significant movements further by improving Korea’s development effectiveness in the country.

In my role as the country director of KOICA Vietnam, I plan to align KOICA’s grant projects more closely with Vietnam’s SEDP. We will achieve this through policy discussions and work group meetings with the Vietnamese government during project development stages in order to increase the consistency of policies and projects.

In addition, KOICA will be more active in periodical policy dialogue meetings with the Vietnamese government, and share information and discuss co-operation plans with other donors and development platforms, such as Vietnam Development Partnership Forum. The aim of this will be to seek out possible links and synergies among all the development projects in Vietnam.

2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Vietnam–South Korea relations, and it is a really great start for me to promise fruitful achievements. I do hope the Vietnam–South Korea partnership deepens well into the future.

Theo VIR

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