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HOME > About KOICA > KOICA Leadership > Speech_Interview
Title Inaugural Address by 12th President of KOICA
Date 30/11/2017


Inaugural Address by

12th President of the Korea International

Cooperation Agency



1. Introduction - Let us hold the candlelight of change and innovation


Distinguished members of KOICA at home and aborad, World Friends volunteers and development cooperation partners,

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to join the journey of development cooperation as the 12th president of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), nearing its 30th anniversary.


I would like to begin my address by giving you a phrase.

“It's better light a single candle than to complain of the darkness"


This proverb left by Ms. Pearl Buck when she visited Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world, in 1960 comes to my mind. A year ago, Korean people gathered outside with a candle to light the darkness. It was the beginning of a great wave of light in which we witnessed how people restore the sovereignty of our country. Change is never given from the top. Change comes when people, not frustrated by darkness and holding their hopes together, take action to make their grievances heard. I believe this spirit of the candlelight vigil exhibited by people in this country calls on us to be the owner of change and innovation in our daily lives and work.



2. Back to basics - Let us set our principles and philosophy straight.


Distinguished members of KOICA and ladies and gentlemen,

Today, KOICA is facing the worst crisis since its establishment. Public support and trust given by people toward KOICA plummeted last year when the agency's involvement in the political scandal and influence-peddling, came to light. Subsequent moral hazards that occurred resulted in the free fall of morale among KOICA employees and volunteers working hard in the fields. As the new president of KOICA, I feel heavy and sore knowing all this.

However, every crisis comes with an opportunity. People with a candlelight hoped for "a country that works like a country and a country where people hold power". This new age demands us overcome outdated practices in all areas and create breakthroughs as though we are navigating the new waters. This is why we, as the family of KOICA, should come together to be the actors of innovation and open a new chapter in Korea's development cooperation.


With this in mind, I want to pose a question.

“What should be our priority for innovation?”


To this question, I would like to say "let us go back to the basic spirit and principle of the international development cooperation". These basic values along with humanitarianism, including poverty reduction, human rights, gender equality and co-prosperity of mankind through sustainable development and global peace, should constitute the basis of our work. I am confident that Korea's ODA can shine when we uphold and safeguard these basic principles. I dream that KOICA will play a vibrant role in fostering responsible global citizenship in Korea and realizing a world of co-prosperity and shared growth where human dignity and peace can be safeguarded and sustainable development be taken root.

Distinguished members of KOICA and ladies and gentlemen,

We need to make sustained efforts to ensure that our operation is guided by the key principles of the Paris Declaration and the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which are alignment, harmonization, ownership, inclusive partnership, transparency and mutual accountability.

We should make goals together with our partner countries and forge equitable partnerships to promote mutual learning and shared growth. Above all, we should devote efforts to nurture recipients and beneficiaries in partner countries into the active actors of development cooperation to foster collaboration not just with the governments, but with people.

We should not attempt to unilaterally implant our experiences in partner countries and avoid giver's attitudes. The essence of development cooperation is this. We must work together with our neighbors in the settings of poverty and inequalities to move ourselves toward the shared goal.



3. Let us rebuild KOICA's status and role as Korea's premier and specialized grant aid provider.


Distinguished members of KOICA, stakeholders from civil society, business and academia and ladies and gentlemen,

Since our accession to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010, the Korean government has rapidly and drastically scaled up its ODA.

Regretably, Korea's ODA architecture remains fragmented, characterized by duplications, weak linkages between programs and inadequate follow-ups over the past three decades. This weakens the status and functions of KOICA as a dedicated agency responsible for delivering grants. As the new president of KOICA, I believe this is the most crucial policy issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. This is not about raising KOICA's profile. It is about creating an integrated system for ODA in Korea to strengthen strategic collaboration between loans and grants. This is essential to improve effectiveness, transparency, accountability and systematic operation of Korea's ODA.

Though I respect the expertise of each government ministry and agency and their desire to get involved in ODA, I will not spare any efforts in strengthening KOICA's capacity, coordinating relevant policies and improving our system so that KOICA can perform its intended functions as a systematic and integrated development cooperation platform.



4. Directions for policy and management innovations


Distinguished members of KOICA and ladies and gentlemen,

The core values of Moon Jae-in administration's diplomatic vision are "peace, democracy and human rights", which are supported by the three strategic pillars, "accountable diplomacy, public diplomacy and cooperative diplomacy". The main objective of this vision is to contribute to building more equitable, democratic and peaceful Northeast Asia and global community by laying the foundation for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula and to actively participating in efforts to address global issues and challenges such as security, conflicts, climate change and inequalities as a responsible middle power in the world.

KOICA should implement ODA in line with the direction of the Korean government so as to have support of Korean people, win the heart of the global village, and assist developing countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the same time, we need to incorporate changing policy environments at home and abroad into our policy-making while upholding global, universal principles and standards. We need to be more principle-based in delivering our ODA to better contribute to the SDGs.

Based upon this direction, I am presenting the tasks for KOICA's policy and management innovations as follows.


First, let us go back to basics (innovation roadmap).

Let us examine whether our operation is in line with universal values and international standards and norms and whether we have an organizational system that guides us in the right direction. Based upon this work, let us redesign our policy direction and lead organizational innovations.


Second, let us strengthen transparency and communication and build a system to prevent corruptions.

We need to greatly enhance the transparency of the entire cycle of our programs from planning and implementation to evaluation through better communications. Let us boost our transparency by expanding public disclosure of our information in conformity with international standards. By facilitating communications with civil society organizations, businesses, researchers, the National Assembly and the media, let us improve public understanding in ODA and attract their participation. Let us regain their support and trust. In doing so, we will be able to create a system that fundamentally prevents anyone with political motives from meddling in ODA for private gains.


Third, let us forge partnerships with the private sector and build the capacity of civil society.

Let us reinforce partnership frameworks and have sound policy engagements with civil society organizations, universities, businesses and research institutes to pool together their expertise and innovative capacity. Let us bring in more experts from the private sector in our programs and strengthen public-private partnership. Let us make efforts to continue to expand humanitarian assistance and build the capacity of civil society.


Fourth, let us strengthen global partnerships.

It is important for a new donor like KOICA to strengthen communication and collaboration with international organizations and advanced donor agencies. To meet the SDGs responsibly and realize principle-based ODA based upon our committment to relevant international norms and standards, we need to strengthen our global partnerships and recognize growing importance of participating in global agenda-building, policy studies and dialogues.


Fifth, let us expand public participation and create jobs for young people.

I understand that creating jobs for young people is not the primary objective of ODA. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to our young generation suffering in the worst unemployment crisis that has been going on with no end in sight. This is why KOICA needs to roll up its sleeves to create "decent, high quality global job opportunities for young people".

By entering into partnerships with civil society organizations, businesses, universities, research institutes and international organizations, we need to translate our ideas into a concrete plan to create a wide range of global job opportunities for young people. Let us work together with the private sector, small-and-medium sized businesses and social enterprises and create opportunities for jobs and business creation. Let us strengthen our collaboration with civil society organizations, universities and development NGOs to create job opportunities in the social sector. Let us expand our global talent programs based upon a thorough review. Let us design our programs in ways that can contribute to the national agenda for job creation and capacity building of young people.


Sixth, let us place peace, democracy, human rights and gender equality front and center of our ODA.

As a principle-based development cooperation platform that contributes to the SDGs, supporting developing countries' implementation of the SDGs should be at the heart of our key operational values. From planning to monitoring indicators, we should closely look into whether our policy is adequately aligned with and relevant to the SDGs.

We should strategically concentrate our efforts in areas where we have comparative advantages, quality education (SDG 4), good health and well-being (SDG 3), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and zero hunger (SDG 2).

In particular, let us develop and implement ODA programs intended to spread and realize peace, democracy and human rights (SDGs 16). The international community holds Korea's development in high regard because it is the country that successfully achieved not only economic growth, but democracy and human rights. This is why I believe that we have a responsibility to lead exemplary ODA models for SDG 16.

Let us make concerted efforts to embody gender equality (SDG 5) in all sectors of development cooperation. KOICA has put in place the gender equality strategy since 2011. Now is the time for KOICA to deepen the link of its gender equality strategy with the SDGs.


Finally, let us focus on ethics and management innovation.

Externally, KOICA is facing growing criticism and diminishing levels of public confidence due to the series of recent incidences. Internally, KOICA is also facing urgent issues to address. It is understaffed with the expansion of the organizational size vastly outpacing the increase in staff and worker turnover among junior-level employees remains high.

By expanding the channels of communication in our organization, we need to build a common understanding in the need for innovations. Together, let us draw up plans to enhance ethics, transparency and organizational trust. Let us innovate our management by pursuing human rights-based management that puts every individual employee at the center.

In order to redesign our human resource system to leverage our organizational capability; craft future-oriented and customer-centered innovation plans; enhance our openness; and strengthen field-based operation capacities and policy-making expertise, I call on everyone to join the effort.



5. Closing


Distinguished members of KOICA and ladies and gentlemen,

No issue seems to be easy for us to address. However, in order to surmount the challenges ahead, we, as the staff of KOICA, need to be the innovation leaders and come together in solidarity. You know the best how KOICA should innovate. I want to listen to the voices and thoughts of each and everyone of you. Together with you, I will dedicate all my passion to innovating and upgrading KOICA.

Let me go back to the story of candlelight once again before I close.

A year ago, we saw people gathering in Gwanghwamun Square one by one, with a candlelight in their hand. We saw how these active citizens can bring about a giant transformation in such a fascinating fashion by coming together.

We should move toward a society in which a leader should make people happier, not make people win in competitions. A leader is not a star performer. A leader is a team player who is excellent in communication and integration. I would like to say this to you. Everyone here matters and carries their own value.

Let us be the leader of KOICA's innovation together.

Thank you.


November 29, 2017

Lee Mikyung, 12th President of KOICA