SEOUL, South Korea — A Republic of Korea government official has expressed frustration over the Jamaica Government's delay in signing an agreement to receive increased aid under the Korean Government's Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was established in 1991 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea as a governmental organisation for ODA to enhance the effectiveness of South Korea's grant aid programmes for developing countries by implementing the Government's grant aid and technical cooperation projects.
In an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer at the KOICA Exhibition Hall here, KOICA's director general of the Department of Central and South America, Jung Wook Lee, explained that the Korean Government wants to increase the ODA to Jamaica but in order to do that, Jamaica needs to sign the bilateral agreement.
"For instance, in other countries we have the framework for the development of cooperation, and based on that agreement it allows us to embark on more projects and stream down the process to make it happen faster. But unfortunately there has been no progress with Jamaica. For example, this March the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Korea sent a draft of this agreement and asked the Jamaican Government to sign but so far, we understand that there has been no progress," Lee stated through an interpreter.
He, however, expressed optimism that the bilateral agreement will be signed during a Caribbean Community (Caricom) meeting to be held in Trinidad and Tobago next month.
"But what we hope is that if it allows, coming July, we are going to have a Caricom summit meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, so I hope that leads to opportunity for us to get it signed," Lee said.
He underscored that the ultimate goal of the Korean Government is to increase its support and projects in Jamaica.
"...And since there are not many Koreans in Jamaica, relative to other nations, it is important that when we Koreans get there, the Jamaicans have a favourable impression of Koreans," the KOICA official stated.
He expressed satisfaction with the implementation of previous projects undertaken by the Korean Government in Jamaica.
For instance, he alluded to the past assistance with the mapping exercise of land registration system.
"There are some land registration projects which we did with Jamaica which ended quite favourably with good results, and Jamaica is actively tapping into the legacy of this project. So I believe that these are satisfactory and really good examples of our support. And overall the scale of the support may be little but starting from this year 2023, KOICA and the Korean Government is going towards this trend, we are trying to increase our support," he said
"It is allowing you to create a map of the land that you own. It also allows for the Government to better collect taxes by understanding the current status in the registration status of the land that people own in Jamaica and this can also maximise efficiency. So this was one of the support, and it's been quite a while since the end of this project. So as a follow-up maybe to finish it by early next year, we are going to make an additional support for the follow up of this land registration system," Lee added.
Additionally, he argued that KOICA has partnered with the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) on a climate change project to monitor submerging coastal lines.
"We are working with the Association of Caribbean States. We have had this project to prevent and monitor the submerging of the coastal lines. So with ACS we have mainly been working with Jamaica to establish this monitoring tower in a city there. So by establishing the tower there, they can check and analyse and monitor in real time why the coastal lines would submerge etcetera, so that they can come up with technological responses in ways to prevent and handle," Lee told the Sunday Observer.
"Jamaica has been an important country that we have worked with and for example, recently, members of the Ministry of Environment were invited to conduct this workshop for the training and it was met with really positive response from ACS as well so that they requested for the second project on this as well," Lee stated.
He disclosed that plans are in the pipeline to assist the education sector in Jamaica by providing 3,000 tablets to aid students this year.
"So this year we also have a small grant programme for Jamaica such as providing IT related items for schools. For example, providing tablet PCs for tackling the educational inequities for the marginalised group – about 3,000 tablets PCs," he said.
He further disclosed plans to provide some 400,000 security cameras to Jamaica to assist in crime fighting.
"And we also have the surveillance camera project which will be about 400,000 security cameras for Jamaica. So this will help with reducing the crime rate and also help to promote the safety in some dangerous regions. And also help in some regards to identifying some criminals and arrest them in case it is needed," Lee argued.
He noted that of the US$1.2-billion KOICA budget this year, some US$100million has been set aside for support of Caribbean and and South American countries.
South Korea is bidding to bring the 2030 World Expo to the south-eastern port city of Busan.