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Korea expands volunteer programme
10 February 2006

Seoul, Korea: The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) held a forum yesterday to analyze Korea’s 15-year-old overseas service dispatch project and to seek mid- to long-term project development objectives at the agency’s international cooperation seminar center Yeomgok-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul. Officials from the government, academia and religious circles were in attendance.

The KOICA is a government-funded agency involved with Korea’s Official Development Assistance (ODA). Overall, 12.5 percent of ODA project fees are spent on overseas service teams.

In a measure to boost Korea’s status through the ODA last November, the government announced its plan to increase its ODA budget from 183.5 billion won for 2005 to 384.2 billion won for 2009. Accordingly, starting this year, the project fee for overseas volunteer service teams will go up.

Based on field experience and analyses raised that day, the KOICA suggested measures to establish “an overseas voluntary activity system based on public participation.”

Topping the agenda were measures to expand the dispatch of specialized college service teams from agricultural colleges, as well as those composed of the middle aged, the elderly, and retirees. In particular, the focus was on senior volunteer activities because in developing countries, a demand for professional volunteers is high.

As a result, the middle aged, people ages 40 and older, and early retirees will have a wider window of opportunity to serve as volunteers abroad.

Volunteer service teams from these age brackets only made up 4.4 percent of the total number of overseas volunteers for the last decade.

For senior volunteers, twice the amount of what ordinary volunteers receive will be provided for general expenditures and activity fees. They will have to volunteer for more than three months, however. Senior volunteers will be selected based on the demands of developing countries and volunteers’ individual capacities.

Korea ranks sixth in the world in dispatching volunteers abroad as of 2005 with 1,234 people serving, but it still meets only 30 percent of developing country requests.