The United States and South Korea—A Legacy of Foreign Assistance Success

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President Obama's visit to South Korea next week will highlight not only a critically important alliance, but also one of the greatest success stories of foreign aid in American history. South Korea, which once ranked among our aid recipients, is now a global partner that plans to increase its budget for foreign assistance by 11 percent this year. South Korea's success shows how U.S. foreign assistance can advance both America's security and economic prosperity.

The Korean War decimated South Korea's population and destroyed much of the country's economic and military capacity. The United States worked to rebuild its shattered ally over the following decades, investing roughly $35 billion in economic foreign assistance (adjusted for inflation), and working to secure Korea from future North Korean aggression. Today, of course, South Korea is a mature democracy with a flourishing economy, and Seoul an essential bulwark of security and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

South Korea's transformation was both a diplomatic triumph for the United States and a smart investment for American businesses and workers -- the entire $35 billion in economic foreign assistance that the United States provided its ally amounts to less than what the United States exports to South Korea annually. Because of its economic miracle, South Korea is now the tenth largest export market for U.S.-made goods, and is set to import even more U.S. goods as Seoul continues to implement the U.S.-South Korean free trade agreement reached in 2012.

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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