If you look at a map of the Korean Peninsula at night, you can immediately understand the impact of global development. Darkness covers nearly the entire North, masking a child malnutrition rate of nearly 50 percent and untold stories of individual suffering and poverty.  But over South Korea, you see a country shining with lights, energy and economic activity. Behind that brightness, there is a story of remarkable progress and partnership.

Satellite picture displaying the Korean peninsula at night. Photo Credit: NASA

Fifty years ago, South Korea was poorer than two-thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and its people had an average life expectancy of 54 years. But South Korea also had effective development partnerships with nations around the world.  In the decades of engagement since, we supported South Korea’s agriculture and industrial sectors, helping the country focus intently on an aggressive growth strategy.

Once a major recipient of aid, South Korea today provides assistance to the world’s developing countries.  Now a vibrant trade partner with the United States, South Korea is currently the eighth largest market for American goods and services, ahead of France and Australia.

Here at home, we are having an ongoing debate about whether America can still afford to be a superpower. Simply put, we can’t afford not to be.  We know that we are safer, more secure and far better off with more South Koreas than North Koreas in the world.

For that reason, I was pleased to join Secretary Clinton today in deepening the valuable partnership between the U.S. and South Korea with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation.  We have committed to working together through policy coordination to increase the impact, efficiency, and focus of our development programs.  Secretary Clinton and I also had an opportunity to thank South Korea for hosting the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness that will take place in Busan later this year.

South Korea’s emergence demonstrates the ability of effective, meaningful development to help improve lives, expand opportunities and, ultimately, transform nations.