South Korea’s government included an expenditure to design potential models for a basic income experiment into the budget for 2018. It shows that government and politicians in South Korea have started to consider basic income as a significant and unavoidable policy.

Against this backdrop, BIKN held a conference under the title of “Why we need a basic income experiment: The necessity of BI and significance of a BI experiment” on Jan. 23, 2017, which was co-sponsored by the Democratization of Economy Forum of the National Assembly.

Four speakers came to propose potential basic income models for Korea and to make a critical evaluation of the experiments that have already been carried out or will soon begin in other countries or regions.

Professor Seo (Gunsan National University) said the existing social security system is based on an employment-contract relation, revealing the limitations of highlighting the qualitative change of work into “flexible” employment. We need to form new strategies to face the current situation and we constructed three possible options.

The first strategy is an expansion strategy that seeks to expand the legal nature of employees considering their actual conditions. The second is to shift the basis of social insurances from employment-based social insurances to income-based ones. Finally, we could consider the basic income strategy. Professor Seo said that the first strategy, a kind of legal approach, has two drawbacks which does not keep up with the actual changes in the economy and is subject to many blind spots. Although, such a strategy could be helpful in the short-term. The second strategy is limited because it is still based on labor-related income. So she maintained that the basic income strategy is the most effective in the “workless” future.

Professor Baek (Catholic University), stood upon the same understanding of the current situation as Professor Seo. Seo brought attention to the transition to a welfare state centered on basic income in his presentation, “Precarious Work and Basic Income for Young People.” In the first he suggested the ideal method of transition is comprised of eight stages: 1) rational adjustment of the existing social security system; 2) implementation of new categories of social assistance programs such as unemployment allowance; 3) strengthening social allowances for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities; 4) introduction of a social benefit for young people; 5) implementation of participation income; 6) expansion of the coverage of age groups in age-related categorical allowances; 7) introduction of a low-level basic income which integrates a few social allowances; 8) implementing a full basic income. For this, he maintained that the most useful and effective method is to introduce a basic income for young people first, after he highlighted the insecurity of young people in Korea (unstable employment, low wages and exclusion from social insurances).

Dr. Park (Chungnam Institute) proposed a Farmer’s Basic Income or Rural Residents’ BI in “Requirement of Farmer’s (Rural Residents) BI and Introduction Plan.” His starting point is that the income of farmer’s household has steadily decreased, and the existing subsidy has a serious drawback. In 2016, the average earning of a farmer’s household is 63.5 percent of an urban worker’s one, which has undermined the foundation of agriculture. And the subsidy is paid in proportion to the arable acreage, which causes disadvantages to petty farmers. In fact, the total size of the subsidy is too small. Dr. Park proposed the Farmer’s BI or Rural Residents’ BI to enhance the public value of agriculture and to secure the income of a farmer’s household.

Professor You (Australian National University) proposed the principles and direction that should be the basis of a BI experiment in Korea, while examining the basic income experiments or similar ones carried out across the world. He found that the experiments could be a foundation for discussing implementation of BI, even though they have limitations. He proposed that we need to make comprehensive and long-term design for a BI experiment to whatever extent possible. To produce such a design, two features would be required: close cooperation with government and a wide range of expert participation.

The South Korea government will post the program to design BI experiments to which BIKN will apply with other academics and experts. It will be an opportunity to spread the legitimation and necessity of BI widely, even if BI is not implemented in a short timeframe in Korea.


Hyosang Ahn, Executive Director of BIKN


Edited by: Tyler Prochazka