Editor’s note: The use of the term ‘basic income’ for the sheme in Janggo Island does not correspond to BIEN’s definition of basic income, since it is paid not to all residents but to only participants in communal fish farming activities for 20 years, and paid not to individual but to household.
A forum took place on the meaning and issues of the basic rural income social experiment, which Gyeonggi Province plans to conduct in the second half of this year. Entitled, “The Meaning and Issues of the Community-centered Basic Income Social Experiment,” the first Rural Basic Income Policy Forum was held on the 29th of January and introduced cases and discussed India’s basic income experiment, distribution of shared assets in Boryeong, Chungcheongnam-do, and Jeju Island. The Hankyoreh Economic and Social Research Institute with the Gyeonggi-do Agricultural and Fisheries Promotion Agency, the Basic Income Korea Network, Lab 2050, the Korea University Institute of Government Studies, and the Korea Regional Development Foundation all participated in organizing the January event. Some of the presenters and debaters participated online.
Lessons from the Indian basic income experiment
Sarath Davala, the keynote speaker, is the architect of India’s basic income social experiment and chairman of the Basic Income District Network, which leads the discussion on basic income worldwide. He laid out the implications of basic income experiments conducted in India and Namibia.
Namibia and India conducted basic income experiments—in 2008 and 2011, respectively—during which Namibia paid USD 12 and India USD 4 per month to 2,000 people for a span of 12 months. “Contrary to many people’s expectations, people who received basic income did not become lazy. Start-ups and economic activity increased, new transportation facilities were opened, school attendance rates rose, household debt decreased, and other good things occurred. In Namibia, the consumption of alcohol remained unchanged,” Dr. Davala explained.
Dr. Davala also introduced changes in policies following basic income social experiments. “After the social experiment, the local government in India began providing cash allowances to all farmers proportional to their farmland area in 2018, and through this policy, the party won three-quarters of the local council. […] However, the program excluded sharecroppers and non-farmers and allowances were paid only to owners of land in rural areas, and basic income discussions focused mainly on ‘the excluded.’ […] The implications of the Indian outcomes on other basic income experiments is that one needs to follow the principle of individuality and avoid excluding anyone in the region.”
Dr. Davala emphasized the role of social experimentation in promoting social dialogue beyond the collection of evidence. “In the past, we did not conduct small-scale social experiments in advance before abolishing slavery or winning women’s suffrage. These policies were based on values, philosophy, and human rights. Obviously, the policy effect rationale is important, but the policy is not implemented only with evidence. In India, political movements took place after social experiments, and there was a close review and public discussion of what was better,” he said. Another aspect of the social experiment he emphasizes is that it triggered dialogue between the public and the media, experts, and political parties to discuss desirable alternatives. “In Korea, there have been experiments with things such as youth dividends in Seongnam City, a basic income for young people in Gyeonggi Province, and national disaster support funds amid the Corona crisis, which has attracted the attention of politicians and the public.”
Sea cucumber seeds become basic income for islanders
The forum also presented a case where a local community shares the profits generated from a shared asset. Kang Je-yoon, head of the Island Research Institute, explained how Janggo Island allocates the profits from collected seafood to the islanders. Janggo is a small island with 81 households and 200 residents and began allocating profits from sea cucumber farming grounds in 1993. In 2019, 11 million won (around USD 10,000) was paid annually to each household in basic income. Kang said, “Unlike other fisheries, sea cucumbers grow on their own when the residents sow seeds. There is nothing residents have to do with them until they are ready for harvesting. Residents of Janggo Island receive a basic income from sea cucumber farming, which requires minimal labor, and the same amount is allocated as labor income from collecting clams ten times over two months. “Since the village community provides a basic income and labor income together worth 20 million won per year (USD 19,000), Janggo Island residents earn equal and stable income, unlike residents of other islands, where large income gaps exist between those in the aquaculture industry and those who are not.
However, Janggo Island also went through a slow and painful process before residents received a consistent dividend. Initially, the fishing village fraternity rented out fishing grounds around Janggo Island to fish farmers, who paid rent to the village society. Director Kang said, “It is illegal to rent out fishing grounds, which no one owns, and beside that, the rent was 500,000 won a year, which was an absurdly low price for 1983. In 1983, the village’s newly appointed head persuaded residents to reclaim the fishing grounds, after which they managed the profits from the fishing grounds (now village property) for ten years, and gave out loans. After much controversy, the dividend first began in 1993, and residents’ complaints about fishing grounds profits subsided, and the community’s common interest in the fishing grounds increased the quality of management.” A fair distribution system supported the management of shared assets.
Kim Ja-kyung, an academic research professor at Jeju National University, who presented on the possibility of basic income through shared assets on Jeju Island, said, “Jeju Island has a tradition of distributing profits through communal operation of pastureland and fisheries. For example, one village harvests seaweed fusiforme and agar together and distributes them among the participants while allowing individuals to keep the collected seaweed for themselves. One hundred and one fishing village fraternities had their own unique customs and order.”
Recently, wind and wind power generation has been drawing greater attention as a new shared asset on Jeju. Professor Kim gave a wind farm in Haengwon-ri, Gujwa-eup, eastern Jeju Island as an example. “Six villages in Haengwon-ri receive part of their wind power generation profits and set aside the funds. […] There is always a possibility of conflict and disagreement in the village, which prevents certain people from arbitrarily exercising their decision-making authority.” There is still work left to be done to develop a system to distribute the new shared asset profits fairly.
Consideration of the impact of distribution system on residents
Lee Chang-han, director of the Korea Regional Development Foundation, which designed the basic income social experiment in rural areas in Gyeonggi Province, said the experiment’s primary purpose is to closely examine the impact of basic income on the local community. “Because of the name “basic rural income,” many people are confused whether it only benefits farmers. However, farmers in rural areas in Gyeonggi-do Province make up only about 16% of the total population. It is crucial how farmers and non-farmers interact in the same living space in these rural areas. Like Janggo Island, we will observe the impact of the distribution system on resident communities.”
Park Kyung-chul, a researcher at Chungnam Research Institute, said, “Since 2019, various local governments have introduced farmers’ allowances, and there has been a discussion on farmers’ basic income. […] However, since non-farmers are also, directly and indirectly, involved in agricultural activities in rural areas, and together they form local communities, expanding the scope of payments to all rural residents is the concept behind basic income.”
Lee Ji-eun, CEO of the Basic Income New Research Network, said, “The basic income social experiment in rural areas can be reevaluated in terms of climate justice.” She added, “We hope this experiment will lead to discussions on rediscovering ‘the commons’ (shared assets), discovering small sustainable economic models and revitalizing ecological feminism, reflecting the peculiarity of rural areas.”
Lee Won-jae, CEO of Lab2050, who headed the debate, said, “I think the basic income social experiment in Gyeonggi Province has a unique status, as does the basic income experiment in Finland…where the prime minister in power conducted a policy experiment. In Korea, the experiment is taking place when basic income is becoming a central political topic.” This means that it is an environment in which the country’s overall policy will follow the results of the social experiment.
Written by Yoon Hyeong-joong, visiting fellow at the Hankyoreh Economy and Society Research Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org Translated by Eunjae Shin, researcher at the Hankyoreh Economy and Society Research Institute, email@example.com Reviewed by Toru Yamamori, Academic Research Editor of BIEN
Photo: Credit: Janggo Island, South Korea, is experimenting on sharing dividends from sea cucumber farming grounds with its residents. Provided by Kang Je-yoon.
Kim Lag Jung from Gyeonggi Province was interviewed about the South Korean Youth dividend program. The interview took place at the 2019 Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Congress in India.
The interview covered the dividend and its reported benefit for local youth, local business owners and how it has affected the national conversation about basic income and whether it could be expanded to include more ages.
Since 2016, 3,500 South Korean youth have received the equivalent of 1,000,000￦ (US$872) in local currency that can be used at local small businesses. The youth dividend started in Seongnam city, but from 2019 it was expanded to 150,000 youth across Gyeonggi province with 31 cities.
In 2020, because of Covid-19, Gyeonggi Province gave the local cash 250,000￦ (220$). This was essentially a Covid Basic Income given to every citizen. Small businesses and traditional markets, especially street marketers were pleased with the program.
In addition, in April 2020, the first international South Korea Basic Income fair was hosted in Gyeonggi province. Another online fair was held in September 2020 with 150,000 participants. The fair will be held in April 2021 again.
Yujoo city in Gyeonggi province has begun an agricultural basic income project. The project will be implemented if it gains approval from the local legislature. Cultures and Arts Basic Income and basic income for pregnant women are being discussed as well.
In March 2022 with the presidential election, basic income will be a hot issue on the agenda. Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN) is trying to lead the basic income conversation during the election.
With Gyeonggi province, BIKN and a member of the national assembly from the Basic Income party was elected in 2020. This demonstrates basic income is becoming a widely discussed issue in Korea. Even few public schools are giving cash coupons to students to spend at the school cafeteria.
Below is the transcription of four interview questions being asked in the video.
What is the biggest benefit of the youth dividend?
The Youth Basic Income was implemented in April 2019. Before that, it was implemented in 2016 in Seongnam city. Lee Jae-Myeong started it. Now he is the Gyeonggi provincial governor. He changed the Youth dividend to the youth basic Income and has been implementing it in 31 cities and districts. We had conducted a survey on 3,500 youth basic income recipients. The results say that the youth had difficulties not having any income and planning their future was hard due to financial difficulties such as unemployment. However, now that they have the youth basic income, they can make their future plans with it. That is the biggest surprise of the basic income research result.
2. What have business owners said about the Basic Income?
In Korea, Youth basic income gives local cash, which can only be used in Gyeonggi province. Its youth satisfaction rate is high. The reason why? Because there is a well-established infra structure for Basic Income consumption supported by Gyeonggi province. Small businesses and traditional markets, especially street market traders receive the local cash so that local business gain from it. Also, self-employed people and small business people are highly satisfied with the Youth basic income so that Basic Income is being widely spread and well known in Korea.
3. How has the youth dividend affected the national conversation about Universal Basic Income?
The youth dividend, implemented in 2016 in Seongnam city and the youth basic income, started in 2019 in 31 cities and districts, has a big impact on the Basic income discussion and basic income policymaking nationwide.
For example, starting the youth dividend in 2016, through the Youth Basic Income in 2019, now we discuss about agricultural Basic Income, Agricultural subsidy, Cultures and Arts basic income in Korea. Some local governments made it a reality. Political party members are having various discussions of the Basic Income legislation. Therefore, I am confident that the basic income will become a reality soon.
4. Will the youth dividend expand to include more ages in the future?
Yes. I am certain that its expansion will include infants, the elderly and cover all ages. As I mentioned earlier, right now, we are discussing the agricultural basic income, Agricultural subsidy, Cultures and Arts basic income, and the pregnant women basic income etc.
The Gyeonggi Research Institute released “Satisfaction survey report on the youth basic income in Gyeonggi Province” at the start of September.
Gyeonggi Province started the youth basic income, a kind of trial project, last April. The age group of 24 is given 1M Korean Won (about $900) a year in local currency under the project. A satisfaction survey was carried out to find out the recipients’ attitudes toward the youth basic income.
As a result of the survey, the overall level of satisfaction of the youth basic income in Gyeonggi Province was 77.10 points, indicating that 80.6% of the entire respondents were satisfied. The main reason for satisfaction was because ‘It was paid out to all youths aged 24 residing in Gyeonggi Province’ (35.2%), ‘It was paid out in Gyeonggi regional currency which could be used like cash’ (31.6%), ‘There are no conditions for receiving youth basic income such as being employed or carrying out job-seeking activities’ (11.3%).
However, the prime reason for dissatisfaction of dissatisfied respondents was because ‘It was only being paid to youths aged 24 out of the youth group’ (33.3%), ‘Gyeonggi regional currency couldn’t be used in supermarkets, department stores, entertainment stores and others’ (11.7%), ‘It was paid out per quarter over 4 times and applications had to be made each time’ (11.7%), indicating that they were dissatisfied with payment subject and application method, and in case of ‘payment method’.
The Institute is carrying out a few other surveys and researches to find out various effects of the youth basic income and they will come out soon.
[Interview] Meeting with Gyeonggi province governor Jae-myung Lee
Interviewed by Jun-ho Oh
Author of Basic Income Can Change Our World (2017, in Korean)
Translated by Hee Su Jung
“The combination of basic income, local currency, and national land holding tax will make the majority of the people happy.”
“It pains me to see people having no land misunderstand the national land holding tax.”
Governor Jae-myung Lee introduced the “Seongnam Youth Dividend” in 2016 during his term as the mayor of Seongnam city. It was a partial basic income, which provides 1 million won per year to 10,000 24-year-olds residing in Seongnam city. At the time, he faced negative reactions from the former Park Geun-hye government of South Korea and was criticized for being a populist, but gained strong support from local businesspeople and the youth.
After being elected as the governor of Gyeonggi province in the local election of 2018, Lee started to provide the Gyeonggi Youth Basic Income to 175,000 24-year-olds residing in Gyeonggi province since April 2019.
The amount of Gyeonggi Youth Basic Income is 1 million won per year, and it has been paid in local currency. The increasingly positive reactions towards the policy after the implementation of the Seongnam Youth Dividend helped to make this policy a reality throughout the province. Lee wants to go further than Gyeonggi Youth Basic Income and create a universal basic income covering all citizens of South Korea, along with the implementation of “basic income funded by national land holding tax” to fund the proposal.
The interview with Jae-myung Lee was held at Gyeonggi Provincial Government Building, at 11 am, June 20th, 2019.
Unlike other politicians, you are a strong advocate of the basic income movement. What aspects of basic income were you drawn to?
On one hand, basic income resonates with my dream of a just society. Also, I think that it is an unavoidable policy in order to preserve our societal system. The decrease in the importance of labor due to the fourthindustrial revolution, and the current situation where a few wealthy individuals hold excess profits makes it nearly impossible to prevent society from collapsing. Historically speaking, when social inequality reached a certain point, the system collapsed. This may be what our society is facing, which is the reason why policies should be revisited. In my opinion, basic income may be our only choice. Another problem caused by the excessive concentration of wealth and exaggerated excess profits is that it decreases resource efficiency. Distributing wealth to the people, who have fewer opportunities to work compared to the past, will aid in sustainable economic growth, regime maintenance, ultimately achieving real freedom and equality.
There were a number of basic income experiments held abroad, but they primarily targeted the poor. In contrast, Gyeonggi Youth Basic Income was implemented where it was given to every single 24-year old. What is the significance of the policy?
As you know, basic income aims to provide all people with a minimum amount of livelihood regularly in cash. What we are doing here is limited to a certain age, so it does not completely correspond with basic income. It may be quite insufficient, but the form and principle are similar. I would like to stress that it was an introductory measure. As to the reason why I chose the youth to be the recipients, the youth these days are in the most disadvantageous position in their overall lifespan, but at the same time, they are least protected by the state. In the past, we used to say “The hardships of youth are invaluable,” “There is always a second chance” to young people who had ample opportunities, but the situation is different for the youth nowadays. I thought young people needed special political consideration. I also considered the ripple effect of the policy. It is not yet a perfect system, but a process of throwing a buzz to society. In terms of necessity, the young needed this most, and, I think, there would be an explosive power of a basic income policy for the young in making basic income a social agenda.
One of the unique elements of Seongnam city Youth Dividend and Gyeonggi Youth Basic Income is that they are paid by local currency. On the other hand, there are criticisms of the dividend not being paid by cash. Why did you choose local currency? (Gyeonggi province local currency can be used either in the form of a certificate or a rechargeable debit card. It can be used similarly as cash at affiliate stores in the region. Businesses with large revenue including big retailers are excluded.)
One reason is to overcome resistance. The notion of giving youth cash met criticisms of being populistic, and I had to admit that. New policies always meet resistance, no matter how ‘correct’ the policy is. But resistance decreases when the effect of the policy and the people who gain from it increases. Since it is a policy project funded by public finance, we have designed it to benefit the self-employed and the local economy as a whole, even though it may raise a few inconveniences caused by the local currency for the youth who use it. Another reason is about gaining the support of traditional market merchants and small businesses. This was an effect proven in the case of Seongnam city Youth Dividend. Sales of traditional markets in Seongnam city increased by 26% in the year 2016, when the policy was implemented.
You insist on giving all citizens universal basic income, going further than Gyeonggi Basic Income. At the Gyeonggi province basic income international conference held at April 29th, you have argued to “distribute profit that comes from the commons”, and are consistently arguing for the implementation of basic income funded by a national land holding tax. What is your specific plan in introducing universal basic income?
Making a new policy is important, as is combining necessary policies. One of the biggest problems in our society is the unearned income issue. People do not make creative efforts in a society with excessive unearned income. In such a society, people are trying to take power and take away power from others.
The problem of unearned income must be solved to build a ‘normal’ society where labor is respected and people are assured their share in accordance with their contributions. The biggest issue is a sharp increase in unearned incomes from lands and real estates. And that has significantly worsened compared to the past. One reason is the low real estate holding tax. The way to recapture unearned income from real estate is to increase the tax on it. Currently, real estate holding tax is about 0.3 percent. This is one-sixth of the automobile tax, which is about 1.8~2 percent despite the fact that it is the same type of tax based on property. Why is a tax on cars, usually owned by ordinary people, so high when the tax on land is so low? After fully understanding the situation, there will not be as much resistance towards raising tax rates to 0.5 percent, which is about half of the tax rates in advanced countries. By collecting 15 trillion won more in addition to this, we can pay each citizen 300 thousand won per year.
Is it to combine basic income and policies that aim to recapture unearned income from real estate?
Let us combine the important policy project of overcoming a ‘republic of unearned income from real estate’, and a basic income policy. It is an aim worth pursuing which will make the majority of the people happy. The combination of basic income, local currency, and national land holding tax make sense. This is how to raise support for my policies. You need to change people’s lives, gain support, and minimize opposition. For this, we had to start off with a partial basic income, small amounts of basic income and find a source of revenue that can be agreed upon among people. Land is the most typical type of common wealth and nobody can completely own land in this country, even though s/he has the ownership of that land. The Constitution states a public concept of land. Also, there is no reason for it to require a massive source of revenue at this moment. A child allowance implemented this year by the government is an example of a partial basic income. We can give out child allowance to children under seven, give basic income to 24-year-olds in Gyeonggi province, give basic pension to all the elderly regardless of income level in the future, and fill the gaps as we proceed. In the end, we will be able to build a basic income system even though it may be a low amount at the beginning. The amount can be increased. Implementing a basic income is not about financing sources, but about the authority’s will.
Distrust against the proper use of tax revenue is common in South Korea.
We need to get people to experience that if they pay tax, it would benefit them. 15 trillion won from national land holding tax might only pay 300,000 won per year to all citizens. But people will think “Did I get what I paid for? Would I get more if I pay more?” South Korea is a “low burden, low welfare” society and we need to increase both taxes and welfare. If we only support the poor, the taxpayers would think “Why do I have to pay taxes to help them?” In order to decrease resistance, we have to make the taxpayers think that paying taxes will benefit them. In the Nordic countries, people do not complain that they pay almost half of the GDP to tax, because the majority of the people benefit more than they pay. I want Koreans to have the same experience. After experiencing first-hand, it wouldn’t be difficult to increase basic income from 30,000 won per month to 50,000 won per month, or even more. This will allow for increasing taxation without resistance. At present, there is no taxation power for local government. One possibility is that the National Assembly makes related laws, based on the public concept of land stated in the Constitution, and local governments then enact the municipal ordinance.
Could you comment on the significance of what you’re doing for basic income supporters abroad?
While there were basic income experiments in other countries, we are actually implementing the policy. To be honest, the amount is not enough to result in experimental effects. 1 million won a year is insufficient as a basic income. But I am trying to spread the idea of basic income through this policy. Anyway, it will benefit over 150 thousand people a year, and hundreds of thousands for some years ahead. Even though we started with a small amount of basic income for a particular age group due to financial reasons, but we should expand the recipients and increase the amount in time. A national decision is necessary, which is ultimately made by the people. In order to do so, people need to know about the basic income idea and have a desire for it. I think this policy would help them with that.
Basic Income Exhibition and Youth Basic Income to be launched
Gyeonggi province, the most populous region in South Korea, will be hosting an exhibition on basic income on April 29th and 30th to coincide with the launching of its Youth Basic Income program. The program will unconditionally give one million Korean Won ($US900) in local currency per year to 24-year-old residents of Gyeonggi province.
The program was first piloted when the now provincial governor of Gyeonggi, Lee Jaemyung, was the mayor of Seongnam City. Lee Jaemyung made the expansion of his Youth Dividend program part of his winning electoral manifesto in last year’s local election, and the program will be expanded to the whole of Gyeonggi province starting this April.
The Basic Income Exhibition will largely be composed of three parts. First, a provincial fair will be held with 31 cities and counties participating where local specialties could be purchased with the local currency. Second, a promotional platform for basic income will be created, introducing its history, meaning, and experiments that have helped make it a reality. Third, a conference will be held under the subject of ‘Basic Income: A New Paradigm in the Age of Cooperation’. The conference will discuss basic income experiments and policies that are proceeding around the world, and go on to consider how basic income relates to the commonwealth, technological changes, the status of women, democracy, and the very definition of social value.
The keynote speakers of the conference are Annie Miller, co-founder of BIEN and the chair of UK Citizens’ Basic Income Trust, and Kang Namhoon, the chair of Basic Income Korea Network (BIKN), and they will give keynote addresses, respectively titled ‘From Vision to Reality: A New Age of Justice, Peace and Welfare’, and ‘Life in the Future driven by Technology Innovation and Basic Income’.
In addition, Governor Lee Jaemyung will present the outlines of Gyeonggi Province’s Youth Dividend program in a session on discussing the various basic income experiments and pilot programs around the world.
Other guest speakers of the conference include Almaz Zelleke (NYU Shanghai), Tomohiro Inoue (Komazawa University, Japan), Sarath Davala (Vice-chair of BIEN, India), Sam Manning (Y Combinator, USA). Leading members of BIKN, such as Min Geum, Nowan Kwack, Junghee Seo, Seungho Baek, Kyoseong Kim, Sophia Seungyoon Lee, Hyosang Ahn, will also attend as speakers at the conference.
The Youth Basic Income program that became the catalyst for the upcoming exhibition/conference is far from ideal, limited as it is in both the age group and amount involved. But it will be one of the biggest pilot programs of basic income so far in the world, involving some 170,000 people, and an excellent opportunity to observe the community effect of a basic income, with the results being analyzed by the Gyeonggi Research Institute.
One of the controversies surrounding Gyeonggi Province’s Youth Basic Income is that it will be given in local currency, which is only usable within the province rather than in cash, quite far from being an ideal basic income.
Despite its limitations, there are some hopes for the program. Given that the local currency can be only be used in small businesses of the province, it could stimulate the local economy and provide the base for a broader coalition in support of the basic income program, and basic income in general. Moreover, basic income can be regarded as part of a broader reimagining of society, and local currencies are a way to reconstruct social economies and could be part of that reimagining. As Thomas Paine once said, time makes more converts than reason, and while the youth basic income is limited, it can certainly be a step forward for basic income into political reality.
BIEN’s 2022 Congress will be held in Brisbane, Australia, from Monday 26th to Wednesday 28th September 2022. This will be a hybrid face to face and online event. The main face-to-face event will take place in Brisbane.
Call for papers: Abstracts (250—300 words) due by Friday 4 February 2022; please click here for more information.
A Basic Income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. Read more