South Korea: Suwon province holds a fair focused on basic income

South Korea: Suwon province holds a fair focused on basic income

Last Monday, on the 29th of April, a special event was held in Suwon, a city in the province of Gyeonggi-do, just south of Seoul, South Korea. This event was conceived as a fair, the first of its kind, and was focused on basic income, having attracted more than 18 thousand people.

Announced in a previous report, the two-day event was featured by numerous experts on basic income and related policies. It was propelled by the recent adoption, in the cited province, of a local currency unconditional cash transfer to young people (born in 1995), dubbed “Youth Dividend”. This local currency is issued by the city, and so can only be spent in small or mid-size local businesses (which can help boost the local economy).

Moreover, according to Gyeonggi-do spokesperson, Kim Yong, the province regional government will work with other regions of South Korea in order to study basic income implementation “in more depth”. Kim Yong also guarantees there are other basic income-type policies being studied in the province, while the “Youth Dividend” scheme is presented in other 60 regions within South Korea. During the fair, the formation of a “Basic Income Council” was alluded to by local authorities, grouping 34 local autonomies, most within Gyeonggi-do.

The basic income fair was also a way to inform the general public about basic income as a policy itself, and how it is being pursued in the world. A short video report can be watched here (News Center):

More information at:

Hyosang Ahn, “Korea to launch provincial ‘Youth Basic Income’ program”, Basic Income News, April 16th 2019

Korea to launch provincial ‘Youth Basic Income’ program

Korea to launch provincial ‘Youth Basic Income’ program

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.


Hyosang Ahn (Executive Director of BIKN)

SOUTH KOREA: Mayor of Seongnam City talks on his plan for ‘Youth Dividend’

SOUTH KOREA: Mayor of Seongnam City talks on his plan for ‘Youth Dividend’

Enno Schmidt, co-founder of the Swiss basic income initiative, made a film on Jae-Myeong Lee, the mayor of Seongnam City, talking his plan for ‘Youth Dividend’.

Jae-Myeong Lee wants to introduce a basic income for the young people in his city, a city of one million inhabitants, 30 km southeast of the capital Seoul. While he was working on this he heard from Prof. Kang Nam-Hoon, a pioneer of the basic income movement in South Korea, about the idea of an unconditional basic income. For Lee this idea is linked with democracy. He expects and hopes that Switzerland will take the first steps in this direction with the upcoming 2016 referendum. He said this would make it easier for other countries to follow and would be a big help for him as welll. The youth basic income in Seongnam City could be a first step in South Korea for further steps towards the introduction of an unconditional basic income for everyone in the country.

Geum Min and Enno Schmidt interviewed the mayor on 19th June 2015, during the International Basic Income Conference in Seoul. This was held as a prelude to the next Basic Income Earth Network Congress, to be held summer 2016 in Seoul.

A film by Enno Schmidt, 8 Min.
In Korean with English subtitles.
English translation by Ji-Young Moon and Barb Jacobson