UBI is becoming very popular all around the world. Some countries, even cities, give everyone regular monthly payments, with no specific requirements, through a basic income. In Korea, the province of Gyeonggi-do held a special event to educate people in Korea about the concept of Universal Basic Income. Gyeonggi-do province held its first Korea Basic Income Fair in 2019. The 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair took place online for two days (September 10-11) due to COVID-19.

The fair’s official website broadcast the event live. Furthermore, it was broadcast on the provincial government’s YouTube channel. The event was the world’s largest discussion on basic income and local currency. The slogan of the event was ‘Humans Humanely’. The aim of the event was to let people in Korea know about the concept of basic income and show how it could benefit society. Last year, the event brought in over 18,000 people to listen to local and international experts regarding UBI.

2020 Korea Basic Income Fair

Day 1

The Korea Basic Income Fair was launched to educate Korea about the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI is a regular payment to every citizen to cover their basic human needs such as food, housing, education, etc. The event brought in scholars and experts from around the world to exchange views on basic income. Many explained how UBI will have an important effect on reducing inequalities, improving mental health, and eliminating poverty. In addition, others spoke about how UBI can empower workers the freedom to exit their jobs to find something more meaningful to them. Therefore this empowerment of workers will push companies in Korea to threaten their workers in a humane manner (better pay/benefits).

Opening Ceremony

The Korea Basic Income Fair started off with an online opening ceremony. It was followed by the launch of the local government’s basic income council. Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung presented the province’s achievements and future vision of basic income initiatives during his opening address.

“Basic income will serve as a social safety net that ensures minimum quality of life. I hope that the 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair serves as a valuable forum for public debate in realization of basic income as an alternative for a rapidly changing future,” said Governor Lee Jae-myung.

Later he had a one-to-one discussion with social theorist Jeremy Rifkin on how basic income can play a role post-COVID-19. Representatives from 40 Korean local governments were able to present their visions regarding UBI in Korea.

There was also a calligraphy performance by Lee Mu-ho, a master calligrapher in Korea, and a musical performance by classical guitarist Denis Sungo and Coast 82.

The event brought on expatriates in Korea who shared their thoughts on Basic Income. In addition, they spoke about welfare policies from their home countries such as Germany and Finland. As well as how European countries like Finland experimented with basic income policies in the past. Furthermore, the ex-pats all agreed that Korea will need UBI in the future when people end up being unemployed due to automation.

Day 2

Day 2 of the Korea Basic Income Fair held an international conference. It was under the theme “A Fair and Sustainable World Through Basic Income.” It was held online by 26 scholars, local government officials, and heads of research institutes from more than 10 countries. Some of the topics covered were on the globalization of neoliberalism, the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the crisis of the welfare state, the vulnerability of democracy, and an analysis of the root causes of inequality and unfairness.

Some of the scholars included:

  • Annie Miller – Co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network
  • Stephen Nunez – Head of Guaranteed Income Initiative, Jain Family Institute
  • Choi Young-jun – Chair of LAB2050
  • Karen Jones – Former member of the Parliament of South Africa
  • Nam Gi-up – Director of the Institute of Land and Liberty Korea
  • Eduardo Suplicy – Former member of the Federal Senate of Brazil
  • Paul Ross -Founder of the Citizen’s Dividend Organization (CDO) Australia
  • Inoue Tomohiro – Professor of Komazawa University
  • Malcolm Torry – General Manager of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN)
  • Susana Martin Belmonte – Former Chief Economist REC
  • Leander Bindewal – Independent of the network for Monetary Diversity
  • Hermann Aubie – Senior Researcher at the University of Turku

Virtual 3D Exhibition at 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair

The 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair was presented in the form of a virtual world. The fair’s official website allowed access to a virtual 3D exhibition hall. This was where they staged the “Basic Income and Local Currency Virtual Exhibition Hall”. As well as VR content ranging from academic presentations to animations and videos. In addition, online exhibits were organized into 17 categories. These categories include…

  • The history of the basic income agenda
  • Basic income around the world
  • Disaster-related basic income
  • A basic income idea contest
  • A basic income movie festival
  • And much more.

One of the major topics at the Korea Basic Income Fair revolved around mass unemployment. As well as the impact of automation on the labor market. The 4th Industrial Revolution has brought to the forefront machines and AI which has the potential of taking over jobs done by humans. Therefore, most fast-food restaurants or coffee shops in Korea have automated ordering systems. These systems allow businesses to cut down their number of employees. Therefore one of the main benefits of incorporating a UBI in Korea was the potential of helping with the rise of unemployment in Korea.

UBI Experts at the 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair

The 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair also brought in Korean economists to speak about the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a massive increase in the number of freelancers and independent contractors in Korea during COVD-19. Therefore it is clear that the future for millennials looks uncertain.

The 2020 Korea Basic Income Fair had panel discussions from world experts on UBI and the practical implementations in regards to policy. Many UBI experts stress that UBI is the solution to the failure of conventional social policies. They also explained how UBI will tackle issues regarding inequality, labor market polarization, and the challenges of automation. The Korea Basic Income Fair answered some of the key questions the general public had about UBI. Will it actually work? How will it be paid for? Do the trials done by Gyeonggi-do suggest UBI has lived up to expectations? Would UBI be politically popular in Korea?

The Youth Basic Income Program by Gyeonggi-do

Gyeonggi-do is leading the UBI movement in Korea. They already have in place UBI programs like the Youth Basic Income program. The program is for Koreans who were born between 1995 and 1996 (24-years-old) and have lived in Gyeonggi-do for at least 3 years. They received 250,000won per quarter (up to 1 million won per year) in their local currency via prepaid cards, which means the money could only be spent within Gyeonggi-do. Local small to mid-sized businesses in the province accepted these prepaid cards for their products and services. It improved the overall sales in Gyeonggi-do. Therefore, it was very much welcomed by local business owners.

Gyeonggi-do province is looking to work with other regions in Korea in the future to study basic income through UBI programs.

The Korea Basic Income Fair informed the public about how UBI is being implemented and embraced around the world. In addition, they also showcased the latest technologies such as self-driving cars and VR/AR experiences. This showed just how far technology in Korea has advanced. It is clear that automation will be a reality at some point in the future which is why UBI is such a hot topic in Korea. In addition, Koreans are now more aware of UBI than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Importance of UBI in Korea during COVID-19

The Korea Basic Income Fair 2020 has been one of the important events in Korea this year as UBI is a hot topic due to COVID-19. Many leaders in Korea are now aware of UBI. It was suggested as a solution to help with the economic fallout from COVID-19. Therefore, many argue that UBI could stop a recession that could arise from ever-growing monopolies, loss of jobs, and loss in consumer spending in Korea.

The Korean government saw how much cash payments have helped families in Korea. In March, the Korean government gave all Koreans and foreign nationals married to Koreans a one-time cash payment. This payment ranged from 100,000 won to 400,000 won. Therefore, this one-time cash payment was a small taste of what UBI can do, and now both politicians in Korea, as well as the general public, who are now more open to UBI than ever before. Furthermore, the Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung gave a disaster-related basic income (emergency basic income) of 100,000 won per resident back in March. One family member was able to claim the whole family amount (up to 4) by visiting their local welfare center.

Disaster-related Basic Income for Foreigners

In addition, in April Gyeonggi-do paid disaster-related basic income to foreign residents, including married immigrants and permanent residents. The disaster-related basic income cost Gyeonggi-do 1.36 trillion won. The funds were secured through allocations from the internal budgets of the province. Furthermore, these allocations came from the disaster management fund, the disaster relief fund, and the regional development fund.

“In an era of low growth and the 4th Industrial Revolution, when people have to worry about excessive imbalances in income and wealth as well as mass unemployment due to technological advances, basic income is the only key policy for an inclusive economy advocated by global economic organizations, and the only economic policy that guarantees sustainable growth. The unparalleled economic crisis stemming from COVID-19 has helped us to realize the need for basic income and advance its adoption,” said Governor Lee Jae-myung at Gyeonggi Province.