Legislation to be introduced . . .
South Korea’s newly elected parliament is set to introduce legislation that would provide the legal basis for basic income once the new parliamentary session begins on May 30. Interest in a basic income scheme is coming from both sides of the aisle, with the opposition United Future Party recognizing that it will be a key policy issue in the next presidential election in 2022, and that there is a need for a ‘conservative’ basic income proposal. Gyeonggi, the country’s most populous province, has started to prepare for the introduction of basic income at the local level.
COVID-19 a turning point . . .
The COVID-19 crisis has shifted Korean public opinion on the issue of basic income. In early March support for a pandemic-specific basic income initiative hovered around 42 to 43 per cent, yet by late April, nearly two-thirds of Koreans supported the distribution of basic income for all. Temporary basic income became a key topic during the campaign for the April 15 election, and was embraced by both leading parties. On May 1 the government began providing basic income to all citizens.
First steps toward a big change . . .
The implementation of a system for providing basic income will be a complicated, long-term project. It will require the restructuring of the entire welfare system, and many have concerns about ballooning debt. One lawmaker said that its full introduction could take up to 30 years, and others similarly believe it should be rolled out gradually, with youth being a top priority due to the country’s high youth unemployment and underemployment rates. However, now the question does not seem to be if introducing a universal basic income should be done, but how. Given the attention this issue has gotten in other parts of the world, it will be useful to follow how it is debated and discussed in South Korea’s new parliament.