The South Korean Gyeonggi province is located in the northwest and encircles the city of Seoul. The province has 13 million inhabitants, and together with Seoul and neighbouring Incheon, it’s home to half the country’s population. The Gyeonggi province Governor, Mr. Lee Jae-myung, has taken initiative to distribute 100 000 KRW or about 75 EUR to all residents. Several provinces are doing the same, with different designs for the policies.
Low-income families can get cash support but most use either gift certificates or register their debit card to the relief program. This is intended as disaster relief and in order to make sure it stimulate the local economy it will be distributed in a blockchain model that limits the use of the money to the region and to a period of three months. Mr. Lee refer to the program as a basic income for all residents and hope the Gyeonggi-style relief will trigger a national discussion on basic income policies. Seoul City has adopted a similar policy.
A Korean New Deal
On the national level, the Korean government—new since mid-April—is taking a very active role to exploit the crisis with focusing on innovation in technologies and services as a means to overcome the crisis as well as long-term structural challenges.
Korea is supporting domestic demand to rebound and provide relief to suffering companies with financial measures at a value of ~100 billion EUR, and 7,6 billion EUR for employment security, and by creating 500 000 public sector jobs. Planning for a third supplementary budget for 2020 to be decided in June, the combined value is expected to amount to 38 billion EUR, to be compared with the 22 billion EUR support in 2009 and the financial crisis.
In addition, the government is introducing a “New Deal” for new job creation as a national project. More details on the New Deal will be reported mid-June, but several indications is already known. All ministries are called to propose large-scale digital based IT projects that utilizes domestic technology and human resources. This include large-scale national projects and all areas, with mentions of smart city technologies, smart factories, online education and medical technology and services.
Ministries (MSIT and MOTIE) respond to government request for a New Deal by formulating strategies for securing technological capacity, investing in SME’s R&D, and actively invest in digital and “untact industries”. They also suggest to promote global business of success with Korean biotechnology (e.g. testing for Covid) and disinfections (marketed as K-bio and K-disinfection). A very happy thing is that ministries are also suggesting to accelerate industry transformation in automobile, steel production and other major industries, including hydrogen-based steel production. The latter sitting well with the new governments proclamation for Korea to be CO2-neutral by 2050.
The Untact Economy
The reader may have reacted on the term “untact”. In South Korea it’s a “Konglish” neologism referring to an opposite of “contact”, since the covid situation has revealed a great request for alternatives for contact. “untact industries” thus being such that can innovate online alternatives in e.g. healthcare, education, logistics, transportation, shopping, payments and banking, meetings, education and much more.
As an English neologism it may not carry more meaning than “online” but in Korean it is evocative and may help raise attention to the many needs for improvements in regulation there are to make better use of digital opportunities.