Asia Minute: South Korea’s “National Happiness Fund”

Dec 1, 2017

Credit YunHo LEE / Flickr

Here’s a thought for holiday shopping: wiping out the personal debt of some low-income people. That’s actually a government policy in one Asian country.  And it’s a program that’s going to be growing in the new year. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

It’s called “The National Happiness Fund,” and it’s been part of South Korean government spending for four years now.

There are very specific qualifications.

You must have an income level that tops out at the equivalent of no more than about 900 U.S. dollars a month—about 11,000 dollars a year.

The debt that you have must be something that you’ve been carrying for some period of time, at least a decade, and you need to be able to show that you’ve been trying to pay it back. Finally the overall debt needs to be less than 10-million won – or a little more than 9,000 U.S. dollars.

This policy was put into place by former President Park Gyeun Hye—who was removed from office in March and is now on trial for corruption.

But the program has been expanded by the administration of the current President Moon Jae-in….along with upgraded growth expectations for South Korea’s economy.

The Financial Services Commission says the idea of the policy is to help individuals make a fresh start by eliminating long-standing debt.

Government economists estimate the program could help as many as 1.6 million people in South Korea…at a cost to the government of roughly 5.5 billion dollars.