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As Korea Celebrates 10 Years of Asset-Building Policy, Sherraden Looks to the Future

Asset-building policies have taken root and are growing in countries across the globe, thanks in large part to strong international partnerships and applied social research.

One robust example includes Korea, which marked a decade of asset building with the Ceremony Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Self-Sufficiency & Welfare Policy and 10th Anniversary of Asset-Building Policy on November 12, 2020.

Hosted by the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, and organized by the Korea Development Institute for Self-Sufficiency and Welfare, the ceremony featured Michael Sherraden as the keynote speaker.

Conceived in Michael Sherraden’s seminal book Assets and the Poor in 1991, Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are savings or investment accounts that begin as early as birth with the goal to promote asset building for lifelong development.

Highlighting the growing number of asset-building programs in Korea, Sherraden emphasized the importance of international partnerships in his video keynote address: “Prior research and policy design in the United States somewhat informed these in initiatives, yet Korean policymakers made distinctive decisions to fit the context, challenges and goals of Korea.”

Such Korean programs include both CDAs, such as Didim Seed Savings Accounts implemented nationally by the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, and also Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), such as Hope Plus Accounts, implemented in major cities.

Moreover, accounts for North Korean defectors, called Future Happiness Accounts, incentivize employment and promotes asset building for stable settlement among North Koreans entering South Korea.

“There is always the potential that the Korean Peninsula will someday be reunified, which will of course be a massive economic and social challenge,” said Sherraden. “Asset building could be a core policy strategy for achieving a sense of security, pride, education and commitment in a renewed Korea.”

The entirety of Sherraden’s keynote address is available to read in this CSD Perspective and to watch below.

With the foundation firmly defined and put into place over the past 10 years, the future of asset-building policy is ready for expansion in Korea. Sherraden envisions this as a social investment policy that moves beyond helping the poor toward developing the whole society.

To achieve this goal, he recommended three guiding principles for the future of Korea’s asset-building policies: universality, progressivity, and lifelong. “Koreans have learned, as well as any people on the planet, how to build and sustain a democratic nation. Yet democracy and development are always evolving, and never complete. There will be more work to do, more policy ideas to test and more social and economic innovations to put in place,” said Sherraden.

He concluded his address with a question: “Should universal, progressive and lifelong asset building take its place in Korean social policy?”

More information about asset-building policy in Korea can be found in this policy brief.

Update: In a post-conference letter, Byeong hak Lee, President of the Korea Development Institute for Self-Sufficiency and Welfare, committed to developing their policy according to Sherraden’s three guiding principles: universal, progressive and lifelong.