※ Introducing Korea’s Best Practice of Local Governments for Older Persons. This is a monthly report that aims to introduce examples of outstanding policies and practices adopted by local and municipal governments in Korea to help older persons exercise their human rights. These examples are selected with reference to the report ‘Human Rights to be Included in the New UN Convention on the Rights of Older People’, published by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in 2018. While various attempts have been made by local and municipal governments in Korea to improve the well-being of older persons, they are not very well known outside the country. ASEM Global Ageing Center (AGAC) aims to fill this gap by introducing in depth the best practices local governments have implemented in the interests of older persons.
This report introduces Korean version of Time Bank, Seoul Time Bank.
Korean Time Bank, Seoul Time Bank
Time Bank refers to a practice that converts volunteer activities into time values, which are recorded, stored, and exchanged. One of its effects is to deconstruct the traditional roles of volunteer and beneficiary, creating instead a series of mutually beneficial volunteer relationships. An hour of volunteer work earns a reciprocal hour, and all forms of work are of equal value (Time Bank Korea, 2022).
Time Bank began in the United States in the 1980s. Some people think there may be a difference in labor intensity compared to labor that pays actual money, but there are many positive reports that Time Banks promote community care and help community development. In particular, Time Bank can help improve quality of life for older persons by enabling them to offer skills in their neighborhood or community and gain time credits they can exchange for services when they need them.
In Korea, first Time Bank started in 2002 at the Gumi Yohan Mission Center, with the aim of improving welfare for older persons. This business is currently operated on a larger scale in connection with a job support project based on older persons caring for older persons. Time Bank is also supported by policymakers as a way to reduce the government's welfare costs, and is currently closely related to Community Care, one of the keywords for Korea’s national welfare policies.
Time Bank is based on five principles: a concept of assets – that every person has something to offer; a redefinition of labor – that all forms of work have equal value; every work is reciprocal; to build social networks and create social capital; everyone should be respected equally.
An interest in Time Bank is increasing worldwide, and Time Bank is already being implemented in more than 40 countries. In line with this trend, Korea is also implementing a variety of Time Bank projects; this started with the Love Ring movement in Gumi, and has now developed to include the Seoul Time Bank. Time Bank is a modern version of the practice of exchanging rural work, which was widespread in Korea in the past (Pumasi). It is expected that Time Banking, with its core values of reciprocity and labor exchange, can play a role in restoring social relationships and tackling blind spots in social provision.
The Seoul Time Bank launched as a pilot project through the Naver website (www.naver.com) and several physical cafes in May 2022. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has established five branches in Seoul, at Kookmin University-Jeongneung, Seoul City Hall, Bangagol Welfare Center, Time Bank House, and the Seoul Citizens branch. Those who wish to participate in the Seoul Time Bank can sign up for Naver Cafe, using the chat room at a branch close to them, or posting a message on the bulletin board to offer and receive services. Anyone aged 14 or older can join; individual skills and talents are registered on the website, and matched against requests for help on ‘Help Request Board’. Seoul Time Bank calculates one-hour activities at 60 time pay*, pays 300 time pay when signing up for the Naver cafe website, and the minimum unit of use is 30 time pay.
* Time pay : Seoul Time Bank designates working hours in the form of time pay, and it is a method of receiving 1 time pay for 1 minute working.
The Time Bank system allows all activities that help most daily lives to be accumulated in time values, for exchange. People offer, and receive, help with shopping and errands, walking, office tasks, accounting, training and help in internet searching, knitting, sewing, clothes repairs, simple house repairs cooking, gardening, and teaching on a variety of subjects.
The Time Bank House branch is located in Hongeun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, which has the largest elderly population in the city. Its activities are centered on older persons caring for older persons. If an older person receives a request to coach sports such as table tennis and gateball for an hour, he or she gains an hour's credit, and can use it in the future to receive support from fellow older persons for gardening. In addition, through mutual learning classes among older persons, local residents of similar ages can "see each other and ask how they are doing," which can relieve loneliness and isolation, and increase the self-efficacy of older persons.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will evaluate the results of the pilot project with a view to expanding the project throughout Seoul in 2023. Currently, if you look at Naver Cafe, the activities of the Seoul City Hall branch are the most active, followed by the Kookmin University-Jeongneung branch. Activities requested and exchanged include helping children's math studies, sharing haircare tips, carpooling, making video clips using a smartphone, childcare, and companions for conversation. As the project is still its initial stages, systematic evaluations have not been conducted yet. However, according to some reviews from local residents, many are satisfied to be sharing their skills and talents and forming new human relationships.
Considering this positive response from participants, more promotion of Time Banks will contribute more to the development of the local community. The fact people can receive services as well as give them makes expansion of the scheme highly likely. According to the National Statistical Office, single-person households are increasing rapidly, from 15.5 per cent in 2000 to 23.9 per cent in 2010 and 31.7 per cent in 2020. Time Banking, including the Seoul Time Bank, is expected to help alleviate problems such as loneliness and social isolation.
* Seoul Time Bank website address: https://cafe.naver.com/seoultimebank
Jaesung Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)