Experiencing the IMF in the late 1990s, Korea’s unemployment rate soared and the number of the needy population increased consequentially. Then, the financial crisis of 2008 worsened the quality of life for the disadvantaged people. Growing number of small businesses filed for bankruptcy, unemployment rates rose, families faced severe economic crisis, and diverse social issues emerged simultaneously as well; The number of people who, were unable to maintain the basic level of necessities, were unable to receive education due to financial issues, and were unable to get treatment at the hospital augmented. At the same time, financial difficulties resulted in divorce, child- and elderly- abuse, and domestic violence which eventually fostered further family crisis.
However, Korea’s prior social security system carried lacked capacity to support the lives of increasing number of low-income population. Specifically, the system held two major limitations to resolve the growing number of issues faced by families in crisis.
First, according to Korea’s public assistance policy, conditions to be qualified for ‘National Basic Livelihood Security System (NBLSS)’ are limited to income and wealth. However, these conditions cannot adequately respond to the sudden crisis faced by many. In addition, because most of the families in crisis, despite their actual crisis in hand, are likely to have assets with low elasticity such as house, property, or a car, support for these families within the policy is nonexistence. In other words, the institution is constructed in a way that only a small portion of families in crisis are eligible to receive the benefit and as a result, a wide range of low-income group are left unattended with the help from public assistance system. Hence, even if the families were to face crisis, unless their income level is below that of minimum cost of living, they are unable to receive any aid under the NBLSS. Although, ‘Urgent Welfare Assistance policy’ is present to supplement such limitations, its assistance is limited to monetary support and it is unable to solve the fundamental problems faced by families in crisis. For these reasons, need for a new social welfare system has been greatly emphasized.
Second, prior welfare service delivery system was limited in providing long-term and sustainable solutions to the problems faced by families in crisis and in helping them attain self-reliance. It was constituted in a way that the central government was in charge of social welfare supply planning and execution, while the local government only passively executed the decisions authorized by the central government. This type of system disabled the local government to understand and fulfill the diverse welfare needs of local citizens. Moreover, with insufficient partnership among welfare providers based on prior delivery system, there was no organization to control for the duplicate or omission of services. Thus, welfare suppliers could not provide integrative and customized service and the effects of services were not optimized.
Hence, in order to support the low-income group who is excluded from the NBLSS, Gyeonggi Province started the ‘Unlimited Care Center’ project in November, 2008.