Social Enterprise is an organization which seeks social purpose and profit to meet the social requirement. Simply, this corporation doesn’t hire workers to sell products, but it sells products to hire workers. You could say this is an intermediate form of a commercial company and nonprofit company.
Normal enterprise focuses on making profits. But social enterprise seeks to give the weak class and the vulnerable jobs and public services. Thereby doing business activities, they raise capital to reinvest for social purposes. Also, their decision making is a democratic process led by all of members related to this enterprise. The purposes of this enterprise are job training, job creation, providing a high-quality service, improving the quality of life, counter-offer of environmental problems and investment in developing career-training programs for the neglected, low-income social classes.
“IEUM”, One of the Social Enterprises in Jeonju
In Korea, there are many kinds of social enterprise. In particular, we want to talk about “IEUM”, the representative social enterprise in Jeonju. IEUM was formerly ‘Traditional Culture Loving Meeting’ which was started in 1986. It was an innocent cultural movement organization. For 20 years, this organization has cultivated life and culture, growing up greatly during the most recent years. The purpose of Ieum is for all of the people to enjoy culture. The Korean-style house experience is a good example. It makes immigrant women and multi-cultural families feel our traditional cultures by opening a Korean-style house experience. In this way, the company attempts to help them adapt to new culture and food in a foreign country.
Also, this company does not forget efforts for saving agricultural villages. The company does consulting for many unspecifi ed persons and works for activating the market. This work results in happy consumption which is mutually beneficial by opening village markets, connecting producers with consumers directly. In addition, they exchange useless spaces with useful ones. That is, they facilitate the re-birth of cultural spaces. Also, Ieum has a group, Dal-I, connecting our traditional melodies with new music. It demonstrates that arts are not culture enjoyable only by a particular class. It intends to lead the public so as to approach it intimately while dreaming of art in the commonplace.
Ieum has a space called ‘p-bar’ on the fi rst fl oor so that persons can feel affi nity to the company. At that place, foods are sold and all kinds of goods are exhibited. These
goods are made by old women at the ‘Youth Workspace.’ At the place, great artworks were produced by combining old women’s hand skills and designers’ fresh ideas. They reform old things to change into daily products. Also, they developed ‘Han style,’ which meant Korean style, by grafting the traditional culture of Jeonju onto modern trends.
It commercializes the story of a Korean-style village into cultural products. You can buy these artworks through online or offl ine stores. All the old women working there are over 65 years old, and they are considered as being from a weak class by the government. However, Ieum did not employ them only to give jobs. It is because they are specialists in this field. It is Ieum’s thought that they are not in the weak class even though the government classifi es them as the weak. In culture, there is no weak class. Culture can be enjoyed by everyone equally.
The reason why they located Ieum in Jeonju is that Jeonju is the foundation. Only if Jeonju exists, can Ieum exist, too. Like the meaning of this enterprise’s name, Ieum’s purpose is to be a strong rope linking human heart with human heart and tradition with modernity. In Korea, the government leads social enterprises and judges their results by job creation and fi gures of returning to society. But for enterprises using culture, it is diffi cult to estimate their results. Therefore, Ieum’s fi nal purpose is to give more profit to many people.
The reason for establishing social enterprise lies in donating something to social causes. However, certain companies cannot be called social enterprise only by donating a lot. That is, social enterprises have to get social purposes. Recently, a lot of social enterprises have come into being in our country. As they get governmental assistance aimed at social enterprises, they are encouraged to make adequately good contributions. On another note, social enterprises have to be based on high competitiveness with creativity and innovative ideas so as to survive even after public funds stop. Current people are enough to sustain and operate present enterprises. However, young people can make new innovations.
A lot of university students are at a loss for what to do owing to serious employment difficulties. It would be better if they showed their passion by spreading their own dreams rather than struggling for preparing for civil service examinations or entering into big companies. In order to solve these matters, we think, social atmospheres should be changed, too.
It would be desirable if young people stepped forward so as to improve existing local and environmental problems after thinking about what are the really important values. There are social enterprises in the center of such movements.
Lee Song-i reporter