With the 1997 Asian financial crisis, followed by the global recession a decade later, South Korea’s economy has suffered setbacks. In attempts to fortify and strengthen the country’s economy, the South Korean government has come to see social enterprises as an alternative means of generating jobs and providing social services. This view has come to have a profound impact on the landscape of social entrepreneurship in South Korea, for it has been enshrined in legislation. The Social Enterprise Promotion Act of 2007 defines and recognizes a social enterprise as an organization engaged in commercial activity and pursuing a social mission by “providing social services and creating jobs for the disadvantaged”. In working with these disadvantaged groups – for example, the 500,000 unemployed women in Korea – social enterprises must find a way to accommodate the job creation and social service demands of the government.
The Entrepreneur and Solution
The Dasomi Foundation, which trains and employs disadvantaged women to provide care services to the elderly, is an enterprise that both embraces and transcends these demands. Recognized as South Korea’s first social enterprise, the Dasomi Foundation was established not by an individual entrepreneur who would have had to struggle to meet these strict regulations, but by an innovative public-private partnership between the non-profit Work Together Foundation, the for-profit Kyobo Life Insurance Co. Ltd, and organs of the South Korean government at both the national and local levels.
Recognising their respective strengths, stakeholders take on a different role in this truly efficient business model to fulfil the Korean idea of a social enterprise. Kyobo Life Insurance contributes capital and business expertise to Dasomi. It provided start up capital, operating expenses and education fees up to KRW5.4 billion (USD 4.3 million), as well as management consulting support, to launch Dasomi’s six care centres. The Work Together Foundation handles the provision of social service. It provides management and handles the daily operations of Dasomi, hiring, training and managing the female caregivers. The government supports the employment opportunities created through Dasomi. It provides administrative assistance, social insurance and funds for workers’ wages from its social employment budget. This efficient and collaborative partnership has allowed the Dasomi Foundation to flourish and grow.
Since the enterprise’s establishment, the partnership behind the Dasomi Foundation has helped more than 814 middle-aged women find jobs as caregivers. The three stakeholders have provided specialized patient care education to many women, qualifying them for jobs in hospitals or the Kyobo Dasomi care centres. Their work has empowered disadvantaged women – particularly single mothers or female heads of families – to confidently provide high quality nursing care to the elderly and those in need of rehabilitation.
Dasomi currently has six Kyobo Dasomi care centres in Korea (in Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju and Busan), with its free services to low-income patients supported by the fee-based nursing services to other constituents. It currently employs 264 women, empowering them with training and improved working conditions.
Through the Dasomi Foundation, Kyobo Life Insurance, the Work Together Foundation and the South Korean government have developed an effective solution to alleviate the hardships of female unemployment and low-income living conditions.