Policy Systems and Measures for the Social Economy in Seoul

Date of Publication: 
August 2020
Publication Type: 
Case study
Published by: 
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Available in: 


This paper approaches the legal and institutional frameworks and public policies that led the growth of the social economy in Seoul. As South Korea’s center of the economic, social and cultural activities, Seoul has played a leading role in the development of its social economy. During the last two decades, the social economy sector in the Korean capital city has considerably developed, especially when looking at the increasing number of major social economy enterprises (SEEs) implemented in the city, of the number of employed staff in the sector, and of the value of their total sales.

The national government in Korea has traditionally led the way into establishing policies related to the social economy sector. Nevertheless, this has not precluded the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) to impose itself, since 2012, as a powerful actor in the sector through the establishment of institutions enhancing private-private partnership networks and public-private partnership. At the local and national level, the public authorities have laid the ground for legal and institutional frameworks for SEEs, giving them access to markets and finance.

Some major initiatives undertaken by the national government and SMG are presented in this paper. Some examples include the introduction of legal provisions for official policy support; promotion of social finance initiatives; preferential treatment to SEEs in public procurement; support and enhancement of the management of SSE capabilities, and education and training towards developing competent actors for the social economy.

The authors showed the value of policy measures undertaken by both the State and SMG in developing the social economy sector in Seoul. However, the dependency that SEEs are still suffering vis-à-vis governmental financial support and their struggles in contributing efficiently to the national economy have been highlighted. Authors suggest that state-led efforts must be accompanied by combined efforts from the social economy sector to avoid adverse consequences on its development. Developing and ensuring both autonomy and independence of the various components of the sector has also been considered crucial to their durability.


Paper authors

Kil-Soon Yoon is a doctoral student at the Coopêrative Management department in Sungkonghoe University (SKHU).
Dr. Sang-Youn ("Youn") Lee works at the Division of Business Administration and Graduate School of Social and Solidarity Economy at Sungkonghoe University (SKHU). Youn joined SKHU in 2016.