Confronting Vulnerability - State-Induced Social Innovation and the Making of South Korea's Social Enterprises

East Asia
Governance / Eco-system

This dissertation, authored by Casper Claassen, delineates the state-induced emergence and mainstreaming of South Korea’s (hereinafter, ‘Korea’) social enterprise sector following the enactment of a social enterprise promotion act in 2007. In particular, this dissertation contextualizes the public sector-led popularization and mobilization of social enterprises and studies the outcomes of this intervention.

This dissertation includes analyses of networks, discourse, and geographic agglomerations, and it highlights the pressures, mechanisms, institutions, and organizations that have been integral to this process of state-induced innovation. It contributes to the literature on interactions between the state and social economy organizations, such as social enterprises. The relationship between the state and social economy organizations has been subject to much academic scrutiny, and the Korean case contributes to this literature by illustrating how the state has induced the emergence and scaling of social enterprises as a private organizational form and also by showing where social enterprises have flourished. The Korean case contrasts with the North American and European cases in that in Korea the state purposively popularized social enterprise, as opposed to the North American and European traditions where the origins of social enterprise are more closely linked to civil society. This has implications for how states can induce the founding of private organizational forms that serve their interests.

Korea is an especially intriguing case study given that ‘social enterprise’ as an organizational form was almost entirely absent from Korean society prior to 2007, yet has now become embedded into society in the sense that social enterprises are found in nearly every industryand municipaldistrict. There are nowthousandsofsocial enterprises in Korea a little more than a decade after the enactment of social enterprise promotion legislation. Civil society has, evidently, accepted social enterprises as a valid organizational form. This dissertation seeks to establish an empirical platform and a theoretical framework which can be utilized for a more theoretical analysis of social enterprise and other social economy organizations in Korea in future studies. Nevertheless, this dissertation does reveal how actors can manipulate the path dependencies imposed by history, and the capabilities bequeathed by it, to forge new possibilities in novel and strategic ways. The Korean state’s ability to induce social innovation is a tangible illustration of such.

* Dissertation submitted to the Hertie School in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the Doctoral Programme in Governance.