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[media]_Korean’s Emerging Sharing Economy

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‘So do you like dog?’ I’m sure my face was frozen with uncertainty as I looked at my host Sun, who sat next to me in the taxi. ‘I’ve never actually, um, tried dog…’, I said carefully. ‘Oh!’ she squealed, ‘Duck, not dog!’ We both fell back in to our seats with laughter at the miscommunication, and I knew that tonight’s experience was going to be a fun one.

I was in Seoul to speak at the Chosun Biz’s Smart Cloud Show on what is happening around the world in Collaborative Consumption. On the trip I wanted to experience first hand many emerging examples in the sharing economy space in Korea right now and meet the people who are driving the movement on the ground.

The stage at Chosun Biz Smart Cloud Show

On my first night, I was on my way to an event hosted by PlayPlanet, Korea’s authentic experience marketplace, founded by Sun Mi Seo. From the moment we arrived at our destination, I knew this is an experience I would never have been able to have without the help of Sun and her friend Flora. We dined at a quaint gallery café in Buam-dong run by Flora and her mother, who prepared a special meal of Roast Duck Dupbob and delicious salads (of course with a side of kim chi!). It was a get-together of eight young Koreans who are passionate about social innovation and Collaborative Consumption. Following dinner and a lively conversation, we took a walk through the alleys of Buam-dong in the (thankfully) cooler night air to the hill where the Korean poet Yun Dong-Ju used to write his prose, overlooking the city and the famous Namsan Tower landmark, where we enjoyed makgeoli (Korean rice wine) and its accompanying buchimgae (Korean ‘pizza’ with seafood). I was beyond satisfied with food, fun and lovely conversation by the time the evening came to an end and the memory of this unique opportunity to see a hidden side of Seoul will remain with me for a long time.

While Collaborative Consumption is not familiar to many people in Korea, there is a real interest in the opportunity the space offers, and certainly the enthusiasm of the many founders is both addictive and inspiring. After my presentation at Smart Cloud, I visited the exhibition hall, an amazing tradeshow of the companies involved. In one corner was a cluster of around 10 ‘Sharing Economy’ exhibitors. While we have spent a lot of the last few years travelling the world and meeting with many different founders and entrepreneurs, seeing a group all together in one place makes hit home that Collaborative Consumption is truly spreading and thriving in such different cultures.

Lauren meeting with a group of Korean entrepreneurs at the Smart Cloud Show Sharing Economy exhibition

From examples like OpenCloset (clothes swapping), MyRealTrip (experience marketplace) and Wonderlend (‘stuff’ rental), to peer-to-peer accommodation site BnbHero, Bookoob lending library and Kiple, children’s clothes swapping – it’s clear Collaborative Consumption entrepreneurs in Korea are exploring every vertical. One unique concept emerging, however, is a unique take on typical p2p accommodation called Kozaza, which specialises in matching visitors with a traditional Korean hanok homestay. I was lucky enough to spend my last night in Seoul in a Kozaza hanok in the beautiful area of Bukchon, which is known for this type of accommodation. Arriving at the hanok, I was greeted by a sweet elderly couple, whoshowed me to my (delightfully airconditioned!) room at the back of the complex. I was given a surprisingly comfy floor mattress and pillow and was left to settle in to my new abode.

The traditional Korean hanok rented through Kozaza

That evening I tried a social dining experience with Zipbob! Launched just two months ago by passionate and effervescent founder Lynn Park, Zipbob has already hosted 70 shared dining events at different local cafes, bringing together more than 700 people over a specific discussion topic. In fact, it was reading Rachel Botsman’s book ‘We Generation’ (which is the title of What’s Mine Is Yours in Korean) that motivated Lynn to quit her role in management consulting and do something different with her life.

Tonight’s menu of conversation was of naturally Collaborative Consumption, and I was greeted by 12 enthusiastic people who are each making their own contribution to the area, including the founders of HelloMarket, Korea’s Craigslist disruptor, and the wonderful Korean correspondent Ejang, who runs coworking space and Collaborative Consumption incubator, Co-up. As my first ‘social dining’ experience, I assumed it would be quite similar to going to a dinner party of strangers, or meeting some friends of friends, but there is certainly a different energy involved when people meet to make new connections over a shared interest – no awkward silences, no boring stories, just valuable new networks being built. It’s clear this is a model which will continue to grow around the world as people look for new ways to build offline connections through online platforms, improving on the original MeetUp model with more intimate gatherings and clearer focus of discussion and outcomes.

A bottle of traditional Korean rice wine, or makgeoli

The next morning, I awoke after a comfortable night’s sleep at the hanok and ventured into the kitchen to my host preparing me a hot breakfast of eggs and toast – perhaps my first meal without kim chi in a few days! It was my third and final day in Korea, but already it felt like I had been there a week with the people I had met and the experiences I had.
On the last day, I was fortunate enough to be invited to meet Seoul’s Vice Mayor for Political Affairs, Mr Kim Hyeong-Joo, to discuss Seoul’s interest in becoming a sharing city. It is so exciting to see Metropolitan Governments around the world taking an interest in building the profile and uptake of Collaborative Consumption in their city, and Seoul is no different with the support of Mr Kim and his team behind him.

After observing and documenting the growing trend the world over the last few years, I am particularly excited by what is occurring in South Korea and think that it has the makings of a Collaborative Consumption super region. While many of the start-ups in the country are following similar models to other companies globally, their uniqueness comes in the nuances of their culture, which has a long and engrained history of sharing. A combination of the government’s intention to support start-ups, the determination and passion of the entrepreneurs to see these ideas take hold and a large tech-savvy population creates a perfect mix for this sharing economy melting pot; one we will be watching and supporting closely.

*Shared by Auren Anderson, ‘Collaborative Consumption’ http://shar.es/7Q0Be

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