At Store 36.5, the nation’s first store dedicated to social enterprises, every item has a good reason to be purchased.
A bottle of bean paste supports descendents of ethnic Koreans who were forcibly re-located to central Asia from Russia’s Far East under the rule of Joseph Stalin in the 1930s and are now struggling to settle back in the Far East.
A jar of plum extract, produced by workers with Down syndrome, helps create more jobs for the mentally disabled.
“Store 36.5 is the first effort to bring social enterprises in Korea closer to customers in their everyday lives,” Labor Minister Lee Chae-pil said in his congratulatory remarks at the store’s opening ceremony on Wednesday.
Customers look around Store 36.5, which specializes in goods made by social enterprises, in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
“The government will continue to support social enterprises until they become self-sustainable and economically-competitive, through various programs such as public procurement and tax incentives,” he added.
Located in Sadang, southern Seoul, Store 36.5 is a multi-purpose venue combining a caf, shop and community space for seminars and meetings.
Aside from selling selected products from social enterprises, the place is envisioned to be an avenue for socially-conscious companies to promote their services and products.
Cultural programs and other special events are planned to raise public awareness of social enterprises, or businesses whose primary goal is to help those in need, not profit.
The Dongjak Ward Office has provided the property for Store 36.5, while the Labor Ministry and state-run Korea Social Enterprise Promotion Agency provided funds for its remodeling and operation costs.
The Labor Ministry said it plans to set up an online social-enterprise mall, while striving to secure wider distribution channels for the firms both online and offline.
Location: Chongshin Univ. Station (Subway Line No. 4, 7), Exit No. 13
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org