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Governance of Social Enterprises in South Korea

Governance in South Korean social enterprises

Governance of Social Enterprises in South Korea

Start Date:  July 2012   End Date:  Feb 2013   Status: Completed


The concept of social enterprise has attracted the interest of both academic and policy makers across the globe. One of the key reasons for such interest is rooted in its potential ability to balance economic and social objectives, thus making social enterprise an important tool for the delivery of public services, particularly in the current age of austerity. One novel aspect of social enterprise is its governance which concerns the internal decision making process an in particular the relationship between the management and the board of the organisation. The governance of social enterprises is different from conventional private sector companies as it often has to balance economic with social objectives, and it therefore represents an interesting form of organisation to study. Research on the governance of social enterprises has experienced a significant development in the last few years, but there are no published studies of social enterprises in South Korea and as a result no published studies of governance of social enterprises in South Korea


The project aims to:

  1. test the extent to which the governance of South Korean social enterprises resembles various conceptual governance models
  2. provide primary evidence about the profile of the South Korean social enterprise sector 
  3. consider the conceptual and policy implications of governance in South Korean social enterprises


Rapid review: we conducted a rapid review to understand more about different typologies of governance. There are various theoretical models that could be tested including principal-agent theory, stewardship theory, stakeholder theory, resource dependency theory, and managerial hegemony theory (Spear, 2007). We reviewed available literature in both English and South Korean and from the UK, US and Europe. We concentrated our attention on the theme of governance and the development of the social enterprise sector in Asia. We also focussed part of the review on the policy context in which social enterprises have developed by analysing some of the South Korean policy material. This provided the context for the examination of the concept of governance.

On-line Survey: 

We adopted a semi-structured topic guide with the following key sections:

  • profile of the organisation
  • governance structure and recruitment
  • roles and culture of governance
  • finance

We used the online tool ‘survey monkey’ to send the topic guide to 644 social enterprises (see definition below in target population). The request of participation to the survey was sent by KCCSE (Korea Central Council of Social Enterprise; which is a social enterprise membership umbrella body (similar to Social Enterprise UK).

Case study interviews: 

on the basis of responses from the survey, we selected five social enterprises, and conducted in-depth telephone interviews to fully capture the complexity of different models. Questions aimed to provide a detailed examination of the role of each component of the governance structure of the social enterprise.

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Project Lead:

Dr Marcello Bertotti

Project Team: Dr Marcello Bertotti, Younghee Han (Visiting Research Fellow, Director of Disability Welfare Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government, Republic of Korea), Prof. Adrian Renton

Report: Governance in South Korean Social Enterprises: are there alternative models?

For more information, contact: Dr Marcello Bertotti

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