SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, December 28, 2020 — The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s urban regeneration project, aimed at breathing new life into neglected public areas, has endeavored to identify and foster the Community Regeneration Corporations (CRCs). CRCs have been creating new opportunities as well as profit, all the more striking in these trying times post COVID-19. Seoul hopes that these CRCs will help residents take the lead, even after its public works in urban regeneration and priming water projects are completed.
CRCs are private and community-centered companies that seek sustainable urban renewal by identifying issues within designated areas and turning them into business models. These include (social) co-ops, community businesses, and other forms of private and community firms.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government last year selected 12 urban regeneration companies, a first for an autonomous district in Korea, providing them with financial support and expert consultants.
“Space Friends,” a Haebangchon-based CRC, developed “Meet on the Cloud (MOC),” a multi-user video conferencing platform that allows for interactive communication between 10 and 15 people. The company has been effective in servicing Yeomyung School, an alternative educational institute for North Korean defectors, as well as Yongsan Education Welfare Center and Yongin Cultural Center, emerging as a leader in promoting a better education environment for groups vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact. Its MOC posted sales of 45 million won ($41,205) as of November.
“5racle” [pronounced `oracle’] Lounge, a CRC in Amsa-dong, posted profits by turning waste wood and paint into recycled furniture. It also operates a community skill workshop for local residents, inviting carpenters and local experts to promote do-it-yourself home repairs. Its sales reached 48 million won as of September.
“About M Co-op,” based in Majang-dong, operates a café and helps breathe new life into the community. It also set up a “Graduation Photo Zone” for students and residents, providing them with caps and gowns for their graduation photos as they were unable to go to school to take pictures due to social distancing measures. It marked sales of 850 million won as of October.
And with the stellar performances of the existing 12 firms, the Seoul Metropolitan Government included an additional seven companies to its list of CRCs this year, bring the total to 19.
The newly designated organizations are: ① Seoullo Village Doctor Carpentry Co-op (the Seoul Station area), ② Sewing Design Ium Co-op (the Seoul Station area) ③ Co-op Our Own Nakwon (Changdeok Palace and downtown Seoul area) ④ Amsa Urban Regeneration Social Co-op (Amsa-dong) ⑤ Seongsusien Co-op (Seongsu-dong) ⑥ Garibong Village Community Co-op (Garibong-dong) and ⑦ Village Mom Co-op (Jangwi-dong).
Moreover, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is providing a wide range of support for these urban regeneration firms, so that residents will be able to sustain the local regenerative models beyond the current urban renewal projects, with particular focus on facilitating the community’s ability to resolve local issues that arise from the viral outbreak, and ensuring a lasting business model.
The city in August launched a four-step program to identify and foster a potential pool of CRCs. This program offers comprehensive support for organizations; from registering their businesses and entities to creating business models. The SMG plans to enlarge the pool in 2021 to accommodate double the current number of companies, It will visit and study the areas under consideration for urban renewal, design business models based on local residents and issues, and ultimately foster firms to handle these projects.
Following the “four-step fostering initiative,” the city will designate CRCs and inject funding over three years to help stabilize and invigorate businesses according to operational requirements.
In addition to the financial support, the city’s CRC program will offer companies with expert consultants to provide a “SOS CRC 119” program, an emergency advisory hotline, for issues ranging from taxes, accounting, and PR, to socioeconomic, legal and spatial consulting, as well as market analysis.
“CRCs are a result of local residents coming into their own along with the progress of local urban renewal projects as well as the community’s potential,” said Yang Yong Taek, an official with SMG’s Regeneration Policy Division. “With the remarkable achievements of the nation’s first CRCs designated last year in Seoul, the city will continue to provide its support to ensure a sustainable regenerative model in the community. The SMG will work closely with various autonomous districts to encourage residents to take the lead in home-grown projects.”