iCOOP Group and its responsibility for the future

Dr. Ian MacPherson speaks to the members of iCOOPiCOOP Consumers' Co-operative Group in Korea (hereafter 'iCOOP') was established in 1997. Its mission is to spread the spirit of co-operation as a Consumers' Co-op through Solidarity and Co-operation of small scaled Co-ops located in each local province in Korea. At that time, there was no legal ground on the Consumers' Co-operatives (hereafter 'Co-ops') and very little known to public in Korea.

The characteristics of Consumers' Cooperatives in Korea are below :

  1. Most Co-ops in Korea were organized after people carried Korean Society to the victory of political democratization. In fact, there used to be a few Co-ops independent from government since the Korea War. However most of them were either one of being interfered or suppressed by the government. The truth was that Co-ops in Korea needed certain period of the political democratization to start its independent activities from government.
  2. Most Co-ops have been deeply related to revitalizing Korean Agriculture from the very beginning of Co-ops. Small farm centered Korean agriculture has been in severely difficult situation since Korea opened a few produce to free trade in 1985. In the mean time, a number of people's movements were born in the form of farmers' movement, labors' movement, and women's movement having their own philosophy. Farmers' movement has the goal for preserving environment and ecosystem as well as human being in organic agricultural way, labor's movement for bringing a revolution to Korean society and women's movement for building a society with gender equality. All of these Co-ops have suggested alternative life style and specific ways to sustainable society in urban area thorough Co-ops. This is the history of Korean representative Co-ops, Hansalim, Womenlink Consumer Cooperative, Dure Consumers' Cooperative, iCOOP and so on in Korea.
  3. All Co-ops in Korea have been under governmental regulations limiting the legal boundary of businesses of Consumers' Cooperatives to agricultural produce and environment friendly production only not all goods needed for consumers sold by the other distributors in general and this regulation has become the fatal barrier against the development and popularization of Co-ops in Korea.

Members of iCOOP at a lecture by Dr. Ian MacPhersoniCOOP started its business with simply 682 members and 1.5 million US$ of sales volume in the first year of establishment. But iCOOP has continuously increased its members and sales volume to 42,000 members and 94.2 billion US$ [1]as of 2007 and this achievement has been completed in a very short time of 10 years. Basically the business of iCOOP is run via direct delivery system to each member's home and also antenna shops in many towns. We pursue to achieve food security with the harmonized development between urban and rural area and to bring out the cooperative civil society with vigorous activities of Co-ops in our daily life. iCOOP puts the important role of community meeting in each town and currently 291 community meetings has been held over the nation. Most members of iCOOP are female mainly in their thirties having their children and they do activities like seasonal food cooking class, day care center for their kids, group study on common subjects, for example, food safety, the theory of Co-operatives including ICA's statement especially about Co-operative identity and the other activities for community they belong to. Also there is one special Co-op consist of 153 young members employed by iCOOP Group and they make an effort to be educated as Co-operators not simply as employees suggesting various lectures and activities as well as managing library for its members.     

iCOOP focuses on mainly young people ranging twenties to thirties suggesting them a number of activities and these efforts are based on the belief that giving an inspiration to young people can give them core pride of their important role in Korean society and this pride is connected to the responsibility for the future.

[1] The sales volume in US$ above is calculated at a rate of 1 U.S dollar = 1,000 Korean Won.

Creator - Author(s) Name and Title(s): 
iCOOP Consumers’ Co-operative Group
Publication Information: 
Youth Reinventing Co-operatives Volume 2
Thursday, January 1, 2009


South Korea