Taking the Seoul Train to the Sharing Economy Part III

Editor’s Note: The Sharing Economy is about a profound shift in consumer values from ownership to access. Together, entire communities and cities around the world are using network technologies to do more with less by renting, lending, swapping, bartering, gifting and sharing products on a scale never before possible. A wide variety of sharers are involved, from Tool Libraries and Maker Faires through to Car-shares and the open government movement. Organizations like Collaborative Consumption, Peers and Shareable are working to foster the sharing economy. SiG believes that this movement is a force for social innovation and systems change. In this spirit, SiG will produce blogs and grow a knowledge base highlighting the people and concepts emerging out of the sharing economy.

Seoul LandscapeWith robust government support, South Korea is fast becoming one of the world’s most advanced sharing economies. In the course of one day criss-crossing Seoul’s vast metropolitan area by efficient public transit, I was able to visit three very different new sharing economy ventures that boast stories illustrating the value of the new national and municipal policies facilitating the growth of the sharing economy. Part I and II blogs highlighted my visit to Dream Bank and My Real Trip. In this final post on South Korea’s sharing economy, I offer my experience visiting Kozaza.


From suburban Pan-gyo, we headed by express bus to Bukchon, a unique neighbourhood “village” of Seoul that is peppered with royal palaces and shrines and a large number of Hanok traditional-style Korean houses. There we met Sanku Jo, a serial entrepreneur whose passion for protecting the Hanok heritage led him to start Kozaza.

KozazaKozaza is an online service that connects travellers with a trusted community of families offering unique accommodations throughout Korea. Kozaza sees its service built on the values of the sharing economy. Its social benefits are multiple: providing host families with a new source of income; assisting a city like Seoul to expand tourism without having to worry about its relatively limited stock of hotel beds; making it possible for people to share their homes, and increasing exposure to Korean culture and food.  Finally, with its current focus on shared Hanok accommodation, Korea’s slowly disappearing traditional houses, Kozaza hopes to rekindle interest and promote conservation of this increasingly scarce cultural resource.

As a start-up, Kozaza benefitted from a program of the national government that provided a 50% match on privately raised start-up funds. The Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-Soon, has also been an enthusiastic supporter. He personally stayed at Kozaza Hanok providing moral encouragement for Kozaza and what they do. In addition Seoul’s Sharing City program has promoted Kozaza by publicizing the service through city owned media platforms.


The Kozaza team with Canadian guests

Kozaza’s founder and CEO, SanKu Jo, combined his love for Korea’s traditional Hanok homes with his commitment to the sharing economy. He visualizes the sharing economy as portending the shift from Web 2.0 to Life 2.0. For him, the sharing economy offers cost savings, improved environmental stewardship, and social capital building as people share their homes and culture. Sanku Jo thinks Kozaza has reinvented Airbnb to create a “Life Sharing Platform”. Going further, he thinks of “sharing as the new communication”. Sanku Jo, a student of the internet, spent over a decade in California’s Silicon Valley, is using SlideShare to share compelling resources on his vision of where the sharing economy is headed.

D.Camp, My Real Trip, and Kozaza all have analogues that sprang up earlier in other countries. Notwithstanding that, each of them has evolved a unique model reflecting the specific needs and culture of Seoul and Korea in order to create a valuable sharing economy offering. Good ideas, whether new or not, are quick to travel and just as quick to be adapted and improved.

IMG_2463Note: Thanks very much to April Rinne, from The Collaborative Lab, who introduced me to two Seoul members of TCL’s Global Curator Team, DaYe (Diane) Jung and Seokwon (ejang) Yang. They in turn connected me with our indispensable guide Seokjoon Choi. Seokjoon navigated us through Seoul with great aplomb.

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Tim Draimin About Tim Draimin

Tim Draimin is the Executive Director of Social Innovation Generation (SiG)


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