Social Projects Catch On In South Korea

By Chang May Choon
The Straits Times, Singapore / Asia News Network

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In Singapore, several major corporations are creating charitable projects to complement their brands.


Singaporean banking officer Susan Moh, 44, has a necklace made of gold threads and white lace which always gets her friends talking.

She bought it during a vacation in Seoul last year from a non-profit clothing and lifestyle store called Heartist House.

“The price is on the high side but I don’t feel the pinch as I think my purchase is for a good cause,” said Moh, who was there with her sister. Her sister had read about the shop online.

Heartist House is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project by South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group’s fashion arm, Samsung C&T Fashion.

Opened in September 2014 to mark the subsidiary’s 60th anniversary, it sells clothing donated by Samsung’s own fashion labels, like Bean Pole and Rogatis, and bags and accessories by young designers. It donates most of its proceeds to charity.

In Asia’s fourth-largest economy, conglomerates, known as chaebols, are no longer content with bankrolling good causes; they are also creating projects to complement their brands.

Chaebols are also spending more on charitable causes. A total of 255 companies spent 2.92 trillion won (S$3.6 billion) on CSR projects in 2015, up from 2.71 trillion won in 2014, according to a report by the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI).

About 30 per cent of the funds went into helping the underprivileged and the rest was devoted to academic research, disaster relief and environmental conservation, among other things.

Today’s CSR is more about “individuality”, said the FKI report. Instead of volunteering or making corporate donations, there is now a greater focus on utilising a company’s business strengths to give back to society.

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