Let’s all embrace the business of sharingI was born and raised in the village of the Gwangju Lee family, where sharing was a necessity. We all shared food and housing and helped each other all the time. Today, my family and I live in a modern apartment building and share almost nothing with the people across the hall.
But the concept of sharing is not dead. In fact, it is being revived by a young entrepreneur who is reinterpreting the old lifestyle for the modern era. The young man is Yang Seok-won, 34, who is better known by his online tag, @Ejang, or village head. He has been using the tag for a long time, and it is a perfect description of his work.
Yang believes that social capital is accumulated in the course of sharing information, and he has put that philosophy to work through the creation of a small “village” in the middle of Gangnam District called the Co-Up. The space is promoted as a place where young people can meet to share ideas and dreams.
Three years ago, Yang quit his job and went to Silicon Valley, where he learned about the business of sharing. In the United States, where mass production and mass consumption have long been at the core of the economy, the opposite concept is gaining momentum. One successful business founded on the idea of sharing is Zipcar, a localized car-sharing service that lets members search for cars online and rent one nearby. By sharing cars, owners and users minimize cost and maximize convenience.
In Korea, similar businesses for shared living spaces, cars and books have sprung up - and many have been incubated at the Co-Up.
At the core of these services is a transformation of our old community values. Now, if you want to exchange goods, you no longer have to live nearby. To assess the reputations of Internet users you’ve never met, you can refer to their profiles on social networking services. If the person is a friend of a friend, then you can rest assured. It’s all surprisingly traditional.
I started thinking about all of this while following the Davos Forum, which ended Sunday and addressed the crisis of capitalism. I don’t expect politicians and financial engineers to come up with a solution to this complicated problem. Instead, I want to rely on the village head or young tech wizards who understand the sentiments of digital nomads. These people think horizontally across the globe, even to the village in which I live, and they firmly believe that my life in Seoul is connected to the lives of people in countries I can only imagine.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.