The Institution-building and changing processes of social enterprise in South Korea: the struggles of multiple actors and their discourses

Jieun Ryu

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


My thesis explores the growing research area of social entrepreneurship by exploring the struggles over the meaning of social enterprise which emerged during the institution-building process of social enterprise as a new organizational form in South Korea. Although the initial idea of social enterprise was self-sustaining and self-financing to pursue their own social agenda, some of them have been integrated into the existing taxonomy of business or public policy system. In my thesis, I aim to reveal how independent bottom-up social enterprise initiatives are integrated or not into public policy through the case of the emergence of Korean social enterprise. In Korea, the government’s attempts to integrate social enterprise activities resulted in struggles over the meaning of social enterprise between top-down and bottom-up actors especially after the legalization of the Social Enterprise Promotion Act in 2006.

To explore how each actor is involved in institution-building projects and how their activities influence specific institutional changes in the context of social enterprises in Korea, I present multiple data sources. Collected data includes official documents, meeting and public hearing minutes, newspaper articles, but mainly semi- and in-depth interview data with social entrepreneurs and professionals from different groups working with social entrepreneurship during a fieldwork in Korea between March and August in 2014. I used a macro discourse perspective to explore how actors understand and use discourses of social enterprise differently in changing economic, social and political environments. Then I analyzed how actors take different strategies based on their positions and own interests in order to legitimize the claim they make against the existing discourse. In this process of analysis, I will conclude that a dominant discourse can be contested by relatively powerless bottom-up actors in the institutional field through constant struggles over the meaning of social enterprise and that these struggles can put bottom-up actors in a higher institutional position that can make institutional changes.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
  • Fotaki, Marianna, Supervisor, External person
  • Reinecke, Juliane, Supervisor, External person
Award date17 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • Social enterprise
  • Social entrepreneurship
  • Economic and social good
  • South Korea
  • New business enterprises
  • Associations, institutions
  • Discourse analysis


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